A window of opportunity

I’ve always loved looking at the contributions to Thursday doors, where bloggers from around the world share images of their favourite doors. Somehow, I’ve never got round to joining in.  But looking through my photos for something or other yesterday, I realised that I had the makings of a post about windows. Here it is.

Here’s an image from the last March for Europe in London in June.  I’ll be there again, probably as you read this, marching for a People’s Vote on the Final Deal.  I’m not sure how much I believe in another referendum, but what other hope have we got to turn the tide against the national disaster that is Brexit?

Happier times, happier pictures.  I started off by including images from Europe too.  But I’ll do England today, and maybe travel further afield another time.

Hull Minster, as seen from the office buildings opposite.

And Ripon Cathedral glimpsed through a camera obscura in early 2017.

There’s an osteopath in Ripon who always has a delightfully quirky window display.  Here’s winter.

Through the car window, a snowy winter landscape near Kex Gill in Yorkshire.

Train windows:  a view of Canary Wharf through the windows of the DLR line.

And the more rural landscape from the Wensleydale Railway.

I’ll finish with the photo I found that started me off.  This was the view I took outside our house on Christmas Eve morning last year.

The road north……

We left Barcelona.

Past Monserrat….

We drove north through the Pyrenees, both in Spain and in France…..

Used the mirrors to glance back and back till we could no longer see the mountains……

Through the edge of the Lauragais, south of Toulouse…..

….reaching Cahors by the evening.

Much of the next day was spent in the flatlands of central France, in the Touraine…..

And now we’re with friends in Normandy, on the border of both Mayenne and Manche.

Which landscape would you choose?

Ragtag Tuesday – and Wednesday! A feast with orange accompaniments

I let myself off posting yesterday, Tuesday, because we were concluding a drive all the way from Yorkshire England, to the Limousin, France – all but 800 miles in two days.  You’ll hear why in my next post.  Just now, I’ll tell you about our Monday stop-over.

Les Hayons is a transport caff in Normandy, pure and simple.  We love it.  Truckers from all over this part of northern France aim to end their working day here.  They’ll have a quick wash, a drink, then head for the restaurant – refectory style tables where they can sit down among old friends and new and talk over the events of their solitary day pounding along the motorway.

I’m justifying an out-of-focus shot by hiding behind data protection. No trucker can be identified I think.

They’ll help themselves from a buffet-style first course, then there’s a choice of about a dozen home-cooked main courses – copious, traditional tasty food washed down with as much wine or cider as you want.  After that, a cheese board – local unpasteurised cheeses from the farms down the road, and finally ice cream or some such for pud.  The cheery noisy atmosphere, the decently cooked if simple feast puts us in holiday mood every time we eat there.

With so much food on offer, it seemed wisest to begin the meal with a simple bright orange carrot salad.

We stayed the night there too.  Maybe that wasn’t quite such a good plan.  The truckers stay in their well-appointed cabins built into their lorries.  The days of their needing a trad. bed in a trad. simple hotel room are over.  So, lacking a bed in a truck, we chose their former hotel instead.  Which was fine.  But though the truckers were all tucked up for 9.00 p.m.  or 10.00 p.m. that was because they were ready for the off at 4.30 a.m.  or 5.00 a.m.

Our alarm call was the sound of revving engines and heavy tyres crunching across gravel. We too were ready to roll at 6.30 a.m.  And barely a truck was still there.  Look at the scene the evening before.  Scores of trucks, neatly lined up in auditorium sized parking lots, protected by the orange glow of sodium lighting.

And we shared breafast in the bar with men in orange: workmen ready to go on shift and face the rigours of the day in their hi-viz clothing.  Life at our next destination is very different.

The RDP challenges for Tuesday and Wednesday this week were ‘orange’ and ‘feast’ respectivly.  Two birds with one stone.

From Pennines to Pyrenees

We’ve crossed the Pyrenees again.  To visit our daughter in Barcelona.

A view of Barcelona from Port Vell.
A view of Barcelona from Port Vell.

And then we shall cross them back again.  To visit our friends in Laroque d’Olmes.

A view of the Pyrenees from between Laroque and Foix
A view of the Pyrenees from between Laroque and Foix

We’ll be in touch when we get back to England again.

Nation swap…. house swap.

