Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: architecture

TV show delay

This isn’t a proper update; it’s really just a quick word of apology to our readers in the UK to let them know that our episode of “Our Dream Hotel” won’t be going out on Tuesday 27th June after all. We’re really sorry about that.

The series is three episodes in at the moment, and we were due to be next week’s episode. However, Channel 5 have decided to juggle their schedule around a bit and it looks like they’re going to be inserting a new six-week series of “The Hotel Inspector with Alex Polizzi” at the Tuesday 9pm time-slot. We’re not quite sure of the reasoning but it’s their schedule to adjust of course. We think it’s likely that our episode will therefore be delayed by six weeks, which would move it to the 8th of August. However that date is just a guess on our part and we’ll certainly let you all know when we know more.

To anyone who was looking forward to watching it, apologies. But please don’t worry: we’re sure it will screen eventually. Apparently the ratings are quite good and the three hotels already featured had a rush of bookings after each of their episodes went out — music to our increasingly broke ears!

In the meantime we’re rushing to finish the cafe, the kitchen, and the terrace area. Here are some progress photos to tide you over, plus a couple of cat pics to stop certain people from complaining. And we hope to bring you more specific news about a date soon.

Small retaining walls define different areas on the terrace. (Really wanted to respect the existing slope rather than impose one big flat area.)

Cafe area is now tiled, so the doors can go up shortly.

Kitchen is ready for benches, ovens, fridges, etc.

Coco in his boudoir.

Pablo showing his excellent table manners.

Opening day coming soon

Right now I am supposed to be making either a garden trellis for the honeysuckle vines behind the pool, or a wooden worktop for room one’s kitchen area. Too busy to write much, but I thought I should post some photos to keep everyone up to date.

Our big news is that we have our first guests coming in early May so it’s really important that everything works and that the place is looking presentable. Room two (the one we show you all the photos of) is now 99% finished, while room one needs a bit of work but things are progressing fast.

Room in close-to-final form

Room two in close-to-final form.

Other view

Another view.

Mini-kitchen done

Room two kitchen area done.

Bathroom done

Bathroom now has a vanity mirror.

Towel hooks

More welding: towel hooks for the bathroom.

With actual guests coming, we need to make sure the place is accessible. On a rainy day you would struggle to get a typical rental car up the hill, so we knew that the time had come to concrete the driveway. The preparation work takes the longest: compacting gravel in the problematic low-lying sections, building borders and formwork to hold the concrete in, laying and wiring up lots of steel reinforcement, etc. Then two very tough days of actual concrete pouring and it was done. (I am currently trying to block out the memories.)

Sirem the day before the concrete went in

Sirem checking out the reinforcement the day before the first concrete went in.

Lots of work went into this shot

Lots of work went into this shot. (And yes, the hillside is a mess: one more thing on the to-do list.)

The really urgent priority is getting room one into shape, but we also have to do some landscaping work so the place doesn’t look so much like the building site it still is. That means more garden beds and lots of plants, but we also need a path to get to the rooms, the pool, and beyond. Concrete was a good solution for the steep driveway, but obviously we didn’t want to lay it everywhere. So the path is going to be built with paving stones.

Crushed gravel to support paving stones

Compacted river gravel to support the paving.

Paving stones

Paving stones going in, drainage canal taking shape.

Koray and Berrin

Koray and Berrin working on a garden wall. Those steel structures will become concrete posts to support the entrance gate, giving the accommodation area  a bit of privacy.

For two guest rooms and the cafe, we need a lot of furniture. Tables, beds, sofas, chairs, wardrobes, and all the rest. Given that we already have a lot of woodworking tools, and that the budget is running low, it was an easy decision to make most of the stuff ourselves. (The one exception: we’re buying chairs for the cafe. Chairs are fiddly and take too long.) There’s some work in it, but it’s great to be able to build pieces in the exact size and style you want.

Bed being made

One of the beds being made.

Table, sofa

Front to back: an angle grinder used as a brutally efficient sander, a very hardworking router, a table, and a sofa.

Finished bed

A finished bed with two little bedside tables: we definitely have a chunky country aesthetic going.

A new friend came to visit a few weeks back, and we used that as an excuse to do a practice run of the breakfasts we want to serve to our guests. Hopefully the photo below helps to convince someone out there to make a booking. Speaking of which: we’re going to start by listing the place on Airbnb, but we’re just holding off on one or two little details first, like our final inspection from the council. We’ll definitely make a post when that happens though.


Breakfast on the veranda.

