Category Archives: Ashley

On the Border

I do not like the refugee and migrant deal between Europe and Turkey, it leaves a bad taste, and I have many worries.

It is not the candy being offered to Turkey that worries me, money is no big deal, visa free travel is no big deal.  Visa free is pretty much a paper exercise, or more accurately a paper free exercise.  All it means is that Turks will be able to travel to most of Europe without getting a visa, Turks will still be limited to all the general requirements.  Visa free travel does not give access to the EU job market or to benefits or anything else, all it means is Turks will be able to travel to most of Europe and stay for up to 90 days in a given 180 day period without getting a visa, and most if not all EU citizens will be able to travel to Turkey without visa and under the same conditions.

I’m not too fussed that some of the conditions might get watered down a bit although I do think it sends the wrong message.  Being honest here there are plenty of other countries with far more questionable records of human rights and freedoms many of which unlike Turkey have not signed up to the ECHR and already have visa free travel to the EU.  So at worst it is an opportunity lost and the wrong message, but Turkey will need to address issues at some point in the future if Turkey continues to aspire to EU membership.

And the money is no big deal, Europe would be spending that money supporting people no matter what, it would just get spent in Greece or Germany on the same people fleeing terror, bombs, and the rest.  Yes it is a lot of money, but the West has seriously contributed to the chaos and instability in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen.  Morally it is the right thing to do.

I worry that a maritime national border can be so porous.  Let’s face it, Cameron, May and the rest of that shower would be apoplectic if the maritime border of France was so porous.  But well, it is a long coastline, Turkey is creaking under the strain of somewhere over 3 million Syrian refugees, and Greece hardly has the money or resources to maintain a costly maritime border.

I worry that so much effort is happening to stop refugees and migrants reaching Europe.  The reality is there are over 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, approaching 2 million in Lebanon, over 3 million in Turkey.  By comparison the number in Greece, Germany, Sweden, elsewhere is minute.  The rhetoric that many more will come if allowed to, if the borders remain open, simply does not match the evidence that the vast majority are for whatever reason staying close to Syria.

I worry about the nasty lurch to the right that has happened across much of the globe and is so evident in the UK and much of Europe, and how this is in part driving the deal.  I guess the reality of the global banking crisis, the loss of income, the loss of jobs, loss of confidence, the misguided ethos of austerity, along with events in Syria, Iraq, Libya, elsewhere and people fleeing war and terror has created a perfect storm for nastier aspects of right wing nationalism.

I worry that the refugee and migrant route will change.  That the route will shift to Libya, and the far more dangerous crossing to Italy.  I suspect it will happen, and it is not as if Europe can then do a deal with Libya given the West left that country with no government and as pretty much a failed state.

What I really dislike is the forced repatriation.  Yes I know that any Syrian who is in Greece or reaches Greece will be allowed to remain if they claim refugee status.  No Syrian who claims refugee status will be sent back anywhere.  But I do not like the idea of people being forced onto boats and across a national border, for me it is too close to events from our not too distant past.

If there is one good thing, and it is a very good thing, it is this.  The bodies of men, women, children and infants are no longer being washed up on the shore.  At least now, Turkey is being more proactive, Greece is getting the necessary help, steps have been taken to prevent deaths at sea.

On our recent trip we saw ships patrolling at sea, and these, German Coast Guard and Swedish Search and Rescue ships moored at Vathy, Samos.  Unlike last year we saw no boats trying to make the crossing and other than a small camp towards the Greek border with Macedonia, very few refugees and migrants anywhere else.  A massive difference from what we saw on our travels last year.

Despite all my worries, and the bad taste the deal leaves, it remains my hope that those terrible days of bodies being washed up on the shore will never return.

Waterproofing the Roofing

flatroofB

January was wet.  Very wet.  There is a flat roof over the bathroom in our back house (our summer house) and it was just bare concrete.  Concrete absorbs water and the concrete absorbed the rain to the extent that the paint started coming off the outside of the house and also off the inside of the bathroom ceiling.

flatroofCNot a pretty sight and potentially quite damaging.

Ashley and Zeki did some research, talked to the guys in the building supply shop and came up with a solution.

The roof has been covered in roofing felt and bitumen.  The walls have been re-plastered and re-painted.  This was two days of solid work (plus another day of painting for Ashley afterwards).  We seem to have got a good result.  February was also wet and we had no leaks.  But, what impressed me most was that they took down the satellite dishes then managed (in the dark) to replace them in such good alignment that Ashley was able to watch the UK premier league football on our TV.  (Picture below is before the roof upgrade)

flatroofA

Back on the Road

I picked up a replacement rear wheel in London along with bearings and spacer.  The wheel was put into a holdall and loaded onto our Easyjet flight back to Izmir.  It all went without a hitch and even with the additional charges represented a considerable saving from buying locally.