Until the early years of the twentieth century, there had been thousands of Greeks living in Turkey, and Turks living in Greece, preserving their own culture and ways of life over many centuries.  But by the 1920s, both Turks and Greeks had been through a period of real upheaval, with a series of wars including the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922.  Senior politicians in both countries could see problems ahead if largely Muslim Turks remained in Greece, and largely Orthodox Greeks remained in Turkey.

Their solution though, was a  shocking one.  Following the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923,  thousands and thousands of Turks and Greeks were in effect deported from the lands where they and their ancestors had been living for centuries, back to their country of ethnic origin.  They were given almost no time to prepare or to pack belongings: they were displaced refugees. Large Greek communities such as Smyrna were quite simply emptied of their citizens, to be stocked with Muslim Turks and re-named Izmir .  The regional ethic mix which had prevailed for centuries ceased.

Greek refugees from Smyrna arriving at Thessaloniki 1923 (unknown source)
Greek refugees from Smyrna arriving at Thessaloniki 1923 (unknown source)

Though it’s hard to regard what happened then as anything better than ethnic cleansing, many Turks nowadays will say that now the dust has settled, and with the passage of time, both Greece and Turkey are the better for it.  Greco-Turkish relations have often been poor, and with the two populations now separated, there’s one less thing to fight over.

It’s a hugely complex issue about which I know next to nothing.  What I do know is that we spent the last morning of our Turkish holiday in Şirince, one of those villages that was forcibly de-populated, then re-populated, in this case by Turks moved out of Thessaloniki in Greece.  It’s a charming place, set on a hillside amongst olive groves and orchards; a tourist trap for Turks and foreign tourists alike.  But on a quiet warm morning in February, it was no hardship.  We used the time to sample the fruit wines for which the village is noted: mulberry, peach, morello, quince (no, we didn’t try them ALL).  We bought last-minute souvenirs: local olive oil, honey, pomegranate vinegar.  It was easy to feel, strolling through the narrow streets, that we might be in Greece rather than Turkey, even though we didn’t hear, as promised,  any of the older inhabitants speaking Greek.


It was a peaceful way to end our holiday.  We’ll be back, as independent travellers next time.  And from now, it’ll be posts from misty moisty England.  For a while at least.


Of kangals, and other dogs and cats

This is Efe.

Efe at Miletus
Efe at Miletus

Efe took time out from his job as guardian of a group of nomads and their sheep wintering in the area, to accompany us on our visit to Miletus.  He’s a kangal, and we all immediately took to this handsome, gentle and affectionate dog, one of a breed popular in Turkey for its qualities as a fine guardian of stock.

Like many Turkish dogs and cats, Efe has a home.  But many others do not.  There are hundreds and thousands of animals whose home is the street, and who are on the whole tolerated and even regarded as part of the community.  Don’t imagine that these animals are mangy and sickly, with protruding ribs and rotting yellow teeth.  They’re well fed and healthy.

Turks apparently, when planning a move to a new neighbourhood, will look and see how street dogs are treated.  If they’re friendly and companionable, then that means the neighbourhood too is friendly.  If the dogs are aggressive or fearful than it’s not a good area.  Best not to buy.

Street dogs by the sea at Ayvelik.
Street dogs by the sea at Ayvelik.

These days though, street dogs are a problem, simply by virtue of their huge numbers.  So they are tagged, vaccinated and spayed or neutered to prevent the spread of rabies and other diseases, and to limit their population.

An Ephesus resident attempts to steal the show from our guide.
An Ephesus resident attempts to steal the show from our guide.

We saw cats too wherever we went.  But never so many as at Ephesus, which is rather famous as an unofficial cat sanctuary.  Looking round the site, we once saw 14 at a single glance, and they were quite at home as they lolled on marble pillars and lounged round the library.

Ephesus cats.
Ephesus cats.

These photos of street dogs and cats are among the less expected souvenirs of our trip.

A tour of Turkey

Ancient columns awit restoration in Priene.
Ancient columns await restoration in Priene.

We’ve just come back from a short holiday in Turkey.  We’ve just come back from our first organised tour.  We’ll happily go back to Turkey.  But we won’t be on a tour.  There’s only one plus in this form of holiday, as far as I can see, though it’s quite a big one: a Turkish guide, born and bred, brings many insights into Turkey, its people, and their way of life.  There’s a post or two coming about some of the things we learnt.

