I Love To Go A-Wandering

Along the mountain track, and as I go I love to . . tra-la-la! I know what you’re thinking – ‘what is going on here?’ After a desultory one or two posts each week or ten days this bloke is spewing them out like the pubs after a bad night on Sauchiehall Street. Trouble is, without I ‘spew’ this Beauty of Nature stuff a bit quick, you’ll miss it and that would be a shame. It all happens so fast you see.

Okçular is not like a lot of other places – Okçular has an awful lot of amazing stuff to see. Okçular is worth taking the time and trouble to get yourself here and worth putting your walking clogs on and wandering about a bit. Take this morning for example:

Fritillaria acmopetala (and in the background)


Fritillaria sibthorpiana (endangered endemic)
Papaver argemone – Prickly Poppy
Valeria asarifolia – Valerian
Bellevalia trifoliata
Mauremys caspia – Stripe-necked Terrapin
Ranunculus ficaria – Lesser Celandine

. . below, one of the rarest plants you will ever lay eyes upon . .

Alkanna mughlae – critically endangered endemic
Ornithogalum umbellatum – Star of Bethlehem
Laurus nobilis – Laurel or Sweet Bay

. . and finally, to show I have nothing against orchids . .

Orchis anatolica – Anatolian Orchid

. . and there’s so much more – better you come and see for yourself. Remember your copy of the Okçular Village Guide – Happy Wandering!

Alan Fenn, Okçular

Sagalassos Rising

It’s at least twelve years since J and I were last in Sagalassos – I remember it well, I was cold and wet and miserable! 1600 metres above sea level up Akdağ in the Toros range it is a city of the clouds. (this salvaged story originally posted on Archers of Okcular in March 2013)


At least it was until bubonic plague, a couple of earthquakes, problems with water supplies and economic decline led to its demise. It was finally abandoned in the mid 7thcentury CE. When you consider that the place must have baked in summer and drowned in winter its a wonder it lasted as long as it did. Mind you, when its not cloudy, the views are fantastic!

Sagalassos was built by Pisidians who were, to put it mildly, anti-social war mongers and all round bad neighbours. (as I read this five years on with John Bolton now sitting at the right hand of ‘god’ I’m thinking that nothing much changes) It was the second city of Pisidia after Antioch ad Pisidia which lies near the north end of Lake Eğidir in the town of Yalvaç. Known as the ‘People of the Sea’, Pisidians were about as unruly a bunch as could be imagined – troublesome and rebellious. Many came and many tried to incorporate them into this or that empire or kingdom, however they generally left feeling deflated and defeated. Alexander had a bit more luck than most when he captured Sagalassos but Termessos never lowered its ensign and he had to wander off and conquer the rest of the known world by way of a sop to his ego! Eventually they did incorporate into the Roman Empire.

Anyway, again I digress from my storyline – where was I? Yes, twelve years ago we arrived at the site on a miserable, rainy day – the place was awash and deserted apart from the ever-present guardian who collected our entrance fees.

I have no photo from that time here’s one a couple of years later from  MyTravels2.blogspot.com

In 1990 a Belgian led inter-disciplinary team had taken on the task of excavating the site – there didn’t seem to be very much to show for a decade’s worth of summer holidays spent with trowel and paint brush kneeling in a pool of sweat! In truth, the onset of the sequel to Noah’s flood may have washed away our enthusiasm for much wandering about.

Twelve years on the transformation at this on-going project is amazing!

Roman baths from processional way – you can clearly see what was above ground

Where once all we saw were a couple of grey old blocks of weathered stone now stands exposed the Roman bath house, uncovered from centuries of debris washed down from the mountains. The Nymphaeum is a triumph of excavation and restoration – even the fountain has been returned to working order!

superb restoration of Nymphaeum – Antonin’s Fountain

Working on the principle that if at least 80% of the original structure can be pieced together from the bits lying around then a restoration, using some of the most advanced techniques known to science and engineering, will be undertaken, this team is working a minor miracle.

