We are up early, April 22nd, in a darkened hotel lobby for a put together small breakfast. We fly to Izmir, the second largest port city in Turkey, next to Istanbul. Our bus driver is waiting for us and carries us overland through various cities and small villages. We stop in Karacaagac to meet a family that is expecting us for lunch.
Our first stop is the mayor’s office. He has been mayor here for 15 years, elected by his fellow citizens, he gets paid a small stipend, but his main occupation is his farm. Like just about everyone in the village he is first a farmer. He has been asked to move to a larger village that needs a full-time Mayor, but he prefers to stay here where he feels needed and where he knows everyone and they know him.
We crowd into his office and are encouraged to ask him any question. We learn that Turkey has universal health care. Doctors do their internships in small villages, they are required to serve so that all villages have medical care. The population here is only about 800 families. He and his assistant, on a part-time basis take care of any problems. They have sewer, street lighting, garbage service, municipal water that comes under the Mayor’s responsibilities and is paid from taxes given back to them by the government. Farmers have their own wells for their crops. They have one person who acts as a policeman, but they have no crime. People here work and go to school and go to mosque. Young people are leaving the villages for big city life after they go to college. It is a problem.
Pictures on the Mayor’s wall depict the town’s accomplishments. He has one assistant. She acts as secretary, handles the office when he is gone and she served us apple tea.
We resume our walk. This refrigerated wagon is plugged in and serves as their morgue. Moslems bury their dead very quickly and are not embalmed. They are buried facing Mecca and carry no worldly goods to the grave. Their simple wood coffins are returned for recycling for the next to die.
Most of the buildings are blocks, basalt, or clay bricks. In the bus we saw many lhouses and apartment buildings with solar water on the roof. Here in this tiny village, a house with a solar water heater. Amazing.
Tractors rumble through town.
We see a family sitting outside having lunch and Usla asks them can we see what they are eating? (This is Usla’s photo.)
They are eating tomatos and peppers in olive oil, olives, egg, with home-made bread, cheese and the bottles hold pickled nettles. The little glasses are what everywhere in turkey people use to serve the apple tea. Or sage tea in some places.
The young farmer invites us to taste, to help ourselves from his table.
His sister does not cover her hair and she stares very curiously at our motley crew.
His mother eats with him and they watch as we literally mob the table, tasting everything with our fingers.
The food was fresh and delicious. All homegrown. This is Usla’s photo of us surrounding the table. Can you imagine anyone from the United States, pulling up to your house and being invited to partake of a lunch on the porch or anywhere? It amazes me. Later curious neighbor’s stopped by to see what we were doing.
The girls were a bit shy. No scarves.
They were cooking what looked like a fried cheese and egg sandwich.
Joan has this talent for instant repoire with anyone and asked the ladies to have her picture taken with them. She was watching them work with drying rosemary.
In a flash, the whole gang poses for a picture. Everywhere we have traveled thus far, the Turkish people are super friendly, hospitable, helpful and curious about us. It’s a great feeling.
Usla stops some kids on their way home for lunch. They are in costume, this is not how they normally dress for school.
This man is shaving in front of a small mirror outside his house. I ask him if I can take a picture and he smiles and nods, yes. He probably thinks I’m a bit crazy. You can double click these pictures to enlarge them if you want to. Then back arrow to the blog.
Our meal served from the their finest china, flour soup, a tomato, chicken, lemon broth. Quite tasty.
Dolmas. Usla says the word means dumpling or stuffed. Stuffed grape leaves, salad, bread with seasoned olive oil to dip it in, yoghurt, salad, olives, condiments…
…and the main course, potatoes, these great big peas, and a savory chicken and rice dish. I can truthfully say, for all of the sumptuous meals we ate in Turkey, this was the freshest, best food we tasted. We always buy small, sweet peas? Unhah! These were better. I don’t know what they do other than grow everything themselves with traditional seeds handed down from generation to generation.
The mother peeks out of the door, shyly. I coax her into joining us.
And her mother is coaxed out to join us. Later the man of the house stopped to visit from the fields. Farmers choose what they grow besides their “house” garden. They sell their produce together from a co-op.
They watch American television and named their favorite shows and asked us what our favorite shows might be? One host likes Survivor. I don’t remember the others since I don’t watch television except for PBS. And our hosts daughter was having her picture taken, imitating sexy models from television. Oh, my.
Our next stop was the school. The children were rehearsing for a program they’ll perform for their National Holiday, which was the next day. These three kids had speaking parts.
The older girls and boys were very curious about Owen the minute the rehersal was over. OAT always stops at a school, but most students visit Turkey during the summer. It is unusual to have a student on the tour.
Usla interpreted for them. It was fun and one of the things I most like about traveling with OAT.
We left the wonderful village of Karacaagac with warm feelings and bused overland to our hotel in Kusadasi, the Kismet, which sits above the harbor where we enjoyed dinner overlooking the Aegean Sea.