diving 3

2012 – we gained so much and lost one special someone

When I look back at 2012 I can’t believe we did so much. The years pass ever faster but they are no less full and I have to edit and cut to get the highlights in when I look through my image library.

All the time we were doing stuff and learning stuff and exploring places we were welcoming guests here and so against the ebb and flow of the seasons and the experiences there were always new people to meet and get to quickly know and then wave on their way. Some have become long term friends and we follow them on Facebook and Twitter as they carry on around the world and some will come back but all have made it fun.

2012 was the year I discovered scuba diving, it was the year Mum and Dad finally made it to Kirazli and it was the year that Nick and I decided life wasn’t always about playing it safe and we bought a new project. These are the highlights of our year:-

Special Visitors

Mum and Dad in Kusadasi

We are a wildly scattered family, we don’t see each other too often and that’s fine because we’re used to it and it makes it all the more special when we do meet up. Last June Mum and Dad finally made it to Turkey as a stopover on their 50th Wedding Anniversary cruise (I know, 50 years, they don’t look their age!). Seven hours isn’t long enough to see the sites so we skipped the historical and showed the life, taking them on the scenic route to the village before showing them home and then going for a village breakfast before wandering around the marina before they headed for Santorini.

Naomi and Nigel on their annual visit

My daughter and her boyfriend come to Kirazli every year, last year they swopped sometimes rainy April for definitely hot July. They flew scheduled airline this time, with Lufthansa who have a generous baggage allowance and fly into Izmir via Munich which worked out cheaper than charter flight hell into Bodrum. We did beach holiday stuff and took boat trips along the Millipark and spent days relaxing at the quieter beach clubs in Kusadasi. The sun did it’s thing, their tans got deeper, the pool was cool and the food was good. Pretty perfect for a family break.

Showing Joan and Pete the Millipark

Living here it may be years between real world encounters with friends but online friends tend to be a loyal lot and we may not see each other from one year to the next but we’re still real friends. When we do meet again we go places and share discoveries and slip back into conversations interrupted by a couple of thousand miles. For all the friends we saw again this year – thanks for coming and we look forward to the next time.

The Food we Love

Breakfast at Belen Coben Sofrasi

Having spent a week in the UK recently where the food is a little bland and the service in restaurants not designed to make you linger I value even more the brilliant food we have here and the convenience of being able to get a meal at any time. Village breakfasts remain a firm favourite for a regular treat and the Belen Coben Sofrasi above Kirazli still serves the best one in the area in my book and the view is dazzling.

Cop Sis at Ortaclar

Having re-experienced food available to travelers in the UK and been horrified by the price and the taste I will never again take for granted the quality of our road side eateries here. In Ortaclar on the road between Aydin and Selcuk a row of cop sis restaurants serve just grilled kebabs and fresh from the wood fired oven lavas bread whilst they wash your car for free. The salads are brilliant, the saucers of cheese and butter that come with the hot bread are wonderful and they even give you bottles of water to take with you as you continue your journey. Only in Turkey.

Lunch in Aydin

Good food, well priced and with the freshest ingredients, that is what the Turkish lunch goer demands and it is mainly what he gets or the restaurant goes out of business. In Aydin, under the pine trees, in the park next to the university campus the government run restaurants offer extensive menus at fantastic prices and with a view over the sunlit plain that is hard to beat.

Discovering Scuba Diving

Tubeworm at Adabanko Reef

2012 was the year I learned to dive. I am now officially addicted. Turkey below the waves is a whole new world to explore, from ancients wrecks and eons old amphora grown into the reefs to beautiful marine life that waves and glows in the sunlight filtering down from above. It is fascinating and I can’t believe it took until I was 46 to discover it all.

Bristly worms at Kamil Cavern

Thanks to the patience of my instructors at Active Blue I’ve gone beyond basic open water with my diving and I’ve qualified in deep diving, night diving, navigation and I’ve just finished my Stress and Rescue Course. In 2013 I’ll keep on learning and gaining experience and trying to get better and hopefully the photography will improve – achieving shots like this of little bristly worms in a cave will keep me going back.