Very soon we will have to get out of the way and move back down to the old farmhouse. We’re going to miss the new room, of course. But the weather is much warmer now and the leaves are back on the fig trees and the grape vines, so the old house is a much more cheerful prospect than it was in mid-winter.

Spring morning in the olive grove

Spring morning in the neighbours’ olive grove.

The dogs and cats are being their usual helpful, dirty, lazy, beautiful selves, and they’re clearly as happy as we are to see the return of warmer weather. Here are some dog photos to fulfill our prescribed animal content quota.

Tito yawning

Tito yawning.

Zeliş goofing around

Zeliş goofing around.

Thanks for reading. I hope that next time we post it will be to announce that bookings are properly open. Now I have to get back to it — bye!

The furniture update

Quick disclaimer: we are not as close to being finished as some of these photos make it look. But we are getting closer!

Shortly we’ll have to decide which online booking sites we’re going to use. And we’ll need to make our listings look as good as possible. We could take bookings right now for, say, April 2017, but one problem is all our photos (for obvious reasons) make the place look like a building site. With this in mind, some friends had a great idea: why not borrow some furniture and take a few photos that show how things are going to look in a few months time when we’re actually ready for guests?


Sun lounges by the pool

Sun lounges by the pool

So we did. The furniture came from a few different places. We concentrated mostly on getting the pool area and the interior of room two to look good. Big thanks to Sirem’s mum Nadire, her sister Çisem, and her cousin Mevlüde for all the work on the beautiful quilt for the bed.

Interior with bed

Interior with bed. (That’s the bathroom door on the left, but sadly the bathroom was in no state to be photographed yet.)

Interior with door

Interior with column and front door.

Interior with sofa

Interior with sofa.

You’ve probably spotted the lack of floor tiles by now but hopefully we got away with it. The raw concrete slab doesn’t look great but I’d like to think it doesn’t take anything away from the rest of the decor.

Breakfast on the verandah perhaps?

Breakfast on the verandah perhaps?

It was good to put some real tables and chairs into the cafe: very reassuring to see that seating sixteen or twenty people in the dining area is completely realistic. Although we expect most people will want to sit outside on the terrace in the summer, it’s good to have seating space for cold or rainy days.

Cafe dining area

Cafe dining area

Originally it was just going to be a door and a sort-of serving hatch connecting the kitchen with the cafe, but that looked like a missed opportunity to have a proper bar. Years of visiting British pubs must have unconsciously left a mark as we seem to have reproduced one.

We have accidentally built a pub.

We have accidentally built a pub.

That thing just to the right of the bar, on the wall near the light switches, is our straw bale “truth window”. The idea is to leave a window opening in the interior plaster so people can see that there really are straw bales inside the wall. I didn’t quite get this convention at first, but now that we have seen the bales disappear from view, I understand why everyone does it.

Straw bale "truth window".

Straw bale “truth window”.

Garden doing OK.

Garden doing OK.

We were happy with the furnished photos but of course the furniture all had to be given back to the people we borrowed it from and building work had to go on. One big job recently has been putting insulation into the ceiling, between rafters, and then concealing it with interlocking wooden planks. I had been a bit worried that an all-timber ceiling might make the room look a bit like the inside of a sauna, but I’m happy with the result. See what you think.

Insulation and timber paneling going on the ceiling.

Looking straight up at insulation and timber paneling going between the rafters.

Night-time shot of the new ceiling.

A shot of the new ceiling.

No point having windows unless you eventually put some glass in them, and thus we contacted a local glass factory with good prices on double glazing. The only downside was they don’t deliver, so we had to lay all that glass in the back of the truck, wrapped in blankets and bubble wrap, and drive home very carefully. Nothing broke — yay!

Glass for windows and mirrors has arrived.

Glass for windows and mirrors has arrived.

Build your own windows for fun and profit.

Build your own windows for fun and profit.

Right, and in conclusion: I would write more but the truth is I need to sleep so I can get up in the morning and build more things. Here’s your animal photo as required by popular demand (something a bit different today).

Sorry, no cat or dog photos. Will you accept a tortoise?

Sorry, no cat or dog photos. Will you accept a tortoise?

And I am going to keep posting photos of that mountain until I feel I have got the definitive one. Quite happy with this shot though as it makes it look like we live a few kilometres from Mount Doom.

Sunset panorama from the highest point on our block.

Sunset panorama from the highest point on our block. (Zoomable full-size version here.)

