Monday, 1 September 2014

Summer In Fethiye - A July & August Roundup

And this is what summer is all about. Every month on the blog, we try to do a roundup of bits and bobs of happenings in Fethiye; what we've been up to and a little bit about what's going on around the neighbourhood. Well, that didn't happen in July. We didn't forget; it's just that our whole month just kind of disappeared in a haze of friends. No complaints of course, but it did mean we hadn't taken any real notice of what's going on around us. August hasn't been too much different - and now, on this, September 1st, we thought we'd pull a couple of things out from the last couple of months and let you now what's coming up in September, too.

The Çalış Canal Project

Çalış Canal, Fethiye, Turkey
It's safe to say the work along the Çalış canal has certainly divided opinion...and things were left a bit in limbo as there seemed to be debate at national and local level as to who was responsible for paying for what. Whatever the outcome of all that was, something is once more happening and we now have wrought iron railings lining the wall edges. Meanwhile, the reeds are also growing back, too (you can see a clump in the middle of the canal in the distance). We'll see what other progress takes place over the coming months... 

In the opposite direction the Caliş to Fethiye water taxis are still sailing to and fro. The price has recently gone to 6 TL per person - still very reasonable for a 40 minute sail and, recently, after a long interval, we again decided to use it to get to Fethiye. Click to view our photo post from Çalış to Fethiye.

The 'Eating Fethiye' Project

We can't have a roundup of the last eight weeks without a food recap. We've had no time to do any new recipes on the blog but we've still been grabbing (and photographing) bits of food on the go at different Fethiye restaurants and eateries. Sini Et Lokantası in Çalış continues to draw us in with its great value temptations sitting in the bay marie. And Deep Blue Bar is now also feeding customers with tasty snacks as well as quenching their thirst.
Unique Hotel, Fethiye - The Cheeseburger
And remember our photo post about the new urban hideaway hotel in Fethiye, Hotel Unique? Well after seeing the photos in that post, some of our family members booked a room there - and, well, it would have been rude not to go up there and sample the facilities, wouldn't it? This was lunch. A homemade cheeseburger served with coleslaw and potato wedges. We ate here for Barry's birthday last month, too, with good friends of ours. A small menu, admittedly, but the food has been really good on both occasions. If you're looking for ideas for where to eat and drink whilst you're in Fethiye, we've got some suggestions on our Fethiye Eating and Drinking page.

The 'Shopping Fethiye' Project
It feels like a lifetime since we paid a visit to Erasta Fethiye; the new shopping centre - but July was the month we gave in an decided to have a nosey around to see what was going on. This is what we thought about Erasta Shopping Centre In Fethiye

And Into Fethiye's Summer Twilight - Fethiye Events
The kids are ready to go back to school both in Britain and in Turkey - and September is upon us. Although we're still baking, you can feel hints that the temperatures are becoming more bearable and normal activities start to kick in.
Fethiyespor 2014-15 Season
Last night was Fethiyespor's first match of the 2014-15 season. Following relegation to 2. Lig at the end of last season, bar a small handful of familiar names, it's a new team. That was evident...but, as ever with us and our blog, optimism prevails and we're hopeful for a good season! They drew 0-0 last night against Menemen Belediyespor. And sitting in the stadium on a balmy summer evening; nice...

European Beach Volleyball in Çalış
And you might remember that since attending past pro beach volleyball events in Çalış, we've become fans of watching this sport, too. This was a complete accident - and now we're excited about the next upcoming event. This is fantastic for the Fethiye area because this month, the beach volleyball centre in Çalış is going to play host to the 2014 Under-22s European Beach Volleyball Championships. This will take place 18th-21st September - just great!

For full details of the beach volleyball, future Fethiyespor fixtures, markets and other events taking place, you can visit our Fethiye Events Calendar. Scroll through to the dates you are interest in to see what's going on. 