Emperor Hadrian
and J with Emperor Marcus for scale

Original sculptures of figures and panels are on display at the award-winning museum in Burdur. Here you will see colossal statues, heads and even sandaled feet of such fine workmanship it will take your breath away.


The detail is staggering! Where appropriate, exact copies using laser-guided techniques are carved from solid blocks of fibreglass and placed in their original positions at the site. It might seem intrusive, but it works! The mosaics at the Neon Library were closed to us solitary visitors and the amphitheatre remains as is, a pile of blocks waiting for its day.

Neon Library (best I could do through the grill and no discount on the ticket price!)

Because of its location, Sagalassos was never plundered for building materials – most of the pieces of the jig-saw are still there, scattered by earthquakes and buried by landslip, waiting to be given back their place as the city comes back to life. It represents, perhaps, the finest chance ever for scholars as well as we plebs and peons to gain a real insight into how a Roman era city looked and functioned. I’m really looking forward to 2025 when we make our next visit! Sagalassos – rising indeed!

detail from Nymphaeum
‘Dancing Maidens’ Letoon
digital reconstruction of the city in its prime

Alan in Okçular

ps J and I have been back here often since this was originally posted. Reconstruction continues, safe walkways have been laid down and detailed information boards put in place. There is ever something new to be delighted at.

If You Go Down To The Woods Today

There are times when being awake is worse than reliving that moment in the film ‘Alien’ when John Hurt leans over one of those ‘eggs’ in the hold of the alien ship and suddenly – Waaaghhh! – the thing is all over his face and doing a Linda Lovelace impersonation.

‘Deep Throat’ people – ‘Deep Throat’!)

J and I had our first ‘egg’ moment three years ago – we were heaving ourselves up to a ledge in one of our local valleys when there ‘they’ were at nose level. Eggs and aliens! A terrible stench of rotting carcasses filled our nostrils along with hoards of flies trying to do the same! We had never seen anything like these weird creations of some warped, alien imagination.

Since that first close encounter of the t#rd kind we have found a number of these alien hives – some very close to our house. We have also learned a little about them – say ‘Hello!’ to Clathrus ruber aka the Lattice or Basket Stinkhorn or, as the country folk around the former Yugoslavia prefer, ‘Witch’s Heart’!

Alien leaping from its egg
Clathrus ruber – Lattice Stinkhorn sharing an intimate moment with John Hurt; compare with Alien above – see the family likeness?

Learning about the Stinkhorn family is laced with auto-erotic symbolism – they are of the Order Phallales and Family Phallaceae; ‘eggs’ are called volva. In my opinion they are about as erotic as a smear in a Petri dish! They are however, part of a very interesting group of fungi. Another member of the group C. archeri or Octopus Stinkhorn, is a native of Australia and New Zealand –

an Oz alien Clathrus archeri guarding its eggs

– examples have turned up in Turkey and spores are believed to have been transported here in the boxes and equipment of the ANZAC troops following the invasion of Gallipoli/Çanakkale in 1915. It is equally weird but lacks the putrid stench associated with the Lattice Stinker.

glistening and pulsing the ‘egg’ slowly opens –
like John Hurt, curiosity draws you closer – suddenly . . Waaaghhh!

The ‘egg’ is roughly spherical, up to 6 cm (2.4 in) in diameter, with a jelly-like interior. White or grayish in colour, it is initially smooth, but develops a network of polygonal marks on the surface prior to opening. The ‘alien’ bursts the egg open as it expands (a process that can take as little as a few hours), and takes on its new persona as a cross between a dead body and a Wiffle ball! (a plastic ball with holes in it) As the sponge-like ‘lattice’ develops a thick, foul-smelling goo called gleba covers the inner surfaces. This attracts flies and other insects which help to spread the spores. Whilst the ‘eggs’ may take days or weeks to reach ‘hatching’, the amazing fruit will last but a few hours before dissolving into a slimy smear.

Alien hosts a ‘Bring-a-Blowfly’ party

The time to see them is now . .