A roof and some walls

So, we had a coup. An attempted one, anyway. Thank you to the many friends and family members who checked in to see whether we were OK at the time. It was a scary and confusing 24 hours of news coverage. But for us that’s all it was: a day of watching TV and browsing the web, trying to figure out what was going on. At times like that it’s nice to live in a small town far from significant buildings and infrastructure.

It was a sad day for Turkey, with around 250 people killed. And in the aftermath a lot of young soldiers are potentially facing long jail sentences, while many people have lost their jobs for alleged links to the shadowy Gülenist movement. All of this comes on top of the ongoing troubles in the southeast of the country, a terrorist attack at Istanbul airport, and so on. Interesting times indeed.

Of course we hope that the situation will improve. But there’s not a great deal we can do about it on a personal level, and the truth is it hasn’t affected day-to-day life around here at all. So we have just been pushing on with construction work as usual.

A big recent milestone for us was getting the roof completely covered with wooden planks. (The planks are there to support the waterproof membrane and the roof tiles, both still to come.)  As you can see in some of the photos below, the planks shrink a little after being nailed down, so there are some gaps that let light through. But it still feels much more like a building now that it has a covered roof.

Koray working on the roof.

Koray sawing planks on the roof.

Verandah coming together.

Verandah coming together.

Roof planks completed.

Roof planks completed.

The pool has been a lifesaver, making working through the hot days of summer much more bearable. Which I guess is a good sign of its future popularity. One of our little pleasures is a drink by the pool in the evenings. The water is so warm that you don’t really want to get out.

Evening drinks by the pool.

Evening drinks by the pool.

The roof at night; lights of Germencik in the background.

The new roof at night; lights of Germencik in the background.

And now a photo of me looking grumpy in the heat.  (Sirem insisted that I include it.) It looks like I should probably go for a swim and cheer up.

Portrait in 40 degree heat.

Portrait at 40 degrees C.

In parallel with the roof work, we’ve been building up the straw bale walls. It’s a mixed bag of a job: sometimes it’s easy and fast, like when you have a long run where you can use whole bales. But then you get to a fiddly bit in the corner or between two windows, and there’s a lot of splitting and re-tying the bales, which can get tedious. And especially when you have to lift bales up above your head for the higher sections, you end up wearing and breathing a lot of straw which is not the nicest feeling in the world. On the plus side, you do get to play with the chainsaw, which is essential for carving the bales so they fit neatly around the building’s wooden frame.

Straw bale interior.

Straw bale interior.

Essential equipment for shaping bales.

Essential equipment for shaping bales.

Roof from inside, with ceiling test panel.

Roof from inside. The white part is a test for one of our ceiling ideas: going to need something to hide all the insulation between the rafters.

There was one final part of the structure that we’d been putting off for a while: an overhanging verandah for the cafe area at the west end of the building. It’s mostly done now. There were a few steps involved: concrete bases for big 15cm x 15cm columns, getting the support beam up on top of the columns, then getting the 5-metre rafters up. That’s where we are in the “after” photo below. And still to come are planks, guttering, waterproofing, and tiles, just like the rest of the roof.

Front of the cafe area.

Before photo: the front of the cafe area.

And now with added verandah rafters.

After photo: the verandah will add shade for plenty of outside tables.

It’s no surprise that summer has brought more visitors than winter did. Some weeks back we hosted Elisabeth and Max, some friends from Germany via Southampton. They got very involved in the construction work and we’re grateful for their help. Elisabeth and Max (and some co-conspirators; looking at you, Alex) also have a fine tradition of candid photography that truly captures the modern, relaxed German style. So who were we to refuse them?

German efficiency.

German efficiency.

The next batch of visitors were my mum and dad, Diane and Barry. They were last here exactly a year ago, when nothing had happened yet up in the orchard. (And previously they were our very first visitors, a year before that.)  So, once more, it was great to see our recent progress through their eyes. Dad especially got involved in the building work, and mum played an important pool-testing role. We really appreciate their help.

Mum and Dad visiting.

Mum and Dad visiting, checking out their soon-to-be-favourite area of the cafe.

Animal lovers, you thought I had forgotten you, didn’t you? Not a chance. Apologies that it always seems to be the same animals in these photos: it happens because some of them have pre-emptively adopted the building site as their new home, while others live down in the old farmhouse and thus keep away from the cameras.


Sookie being sweet, in between psychotic episodes.


Tito feeling a bit tired and sorry for himself on a hot day.

We were originally expecting our roof tiles several weeks ago, but there were delays from the supplier’s end. Apparently they needed to make a special batch just for us, because generally they don’t sell a lot of roof tiles in the middle of the summer. Apparently no-one but us is foolish enough to do roofing work in the heat. We are currently finding out just how sensible this accepted wisdom is: photos of the tiled roof to follow next time, I hope.