And as for the rest of September...well, let's see. We're packed with friends this month, too. We'll tell you all about what happened in September at the end of September, we guess... 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Karaağaç Black Tree Farm & Cottages - Spit Roasted Lamb For Dinner

(The following post is a fun, tongue-in-cheek affair and we had a great day out, thanks to being driven up there by Mr Osman. Oh yeah, and we did check with him first before we published photos of him on our blog. Oh yeah, and we're sure he must have done a stint turning the lamb... at some point.)

In our previous post, we took you on a little tour of the fabulously calm and peaceful setting that is Karaağaç Black Tree Farm and Cottages. High up in the mountains, the summit of nearby Babadağ resembling a mere rolling hill, we were there to break away from the searing heat of Fethiye...and to enjoy some good, no-nonsense lamb cooked on the spit. And we did say in that post that we would tell you about the lamb. So let's tell you about it...

Because, you see, Osman said he was driving up there because he was going to be spit roasting the lamb. And, when we arrived at Black Tree Farm and Cottages, there was indeed a board out for guests saying, "Tonight, spit roasted lamb, cooked by Osman."

Spit Roast Lamb, Black Tree Farm & Cottages, Karaağaç
Spit roast lamb, not being spit roasted by Osman
"Barry, you can be my commis chef. I'm going to set up the barbecue. We'll cook the lamb slowly over 4 hours or so and we'll have to keep turning it."

We only half-listened to this and got a beer instead. And Osman did disappear off to set up the barbecue. And he was gone for around 20 minutes before he reappeared looking, naturally, very hot.
"Oh, it's too hot over there," he said. 

We went off to find the barbecue area to take some photos and, if you know Osman, you'll know that the person in this photo is not him. The job had been delegated. We wandered around the site, Barry went off for his little trek to get a peek of Kabak from the top of the ridge, and I stayed behind to take more photos. When Barry returned, we walked by the barbecue area again...
Spit Roast Lamb, Black Tree Farm & Cottages, Karaağaç
Spit roast lamb, not being spit roasted by Osman
Wow, it looked good...but if you know Osman, you'll know that the person in this photo is not him. The job had been delegated. Again. Actually, come to think of it, we hadn't seen Osman for some time now. Where was he? We asked his daughter. Ahhh, he's gone for a snooze. (Not) spit roasting the lamb you're billed as spit roasting is very tiring, you know. But, eventually, he help transfer the now-cooked lamb from the barbecue to the kitchen.
Our Slow-Cooked Lamb, Karaağaç, Turkey
Who will carve up the spit roast lamb?
Ohhh,if you're a meat eater and you're feeling remotely peckish, how tasty does this lamb look? Now we just need someone to cut it all up for us - and the guests staying in the cottages - so that we can all tuck in. We're hovering around it taking photos. The kids are hovering around it. "Can we just have a little tiny bit?"
Carving The Slow Cooked Lamb, Black Tree Farm & Cottages
Oh, who's that?
Ahhh, hoşgeldiniz, Osman! Here he is. The star of our show has arrived, complete with liquid refreshment, to take over the carving, slicing and chopping of the lamb meat.
Slow-Cooked Lamb Preparation, Karaağaç
No apron, careful slicing
Is it an easy job cutting up the lamb? Well there are lots of 'supervisors,' (including us), there's lots of advice and suggestions, kids pinching little pieces that escape the pan (and who can blame them). Do you need to be an expert butcher to do all this or do you just cut it all up and hope for the best? And what happens when the knife is no longer good enough for the job of cutting up the more sturdy parts of the lamb?
Butchering The Lamb, Black Tree Farm, Karaağaç
That's more like it! 
Well, then you need the daddy of the butcher's knife world to 'separate' those parts. And, once all of that is sorted, we sit down and tuck into meze dishes and village bread before being served with the lamb we've all been waiting (im)patiently for, for most of the day. Was it worth the wait? Well if anyone else ever tells us they're doing spit roast lamb and asks us if we want to come along for some, we're there! 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Cooling Off In The Fethiye Mountains - Black Tree Farm & Cottages

A couple of weeks back, while we were on the way back from our little overnight stay at Chakra Beach in Kabak, we decided to get off the dolmuş in Ölüdeniz, just for a wander around and to check in with a few people we'd not seen in a while. As we strolled along the pathway, past all the bars and restaurants, we spotted Osman, one of the owners at Buzz Beach Bar, sitting by the bar. One person to go and say hello to...