Alan in Okçular

The Magical Mystical Tour – Finale

So, here we have it – the finale to this wonderful, enlightening trip. Salvaged from Archers of Okcular and originally posted February 2013.

Our last port of call on this ‘mystical’ tour is to the Çarşı or Marketplace Mosque in the village of Yazır Köyü some 14 kms SE of Acıpayam just a few kilometres off the D585 Denizli-Antalya road. There are family links through marriage between Acıpayam and my own village of Okçular. The town lies more than 150kms over the mountains at the far end of the track used for centuries by nomadic herders to move their animals from Denizli to winter pastures around here.

portico and magnificent plane tree

J and I arrived at the mosque shortly before midday prayers and there was time to sit under the magnificent plane tree and admire the proportions of this substantial, stone-built mosque. In fairly short order J was ‘discovered’ by one of the village ladies and whisked off to the quilting course being run nearby, which left me to drink tea and mumble and nod with the locals at the kahvehane.

Çarşı Camii is a fully functioning and very well attended mosque. With namaz over we were introduced to the imam who, as with every other place we visited, was delighted by our interest and very pleased to show us around and explain some of the history.


There is an inscription over the door that dates the mosque to 1802 and the endowment to Hacı Ömer Ağa. The front has an elegant portico and the door is flanked by two mihrabs. Inside, we were both astounded by the quality of the unknown artist’s workmanship. This was not the naïve brushwork that we had found in any of our previous visits and was more akin to that found in the painted konak in Birgi with splendid panels depicting various different flowers in vases and others of buildings. One feature stood out for me and that was the amazing alabaster plaster work window frames. Many had some or a lot of damage but enough were intact to convey an image of how the interior would have looked.

this beautiful alabaster window frame has suffered some damage

There is a mystical, other-worldliness to these places that has to be experienced – for me, a lover of fantasy fiction, it is like standing in a real live setting from Lord of the Rings or similar. I have no difficulty transporting myself back to a time when flickering candles provided light and adherents of Sufism practiced the Dhikr or Sema, moving rhythmically in a circle and chanting or singing their devotions.

I’ll leave you to your own imaginings as you browse through a few photos; I do hope you’ve enjoyed the tour.

more sophisticated artistry
the beautiful and elaborate ceiling
as you look at these decorations remember that this mosque was built in an isolated, rural corner of this vast country more than 200 years ago
the women’s gallery
ceiling detail
and another
the minbar
richly decorated mihrab with Koranic verses
panel detail
from the women’s gallery

Postscript: as J and I prepared to leave we were told that there was a wonderful cavern by the name of Keloğlan Mağarası on the way back to to the main road, so we took ourselves off to see it. At some point it looks as though there were considerable public funds expended on a road, a restaurant and an office or two. It was also evident that visitors were few and far between.

view from the cavern entrance back to Yazır Köyü

The guardian was ensconced behind his steamed-up window; there was a hand-written notice asking for three lira per person; J grabbed the tickets and stuck her cold hands back into her pockets. The guardian eyed my cameras with suspicion and pointed at the notice (no flash).  He obviously didn’t trust me because he insisted on following us inside the caves which, as it turned out, was not a bad thing.

Now, you know what these places are like – dripping wet with concrete and steel walkways and stairs. We had wandered about a hundred metres or so, ‘Ooohing!’ and ‘Ahhhing!’ when it happened – power cut, all the lights went out and nobody had considered any emergency back-up! We froze where we were on the steps surrounded by a Stygian blackness, listening to our breathing and the dripping of water – we could see nothing. Then a voice from the darkness asked ‘Sizde bir çakmak var mı?’ ‘Have you got a lighter?’ Bloody hell! Truth to tell we don’t smoke and it hadn’t occurred to us to bring one, so we held on to each other as the sound of shuffling footsteps faded away replaced by the eerie, high-pitched squeaking of bats. It took a while but the fellow eventually returned with a torch with about two minutes of life left in the battery and led us out.

here’s a picture of what we didn’t get to see (Acıpayam tourism office)

So, we never did see the cave, we didn’t get our money back either and later J noticed that the ticket price was TL2 – the sod had ripped us off! Burası Türkiye!’

