waves at Pamucak

Popping out to do the shopping

It’s Saturday afternoon, time to do the weekly shop, not really a major chore in Turkey in spring time. Normally Nick goes to the market because he likes shopping and I like time to myself but with the sun shining after a few days of rain it was good to get out.

At this time of year before early morning shopping becomes a necessity because of the heat we can take our time and so we stopped to admire the aquaduct on the road to Selcuk and took a quick detour down to Pamucak beach to see how it had faired in the recent storms before turning back to Selcuk to do the shopping. I think it would probably be hard to find a prettier way to the shops!

We shop at the street markets; they are a hundred times better than the supermarkets which still haven’t managed to change the shopping habits of eons here in Turkey. Street markets aren’t as confusing as they initially seem, as I told a Facebook friend when I first posted these photos online shopping at the market is the same as wending you way around Tesco, you have your familiar route, the stall holders have their usual pitches and it is just like a big sunny supermarket but with no tedious queue at the end, you still get the demon grannies with their trollies with the razor sharp wheels though!

I now find normal supermarkets weird, with their flat bright lighting and lack of human interaction they feel surreal and strange, you can’t see the sky, nobody tells you what’s good this week, nobody reminds you if you have forgotten one of your regular items and you can’t tell what time of day it is so you feel you are lost in some nightmare warehouse of high piled goods. And there is a distinct lack of storks 🙂

Bee Pollen

Bee Pollen – At the Very Least Good for the Soul

Bee Pollen from Kirazli valley
You know how it is, you’ve never heard of something and then you discover it and suddenly you see it everywhere and feel like a total tit for not having noticed it before. That happened to me with bee pollen.

Last autumn Nick came back from the village shop with a small container of what looked like popping candy, little grains of yellow, gold and ochre that smelled of dried grasses. A spirited display of mime by the shop keeper had made it clear this was something to do with honey and bees and was “cok sağlık için iyi” (very good for health) and having seen the bees staggering around the garden with their little legs weighed down by boulders of bright pollen we worked out this was bee pollen, harvested from the bees before they could take it into the hives (which seems a little mean considering we are taking the honey too!)

I was fascinated by the box of little gold nuggets so we did a little research into it and in the mean time fell over bee pollen supplements in every chemist we went to and every major supermarket in Izmir – typical!

It seems bee pollen one of those things that people either worship as a universal panacea or dismiss out of hand as quackery. Search the web and you’ll find thousands of interested parties who swear that ingesting bee pollen can cure everything from hair loss to in-growing toe nails but dig down to find scientific research and it’s thin on the ground although there are some interesting hints.

This winter's pine honey and spring pollen
There are some scientific research articles quoted as evidence that bee pollen has effects on a variety of medical conditions, frequently mentioned is a study from 1948 by the Department of Agriculture in the USA who published the article “Delay in Appearance of Palpable Mammary Tumors in C3H Mice Following the Ingestion of Pollenized Food”. The article contained details of a study led by Dr. William Robinson of the US Bureau of Entomology where bee pollen appeared to delay the onset of tumours in mice genetically bred to definitely develop them.

Also frequently mentioned is a small sample study by Dr Peter Hernuss of the University of Vienna who gave bee pollen supplements to 25 women with inoperable uterine cancer and noted they suffered less during chemotherapy, fought infection better and developed a higher concentration of cancer fighting immune system cells. I can’t find that actual study though, only mentions of it. Which seems odd because honestly researchers should be all over this doing systematic research if the reports are true.
Whilst scientific data may be thin on the ground anecdotal evidence arrives by the skip load, everything from diabetes to arthritis to depression, all seem to provide people willing to stand up and be named and say “this made me better.”

The first flowers of Spring flavour the pollen
I have no idea if bee pollen is the health super food some people claim but I do know it is a very complex substance and processing it can ruin it so if you do want to try it then getting it fresh direct from the people who manage the hives is probably the best idea.

The bee pollen we buy from the old man outside the village shop and from the rickety stands that pop up outside the market gardens in the valley is different from the commercially packaged and hermetically sealed bee pollen available in the shops. For one it is obviously really fresh and I think if there is a real health benefit to be found then it will be in the really fresh pollen, it is also a helluva lot cheaper and it hasn’t been processed in any way. Heat bee pollen and you lose the value, destroying some of the unique enzymes in it, leave it in a box and you lose more of the nutritional value, so buy it at source, use it soon and use it raw.

We sent some to a friend with early stage prostate cancer, it might not cure him but in the first days of diagnosis a proactive approach is important and the bee pollen made him feel he was doing something himself to fight his disease. He takes his bee pollen raw every day sprinkled on his morning yoghurt.

