Monthly Archives: August 2014

How not to do it yourself

A few weeks back we changed the lock on the back house, a good thing because the lock that was on the external door was not exactly secure. It was what is termed a vanity lock, one key fits all. So anyone could have gone to the hardware store bought a matching lock or spare key and opened the door. One key fits all.

So we changed it. However the only way the new lock including handle would fit was upside down. Not ideal, but at least the lock was secure.

With time on our hands and it being too hot to do much, we decided that correcting the upside down door handles and lock would be a good idea. At the same time we though it worthwhile getting someone to come and look at our fridge door, it seemed not to seal properly.

So we got back home with new lock fittings and an appointment one hour later for some guys to look at the fridge door.  Ashley started to dismantle the lock on the back house door.  All was going well. Famous last words: Ashley decided to show Hilary a problem with what happens when the lock mechanism is inverted so the handles will be the right way round. Hilary could not see the problem, Hilary has spatial issues. So Ashley decided to demonstrate by closing the door. Bad move.

With the mechanism inverted and loose we could not refit the handle. Hence we could not open the door. So we were stuck inside the back house. Credit cards, screwdrivers, all manner of things were tried. All failed.

And in half an hour we had people booked to look at the fridge door.

Not good.

Ashley removed the iron window bars and got out. It really was the only way out. We should at some point replace those screws so the bars cannot be so easily removed but right now we are not complaining.

There is however a certain irony about having to break out of ones own home.

It got us out of the back house in time to meet the guys booked to sort out the fridge door. Fortunately the fridge in question is in the front house. They came looked at the fridge door, pronounced that it was not the door seals but that the door hinge had dropped. So they took the doors off, used some washers to raise the door, refitted everything and all is now working properly. Callout, work and stuff was 40 lira, just over a tenner UK.

Meanwhile Ashley was still busy attacking the door to the back house trying to get it open. And failing.

So we called a friend, who sent a locksmith. He arrived within half an hour. Initially he tried everything Ashley had tried, and like Ashley he failed. Ashley was watching, thinking, I tried that, but it is always better to say nothing, it would never have been believed.

Anyway, after half an hour or so, he got it open.

He then insisted on dismantling the lock mechanism, inverting parts, and reassembling, something Ashley is perfectly capable of doing. Ashley is not sure whether this is locksmith professionalism or “you stupid foreigner”. Either way, after another half hour everything was fitted, no longer upside down and working perfectly. The cost? 30 Lira. Cannot complain, and maybe there is sense in letting someone else do the work in the first place.

Photo of the Month July 2014

The lake


It took us a while to get round to posting our photo for July.  It’s been hot and we’ve been busy.

Catch 22

A couple of weeks ago we went off to Izmir with a load of documents all in a nice pink file to renew our residence permits. Beforehand we had researched what was needed, most of which we had to hand or could scan at home. What was left was some sort of proof of health insurance. We have GSS, the state health insurance which is managed from the SGK office. We knew it was a bit of a catch 22, health insurance is needed in order to apply for a residence permit and a residence permit is needed to have the state health insurance. We were wondering if or when this might trip us up.

Anyway, we went to the SGK office and explained we needed proof of health insurance for our applications for a residence permit. They printed off some papers, stamped them, signed them and handed them to us. We put these in our pink files and dutifully headed for Izmir. In Izmir, we took a ticket and waited in line. Just as it was about to be our turn, the office closed for lunch. But we were told to keep our number. When the office re-opened we were first to be seen and, after a bit more running round paying fees and getting the receipts copied (an enterprising gentleman has set up a tea stall and photocopy service in the grounds) it was all done and paid for. Three hours from start to finish (including the one hour lunch break). We have proof that we have applied to extend our residency and all we need do now is wait for the new permits to arrive in the post, probably according to the police in Izmir in a month or two.

Then a week before official date of expiry of our existing residence permits, we headed to the local GSK office to renew our GSS. We were told it could not be done, that we cannot be entered onto the system until we have the new residence permits. This prompted a lot of running around before we established this was actually the case, that until the new residence permits arrive we cannot renew our GSS. This is because we can’t be reinstated on the system until we have the new permit number (our kimlik numbers, which will remain the same, are not sufficient).

Of course we still need to pay the GSS premium every month, despite not being able to claim on it, and right now we are left with no health insurance. It is rumoured that should we need hospital care we can claim the cost back when we can complete the GSS renewal, but this is rumour and it is not something we want to test. It is all a bit frustrating.

We have now got ourselves some accident cover so if one of us falls and breaks a leg it is covered. If we have an accident on the bike we are covered for injuries. It also covers breakdowns, accidental damage at home and some other bits, and given how little it cost was a pretty good deal.

Next year we will start it all earlier. Residence permits can be applied for up to 60 days in advance. Long enough normally for the new ones to arrive before the GSS needs to be renewed – well in theory. It is slightly more complex for us and with a tighter time frame because Ashley’s residence permit expires a month later than Hilary’s and despite Hilary being on Ashley’s GSS policy her cover expires when her residence permit expires. So we only have 30 days to play with, which we are hoping will be sufficient. The system is still new – it only came into force in April and, at some point, new offices will be set up so that applications will not have to be sent to Ankara to be processed. Perhaps that will be in place in time for next year, perhaps not…

A stroll along the Thames


We spent a weekend in Reading. Hilary was at University there, though the city has changed a lot since then (none of the same pubs appear to exist). We have quite a few friends there and another friend (currently living in Oxford) came to meet with us. So we had a pleasantly social Saturday, culminating in Doombar on the Thames and a good Indian meal.