Alan Fenn, Okçular

ps as this beautiful mosque is fairly close to our mountain cabin hidey-hole we regularly take friends to see it. Since this post was written there has been some very careful, well-crafted restoration work carried out including the beautiful alabaster stained glass windows. The building is now good for another two hundred years.

The Magical Mystical Tour 3

Our mystical tour moves on . . salvaged from Archers of Okcular first posted February 2013

Boğaziçi and Kocaköy

mm1Finding the village of Boğaziçi from our base in Pamukkale meant a drive of about a hundred kms – first south to Denizli and then east to the junction of the D595 Uşak Yolu. I find this a rather sad stretch of road having covered it several times; rather like driving through an industrial wasteland with only the view of the beautiful snow-capped mountains to redeem it. Follow the Uşak road and just after the village of Denizler fork right for Baklan. Then take the second turning on the right (approx 3kms) signposted to Boğaziçi and look out for the minaret.

Boğaziçi is a very small town and having found the old mosque (tucked in behind the new one) locked and shuttered we made enquiries at the nearby belediye offices. Here, yet again, we came face to face with that most wonderful of Turkish traits – a willingness to drop everything, talk, drink tea and help a guest/stranger. We were taken to the tea house, phone calls were made and the keyholder of the mosque was located – miles up in the mountains cutting wood!

now we are really trucked!

‘Problem yok!’ (No problem!) We had a car and a willing guide was found and off we set, twisting and turning along dirt roads that were a mixture of dust, puddles, ruts and quicksands! At one stage we were forced over to the edge to let a huge grading machine through before finally coming  to a forced stop by two trucks, one of which was suffering a serious health problem! Undaunted and without a word our guide got out and set off along the track – we had no idea if or when we might see him again. Twenty minutes later he returned triumphant with the key and we were on our way back to Boğaziçi.

nondescript, unused and jammed in behind the new mosque

Boğaziçi mosque was built around 1774; well, there is an inscription that dates the kalemişi (painting) to that date, and it was repaired and repainted in 1876. There are similarities of style with the mosque at Belenardıç so the same artist may have carried out the work. With floral and geometric artwork inspired by Sufi beliefs and geometric and cross-banding decoration to the ceiling and beams that are reminiscent of some of the earliest medieval mosques of Anatolia, what awaited us inside was magnificent. The warmth of the colours is incredible, I’ll let the photos speak . . .

the mihrab
part of the fabulous ceiling
 mimbar and fallen plaster, early signs of neglect
beautiful geometric and floral designs on the women’s gallery
stunning in close-up



The village has registered a foundation to try and save this beautiful piece of Turkey’s heritage, there is hope that it might have a future.

mm4Kocaköy and its Şalvan Mosque, so-called because that was once the village name, lies about 28kms north west of Boğaziçi as the crow flies (a lot further by country roads), through attractive landscape and tiny villages. It is a poor little place with a beautiful outlook over a sweeping valley. We parked at the mosque and set out to find the kahvehane (tea house) where we were immediately engaged by some young men who sent a boy off to find the imam. Meanwhile we were joined by Yaşar, groomed, dressed in a suit and looking every inch a ranking bureaucrat  With the arrival of the imam the four of us set off back to the mosque and so began one of the most enjoyable interludes that J and I have ever experienced on this type of visit.


Yaşar was an astounding fount of knowledge about the mosque, history, old cultures and customs – in many instances the imam deferred to him and listened as intently as we did. The Şalvan Mosque was built around 1800 and the exterior is far more elaborate and well cared for than any other of the village mosques we have seen so far. There is an inscription above the door saying that it was ordered by Hatip Mehmed Ağa, son of Hacı Musa, in that year.

