I needed a week of relaxation, so have travelled back to my house in Foca, near Izmir in Turkey. It is a simple little fishing town, with a seafront full of little restaurants and lots of tiny backstreets with unexpected treasures tucked away. One of the main reasons I love Foca is that it is not so easy to get to, so only the Turkish people use it as their summer retreat, and not often will you hear another English voice - perfect!
Little did I know when I booked my flights that I would be arriving in the midst of Foca Festival - a celebration of the town and its' people. This included the biggest barbecue I have ever seen, cooking fresh fish which was then put into huge chunks of bread and given to everybody free of charge. This was followed by the fishermen racing their boats in the harbour and then a net mending competition - it was amazing to watch, the concentration on their faces showed what skill they really have.
Later at night they held a concert in the town square, with music and singing by well-known musicians. The grand finale was a firework display over the bay - amazing. Unfortunately I missed the concert, although I had every intention of attending. Instead my Turkish neighbours invited me to a celebration dinner - their son had just returned home after 5 months conscription to the Turkish army (every day of which he hated he later told me). But we were not without our own concert as the son Murat plays classical guitar and his friend who had arrived with him was an opera singer. I felt I had landed in a completely different world - it was amazing. I am not sure how I will be able to host a dinner party as impressive in return!
Since then my days have been filled with swimming in the beautiful sea, eating out late at night, and wandering around the backstreets of the town with my camera - my days are pretty busy, as you can see!
Meltem craft shop is run by a lovely Turkish lady and her English husband. The shop is full of local crafts and Meltem's wonderful home-made jams and chutneys, with such unusual flavours as crunchy pumpkin and molasses, crunchy apple, or even carrot jam. Next year they are intending to open a coffee house and private dining, which I will certainly be visiting.
Each time I come here I learn new things about the people and their culture, and each time it makes me want to come back and learn and experience more.
Last night I was invited to another dinner party, this one just as delicious as the last. Each meal starts with a mezza, which goes on for quite a long time and has to be accompanied by Raki! Lots of little dishes of amazing flavours - fava, houmous, bean salad, green salad, stuffed peppers, cheese pastries, anchovies....the list goes on. And then, just when you think you are full, the main dish arrives! Sometimes it will be meat, either kebabs or meatballs, but last night for me they cooked local fish, it was so tasty. And the great thing about Foca is the cats - when you want to clear your plate of fish-heads you just throw them over your shoulder!