Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Winter brings more animals

It’s February already. How did that happen?

I have to confess that January wasn’t our most productive month. We’re not too worried though. More than half of our rainfall comes between December and February, and on rainy days there’s nothing for it but to sit inside and drink coffee and watch movies. That should change in the future: as we empty out the last of the moving boxes in the barn, there’ll be more space to do carpentry in there. But for now the courtyard is our workspace and so if it’s wet, we have a quiet day.

The bigger confession, and maybe another reason for low productivity, is that our animal population has grown again. I know, I know: that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be building a hotel / fig-farming empire, not playing pet rescue with all the local strays. The problem is it’s very hard to say no when the animal in question is cold and wet and hungry and outside your front gate.

Meet Zeliş, our new dog.

Meet Zeliş, our new dog.

This is Zeliş. We found her out in the street, looking dangerously thin. We tried feeding her by the roadside for a while, but during the January cold snap we were worried she might freeze. She didn’t have a protective layer of fat, and she seemed to have  had a tough time in general: just a very skinny, submissive, and sad-looking dog. So she went from being a street dog to a yard dog, like Zeytin before her.

Zeytin and Zeliş at play.

Zeytin and Zeliş at play.

Luckily the two of them get on very well. Zeliş is a kangal which means she’s been bred for guarding sheep and fighting off wolves (!).  She’s already big and she’s going to be huge once she puts some weight back on. But, luckily for us, she is extremely sweet-tempered. She barks if there’s a noise in the night, which is good for security I suppose, but I think an actual intruder would probably get licked to death.

Sirem with Zeliş. Dogs love hugs.

Sirem with Zeliş. Dogs love hugs.

Unfortunately for Zeliş, her previous owners chopped off her ears. There’s a misguided belief around here that says you have to do that so the dog will hear better and won’t have floppy ears for another dog or a wolf to latch onto in a fight. It’s a real shame, but we try not to make her feel self-conscious about it.

Sookie the kitten.

Sookie the kitten. Could you reject this animal?

We also have a new kitten, Sookie. We did try really hard not to have a new kitten. We told the neighbour who brought her to us (as a crying wet little bundle in the middle of a thunderstorm) that this was not on, and never to do it again. We even found a new owner via the internet, and drove Sookie to Izmir to meet her new adoptive family. She lasted about four days. Bothering the other cats in the apartment, constantly growling, and crapping everywhere. She seemed to be of the firm opinion that our place was her real home. So we drove to Izmir again and brought her back.

Sookie yawning.

Sookie yawning.

Sookie stretching.

Sookie stretching.

Sookie is named for one of the characters from the show True Blood (if you’re a fan of that show, note that I am increasingly thinking we should have called her Jessica because of how much she enjoys biting people). She has almost exactly the same calico colouring as one of our other cats, Sutlaç, who is also from the village. So we’re thinking they’re probably sisters, and somewhere around here is a mother cat who really needs to be snipped.

Sam looking all grown-up and handsome.

Sookie’s nephew (?) Sam looking all grown-up and handsome. Don’t tell the other cats but I think he may be the best-looking one.

All the other cats are doing well, although some of them think Sookie is a bit of a pain.  There’s still a bit of an apartheid system with the Turkish cats living outside in a heated cat-box and the English ones tending to come inside, but the boundaries are blurring now that we have installed some cat flaps in two of the bedroom doors. We will see how long the outside cats take to figure out that they can potentially be inside cats now.

Sookie's other nephew Sezar looking intrepid.

Sookie’s other nephew Sezar looking intrepid.

Donkey is feeling a bit morose.

Donkey is feeling a bit morose.

We’ve also adopted a donkey!

No, I’m kidding. We are not quite that crazy. This is a picture of our neighbour’s donkey grazing on the side of the road. She doesn’t look too happy but I guess donkeys usually don’t.

In other more practical news, we have made some progress in the kitchen. But I’m determined to stop showing you embarrassingly incremental photos of that and just get to the end of the process as soon as we can. In the garden we’ve started building a big hügelkultur bed: basically a raised bed with lots of old, rotting wood underneath the soil to act as a water reservoir in the drier months.  We’ve fixed some leaks in the barn roof by taking sections of the old Roman tiles down, cleaning them, and replacing the cracked ones. And we are only one more tiling and grouting session away from having all three bedrooms renovated.

Finally, after being told off by our postman for not having a letterbox, we built this one.

Our new letterbox.

Our new letterbox.

Although we’ve had a run of rain over the last week or so, I don’t want to give the impression that there are no sunny days. In late January Sirem’s sister Çisem was visiting so we took her over to Kuşadası to see what the beachfront promenade looked like in winter. Some of the cafes were still open and we had a really nice lunch.

Winter sun at the beach with Çisem.

Winter sun at the beach with Çisem.

Taken from the same spot: a view of the Greek island of Samos.

Taken from the same spot: a view of the Greek island of Samos.

Sunset in Kuşadası.

Sunset in Kuşadası.

A few days later we had a chance to see one more of the amazing ancient Greek sites in the area. We were in Didim, a seaside town about an hour down the coast, and stopped off at the Temple of Apollo, which was the religious centrepiece of the ancient city of Didyma.  Most of the other ruins we’ve seen are in splendid isolation out in the countryside, but the Temple of Apollo just rears up from its surroundings in suburban Didim.  Incredible stuff.