Inside my reactions were mixed – the walls were painted an almost luminous green and there was an ugly, white tiled mihrab with just a small part of the original exposed.

enough said!
the amazing ceiling
richly decorated women’s gallery
another section of ceiling
a rather novel hoca!
Yaşar, J and Imam deep in discussion

Yaşar explained that much renovation had been carried out because of the poor state of the plaster-work and in the process everything, including the wooden pillars were covered in a sort of roughcast and then painted. What might have once been unique depictions, ‘Heaven’ on one wall ‘Hell’ on the opposite, were forever lost. All was not totally lost however, our eyes were drawn up to the ceiling that, although in need of some repair and restoration, remains intact and it is stunning!

Our time in this mosque followed by a visit to the restored village çeşme (spring) and then back to the teahouse for more tea and talk is an enduring memory. Can you imagine sitting in a steamy kahvehane in rural Turkey, discussing politics, religion, French philosophers, archaeology, the state of the environment and much else with a farmer dressed in an immaculate business suit and an imam who is also an animal farmer and who could give Omar Sharif a run for his money. I’ll tell you this, we have an invitation to go back for more exploration and chat and I do believe we’ll take them up on it! Yaşar wants to take us to the Menderes valley just below the village where ancient underground grain stores of stashes of wheat and barley were discovered by the villagers with amphora so large that two men could get inside.

Our plan was to make a great loop back to Pamukkale via the town of Güney. There was an ulterior motive to this as the Pamukkale wine company have their facility here and it is possible to buy mixed cases of their excellent products at wholesale prices – so we did! We had also eaten nothing since breakfast so coffee and cakes at the pastane (pastry shop) were called for. This led to another enjoyable and time-consuming interlude with several young teachers over shared coffee, cakes and then more tea! By the time we left it was dark with the long and winding road across country back to our hotel ahead of us – but what a day!

. . stay tuned for the final episode of magic and mystical . .

Alan in Okçular

The Magical Mystical Tour 2

Continuing our tour of discovery of enchanting old mosques.


Akköy and Belenardıç

Dhikr_Rifa-iyyaThis is supposed to be a ‘mystical’ tour, seeking out village mosques that have their foundations firmly rooted in the tenets and traditions of Sufism. Sufism has had a chequered history of misunderstanding and persecution but its influences on music, poetry, painting, calligraphy and much else have been profound. In making this tour I find that being able to take a moment to conjure up mental images of bygone times have added greatly to the experience. Times when candles flickered and worshippers swayed and circled rhythmically chanting, perhaps to the soft and beautiful whisper of the ney.

Our dismay at the poor condition of the Hanönü camii at Kızılcabölük meant that we approached the mosque at Akköy, a few minutes drive from Pamukkale, with some misgivings. It, like Hanönü, was crowded by a very new (2008) mosque.

not a lot of promise

Outside it looked a trifle sad with broken windows and bags of coal stacked in the entrance. As it was nearly prayer time we sat and waited for the imam and congregation to arrive. When they did the key was produced and we were invited to carry on whilst they got on with their devotions in the new building.
What greeted us as we stepped over the threshold took my breath away for here was everything that we might have hoped for.

the stunningly beautiful interior

Built around 1877 and redecorated in 1909, this is a gem that shines and sparkles. Although no longer used for prayers it is used for study and instruction and is so obviously cared for and loved.

the ceiling and cupola

Look at the stunning cupola and wooden ceiling, the vivid blue cypress trees intertwined with flowers – in Islamic visual art a representation of the beloved’s figure and the reunion of lovers. The names of the artisans and artist who created this treasure are lost in time, so here are some photos by way of tribute to them and to whet your enthusiasm for your own visit.

the elaborate and metaphoric mihrab
the Day of Judgement, Hell, Heaven and Ka’ba
the women’s gallery

The imam and his congregation were very welcoming and delighted that interest was being shown. The new mosque has been very nicely decorated with tiles and painted decorations and is worth a visit when you are here – these people were proud of both.