I am looking at various future options for buying bike parts, locally made custom stuff is available.  Then there is shopping in UK and Eurozone – Greece is easy to get to, there would still be import costs but these are not excessive.  Finally there is buying in the USA and paying shipping and import costs.  Each has benefits, cheapest is probably buying from the USA and sorting shipping / import, it is also probably the most complex.  It all needs to be carefully looked at.

The reality is vehicle parts in Turkey are expensive, more so for imported / foreign vehicles, this goes for any vehicle, and for the likes of big bikes and posh cars to cost goes up again.   I’m going to do what I can to keep the costs down, at the same time just as when I was living in the UK I accept that running vehicles is expensive.

But for now, we have the replacement wheel.  Hilary took it on the bus to Izmir and I rode the bike rather carefully and slowly up HD Izmir.  I really did not want to risk passenger and  heavy luggage on the bike with the dodgy rear wheel.  Anyway, we both got to Izmir and then spent some time wandering around the backstreets of Bornova and Işikkent.  We found a place to have a good and inexpensive lunch, salads, a kebap to share and ayran.  A couple of hours later and after more çay the bike was all done, new wheel fitted and balanced.

It rides well.

Wheel

Still on the subjects of customer service and the bike I recently noticed that some spokes on the rear wheel of the bike had come loose again.  I tightened them and we then took the bike up to Izmir to have the Harley dealer / mechanics take a look at it.  We had tea whilst we waited.

The verdict.  The wheel, as I expected, is badly worn and needs to be replaced.  The spokes should be OK for a while providing I am careful, the main advice being avoid pot holes and bad road surfaces and do not go too fast.  They said they could get a new wheel, that it would take a while because it would need to be ordered from overseas, and told me what the price would be, in Euros.  This was followed by the suggestion that if I happened to be going to London I could get a wheel there for half the money and they would then fit it for me.

The customer service is a little different to that at a Harley Davidson dealership in the UK.  In the UK we’d be offered tea or coffee, be met with impeccable politeness and courtesy, and attention to detail.  Then there would be the bill, which for parts was never cheap, and if there was labour it got really expensive really quickly.  Here, we are offered tea or coffee, welcomed with warmth and politeness.  There was no bill for checking over the bike.  Really positive was to be told how to save around 500 Euro by not buying a wheel from them, being informed of the best way to do this, and being told, just bring the wheel and it will be fitted for you.

Right now I am trying to locate a wheel at a reasonable price, ideally an alloy wheel since these are much more durable than spoked wheels.  I have some options to follow up, some in the UK and some in Greece.  I don’t want to use the bike a great deal until the wheel is replaced.  Longer trips are right out of the question.

Akpınar and Prostanna

We took a walk up the mountain from Eğirdir to Akpınar.  We chose a hot day to do this so the climb was rather sweaty, but well worth it, we were rewarded with some spectacular views.  We saw quite a bit of wildlife but, sadly, failed to get decent photographs.  Our favourites were the falcons, almost certainly peregrines.  What was really noticeable was the autumn colour.  We do not get much of that here in Selçuk.  We’ve been looking quite closely and the trees look like the leaves are drying out.  Admittedly this is probably due to autumn, but the colouration in Isparta was far more mellow.

A lot of the walk is through forestry land.  There is a notice board at the picnic spot by the start of the trail telling you what flora and fauna are to be seen.  It was here that we discovered there are badgers in Turkey.  We were not previously aware  of their presence.  We didn’t see one – we didn’t expect to.  They are, after all, more active at night.  But it is good to know that they live here.  We did however see goats.

Akpınar is a lovely little village, full of people going about their daily, mainly agricultural lives.  There were some villagers selling bits to tourists, mostly home produce.  We came upon an elderly gentleman with a donkey carrying baskets of apples.  He gave us four.  They were delicious (and very refreshing), just what was needed after the long walk up the hill.

We searched above Akpınar for the ancient city of Prostanna and we think we saw it in the distance.  Looking on the Internet there is really not a great deal there and what is there looks a lot like what we saw.  There were some wonderful views which more than made up for the effort of the climb which at times was quite steep.  Next time we will ride up to Akpınar which will give us more time to explore the area.