We were herded on long coach journeys from place to place, where after our official visit, we often had little time to linger, absorb, and just simply ‘be’ in ancient sites that have seen thousands and thousands of years of history.  Large tourist hotels are comfortable but impersonal.  The food they offer is perfectly tasty, but offers only a tiny glimpse of the country’s rich culinary tradition.  And then the herding continues, as we’re compulsorily escorted into stores selling carpets, jewellery, leather.  We longed for more free time.  I snatched the chance late one afternoon to work out how to catch a bus into the nearest town, Ayvalik,  and follow my nose for a few precious minutes.  But I only had three-quarters of an hour before I needed to come back and re-enter the system.

However.  In visiting Anatolia, we’ve seen glimpses of the most extraordinarily rich culture of the area, from pre-historic to post-Classical times.  We’ve seen those places I’ve known about since childhood, when I first heard all those stories about Odysseus, Helen of Troy et al.

Here are some of the photos I took as souvenirs.  Most of the places we visited have survived so well because they lost their reason for being busy, successful places.  Originally on the sea, they are now several miles inland, since Anatolia’s western coastline has been silting up for millenia.  One day it’ll link up with Greece, and who knows what ructions that will cause.

We visited Priene, already important by 300 BC.  It made quite an impression on us to walk its ancient marble streets, built on a grid system,  still intact, complete with gouged marks and notches to prevent slipping.  Its drainage system is still visible, its bouleuterion (council chamber), its temple to Athena, and its theatre, designed to accommodate 6,500 people.

Miletus was next, a city that was a centre of Greek thought from as early as 1000 BC.  It was fought over by Greeks, and Persians. Later Romans took over.  Alexander the Great, St. Paul….. they’ve all been to Miletus.  And the theatre here seats 15,000…….

The theatre: the space between audience and arena indicates that animal fights were held here.
The theatre: the space between audience and arena indicates that animal fights were held here.

Didyma wasn’t a city, but what a temple!   The Temple to Apollo here has 124 columns and used to have its very own oracle too.  What impressed us was the height of those columns.  How did those ancient builders do it?

Helpful tourist information.
Helpful tourist information.

And this was all on our first day……

Fast forward to Thursday and a visit to Troy.  I ‘did’ Troy at school.  I learned all about how it was occupied from the Bronze age until well into the 9th century , and how layer upon fantastic layer of history was preserved as each succeeding era built upon the remains of the last.  The site there was ‘sliced’ through by archeologists, first of all by the archeologists’ Bad Boy Heinrich Schliemann, who destroyed by over-enthusiastic excavation almost as much as he preserved, and disposed of his finds to a variety of museums.

Pergamum was perhaps my favourite.  It’s the city that invented parchment – made from animal skin- when the Egyptians declined to let its citizens have papyrus.  We reached the Acropolis, high above the modern city of Bergama by first a lift, and then a cable car: not an option in the city’s hey-day.  It has a dizzyingly steep-raked theatre cut into the hillside with spectacular views which reminded me of parts of the Pyrenees.  It has temples to a variety of Roman, Greek and Egyptian gods and emperors, and its library used to contain 20,000 volumes.  We could have spent hours there exploring: but we got little more than one (we had longer at a carpet showroom).

Then Ephesus at last.  This is an extraordinary town which deserves several hours at least of anyone’s time.  We got two hours. It was founded by immigrants from Athens in about 1000 BC, and because of its harbour, thrived under the Lydians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.  It was already silting up by the 5th century AD, and that was that for Ephesus.  Saint Paul wrote letters to the Ephesians, and more recently tourists have been sending postcards of the astonishing quantity and quality of its remains.

All human life is there, from latrines where statesmen would use the time to sit and discuss issues of the day, to brothels, to the 2nd century Library of Celcus, to a 24,000 seat theatre….  There are temples and terraced houses.  These houses are fascinating for providing an almost unique chance to see the inside of such dwellings: the mosaic floors, the wall decorations, the ground plans, the bathrooms and plumbing.

We’ll have to go back.  We haven’t seen the half of it.

Sunset over Ayvalik.
Sunset over Ayvalik.