On to Mystra

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Our next stop was Mystra.  We rode there the pretty way, via Leonido, stopping off in Cosmas for lunch Lunch in Cosmaswith a spectacular view…    Some Italian bikers had the same idea so there was quite a crowd enjoying mountain sausage, chips and village bread.

Mystra did not disappoint.  It’s an almost intact Byzantine city with many churches containing frescoes, a palace, a working monastery and plenty of interesting wildlife.  The village itself is small and friendly, containing a number of small hotels and a sprinkling of restaurants.  I think a lot of people just visit for the day from larger tourist centres.

After we arrived we walked up to the entrance to the site (there are two entrances because, if you only use the lower entrance, there is quite a lot of walking involved) where we saw some lattice brown butterflies on a tree stump.lattice-brown-1

Next day we explored the site itself.  It took all day.  Like many sites in Greece, the information boards scattered around give you a very good idea of what life must have been like when Byzantine Mystra was a living city.  We were lucky to avoid the rainstorm that happened in the evening as the surfaces inside the Byzantine city are very, very slippery when wet!

Apart from the lattice browns, I think I shall save the wildlife for a separate post as Mystra is very, very photogenic.

 

 

Back in Nafplio

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We took a trip to Greece for Ashley’s birthday.  This time we went on the bike.  Ferry from Çeşme to Chios (Sakız) where we enjoyed a few beers with friends and nearly missed the ferry to Piraeus.  It is probably worth adding that we did not see many refugees on Chios and those we did see seemed well settled with small businesses.  Our friend, however, told us that the tourist industry is not doing well. Bookings down by 80%.  Tourists, it seems, are fickle beasts.

We did better in Piraeus this time – we only went the wrong way once and when we did we quickly realised we were going the wrong way.  Our excuse is that it was very, very early in the morning.  We were in Nafplio far too early and our hotel room was not ready.  The management could not have been more apologetic (even though it was not their fault – it was barely ten in the morning) so we took ourselves off for an excellent breakfast.

We really did not do a great deal that day, other than wander around and eat delicious ice cream.  It really is very much a tourist town (it gets cruise ships) and we did buy a hat.

Nafplion

The next day we indulged in some serious sight seeing.  We didn’t manage to get to the museum on our previoddmm (date)Portrait02us visit and this omission needed to be corrected.  The area has been inhabited since the iron age and there were the usual prehistoric pots plus some very fine Attic red figure ware.  And the only entire suit of Mycenaean  armour that has survived to the present day.  In the afternoon we headed up the 1000 (actual number disputed but it’s an awful lot) steps to the fortress.  This is huge.  It was originally Venetian but was taken over by the Ottomans and then the Greeks.  Once you get to the top the climbing is not over as there are a number of different bastions, linked by passageways.  There are doors that seem to lead to nothing except thin air, but often there are steps leading down from them quite safely. And interesting though the history is, the major attraction here just has to be the wonderful views.

 

The evenings were spent in a large square in town where vendors found a ready market for various toys including giant bubble blowing machines and luminous twirly parachuting things.  The square was full of children, and people generally strolling.  After two lovely nights we headed off to Mystra, but that’s for another post…

 

 

 

 

 

Postcards from the Edge

We are going to keep Pul Biber to mostly being about living in Turkey and local material, our travels, our life here.  On which we have just got back from a trip to Greece details of which to follow soon.

Right now we are taking this opportunity to let people know that political content, especially about the UK, and maybe some other bits and pieces, social commentary and observations, human rights matters and so on will appear over on Postcards from the Edge.  Do please drop by if you are interested, do comment if you want.

https://wordpress.com/postcardsfromtheedgesite.wordpress.com

This is something we have been thinking of doing for a while.  Recent terrible events in the UK got us off our backsides and writing.

 

Akyaka – another visit

Akbuk

We returned to Akyaka for our third visit.  It seems to be becoming an annual event.  The picture above,  by the way is not Akyaka but Akbük (there are at least two places called Akbük but this one is between Akyaka and Oren).

Akyaka is one of Turkey’s official slow cities.  It’s a place we go to relax so we can’t report any frenetic activity.   We ate a great deal of kalamari and other seafood, all of which was fantastic. Akyaka really is a  good place for seafood.  Oh, and hand made organic goat milk ice cream.

We took the bike for a ride along the coast.  We went down into Akbük pictured.  At ground level there is a narrow, stony beach packed with chaise longues and parasols, so close together that everyone could hold hands.  Not really as attractive as it looks from a distance, though there were plenty of cafes and restaurants that looked pleasant enough.  We rode as far as Oren which we liked.  It’s a ‘real’ place (obviously has year round activity) and we ate gözleme and more kalamari.

Next day we attempted a circular walk that should have been about 12 Km.  Our intended route was interrupted at the last moment by an unfordable inlet so we had to turn around and go back the way we came.  This made it a much longer walk but very worthwhile as we were able to sit in a ploughed field and watch a colony of bee eaters.

Public Service Announcement

For those UK citizens who are living in Turkey  or maybe elsewhere outside of the UK and want to vote in the referendum.  If you have a postal vote this may not be of much use since the earliest they will be sent out from the UK is 3rd June, so odds are we will get them sometime in July.

We spoke to the Electoral Commission about this.  They provided the telephone number of Electoral Services where we are registered for a postal vote, in our case London Borough of Ealing.  We now have the forms by email for a Proxy vote, these can be printed, completed, scanned and returned by email.  In our case the Proxy may then have to apply for a postal vote but that too can all be done by email and return of email.

If you are a UK citizen living in Turkey or elsewhere and want to vote, then depending on your postal service this may be what you need to do.

passport_epa

For the record we’ll be voting In.  Apart from all the other good reasons, this one.  On the front of our passports it says European Union.  This is really important, because many of the rights we have to live here (and the same is true of those living in the EU and some other countries) are predicated on agreements with the EU.  Leave the EU, those agreements are at risk.

That said, the important thing here is democratic process, having the opportunity to vote.

 

Lake Prespa

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We left Kerkini in very windy weather.  For this part of the journey we were glad not to be on the bike.  The wind was pushing the car around and trees were falling into the road ahead of us.  We went by a scenic route – bits of highway and bits of very windy mountain roads.  Something to repeat on the bike at some point in the future as the scenery was spectacular.

We were headed for Lake Prespa through which run borders between Greece, Macedonia and Albania.  We did not encounter any snow but there was plenty to be seen on the mountains that surround the lake.

On our first evening we walked from our hotel in Psarides along the shore of the lake.  We saw caves that belonged to hermits, we saw lizards and we had to crawl through a cave to get around a headland.

On our first full day we drove out to various sites where we hoped to see many Prespa-wildcatbirds.  We were not very lucky when it came to taking photographs though we did hear nightingales and cuckoos and Ashley saw an oriole.  We saw more lizards.  We then went across a causeway to an island that used to be attached to the mainland.  There was some very pleasant walking there and we encountered a wild cat.  Well, it was wild about tummy rubs and ear scritches…  It followed us for quite a long way.  Using our monoscope we were able to see the many, many pelicans on their islands in micra Prespa but we have no means of taking photographs at that sort of distance.  It is a pretty island though!

Wildcat-island

 

 

On the last day we went walking upwards through an ancient Greek Juniper grove.  The flora were spectacular.  Fields full of flowers including quite a lot of orchids.   The views out over the lake were amazing.

 

 

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.