Back in Akpınar we had gözleme at a café perched on the mountain looking directly down to Eğirdir.  This is served in little summerhouses – a lot of fun and great views.  It seemed to be a very popular place with locals from Eğirdir who drive up for lunch and afternoon relaxation.  It probably gets very busy in July and August when by all accounts the area is very popular with Turkish tourists.

The walk back down was equally spectacular.  By the time we got back down we were hot and thirsty and thinking it was about time for a cold Efes.  Eğirdir is a lovely town, we plan to go back.

Sagalassos

One of the reasons for going to Eğirdir was that the town is a good base for exploring the local area.  As mentioned previously we never got to lake Kovada, or for that matter to Çandir canyon, but we did get to Sagalassos.  Getting to see Sagalassos was top of our list of things to do.  It is about a one and a half hour ride from Eğirdir, the roads are fine, although the last bit, from Ağlasun up the mountain to the ruins was narrow and winding and very, very steep.  The views were stupendous but Ashley couldn’t see them properly due to having to concentrate on the road.

At the entrance there are signs that a more permanent ticket booth and entry gates are in the process of being installed.  Currently there is a hut which sells tickets, it also has a few leaflets, and we got a site guide in Italian.  The site is huge and clearly there are aspirations to make it a major attraction, which left us wondering how visitors would be taken up the hill.  The road would need development to handle tour buses, quite possibly impractical.  There were signs that perhaps a cable car is being considered, what looked to be an anchor point near the entrance and a structure also being developed in the valley near Ağlasun.

The huge site is still being excavated, explored and restored – work which will be ongoing for many years.  Because of the remote location much of the stone was never recycled which is what commonly happened, so restoration can be done mostly with the original stone.  Like what is happening with Patara we are not positive we like the planned amount of restoration but this is a matter of personal taste.

At present, though, there is only a modest amount of restoration, allowing you to see how things fell, as well as how things used to look in Hadrian’s heyday.   The restored structures are fabulous as would be expected of those dedicated to the divinity of Hadrian.  One could say they were ostentatious, as that is what they were meant to be.  They certainly impress.

One thing we could not understand…  The theatre has a stunning natural backdrop, mountains rising into the distant mist, but the Romans built a proscenium and a backing wall.  Maybe so that the audience would be sure to concentrate on whatever was happening on stage or to prevent whatever was on the stage from escaping.

Worth mentioning is that we saw several really pretty little lizards in the ruins.  We saw some nearer to  Eğirdir as well, but we got some good photos of the ones in the ruins.  We’ve looked them up on the Internet and  they seem to be juvenile Anatololacerta oertzeni budaki (Budak’s Oertzen Rock Lizard).

The pictures.

A Respoke Service

We were on our way from Eğirdir to lake Kovada, hoping to do some walking watching birds and enjoying the local scenery.  Fortunately we had not got far out of Eğirdir when the bike started to feel really unstable.  We stopped to investigate the problem and discovered to our horror that a load of spokes were broken on the back wheel.  Not good, but at least the mechanical failure had not dumped us on the road.

One of many broken spokes

We walked a mile or so back towards Eğirdir, to the local Sanayi (industrial area) and found some people who do motorcycle service and repairs.  The nearest qualified Harley mechanics were hundreds of miles away, so either it was going to get fixed locally, or if  this proved impossible, there was going to be an expensive recovery of bike to Izmir.

View of the Sanayi

The people we found, a father, son and grandson concern, took a van out, loaded the bike into it and brought the bike to their workshop.  They took a look at the wheel, father dug out some spokes of the right size, and seemed very confident that he could re-spoke the wheel.  Clearly they had never worked on a Harley before, the belt drive as opposed to a chain caused some confusion around how to remove the back wheel, but they worked it out.  The son took the wheel off, having propped the bike on logs, with grandson running back and forth with tools and doing other jobs.

Who needs a hoist!

We sat and drank lots of tea as it was going on, the removed wheel taken next door to a tire fitting place.  Tire off, the wheel came back.  Then father started work.  It took him some time to re-spoke the wheel.  His only tools were a pair of pliers, a spanner and an axle to spin the wheel on.  By hand and eye he aligned the rim and balanced the wheel.  No electronics, no gadgets.

They fixed the bike

When everything was done, the bike put back together, they suggested I test it out to make sure the wheel was right.  It felt really good, the bike was perfectly stable.  I was seriously impressed – and 100 lira for the whole job.  We were not allowed to leave without then being shown family photographs, exchanging contacts, taking photos and being offered more tea.

We never got to lake Kovada, guess we’ll have to go back to Eğirdir.