Mid-conversation - and drink - he asked, "What are you up to on Sunday?"

"Nothing much. Not thought that far ahead." (It was only Thursday.)
"We're doing spit roasted lamb up in Karaağaç if you fancy it. Come back to Buzz Beach Bar on Sunday lunchtime and we'll drive up from here."
Karaağaç Black Tree Farm, Turkey
Karaağaç Black Tree Farm & Cottages - the dining terrace
August in particular has seen some very hot temperatures this year, and the draw of some cooler mountain air was too much to resist. Oh, and the draw of a bit of lamb cooked on the spit, too, of course. Wow, how can we resist that?
Animals At Black Tree Farm, Fethiye, Turkey
There are lots of chicken and turkeys at Karaağaç
And so, on the Sunday lunchtime, we piled into the 4-wheel drive (a car expert would be able to tell you what type of vehicle we were piling into - but we were just happy it looked sturdy enough to carry us all up the mountain). Five of us inside, and 3 kids and a sheep carcass in the back, along with a few other deliveries for Black Tree Farm and Cottages at Karaağaç. The dog was going to come along, too, but, in the end, he had to stay in Ölüdeniz...there was just no room for him.
Pool Area At Karaağaç Black Tree Farm, Fethiye, Turkey
Karaağaç Black Tree Farm & Cottages swimming pool
It's not the first time we've been to Karaağaç. A good few years ago, we hired a car and were pondering where to go. A guy we know, 'Shooting Mehmet,' (that nickname is just one we use for him) suggested we come up here. "Go along the D400, take the turning for Sidyma and then just keep climbing up the mountain. Keep going, going, going and you'll feel like you've gone the wrong way but keep going. You'll get there." 

We did exactly that. Wow, we were climbing high. A road became a rubble track, mountain goats stood in the road and scampered out of the way, our friend from England was in the back feeling very queasy. Roads like this are really not familiar territory for those used to England's roads.
"Are you sure this is right?"
"No, you know as much as us. Shooting Mehmet said we'd feel like we were going wrong - but it would be right."
"But what if we are going wrong?"

This was no road to start testing my 3-point-turn abilities so we pressed on...
Cottages at Karaağaç, Black Tree Farm, Fethiye, Turkey
Cottages at Karaağaç
And, eventually, you are so high up that everywhere plateaus and Karaağaç Black Tree Farm and Cottages are there before you. On that occasion, around eight or nine years ago, we remember talking to the owner, an English woman who spoke fantastic Turkish.

This time, when we went back in 2014, there was the same woman, looking exactly as we remembered her. This is Osman's mum, of course, but all those years ago, we didn't know Osman and it's only relatively recently, we've realised the family connection.
Cottages At Black Tree Farm, Karaağaç, Turkey
Cottages at Karaağaç
Black Tree Farm and Cottages are pretty much as we remembered them. Guests staying in the cottages are lounging around the pool, a couple of kids are playing on the tennis/basketball court, and some diners - Italian families who have dropped in to eat while en route elsewhere in their camper vans - are tucking into their food on the terrace.