When I remember – and I’m hopeless at remembering to take any type of supplement – I take a teaspoon full, it tastes different every month, last autumn it tasted of dried grasses, of the sun blasted long days of summer and fields of gold, now it tastes of spring, of delicate flowers in bright green grass and the heady whiff of cherry blossom. Scientifically it may not be the answer but it does cheer your soul.

Warning – from what I can see, if you suffer from allergies to pollen or bees then taking bee pollen as a supplement would be a bad idea. On the basis that bee pollen is entirely dependent on the flowers the bees had access to and doesn’t come labelled it could trigger an anaphylactic reaction so I’d steer clear of scoffing of random bee pollen if you are prone to severe hayfever.

valley early march

What to do in March……

Hurray it’s spring! Bouncing into March with a spring in our steps and sun on our bones (getting old, need heat!) and a bright beautiful blue bowl of a sky above us. It was an incredibly wet winter this year but mercifully short and we’ve been out and about in t-shirts already, the doors and windows of the house are all open during daylight hours and the dogs are basking in the sun in the courtyard. We haven’t needed heating at all for the last week and I think, on balance, judging by the buds of the wisteria and the miraculous resurrection of the wild roses in the garden that we are about four weeks ahead of where we normally are at this time of year.

We’ve had some lovely people visiting over the winter and despite the torrential downpours they have all managed to get out and see the sites and only one poor couple endured continuous rain during their stay but they say they were happy and just read and relaxed and enjoyed the dramatic thunderstorms.

If you are planning on visiting Izmir, Selcuk or Kusadasi area in March here are a few ideas on what to do and what is on locally.

The Izmir International Jazz Festival

Now in its 20th year the festival is already in full swing and is running between March 4th and 20th. Organized by the İzmir Foundation for Culture, Arts and Education, it hosts performances by jazz musicians from across Europe as well as Turkey. You may have missed the opening concerts but there is still plenty going on over the next two weeks with the David Hellbock Trio performing on March 7th and the François Corneloup Trio on March 14th. The festival will close with a concert by the Mauro Grossi Quintet on March 20th.

The concerts will be held at the Ahmed Adnan Saygun Art Center (AASM). While tickets for most of the performances are available for purchase online from Biletix, on March 18 and 19 there will be free concerts by the Open Jazz Orchestra, for which tickets can be obtained at the AASM box office. As well as performances the festival also hosts a photography exhibition titled “Magic of Jazz,” by Aykut Uslutekin.
Information in English – www.iksev.org which includes links to online ticketing through the biletex website and details of where to buy in person.

Heads up: the New York Philharmonic are performing in Izmir on 2nd May 2013, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Minor and Bruckner Symphony No 3. Tickets are already on sale and can be bought through biletex.com

House of Virgin Mary at Easter –

Holy Week 2013 is Sunday March 24th to Saturday March 30th with Easter Sunday on 31st March this year. The House of the Virgin Mary near Selcuk will have a full schedule of services and you can find out the latest news about the shrine and the times of services and prayers via their website at www.meryemana.info or check out their Facebook page at Meryem-Ana-Evi Facebook

Spring Diving –

Active Blue Dive Centre at Ephesus Princess opens imminently. There are some advanced courses running over the quiet spring period before the tourists descend and if you are thinking of getting qualified in time for summer in the Aegean now is a good time to get in the water.

A basic open water course was running last weekend and saw people qualifying in the shallow waters off Snake Island and we’re reef diving at Adabanko reef next week, weather and my current head cold permitting. If any qualified divers in the area fancy coming along just drop me an email or contact Tagmac at Active Blue dive centre – Active Blue Diving Facebook Page or Active Blue website

Markets –

It is a brilliant time of year to visit any of the vibrant markets we have in the area. The new spring produce is not just delicious it’s pretty to look at piled high on the stalls and the plant sections have gorgeous displays of spring flowers. Selcuk market, our favourite, is on every Saturday. Davutlar market is every Sunday, it’s under cover if the weather isn’t friendly and it has a really good plant selection at the back. Kusadasi has its Wednesday and Friday markets and Germencik has a massive market on Thursday.

For interesting and transportable gifts to take home to family and friends you can find some great things on the markets; organic olive oil (the oil has been good this year, very low acid), small jars of local honey, bee pollen (more on that coming soon!), dried herbs and spices and many of our guests buy brightly coloured scarves with edgings of hand made oya a distinctive needle crochet that is highly valued in Turkey. One guest bought 20 to gift to her work colleagues and wrote to me later saying everyone loved them as they really brightened up the corporate suits they had to wear.

The Big Sites –

Ephesus, Priene, Miletos and Pamukkale are, I think, at their best in the spring. They are uncrowded and carpeted in wild flowers and a joy to visit at this time of year. Currently Miletos has a lot of water on the site as the winter rains have flooded it but this gives it a dramatic appeal all it’s own and gives some amazing photo opportunities with the columns and colonnades rising out of the flood waters.

Early March – A little gallery of Spring arriving…..