Belenardıç lies up in the mountains 20 kms north of Pamukkale; the road is narrow and winding but good for driving. It is a small and poor village of less than 400, most of the buildings are in sad condition with many in a state of collapse.

so much looked like this
once again an unpromising exterior

The mosque lies at one end of the village square and the kahvehane, our first port of call, at the other. Coffee and tea houses are a great source of help and hospitality – as a visitor you will not be allowed to buy your own tea. Having struck up a conversation with the men who were sitting outside smoking and joining them for tea, it wasn’t long before someone went off to speak with the muhtar and gain permission for us to enter the mosque.

the beautiful and elaborate mihrab framed by Koranic verse
evening sun illuminates this working mosque

Built in 1884 by ‘Mehmed, son of Ali of the Denizli Hafız Ağazade’ and painted the following year. The paints used in these mosques are referred to by locals as ‘made from roots’, ie they are made from natural dyes. The mihrab is highly symbolic and depicts a lamp behind parted curtains and refers to the 24th Sura of the Koran (Al-Nur, The Light). It is surrounded by Koranic verses.

the simple and rustic women’s gallery

The walls are painted with flowers, moons and stars, and apocalyptic images of heaven and hell. High up you will see the names of four caliphs and the grandsons of the Prophet (PBUH). There is much simple carving and incising of the ceiling beams.

incised beams and caliphs’ names

Gaining entrance to this beautiful and much loved mosque was to experience old technology; a finger is pushed up through a small hole in the door jamb which lifts a locking latch and allows the door to open. As it opens a further latch lifts and holds the door in place – a simple and very effective system. Once again, photographs will save a thousand words.

the ‘secret’ locking system
the locking/latching mechanism

Having satiated ourselves we retired to the kahvehane for more talk and tea. Evening was drawing on and it was getting cold so we stepped inside and were hit by a wall of heat from the soba and steam from the customers! We were also greeted by a wall of curiosity written large across many faces – J has a set piece address for these situations so we were soon joined by a few of the extra curious as the rest got back to their games of ‘Okay’. After the joy of discovering this gem of a mosque for ourselves we were able to wind down with an hour of tea and good company – a perfect end to the day.

I hope these posts will encourage you to explore off the beaten track, what you will discover will likely be (as ‘Bones’ used to say in Star Trek) ‘. . life Jim, but not as we know it!’

Alan in Okçular

The Magical Mystical Tour

Begun in January 2013 this series of posts in Archers of Okçular that epitomises what living in and exploring Turkey and Turkish life is all about. It has given me considerable pleasure to save and resurrect them – I hope you enjoy them again too.

Part 1 – Kızılcabölük

Magical? Absolutely! Mystical? Sort of, depending on your ‘inner self’. It was also to prove to be so much more with people adding a delightful and surprising element to the whole trip. Our aim was to visit some of the old, painted village mosques around Denizli that have their foundations firmly rooted into the traditions of Sufism. Our hope was that there would be someone available and willing to let us in and, if possible, to make a photo record that we could share with you. Our expectations were mixed – were they met? You’ll have to read on to find out.

mm1The small farming town of Kızılcabölük near Tavaş is a place of many mosques and few visitors. It is home to the Hanönü Camii (in front of the Han) which has an unusual history because it was built by Ümmi the daughter of Köse Mehmet Ağa sometime around 1697. There is a date above the mihrab that indicates redecoration in 1895. With a modern, concrete mosque jammed in alongside, the state of the exterior did not bode well for what we might find inside. Broken metal sheets were nailed across the entrance, sections of the roof were falling away and there was a general air of filth and dilapidation. Pulling aside a corrugated sheet of metal we ‘broke in’!

Standing at the door and looking inside left me with a mixture of wonder and profound sadness. This had once been a place vibrant with colour and life and it wasn’t difficult to picture how it might have looked when adherents of this inner, mystical form of Islam gathered together for worship.

Glory in Decay – ceiling Hanönü Camii
mihrab, mimbar and rotting floorboards
colonnade and women’s gallery
the ornate mihrab
the name of God left to rot

Now, water dripping through the ceiling was rotting plaster, floorboards and the faded but still beautiful ceiling panels. That no one cares was obvious – why, was not.