Osman is in charge of spit-roasting the lamb; a slow process which requires the lamb to be rotated, by hand, constantly. He goes off to prepare the fire and the lamb and...yes, well we'll tell you about that in our next post. 
Horses & Donkeys At Black Tree Farm, Karaağaç, Turkey
Foodie treats for the horses and donkeys
Karaağaç Black Tree Farm and Cottages are great for wandering. There are fruit orchards, pathways - this is Lycian Way territory an there are also numerous other tracks to explore - horses and donkeys. Barry sets off along one of the paths where he's been told he can view Kabak from the top. I wanted to go...but dress and sandals were far from appropriate. I decided to stick to wandering around this area, taking photos.
Animals At Black Tree Farm, Karaağaç, Fethiye
Unlikely friends
Because animals are such good fun. This puppy has no idea he's not a calf - or that this calf is not a puppy. I couldn't quite decide. The calf was lying down for some time, but got bored eventually as the puppy jumped all over it, chewing its ears, playfully. Fair to say the puppy was more enthusiastic than the calf about this relationship. 
Drying Chillies, Karaağaç, Black Tree Farm
Chillies drying on the roof in the mountains 
More exploration and a bit of curiosity takes us up a spiral staircase leading to the roof of one of the buildings (Barry's now back from his short hike and did indeed view Kabak). Chillies are drying up here - a beautiful scene. I take photos and Barry has to sample one. More sweet than hot, he says. 
Turkish Bath At Black Tree Farm, Karaağaç
The hamam at Black Tree Farm & Cottages
There's a hamam in the process of being constructed. This is the outside of the building - and inside, the bare pipes line the floor and walls, waiting to be concealed. All the same, it's looking great on the outside - no doubt the inside will be just as good upon completion. 
Black Tree Farm, Karaağaç, Fethiye, Turkey
View from the library and craft area
There's a library and craft area set in a stone building with its own little private area of multi-coloured tiled flooring. There's lots going on here in an area that is so serene, so peaceful and away from it all. It's actually a hive of activity without you even noticing. 
Food & Dining Area, Black Tree Farm and Cottages, Karaağaç, Turkey
The hub - food and dining area at Black Tree Farm and Cottages
Throughout all this, we've been keeping an eye on lamb progress, too. Ohhh, it looks good! We head back to the main building to take a seat on the terrace, ready for eating. The kids are doing printing activities at one end of the terrace. Anthea (Osman's mum) has cajoled them into leaving their tablets and iPads to one side for a few moments. "You've not come all the way up here just to play on those things."

And as they print their own designs onto sheets of fabric, the tables are being set and Osman is inside removing the meat from the lamb. The kids run inside to steal a couple of pieces just for us to sample - divine - and I follow them back inside to view the process. Lots of supervisors of of that, though, in the next post...

Karaağaç Black Tree Farm & Cottages - Useful Info
  • Karaağaç Black Tree Farm & Cottages are located high in the mountains, close to the village of Alınca.
  • The Lycian Way and other trekking paths run through this area.
  • This time, we came up via the Ölüdeniz to Faralya road, and turned off left (it's signposted) uphill towards Karaağaç. PLEASE NOTE that once past the village of Kirme, the tarmac is no more and it's a steep rubble track which hasn't been maintained for a couple of years. You'll need a 4-wheel drive to get up via this route as there are various rubble obstacles. (2014).
  • But you can also reach Black Tree Farm in cars and camper vans from the D400 road (as we did the first time all those years ago...). From Fethiye, head eastwards along the D400 towards Kalkan and take a left at the Sidyma turnoff.  Follow the signs up the mountain.
  • You can book a cottage at Black Tree Farm through
Thursday, 21 August 2014

En Route To Akdamar And Meeting Marmaris In Van

Squirming in my seat. Constantly changing positions. Facial contortions and looking out of the window trying to focus on anything that will take my mind off this awful, potentially very embarrassing situation. It's agony. Barry's comforting me. "We're nearly there." Except 'nearly there' isn't really comforting. 'Nearly there' is too far. And we've seen the tourism posters of this remote spot we're heading to. Is there going to be any description of WC when we get there? Well, you just get to the point where you're past caring. As soon as this dolmuş stopped, I was going to have to pee somewhere.

But anyway, let's get back to the beginning. We've said a sad farewell to our friend in Patnos - just horrible leaving her stood there on the path waving us off as the bus pulled away from the office in Patnos. We're heading for the city of Van and, from there, later this evening, we'll fly to Antalya. But first, we want to go to Akdamar Island, home of the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross. This is perhaps eastern Turkey's most-photographed, iconic scene. It's been a long-time ambition to see it in real life, and today is our last day - we can't leave until we've seen it...