The Temple of Apollo.

The Temple of Apollo.

It must have been spectacular in its day...

It must have been spectacular in its day…


  1. cut off the ears, wow. nice times ahead for her. lovely pictures. :-)

    • Jason

      10 February, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      I know, it’s a bit brutal isn’t it?

      She does seem much happier than when we met her. And she’s such an upbeat dog: every bowl of food is as exciting as the first. :)

  2. I am sure you are doing well not collecting too many cats and dogs – I doubt I could resist even one! Can’t wait till I meet them all at Easter.

    • Jason

      10 February, 2015 at 11:03 pm

      Thanks, Christine. You’re right; if someone wanted 100 cats and 100 dogs it wouldn’t take all that long to collect them around here.

      Looking forward to Easter: I hope they will all be on their best behaviour for Liam.

  3. Nicole, Paul, & Max

    11 February, 2015 at 2:25 am

    Love all the new additions!! (You had me for a second with the donkey.) We also have a new addition, coming in late June … a little sister for Max. Hopefully one day you’ll get a vist from all 4 of us! Xoxo

    • Jason

      11 February, 2015 at 2:38 am

      Wonderful news! Congratulations. I think Max is excellent older brother material. It would be great to see you all.

  4. Oh, you guys are saps.

    I think the Temple of Apollo is pretty spectacular currently! Or at least, your picture is. Maybe it looks worse in real life (ha!), and hopefully we’ll find out sometime this year!

    • Jason

      11 February, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Agreed, we are total suckers. But that’s it, we’re full! Future new arrivals will meet an immigration policy as harsh as Australia’s. Honest.

      The Temple of Apollo is really impressive in real life. I hope you’re not suggesting that I may have gone a bit nuts with the clarity and saturation sliders in my photo? :)

      And yes, definitely: the only way to settle this is to take you to see the real thing. See you soon!

  5. How great of you guys to give all those poor animals a shelter. Could you please open an account and share it with us, so your fans can spend donations to support you in this? Also, very good pictures! I wonder what LightRoom slider Apollo made you shift all the way to the right :-)

    • Jason

      11 February, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks, JP — that’s a very kind thought. But we’re doing OK. Hopefully once we get further advanced and build an actual functioning hotel with real paying guests, the need for any help with animal expenses will evaporate.

      And thanks for the photo feedback. Yes, OK, Apollo may have had a little help, but the gods made me do it! And no slider was pushed beyond 55, I swear. :)

  6. We’re arriving at the conclusion that Ionia Guest House will have to be renamed Second Chance Animal Refuge, (Hidirbeyli branch). If you play your cards right you could obtain charitable status and qualify for tax relief. Give it a go, then consider entrance fees! Keep up the good work!
    Counting the days!

    • Jason

      11 February, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      A nice plan! Combined fig farm, hotel, and petting zoo. I will work on a sign. :)

      And yes, see you in October. I hope Diana is making a list of must-see Greek ruins.

  7. What giant suckers you both are :) How may animals is that now?

    The Temple of Apollo looks great, hopefully we can visit when we are there.

    • Jason

      12 February, 2015 at 1:21 am

      Yeah, yeah, OK. :) We’ll see who is a sucker when the zombie apocalypse comes and we have plenty of pets to eat.

      (I think that makes 9 cats and 2 dogs. Although some are itinerant.)

      And yes, Temple of Apollo is definitely worth a visit. We can put it on the list.

  8. Laura was extremely sad when she found out that the new donkey was just you kidding. She really loves donkeys.

    • Jason

      12 February, 2015 at 1:18 am

      You want a donkey? I can get you a donkey, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don’t wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a donkey by 3 o’clock this afternoon…

      Seriously though, tell her we’re sorry. I’m sure the neighbours would not object to Laura having a moment with their donkey when you come to visit.

  9. And by the way, the Japanese word for donkey is “rabbit horse”. Isn’t that cool?

  10. Hi Jason and Sirem
    Hard to know where to start. Your accumulation of animals sounds a bit like the stocking of Noah’s Arc. When do you anticipate that you will reach 100 animals?
    We were disappointed that the Donkey turned out to be not yours (yet?). Marg is not all that keen on cats but donkey rides around the orchard would be great.
    Still planning to catch up in October – if you can fit us in? Will send a separate email shortly.
    Hope all is well at your end.
    Cheers for now.
    Marg and John

    • Jason

      13 February, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      I think even Noah was more successful than us at sticking with only two of each animal. Also, we understand that cats are not to Marg’s taste, and we’d like to assure you that your bedroom and immediate surroundings will be free of them when you get here. Donkey rides can surely be obtained after some negotiations with the neighbours. :)

      Very much looking forward to your visit. Hoping to post some photos between now and then that might help sell the place better!

  11. really great pictures, and your “animal farm” is impressiv, they´re all so cute and it seems that you both have a nice and relaxed atmosphere there with all your animal family members. good luck for the future and I hope probably to manage it to visit you both and your animals next year or whenever….

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