Back at the kahvehane (coffee house) for a morale reviving çay (tea) and a chat with the locals we were directed next door to the Textile Museum. This turned out to be a super little place with a delightful curator (the people bit) who took us on a conducted tour (as I said, there are not many visitors). He knows his stuff and had some of the machinery up and working for us. The mechanical ‘computer’ on the still functioning and in use loom was a source of considerable joy to this old boffer.

our curator and guide at the textile museum
the man knows his stuff
the amazing mechanical ‘computer’ on this still working loom

Is it worth a special trip? No! But if you are anywhere near Tavaş then it surely is. To find such a place in such a town was a surprise and a treat and deserves some support. Just head for the centre of Kızılcabölük and ask at any of the coffee houses; the mosque and museum are right there – at least one will still be standing this time next year!

to be continued . .

Alan in Okçular

Jewel In The Crown

Brrrr! By Jove, it’s bloody cold in our corner of SW Turkey. The wind is whistling in from ‘Siberia’ and the clear skies mean there was quite a frost last night up our little valley; it is not a day to be out and about. Generally, our winters here are mild and gentle which manifests itself as a long and colourful springtime.

(This post was recovered from Archers of Okçular first published January 2013)

Anem1Flowers abound with one particular species front and centre at this time – Anemone coronaria the Crown Anemone. Walking around the area, especially if you are using the maps and guide notes in ‘Okçular Village – a Guide’ and ‘Backways and Trackways’, is a feast for the eyes with great swathes of multi-coloured anemones wherever you look.

Crown Anemones are native to the Mediterranean region and have had a special place in the various cultures for thousands of years. The Sumerians (3000BCE) named them for their god, Nea’man; the Greeks for Adonis, who died of wounds whilst hunting wild boar and was transformed into a flower stained red by his blood. In Hebrew its name is ‘Calanit’ or ‘Kalanit’, and there is even a link to my old mob, the Parachute Regiment. As the British Mandate for Palestine wound down in bloodshed and ignominy, the Paras serving there were nicknamed ‘Kalaniyot’ for their red berets.


For me, the joy of this flower lies in its profusion and the staggering range of hues of varying intensity – from purple through to palest blue; from scarlet to palest pink to pure white.


There is also an ‘albino’ where even the stamen and stigma are white; these are not very common around here, although there are enough that I could guarantee to show you some in Kocadere Valley. That said, I’ve never seen any elsewhere.

a beautiful white anemone, compare it with the ‘albino’ below

So, ‘Why’, I hear you ask, ‘aren’t you well wrapped up and out there admiring these jewels?’ Because, dear reader, with a flowering period of over three months I can toast my toes by the fire, read a book or write a post and wait for this bitter north wind to blow itself out.


Then I shall wander around, find a warm, sun-dappled spot, and soak up one of the most beautiful and colourful sights in all of nature – countless wild, un-fiddled with ‘Jewel in the Crown Anemones’ set against the backdrop of Okçular’s Kocadere Valley.

Kocadere’s beautiful ‘albino’ Crown Anemone
naturally occurring double anemone
‘Kalaniyot’ – a naturally occurring ‘Red Devil’ 

Alan in Okçular

Slobber Chops!

J and I have an inbuilt, genetic fascination with camel wrestling events here in Turkey. I know some of you out there will shudder and/or point an accusatory digit and even start sticking pins in voodoo dolls because you hate any and all forms of animal exploitation (but hope the pins will cause bits of my person to experience great pain or even fall off!). I understand your objections but remain unrepentant.

a magnificent beast decked out in all his finery

These events have their roots in the nomadic culture of Asia that goes back, quite possibly, for thousands of years. During the rutting season, which lasts just a few months, nomads would gather at long-established traditional sites for the prime purpose of breeding their she-camels with the strongest bulls. These bulls would go through a natural selection process amongst themselves by ‘wrestling’ for the right to pass on their genes.


there is much pushing and shoving and frothing at the mouth
much lifting of one’s opponent off the ground

