Sunday, 27 January 2013

The snow is slowly melting...

To misquote the Beatles. Actually, by the end of today, Sunday, the snow and lumps of ice had almost all gone.
The air feels soft and warm. What a relief, no more sloshing and slipping every time one needs to go shopping or post a letter.
In my back garden the spears of green show through the soil, the snowdrops and crocuses.
A busy week lies ahead... still need to phone official bodies and sort out taxes and such like.
But most impressed with all I've accomplished in the past two weeks, planning the coming six months...
Even looked ahead to August when I'll have my seventieth birthdy, picked a date for celebrating it, the last day of the month, conveniently a Saturday; and started announcing this to family and friends.
At which point we add, Deo volente... Again confronted with the mystery of time.

Colourful view in my kitchen; dark outside...

Thursday, 24 January 2013

still in snowy Amsterdam

Somehow a few pretty pix from last year's overwintering in Ostia (Roma) have popped up on my blog. Well, it was very nice of them to put in an appearance, but might confuse my public.
David is presently on Stroenhella in Kusadasi, Turkey. And I am sitting in my house warmly wrapped up, admiring the snowy scene outside.
Still busy in Amsterdam, and planning trips abroad for the coming six months...

safe shelter from the storm...

We are back in the Porto Turistico di Roma, in Ostia. I arrived yesterday morn after night flight from Dubai. Lovely to be back in Italy and have a caffe machiato... Our boat, Stroemhella, was in magnificent condition after our 3 weeks away -- not a leak to be found.

'the more it snows, tiddly pom...'

The more it goes... on snowing...
And it does, but not for long, just enough to freshen up the streets with a new white brightness, and rejoice the kiddies who continue to shriek with glee as they snowball the unwary adults passing by.
And it is very beautiful. Leiden serene with its medieval buidlings and quiet courtyards. I walked along the Rapenburg slowly, anxious not to slip, admiring the gracious buildings all white dusted. The air fresh but not unfriendly, and a generally cordial atmosphere. Here's a nice story: walking back to Leiden Central station I feel the need of a WC, and spied the building of Webster's University, so popped inside out of the cold. Young man acting as porter, to whom I address the following: "Excuse me," I smile sweetly, "this is rather an unexpected question, but could I possibly use your toilet?" (I in my most beautiful Oxford English.) Young man all obliging, points the way down the corridor. A clean and commodious WC! Thank you Webster's. Much relieved I continue towards my train.
The next day I speeded towards The Hague, where my son Daniel has just moved from Maastricht (see earlier blogs).

Much snow in this city, still unplundered, bobbing on tree branches, crowning posts and pillars. Went for a walk with my delightful granddaughter Yara, now nearly 20 months, walking sturdily and still full of smiles. See pix. Went out with Daniel and Yara, and did some last-minute shopping before Daniel, Nadia and their daughter fly off to Dubai to visit auntie Judy and cousins.
We cleared up food and dishes and set off to the central station in The Hague. Yara full of interest, not a murmur at this strange interruption of her usual bedtime routine. I saw them off the train at Schiphol, and continued home. Here they are waiting in the cold at the station (dreaming happily of 28 degrees Celsius in Dubai!)

That's three of us on our little stroll through the snowy suburbs of The Hague.
Although I planned some more train expeditions, such as to Dordrecht, and Rotterdam (unqiue show in Boijmans Museum of paintings by Van Eyck and contemporaries) the Dutch Rail sent warning emails about travel disruption of a discouraging nature. So I stayed in Amsterdam, and visited the beautifully-curated exhibition on Troy; which was most appropriate for our present Turkey travels.
And in the evening I made more travel plans and booked tickets for hither and yon. Nearly finished now, taking me as far as early August when I return from the US and rejoin David somewhere in the Med .
Time and place so surrealistic. Sitting here in my room in Amsterdam, dreaming of Avignon, Geneva and Rome and Cappadocia...

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Snow in Amsterdam

Woke while it was still dark. Then out into a wondrous world, all soft and white and sound-muffled. About ten centimetres of snow has fallen during the night. Dawn glides over a silver city and around noon a pale sun struggles through the grey. Here some pictures of my street. It snowed more during the afternoon, and froze in the night. But no more snow on Wednesday -- and sun to brighten the scene. Eilit, who lives in my house, made a video of herself dancing in the back garden. Those are the three pix above.
Am hoping to go to Leiden tomorrow but the Dutch Rail messages say travel is kinda disrupted.

