It is the dog days of summer here in Kirazli. As I sit in the Studio with the door open to the sounds of the village a light breeze ripples up from the coast and it smells of hot earth and dust. The cicadas are doing their daily trill and the cockerel with the dodgy circadian rhythm is giving it rocks behind the mosque. There is no noise of traffic and only the occasional rapid burst of Turkish as the neighbour admonishes her son shows that humans are here. Daily temperatures hover around the 36 to 38 degrees Celsius but the nights are a pleasant 26.
In the evenings the ladies of the village gather in groups on the doorsteps sharing food and the endless gossip, arranging marriages and planning cooking circles. I arrived home the other day with a car load of Ikea goodies and couldn’t park outside the house due to an impromptu cook-out in the middle of the street with several ladies boiling corn over a witches of Macbeth type caldron.
Whilst the ladies sit in their circles chatting the men of the village gather in the tea shops for cay and endless games of OK. I sometimes hear our neighbour come home about 11, padding softly through the dust, quietly opening his gate. A few minutes later there will be the melodic clink of the spoon on the cay glass and soft conversation as he and his wife sit out in the garden under the fig tree. During summer in Turkey everyone is late to bed because the evening cool is welcome and refreshing.
Everyone moves slowly in the heat – apart from the tourists trucked in by Diana Tourism who are given a rackety drive through the village main street in a garishly painted fake train pulled by an elderly tractor. I do wish they would get out and wander through the streets a bit, it would be a lot less embarrassing than seeing ones compatriots gazing goggle eyed at the spectacle of the “real Turkey” from the safety of their bench seats. Still, maybe the village isn’t ready yet for scantily clad tourists asking if they can have their picture taken with highly dignified and picturesquely aged village men! In the main the villagers ignore the Diana Tourism train and adopt a stoic expression over their tea glasses as high speed photos are taken by the tourist’s whizzing by.
I hear there was rain in Istanbul on Monday and we even had a few fluffy clouds ourselves, but whilst rain relieves the drought in the Marmara region here, on the west Aegean coast, the water is very low. As the wells in the neighbouring villages and Selcuk, Guzelcamli and Soke run dry, only Kirazli’s wells keep pouring forth fresh water. Up on the mountain pass amidst the brittle yellow and bare earth a patch of emerald green grass marks the last high well before you leave the village, and the marble trough donated by a well to do Turkish gentleman for the succour of travellers still is continually full of fresh water. The goats appreciate it and so does the melon seller camped beside it.
While the coastal hills dry out and sun bleaches the colour from the trees and the fields the valley of Kirazli is a green oasis, sustained by the deep springs. Coming over the mountain pass there is such a change from harsh arid rock to fields of vines and trees interspersed with nodding headed sunflowers.
Down in Kusadasi the tourists are holding sway, the beaches are busy and driving and parking is a nightmare. Essential journeys revolve around parking opportunities and the everyday insanity of the Turkish driving experience gets even more frantic as the main roads clog with visitors from Ankara and Istanbul arriving for extended summer holidays delayed by the election. The bar and restaurant owners are happy and we have the best of both worlds here in the village – it is a fifteen minute drive (and fifteen minutes finding a parking space) down to the town where the wide shopping streets are thronged with a happy multitude and the babble of a dozen languages gives it a ritzy cosmopolitan feel, yet we can escape any time we like to our quiet village and our pine hills and hide away the long summer days behind our stone walls listening to the waterfall. All but perfect I think.