On Sunday we found a greasy spoon type breakfast then took the train to Goring. From there we walked to Reading. Official distance (along the Thames path) is 13 miles but we tried to take a ‘shortcut’ which added a couple of miles onto the total (also we walked back to the hotel from the Thames Path).

We’d not walked all that section of the Path before, though we used to love to walk along the river at weekends when we were living in London.  On this occasion we caught part of an airshow, or some practice flights for an airshow.

It is a very pretty part of the country and we were quite surprised at the number of Grebes we saw. They were quite rare when we left the UK but do seem to be thriving. And, of course, we saw red kites. These were re-introduced near Marlow some years ago and are doing almost too well for their own good. Wonderful birds to watch!

Riding Home


Our posts here are getting seriously out of order.  Yes, there will be more from the UK but first we thought we should write about the last leg of our trip to Greece, the one that occurred when we crossed the border.

The border crossing itself was very straightforward.  We crossed at the River Evros and, whilst there was considerable queuing as our bike was checked and passports stamped, it was infinitely less hassle than the bureaucracy involved in getting the bike on a ferry.  No running backwards and forwards, just a straight succession of checks and stamps.

We rode as far as Çanakkale and booked into a place we have stayed before.  Nothing wonderful about it but it is both cheap and central.  We spent the second half of the afternoon and all evening wandering around, enjoying the town.  Çanakkale is lively and has many restaurants though as it was still Ramazan, everything was a bit more subdued than normal.  In the end we balik-ekmek-Canakkaledecided to forgo the expensive fish restaurants and go for balık ekmek.  People do sometimes ask us whether we miss fish and chips.  Hilary never really liked fish and chips.  Balık ekmek is a different matter.  Far superior to fish and chips in our opinion (and you could always ask for chips on the side if you wanted them).  Cheap, unpretentious and utterly delicious.  This one contained three fresh (boneless) sardines, grilled to order.

Next day we headed for Ayvalik.  Although we had decided to stay on Cunda (theIcecream-on-Cunda nearby pensinsula/island).  That might have been a mistake. Cunda is not cheap at the best of times and in high season….  We were quite shocked by the prices – we paid more than we did for the seafront hotel in Çeşme.  Whatever, we decided to make the most of it.  We shared many flavours of icecream packed into a fresh melon.

approaching-the-barIn the evening we took the ferry to Ayvalik.  It costs the same as the dolmuş, takes about the same time and is a lot more fun.  We strolled for a bit before visiting one of our favourite bars and getting the boat back in time to catch the sunset.

Next day we came home…  We stopped for a break at Aliağa.  Which is either one of the prettiest oil refineries in the world or a beach with one of the best views of an oil refinery.  It’s a good place to stop before you hit the Izmir traffic.

Aliaga-2 Aliaga-1


Some here may have gathered we went to the UK recently, seeing family and friends, that sort of thing.  We also bought a new camera.  We had been thinking about this for a while, and because we have a habit of slinging everything in a bag, jumping on the bike and traveling light, getting an SLR with loads of lenses was not really an option.  So we got a bridge camera with an amazing zoom.

We are still learning our way around it, could not even get to the manual on the CD until we got home, so the photos from the UK are all from being set on auto.

These are from Kew, well with one exception the parrot was in a family garden.  We used to have season tickets to Kew and it is one of our favourite places in London, there is always something new to see as the seasons change.  Next up may well be the Thames valley, Oxfordshire and Berkshire, so very English, but for now.  The Kew photos…..


Why we didn’t go to Bulgaria



There is a signpost near Lake Kerkini that says ‘Bulgaria’.  We had intended to take that road, up over the mountains (where, apparently, you can see rollers by the border) through spectacular scenery.  Rainstorms were, however, predicted.  And predicted to continue for most of the week.

We changed our plans and headed back to the coast.  We decided to get as far as we could before the rain hit, hopefully up as far as Tychero.  And we made it.  We were running just ahead of storm clouds most of the way but we managed to catch nothing worse than the edge of the storm.

Hotel-ThrassaTychero is a small town, or maybe a village.  It has a lake and wildlife.  It also has a lot of bars and cafes and one or two restaurants.  We got a lovely room in a very pleasant hotel with a view out over the lake (yes, we were warned to take precautions against mosquitoes).

After a shower and change we headed into town and managed to duck into a bar Tycherodaki-leylekjust before the rain hit.  It rained for about an hour.  Long enough to enjoy our frappe…  And, of course, watch the storks.

Tychero is a mere 30 Km from the Turkish border so, next morning, we followed the road sign to Turkey and started the journey home.



Lake Kerkini


Our next stop was Lake Kerkini.  This is an artificial lake which, thanks to a number of EU grants, has been turned into a wildlife paradise.  Especially for bird watching.  We have a long list of all the species we saw!

The other side of those mountains you can see in the photo is Bulgaria.

We found a really lovely hotel and we ate there both nights.  There are wild buffalo and farmed buffalo around the lake and we ate buffalo and pasta for dinner.  Yes, we had the same both nights because it was so delicious.

We spent a whole day riding round the lake, parking up the bike and exploring the dykes (built to protect the villages and the fields) on foot.  And yes, we got a lot of photos.

The village itself is quite charming and has a huge number of storks.  A lot of it, sadly, was pretty shut.  Though, as a tourist destination it is open all the year round.  You can get there on a train from Thessaloniki and we may well do that in migration season.  It is a place we intend to visit again.