In the picture below you can see the front door of my house, freshly painted in the summer, and bearing the family name. It always confuses the Dutch because it looks so familiar but then the spelling is just a little different...
And in the pictures of my dancer, in the back garden, notice the the snowy background with the tropical plant, received as wedding present exactly 40 years ago and still going strong...
It always hangs its branches in the winter's frost, but so far has survived all cold, even once when it went down to minus twenty Celsius. Trusty friend!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Back to Amsterdam for a while

Another clear, cold but brilliantly sunny day in Kusadasi... Tomorrow I fly northwards (have to get up at 4.30 a.m., aauw!!)

Here is the sunset scene I leave behind, the wondrous massing clouds over the sea, and the very friendly Turkish people, who are always willing to help me with my stumbling attempts to pronounce their language!
David will have some company from the other "boaties" who bravely overwinter here.

More soon from the Netherlands.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Splendid sunny Selcuk

No pix this time, we set off on our Selcuk expedition camera-free... [Pronounced Sellchook.]
Selcuk lies within walking distance from Ephesus, and we had visited it briefly before on the day we went to Ephesus. This time we found a delightful B+B right in the centre, close to the museum: the Pension Tuncay. Warmly recommended. We had reserved on internet but received no confirmation, so just arrived. A very locked gate... David phoned and within a few minutes up sped a young lady on scooter, unlocked the gate and ushered us into the courtyard. No one else around (in fact they were still closed for Christmas, as it were...). No heating. But the beds were made up. The young lady, Rose, gave us plenty of blankets and on the next day cooked us the most delicious breakfast. All was clean and unfussy, what more did we need? The weather was superb, cloudless blue, the white-plastered walls of the houses shining in the light, the grass gleaming. First we went to find the nearby museum. Alas, it is closed until September 2013, for major renovation. So no mother-goddess with fifteen fertile breasts (as shown on all the posters). But there were compensations. We walked up to the IsaBey mosque (11th century) sturdy and serene, the fountain in the courtyard quiet on this January day, no one else around. A mixture of Greek columns and Arabic windows, with something about it of a Crusader castle...
Then we continued up the hill, past small plastered houses, where the hens scuttled through the long grass, to the church of St John. B.t.w., the hens and roosters here have feathery feet, looking like fancy boots, and also display brightly-coloured streaks of feather. And a little later, I saw a bird whose movement was very like that of a wagtail, and the same size, but with a bright scarlet tail -- very striking. The church of St John is where supposedly the beloved disciple is/was buried. He came with Mary (in this country affectionatley known as Meryam, mother if Isa) the mother of Jesus, and here the two of them spent their later years, and indeed Mary's House is another of the attractions close to Ephesus.
The remains of what was once an enormous church with seven domes, surmounts a hill on the edge of Selcuk. The castle-cum-fotress, a little higher up the hill, is unfortunately also closed for renovation. But on this day of joyful sunlight we didn't mind at all walking slowly round examining the many fallen white slabs and marbles, some with Greek inscriptions faintly legible, and studying the information posted up on boards, showing what the church had once looked like, and explaining about the archaelogical work ongoing. There was also a very clear maquette, showing the whole area, including Ephesus, and a blue dotted line to indicate where the shoreline had been before silting up.

