Having some time to kill in Izmir, waiting for the bike to be serviced (which will be another story), we decided to drop in on Smyrna Agora. We were quite shocked to see a tour bus as we arrived, normally the place is empty. The bus left before we entered and as per usual we had the place to ourselves, other than for a pair of crows and some archaeologists. We cannot understand why so few people visit, it is right in the heart of Izmir, is fascinating, was a three story Roman shopping mall and public place, still has water running through it, and some nice pieces of architecture.
There is some more work being done, a new dig, and preparations for opening up some of the adjoining buildings. There was a sign indicating a hall with a mosaic, and a walkway to it, but the walkway was roped off. There was also signage and details about the Bouleterion another adjoining building. We would imagine the Bouleterion of Smyrna to be fairly impressive. There were quite a few workmen and archaeologists around still working on the mosaic building and the Bouleterion and no indication of when it will be opened to the public.
Part of the Basilica remains closed but there are signs it too is being prepared to reopen. There were pictures in there with writing under them – we think about the statues and inscriptions originally found there, difficult to be sure as it was hard to see through the barriers.
Perhaps, although the site is impressive to us, it doesn’t seem to have what it takes to attract visitors. We think they are hoping to attract more people by providing more visual information on the site itself. This is a different approach to the massive reconstruction efforts we have seen elsewhere. It remains to be seen which approach will capture the public’s imagination.
Most evenings it is staying above 18C in the house without any heating, so we decided we no longer need the wood soba. It if gets cooler (and there probably will be some cold nights) we have plenty of other heating options, but we can dispense with burning wood. Today we cleaned the flue, a messy task, soot gets everywhere, and put the remaining wood away. As a result of using a wood stove the walls need a wipe down and a lick of fresh paint, this will get done over the next week or so.
Whilst we were cleaning the flue and packing wood away our neighbours decided it was a good day to gather in their garden and cook outside, their first such event of the year. We therefore had to stop work late morning to eat gözleme and be social, and then mid-afternoon another enforced break for kısır and coffee, followed by reading of the coffee grounds. Apparently we are going to come into lots of money, go travelling on a plane and a boat, attend a wedding and so on. Odd that, we are going to a wedding on Saturday, and we are planning a trip to Greece in the summer which would cover the boat part. It goes to show the coffee readings are never wrong!
The swallows have returned, more are arriving every day. For the last few days there has been one on the wire outside our house. It might be one of the pair from last year, they nested next door and raised several broods. Today there was a pair, singing together, investigating the nest from last year. It is good to hear them, good to see them, and good to know the rising number of flying insects is going to be hunted and eaten.
The Selçuk Craft club (at least those of us who were free on a Sunday) travelled to Kapıkırı koyu to watch soap being made. This is an annual ritual in the villages where nothing goes to waste – it makes good use of the oil which is not of the best quality. Five of us fitted quite comfortably into the car and made our way to the village. The road by Lake Bafa has finally been made up and, although there is some loose gravel in places, it’s a huge improvement on the mud bath with occasional explosions we’ve experienced in the past.
The soap was on the go by the time we arrived. The soap making involved a great many people, all of whom were advising all of the others (and often giving contradictory advice). One of our number had bought along 5 litres of olive oil and that was set going in a separate cauldron…
The basic method is to pour the oil into a cauldron partly filled with water and to heat it. Caustic soda is then mixed with hot water and added. Everything is then stirred. Eventually the soap thickens and lies on top of the water at which point it is skimmed off and poured into a mould to set.
The only ‘additive’ was fresh bay leaves – used to ‘flavour’ the water that was mixed with the lye and also used, briefly, to stir the mix.
This whole process takes quite a long time (the boiling goes on for at least two hours – often more). Various ingredients are added as the process progresses. More water – more lye – more water – more lye. The original quantity of oil appears to be a given and the other ingredients are added in order to achieve the required ‘set’.
We were provided with a delicious lunch whilst the village soap cooled and our own soap was still boiling. More women came up from the village. More advice was given and passionately debated. Whilst we were eating, our soap began to set. But, sadly, the first batch was found to be faulty. Oil was coming off it as well as water. It was taken from the mould and put back into the cauldron for further boiling and saponification. The problem, we were told, was ‘too many Kaptan’.
Our soap was cooling nicely when we left. The village soap was still in the cauldron, being tended by several of the women.
When it is set, our soap will be cut into bars for us to share. It does take a while to cure, to be certain that all the lye that went into it has come out. But we will have a supply of excellent quality, pure soap – enough to last us at least a year.
We have not blogged in a while because we have been away from home. Visiting family and friends in the UK. Hilary, who hates driving, was very brave and hired a car. It was a friendly car – the Peugot 207 is an easy car to drive.
As you can see from the picture, it was not really ideal driving weather. Though it is very pretty in its own way. The weather was cold (though the worst of the rain was in Izmir on the way home).
It was lovely to meet up with family and friends but we are glad to be home, despite having been very stupid and leaving our hand luggage with Hilary’s parents in the UK.
Posted in Travel
Tagged London, Travel
It was not the worst of all possible times for the gas to run out. We were not expecting people for dinner. We were, however, just frying the chicken when the gas started to stutter then went out. It was around 20:00 on a Saturday night. The gas supplier was closed. They do not open on a Sunday. It’s fortunate that we have a two-ring gas stove in the back house and that had not run out.
Hilary had to run between houses with a hot pan full of chicken schnitzel… Fortunately the rest of the dishes were cooked during the afternoon.
Sunday’s breakfast soup had to be warmed up and tea made in the back house. Sunday dinner was prepared in the usual place and taken to the back house for cooking.
First thing on Monday we phoned the gas… Tea and soup were made in the front house today!
Either we use a lot more cooker gas in winter or the cylinders are not evenly filled. Most seem to last about two months but the one we got last April was good till October…. In winter we have tea on the stove for hours, cook beans, and stews. In summer we probably use a lot less gas.
They say that natural gas is coming, piped in from Izmir. It may happen in time, like the Metro which is also meant to be coming. In time. But until then we are subject the vagaries of gas bottles and Murphy’s Law.
Another sign of spring here in Selçuk is the arrival of bakla on the market. Bakla are broad beans but, this time of year, you don’t get big seeds in the pods. The inside beans are tiny and tender and you eat the entire thing. Like runner beans. They are a very Aegean thing. And wonderfully easy to cook to deliciousness.
This is how I do it: Take half a kilo of bakla and remove the tops, tails and any dodgy-looking bits. Break them in half or, if very long, three bits. You don’t even really need a knife for this. Then take a medium sized onion and cut it piyazlık (I nearly always cut onions this way for zeytinyağlı dishes, in thin, longitudinal half moonish strips). And some garlic (depending how much you like) cut in thin slices or strips. Put lots of good olive oil in a sauté or frying pan with a cover and warm it up before softening the onions, then the garlic. Add in the bakla and stir it round for a bit. About half cover it with water (I used a mugful), add a sugar cube and salt if you like it (I don’t). Bring to the boil and, now for my secret ingredient…
The rinsed peel of about a quarter of a preserved lemon. I’ve not found a place to buy them here and I’ve not really looked. I make my own. This is not traditional and certainly not essential. Turn it all down to a simmer, cover it and leave it on a low light till well done. 30-40 minutes. Longer doesn’t hurt as long as it doesn’t fall apart. Towards the end, throw in some chopped dill.
As with all zeytinyağlı, it keeps well in the fridge and improves for the first couple of days.