Wednesday, January 02, 2013

and so I continue...

I have several points to make on this first (or second, if time of posting is the reference point) day of 2013. Let me start with dinner. Because it was hands down, a favorite meal thus far (though I admit we've only had two dinners and no lunches, still I doubt that any dinner could have pleased us more).

And this despite the ordering of the wine. Here, it's not about which wine you want to drink, it's whether you want wine or not. Period. Most diners will pass on it, except if you're a Sirince boyfriend trying to impress a very cool Sirince girlfriend: then  you remember yourself and, after dinner, you order a whole bottle of red wine. To sip. After all that food. (I speak as a witness to such an event.)

Well, we did not pass on it, because it's me after all, and I like wine and though we had some last night, who knows if that was typical or local or maybe Greek or Bulgarian. In neither place did we ever see the bottle. Tonight though, at the Ocakbasi Restaurant, I had to believe the wine was local. Something about Ocakbasi suggests local. As if they restocked from a market vendor when they ran low.  And so the two glasses of white wine are placed before us and I taste mine and then Ed tastes his and he looks at me and asks  -- turpentine? (It has a slight taste of something that might be used to dissolve paint splashes.)

That was the first impression. By dinner's end, the wine tasted just fine and more importantly, it didn't matter, because everything else was so fine and so wonderful that the wine became an insignificant add on.

We'd eaten our way through tomato salads and roasted red peppers and oven roasted pancakes filled with eggplant...

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...and chicken shish-kabobs and and many pieces of baklava (even though the waiter claimed it was just one portion)!

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We'd watched the two dogs (sisters!) cuddle with the owners and the owners' children and then finally, find spots to sleep by the warm wood burning stove…

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…and we came to understand that in the evening, when the crowds clear (and it is a popular restaurant -- we passed it earlier in the day and saw the packed tables -- almost begging me to speculate: how many Turkish family members can you fit around a small dinner table? The answer -- nine!)

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(Or, sometimes five.)

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 ...after feeding the hoards, the Ocakbasi Restaurant becomes a quiet little corner where the proprietors' family members come and go, to sit down, to stand and rub hands over the stove, as if it was really cold outside and they needed the extra heat from such motions. We watch all this from the side and thankfully we don't draw much attention to our presence as the TV is on and there is a lot of music sounding from it and I ask Ed -- how come back home, at bars and other places, when the TV is on, it's always with football games?

He shrugs as if I'd truly stumped him with that one.

So yes, it was a wonderful meal and our waiter (possibly co-owner with the other two men who came and went throughout, but who can tell) shook our hands at the end and introduced us to his daughter who blushed slightly but was, in her young maybe nine years, quite pleased (I knew that because she put down her smart phone to look us radiantly in the eye, giving that fabulous Turkish smile that we've come to accept here as part of the everyday).

A uniformly friendly people, Ed commented earlier and he is correct. They are friendly to us, yes, that and also to each other. One shop vendor tells us -- I went to America. For three months. Baltimore (there's that cousin in Baltimore!). But I didn't stay. Without money, it's no good. Tomatoes there are so expensive! And the people -- I smile at them, but they do not smile back. Here, everyone smiles back.

I think about that for a bit: Americans are known for their big, beautiful smiles, no? A country of good teeth and wide, toothy grins! Do we reserve them for those close to us? For the camera? Say cheeeeese!

The market was quiet yesterday. Today -- that's a whole 'nother ball game! Steady traffic pours into the small village of Sirince. Turkish people from far and wide descend on what is obviously a day off from work.

But we did not start with the market on this day. We started with a breakfast that is so late (11!) you may as well call it lunch, even though it has Turkish breakfast components to it -- olives, bread and cheese, an egg, tomatoes and cucumber.

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And coffee for me, but for no one else in the entire inn. (Everyone I see drinks tea. In restaurants, after dinner, many drink mysterious drinks served in metal cups. When I ask what they are, I'm told -- yogurt with water.)