Back down the hill (after a chat in our minimal Turkish with a group of young Selcukians who were pleased to hear we came from Amsterdam (knew the Ajax football club!) and who were themselves playing a spasmodic game of football in a narrow dusty street). By this time David realized he hadn't had any lunch, and a helpful man who was sitting outside his shop (the general habit here) showed us to a nearby restaurant where he assured us we could get good Turkish food, not too expensive. He was absolutely right. Delicious soup for David and moussaka for me.
Then we went to look for the shop we had asked about earlier where we might buy material on the bolt, with which to make fitted sheets for the boat. This part of Turkey is famous for its cotton, but in fact I wanted a cotton-polyester mixture. Better on a boat. After some hunting we found the shop, and inside two wonderful women, one of whom spoke fluent German (they were Turkish). Total competence. It was truly impressive, we soon explained by gesture (this was before we discovered the German fluency aspect) what we were looking for, and David made diagrams to indicate the curious shape of the boat's mattresses. Here is the scene: David and I speak English, the two women speak Turkish with each other, then one of them and I speak German (my German is not wonderful, I have to add!) and gradually we establish all that needs establishing. They offer to make the fitted sheets, the tube-seam for the elastic, and David plots how to get the mattresses to them so that the fitting can be perfect. What a satisfying enterprise. We exchange phone numbers and emails, and depart triumphant.
By now the sun has set and mist is rising. But we have one more quest. A carpet for the boat. We spy a small carpet shop NOT in the touristy part of town and in we go. The owner is a Kurd, so I explain:  'Man farsi balad nistam' which he is sorry about. (All speakers of Farsi will recognize immediately that this is me saying: I don't speak Farsi.) It felt like being back in Iran, turning over the carpets, measuring them (David knew the necessary size) and asking about vegetable dyes, and so on. He said all the carpets came from Var province, though one that I turned over had a label saying it was made in Afghanistan. We did settle on three possibilities, the price he named was reasonable. I can't haggle (my son-in-law is really good at it, and acquired some beautiful items in Iran at reasonable prices).
When we left the carpet shop it was getting really cold though still above freezing. We found aother simple Turkish restaurant and supped.
Then back to out Pension Tuncay (remember no heating, and by now outside is about six degrees Celsius) and as quickly as possible into bed, snuggling uner the blankets and waiting for warmth to spread. Sometimes washing is not a priority...
Tomorrow we plan to visit Sirince high in the hills, refuge of persecuted Christians thousands of years ago, now a sparsely inhabited hill village where wine is made and organic olive oil and by-products such as soap and hand-cream. We fall asleep, and dream of white marble temples gleaming in the sunlight...

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year's Day in Kusadasi

Note from editor (me): there should be a cedilla on the first 's' of Kusadasi. The name is pronounced: Kooshahdassuh. It means: "Bird Island".

1 January 2013

So we awoke in the grey dawn, after dreams filled with fireworks and thump-thump of 'Western' music (really muzack, I suppose). No birds sing. The boat bobs gently in the marina of Kusadasi. No noise of traffic. Today is a holyday.
In the afternoon David and I go for a walk -- planning to climb the hill up to the statue that surmounts it, to find out who exactly this is... We amble first along the seafront, many families out strolling along, munching candyfloss, a relaxed atmosphere. We admire the Christmas tree beside the memorial to a citizen of Kusadasi who laboured for peace between Turks and Greeks (an unhappy story for many centuries...) At present the doves appear to have won...

We had made the same walk last night, through milling crowds, past the thumping music, and up into the old city, where bouncers guarded the many night clubs, into whose murky depths we could sometimes catch a glimpse... Here we spied the westernized young Turks, (dyed) blonde-headed and mini-skirted, their escorts coolly lounging in black jeans, gelled hair and puffing slim cigarettes... A very different world from that of the markets and the small family-run shops. (An aside: Yesterday we met Mehmet who works in our favourite baker's; he had lived for 28 years in north Amsterdam, and recognized instinctively that I was from the Netherlands. So we started spekaing Dutch. How delightful -- fluent Dutch speaker in a backstreet of Kusadasi. He said he was there every day and promised to help me with my Turkish.) With considerable effort I have managed to learn the New Year's greeting: yeni yiliniz kutlu olsun. I pronounce this with great conviction and receive in answer the equally signifcant reply. Have not yet learnt that...

Here is a most evocative picture of the bay close to our marina. And the view of Bird Island seen from one of the many hillsides.

Our walk included a small rest for the essential wonderful glass of Turkish chay (tea) which we enjoyed sitting beside the lapping waters. Interesting how peole throng to the same spots; our place (called Hammam Beach Restaurant) was a little out of town, and there was hardly anyone there. Most people had either walked out to the island or stayed near the town centre.

There were, of course, the ubiquitous cats; they seem to be better-fed round here that in other parts we have visited (Greece had the most miserable skin-and-bone cats).
Very peaceful sitting at the edge of the sea, sipping faintly-sweetened tea. On the way home we bought a fresh fish from the market (suprised it was open on New Year's Day). Cost seven Turkish lire, that is, three-and-a-half euros. One delicious fish for supper...

So back home, through the groups of families with kiddies in pushchairs, the couples walking hand in hand, the fishermen entranced beside their rods, and home to Stroemhella and the lingering light across the water.
Welcome, another year, whatever that may mean... tomorrow I must make some resolutions...
The boat rocks gently and no birds sing.