Home reef at Ephesus Princess

Diving became a huge part of my life in 2012 and the images that will stick with me, apart from what I saw down there, were the days and the evenings I spent on the coast. You sit on the shore and you look out over the dark sea and the unseen deeps and you think “I went down there!” and it feels really good. You dived into waters that have been sailed over for three thousand years, you are part of the first generation that thinks that is normal, you live in a time and a place where you can routinely go where nobody before you could. It is an amazing thought and a massive privilege.

Still Beautiful – Turkey

Last sunflower of autumn

Turkey still amazes and enthralls me. I have been here seven years now and I don’t feel the itch to move on yet. I still see wonder every day, even on the sad days, and this picture of the last sunflower of Autumn (in November!) is one of my favourite shots of the year.

Blue bay at Millipark

The Millipark remains one of our favourite places, the colour and clarity of the water, the feeling of peace we get there and the lack of crowds make it a real retreat. This small and pretty bay, almost an alcove in the cliffs, is the regular stopping off point for lunch for the Dostluk boat tours who sail every day from Guzelcamli, it’s a wonderful spot.

The house in June

Five years on from being built the Kirazli house settles well into it’s landscape, the planting matures, the wisteria spreads over the walls, the roof tiles age and fade from their harsh newness to a softer, gentler tone and every year the house feels more part of Turkey, becoming part of the village landscape, one more honey stone wall on a narrow street, hiding a home inside.

New Village New Project

Village in the hills

2012 was the year we discovered a new village, a new refuge, hidden in the hills, a step away from the hustle and bustle of the coast. A small and pretty village of adobe houses, surrounded by fig orchards and olive groves, whiling away the centuries between one empire and the next. We really liked this village, it was in the foothills of the mountains, offering lots of exploration opportunities and whilst old, having been on the old caravan routes for centuries, the whole village was hooked up to green technology and it was that intriguing mix of ancient and modern that I like so much. We decided to explore the possibilities here.

Into the quiet lands

With wonderful scenery, a fresh water lake that changed colour in the sunlight and views that pulled you higher up and deeper into the fresh, clean mountains of Aydin we thought this location was wonderful. The coast was a thirty minute drive, Ephesus and Selcuk were the same distance away, the county seat at Aydin was fifteen minutes away and the charming, interesting and quirky houses appealed to the renovator in us.

House Elements Project

So we bought a ruin, a huge sprawling, multi level, multi era ruin in stone and adobe brick which we will renovate and rebuild. Either we will sell it and go on to renovate another, or we’ll sell the Kirazli house and build it for ourselves – never design anything you wouldn’t be happy to live in and run yourself – either way House Elements as we’ve called it will be something special, a truly green building in Turkey, giving travelers the opportunity to stay somewhere interesting and sustainable and thoughtfully just one step off the main tourist trail. You can learn more about the project here – House Elements

Saying Goodbye – Vinnie

Vinnie - A really good dog

For all we gained in 2012 we lost someone very special. We had to put Vinnie to sleep and that was a horribly hard decision. Vinnie came to us nearly four years ago; obviously elderly and pretty decrepit even then he courted Shadow with determination and eventually moved into the house to recuperate from a burnt tail. We thought back then that he wouldn’t last long, he had so many old injuries and scars, but good food and a warm bed and a lot of love kept him going for four more years.

He had a good retirement did Vinn, he slept in the sun and dozed by the fire and guarded the gate and he would toddle out for a little walk morning and evening and keep his reputation intact by growling hideously at any other dog he met. He was a grumpy old man, full of character, loyal and true. When the time came that it took him a painful hour to walk 50m we decided it was only right to end it. Our vet was in tears, we were in tears and Vinnie went to sleep and went where all the good dogs go.

I still feel him around, when I walk Shadow and Alien in the olive groves, I feel him watching over us, he was that kind of dog, he took his duties seriously. We miss him loads.