And then we go hiking again, this time toward the north, without great ambition, though with some hope that we'll come face to face with this thing carved out of a mountain that looks ancient, but maybe isn't -- one person tells us it's less than a year old, but her English was not perfect so maybe she could have been speaking of something else. Anyway, it was a goal (here it is, as we get closer to it) and it didn't matter if we got there or not.

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In the end, the hike today turns out to be all about the olive harvest.

We hit the olive groves big time, early on.  To the north of Sirince, they wipe out all traces of other scenery. They are it. Olive trees, clinging to steep inclines. Everywhere, olive trees.

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Then, too, because we hug the upper ridge of a valley, sound travels well and we hear, throughout the hike, the put-put-put of the battery operated branch shakers. And very quickly into the hike, we come face to face with the men and women of the great 2012-2013 olive harvest. These folks are on lunch break:

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Down below, others are working full steam.

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And as we do our final steep climb, helping ourselves with our hands at times (it was unnecessarily onerous as we missed the path that would have simplified matters considerably), we come across an entire family of harvesters and it is all so intriguing that we sit down to watch for a while. Occasionally the older man -- clearly the head of the family -- summons enough English to say something to us.  French! -- he shouts at one point. And I ask -- are you French? -- knowing damn well that he isn't but having no clue as to why else that word filled the space between us. No no, French! This time he points proudly to the branch shaking machine. Ah. Made in France.

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We leave the family of movers and shakers and climb up some more and we do come right up to this new or maybe ancient and restored, but more likely new monument of sorts. (If we cannot properly understand explanations as to its age, it is doubtful that we would ever understand explanations as to its purpose.)

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After, we take a shortcut to the mud road (had we known there was a road, we would have used it earlier: it's no fun climbing up slippery hills) and we follow this path back to Sirince (our village). With a couple of detours. To watch other families harvest their olives. (I should not post the next couple of pics, because, after all, you've seen the harvest already and these show nothing over and beyond the usual, but the man carrying the sack of olives was poignantly sturdy despite his older years and the woman smoothed out her front shirt anticipating a photo and how could I, therefore, pass up the opportunity to present them here for you?)


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It is a hazy day. The sun is out, more or less, but there is a faint mist in these hills and it hugs our small valley and all day long you have the feeling that the day -- or perhaps life in general -- is never as clear or transparent as you may want it to be.

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We are back at the market now and is it ever a busy market today!

By the way, do not think of this as your ordinary farmers market. Produce is not for sale here, though I see that a few vendors are selling little baskets of red fruits; one translated them as "strawberries," but I know that's not right because we saw them on our walk and they grow on trees. We picked one to sample and it tasted grainy and not too sweet. Any ideas on what they might be?

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At the market, we purchase our usual (fresh pomegranate juice) and sit back.

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And then I take a short stroll and Ed remains rooted in his people watching and dog petting position (so that several people stop by to pet and admire "his" dog).

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(she's posing for my camera)

Let me include just a few other market photos for you.

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(we're not the only fans of pomegranate juice!)

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(I saw several girls wear flower wreaths; I'm not sure if these are for the head or the home)

And there you have it: the first day of the year.

As you know, though, I am posting it the day after. It has to be that way -- I cannot turn around a post in the few hours between dinner and sleepy time. So I start in the evening and finish early in the morning and it's all good, except I have one more thing to add today: since it has now turned to be January 2nd, I can admit that this is the 9th anniversary (9th!) of my daily blogging on Ocean. Call it weird, call it stubborn, call it what you wish -- for me, it's been a vastly enriching and humbling experience, one that has taught me far far more about the world and about myself than I care to admit. But as always on this second day of the first month, I want to say thank you -- to all my Ocean friends. You've made it easier, better, funner and funnier to write -- you've kept me honest and you've held me accountable and you've done it with generous and kind words. You're the best!

I'll leave you with two pics -- an early day one and a late night one (both within a few feet of our inn). In the latter, we came across three older women (only the older ones wear the Turkish pants) retreating into the night. For some reason it seems a good way to end today's post.

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