In many respects it’s a bit like watching Mick McManus and Giant Haystacks without the gouging or forearm smashes. The animals can’t bite as they would naturally do because of a special binding on their jaws. I’ve never once seen a drop of blood or an injured camel apart from the occasional bruised ego!

until eventually one or other gets pinned for a count of three
once the referee makes his call teams rush in and haul the protagonists apart
and the victor gets to put on his most arrogant face and strut his stuff

J and I prefer to frequent the venues where the spectators are usually all local Turks – small towns and even villages away from the areas with expat communities. This is not a snobby thing but a seeking after the authentic experience because there is more than just watching these magnificent animals do their thing.

Towns like Buldan and Çal in Denizli Province are magnets to us and so worth the extra miles of driving to get to them. Often the only barrier between a couple of tons of tunnel-visioned contesting-for-the-damsel’s-favours camels and the picnicking spectators with their barbies, bottles of rakı and mixed grill is a chicken wire fence. When hormonal gladiators run amuk or even amok there is no funnier site than a bunch of shouting, gesticulating, well lubricated men trying to save their very hot barbie, rakı glass in one hand and waving plastic chairs at two single-minded, blind-to-all-else furry gladiators with rumpy-pumpy on the brain!

stalls selling everything from camel sausages
to scarves, to tea, to Sunday lunch

Finally, a couple of examples of why it is not a good idea to wear your Sunday-best or a hoody come to that . .



Let me finish off back where I started about animal exploitation: I accept that these days camel wrestling has become more of a spectacle for townies than a folk gathering of nomadic herders. I oppose commercial whaling in all its forms but support the rights of Inuit peoples to hunt at sea for food whether they use traditional tools or a powerful rifle. In the same way that Morris Dancers no longer believe the fertility angle in their entertainment I support the rights of Turks to enjoy a link to their nomadic ancestry – camel wrestling is not a blood sport, long may it continue!

Alan back up the cabin.

Trains And Boats And Planes . .

koc1. . they mean a trip to Paris or Rome tra-la-la . . or, in this case, Istanbul – to the  historic dockyard, founded in 1861 by the former Ottoman Maritime Company. It lies on the north shore of the Golden Horn in the district of Hasköy. The site, together with the Lengerhane building (which was initially used for casting anchors and chains for the Ottoman navy, during the rule of Ahmet III (1703–1730)) across the road, houses the Rahmi M Koç Museum. This is, in my opinion, one of the finest industrial museums you will ever visit – a world-class establishment!

a reciprocating huff’n’puff

If you love things that go rumble, huff and puff, whirr and whizz, reciprocate, go in and out or up and down, have classic lines, need steam or petrol or oil or oars or sails or . . . whatever, to bring them to life, have knobs and buttons to fiddle with and burnished metal and coachwork to stroke – then I promise you’ll want to take this place home and introduce it to your mother! It is gorgeous!


There are workshops and slipways where real work is carried out to rebuild and refurbish the constantly growing collection. There are toys and models and the real things – you can start and stop a ship’s mighty steam engines and imagine yourself, somewhere, out there, pounding through the world’s oceans to exotic lands and ports, in the days when there were still places waiting to be discovered.

 work on the slipway

J and I have been twice now, and we’ll no doubt go again – there is never enough time and there is always more to see – try it for yourself (except on Mondays, of course). Meanwhile enjoy a few photos of the place.

old ‘Invicta’ traction engine built near to where I was born
amazing carved ivory bicycle (bad business but still amazing)
beautiful old 1933 Buick
steam-driven plank saw
immaculate restoration of steam launch ‘Esra’
tram with stuffed horses and driver
another chuffin’ puffer

There are so many more photos – from planes to submarines to motor cycles to memorabilia from Koc’s round the world sailing trip – better you go and see for yourself. My bet is that you will return time and again. Finally, here is a photo of heaven on earth for old boffers like me – when I shuffle off this mortal coil I hope they stuff me and park me at the bench, taps and dies in hand!


Alan in Okçular