Category Archives: Hilary

Soap Opera – a tale of too many cooks

view-from-the-gardenThe 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.

pouring-the-oilThe 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 mixing-the-lyeheat 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.

Scent-for-soapThe 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’.

lunchWe 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’.too-many-cooks

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.

Our Crafts Club’s first Outing

Our new local Crafts Club had its first outing.  We were sadly depleted by illness so there were only four of us – enough to fit comfortably into one car.  Ashley did not come as the rest of us were all female.  The primary purpose of our trip was to visit Priene Halı-Kilim Atölyesi.  This is a women’s co-operative where they make carpets, traditionally, by hand.  Each knot is made separately and, at the end of a row, the hand spun thread is snipped to an even length.  They make up the designs of students at the New York University of Fine Arts.  This is part of the students’ learning.  These designs are not very traditional (we were amused by one of a pair of very pink feet on a beach – the ladies in the co-operative were speculating whether the feet belonged to a man or a woman).  Other carpets are more traditional in design or of designs evolved by the women of the co-operative themselves.   They also weave kilims out of recycled clothing.  Also for sale were some very charming hand-made dolls of ladies in traditional dress (some of them carrying babies in traditional dress) along with a number of knitted items.  The beaded socks were particularly popular with our party.  I bought some socks with swans on and one of the recycled kilims which will make an excellent alternative tablecloth for the back terrace.

We drank tea and chatted.  Well, mostly I listened.  I understood most of what was being said and finally got the courage to explain that, whilst I understood most of the conversation, I don’t have the confidence to say much in Turkish…

After the visit we went to Gelebeç.  This is one of the places on the Aegean that was hit hard by the exchange of populations.  There are old Greek stone houses in various states of disrepair.  Quite a few have been very tastefully (and probably expensively) restored.  We saw numberplates from Istanbul and Ankara and, when I googled to learn more about the place I turned up the old monastery which is being advertised as a holiday let.  This village is very near to Priene and we saw some interesting material in some of the newer stone walls…

There is a fairly famous ruined church dedicated to St. Nicholas.  It was built in the 19th Century upon the ruins of an older building (the area has suffered a number of earthquakes).  All the icons have gone and it is covered in graffiti.  It’s a bit tumbledown but the basic structure remains visible (I particularly liked the clock tower).  There are bones in the ossuary.  The surrounding scenery is fantastic but the weather was squally and the light was poor so I didn’t get any good photographs.

After a stop for lunch we headed for home.  We explored around the new ethnographic museum in Söke but it appeared to be a shoppers paradise rather than anything more ethnographical.  We could be wrong, in which case we shall, no doubt, return.  We just didn’t fancy hanging out in the mall at that point in time.

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.


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.

September – Photo of the Month

We were away for the last week in September.  We went to Eğirdir, took a trip to Sagalassos, did some walking, and spent much of a day sat in the local sanayi.  Needless to say we took loads of photographs, in particular of Sagalassos and around Eğirdir, many of which will appear soon.  In the meantime, these, all of which are from Eğirdir stood out as particularly good.  The lake is stunningly beautiful in the evening.  Which one do you like best?

Winter is Coming – Preparing for Ice and Fire

Last night there was thunder in the distance, the occasional flash of lightening, and a few drops of rain.  Today has been cloudy with a few more drops of rain.  It remains pleasantly warm, 27C in the afternoon but the change in the weather is a reminder that autumn is coming, inevitably to be followed by winter.

Today, in preparation for winter, our firewood arrived.  1,000 Kg of it.  All delivered in sacks, and cut to the right size to fit our soba (wood stove).  Last year we got cheaper wood and had to cut up a lot of it because the pieces were too big.  Chopping wood is way too much like hard work.  There was still the work of emptying the sacks and getting all the wood stacked in the wood store.  All done now, it took a few hours, but is work well worth doing.

Hopefully it will not get cold enough to be needed before December.  Hopefully, unlike last winter, there will not be ice an inch thick on the roof terrace.  But no matter what winter throws at us we will have fire.