It's been arranged with the bus driver that he'll drop us off at the relevant dolmuş station to get to our destination, Gevaş. And so we sit there for the couple of hours or so journey...and, as we navigate through Van, the bus passes a large dolmuş station...but we don't stop. Eventually, we pull in at the bus company office and everyone gets off the bus...ahh, that feeling, that knowing the bus driver forgot all about you and drove you straight past the dolmuş station quite some way ago.

Russian Market, Van, East Turkey
Entrance to the Russian market in Van
We heave our backpacks onto our backs and prepare to set off in any direction - well, we've not a clue where we are, obviously. And then a voice. Almost flawless English. "Hi guys. I think the driver should have let you off at the station we passed. What are you doing here and why were you in Patnos?"

We turn round to see a much welcome friendly face. Everyone always asks why we were in Patnos. Guess it's not high on the travel itinerary of many people. So we explain we were staying with a friend and we're now in Van because, well because we want to see Van and we want to go to Akdamar. "Wow, thanks a lot. Great to see you guys here. Welcome to my city." 
"Errm, thanks." 

Never know what to say when people are grateful for your visit. It happened when we went to Şelale Park in Eskişehir, too. It's a lovely thing, but almost something you feel undeserving of. "I'll take you to the dolmuş station or else you'll never find it. I think I can remember where it is."
Covered Market, Van, Eastern Turkey
Wandering one of Van's old covered markets
And so we set off. "You think you can remember where it is. So you're not living in Van anymore?"

"No, I work in Marmaris selling day trips and the city is changing a lot so I don't really recognise it when I come back."

That'll explain the flowing English, then. And he's right about Van. Lots of shiny, new, reflective windows of high rise buildings are filling the city centre. Old buildings that either collapsed or were badly damaged in the earthquake that so devastated nearby Erciş and surroundings are being removed and replaced. It's all looking a bit business-like around here. 

We're putting our faith into a complete stranger here. We have to trust him and we're walking and walking. Our self-appointed guide stops to ask two old guys where the station is. One explains. The other tuts. No, it's over there. For five minutes or so, the two guys bicker and we suggest we'll press on alone. We're starting to feel a bit guilty now as we've been searching for around 30 minutes.

"No, no, I'll take you. You'll never understand anyone around here and you'll be walking round all day."
"Thanks. Errm, if you don't mind us pointing out; you work in tourism in Marmaris and it's May. Shouldn't you be there, now?" 
"Yeah but I've been given a few days to look after my mum. Everything is meat around here and she's been in hospital. High cholesterol. But meat is cheap so everyone around here eats too much of it."
"Hope she's better soon."
Turkish Food - Tantuni, Van, East Turkey
Yes, there is a LOT of meat in East Turkey
"Thanks. And then I'll go back to Marmaris to try and sort out my relationship. My girlfriend's English. We were going to get married but she wants to live in England and I don't want to leave Turkey."
"Hmmm, guess you've got a problem there, then."
"Yeah, at the moment, we've split up."

Trudging the streets of Van doesn't seem an appropriate environment for relationship counselling so we stay quiet. He carries on telling us his life story. He left school at 12 to help out with his family. His reading and writing are not great, "But I can sell lots of day trips," he says with a wink. And it's obvious he's a bright chap - untapped talent; there's a lot of it about. 

And then, lo and behold, there's the dolmuş station. He walks us to the dolmuş, he speaks to the driver and makes sure we're getting off at the right place. He sorts the price for us. We thank him profusely and he says, "Look me up on Facebook. I'm Ali Baba in Marmaris. See you, guys. Safe trip." 

And with that, he's off. We now have a 40-50 minute journey ahead of us and I've not been to the loo since early this morning. And 'Ali Baba' - a (not) novel name - we did look him up to say a proper thank you - but we never found him...

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