Roof tiles arrived at last.

Roof tiles arrived at last.

Roof with temporary plastic in case of rain (unlikely).

Roof ready for tiling. That’s a temporary plastic cover in case of rain.

Finally, we want to dedicate this post to our great friend Jesús Palomo Muñoz (1967-2016). He was a fantastic person who has left us all much too soon. We will miss him.

Roof started, bales arriving

There will be no food photos, look-at-this-sunset photos, or archaeology photos in this post. (Apologies if any of those are your thing.) Around here lately it’s all construction, all the time.

There will of course be some cat and dog photos. I am not a monster.

Main beam going up

One section of the main beam in place

Previously we showed you the central spine of the building: a series of beams, sitting up on columns, that help to hold up the roof. These beams and posts were only half the story though. Another series of even bigger beams has to go up on top of the first one in order to form the ridge of the roof.  The longest section is about 5.5 metres long, and getting all that wood up there was probably the toughest and scariest job we’ve done so far.

Rainbows on a cloudy day

Main beam complete, plus a rare summer storm with rainbows

In the second photo you can see how the ridge beam looked once it was secured in place. You can also see that we get the occasional dramatic summer storm.

And from another angle it’s clear how close the building is to the pool. We’re hoping that will turn out to be a good thing as the roof itself, with its wide eaves, will provide some much-needed shade on the pool terrace in the late afternoons.

Ready for rafters

Sirem and Koray taking a break by the pool; ridge beam in the background

With the ridge beam up we were ready to start work on the roof, which meant a final big timber delivery. Here’s a stack of six-metre planks ready to be used as rafters.

Rafters delivered

Rafters delivered

The rafters need diagonal cuts on each end to get them to the right length, plus a “bird’s mouth” cut to make sure they sit nicely on the top rail of the wall framing. We’ve also been sanding the bits that are going to remain visible once the insulation and the ceiling panels go in — it would be a shame to hide all that nice wood behind a plain white ceiling.

First rafters up

Evening shot of the first few rafters installed

Coming together

The roof structure starting to take shape

Cezmi approves

Of course Cezmi went up on the roof to inspect it

The roof isn’t finished yet, but it’s already made a big difference to the site.  Even a partial roof provides a lot of shade and the rising summer temperatures are easier to bear now we can get out of the sun.  The cats and dogs have noticed this too and are hanging around even more than usual.

Zeytin is always helpful

Zeytin is always helpful

Cezmi continues his supervisory role

Cezmi takes a break from his supervisory role

Tea break

Tea breaks are much more pleasant in the shade

It’s harvest time for wheat farmers in the area, so we’ve been buying straw bales while they’re cheap.  So far we’re paying 9 lira, or about £2.15 per bale, delivered. (Apparently if you leave it too late in the year, the price goes up quite a lot.)  The first batch was 80 bales that came up on the back of a tractor trailer, but we’re going to need about 500 in total for the building.  And another 500 later for buildings two and three, but that’s a future problem.

Straw bales arriving

Straw bales arriving

For now we’re storing the bales in what will one day be the cafe kitchen.  You can see some ceiling joists in the top of the shot, as the kitchen will have a little storage loft above it.

Straw bales stored in the kitchen

Straw bales stored in the kitchen

Here’s a view from inside the cafe area, looking over at the doorway to the kitchen. Those two interior window structures on the right will eventually become the bar (a very important feature).

The bar

Looking across at the bales via the kitchen door and the bar

Sookie, mother of kittens, has taken to disappearing on mysterious multi-day journeys now that the weather is warm. She decided that sleeping on straw bales was a good enough reason to come home though. It’s always a relief to see her back safely.

Sookie returns

Sookie returns

We decided on old-school wooden planks over OSB or plywood for the roof.  One reason is that real wood will hold up better if there is ever a leak. Another is that sections like the verandah roof and under the eaves (where there won’t be any insulation or ceiling panels) will look a lot nicer in real wood. And the cost worked out about the same as OSB anyway.

Roof planks going on

Roof planks going on

View from the pool

Another view from the pool area

After all the rafters and planks are up, the next steps are gutters, waterproof membrane, and ceramic tiles, in that order. Then we can get to the fun part of stacking those straw bale walls.

Framing and planting

Apparently some readers worry that there won’t be any animal photos in a new blog entry. So this time I thought I would end the suspense and get the animal photo out of the way early. (Only one this week, sorry.) Here is Cezmi — our construction site manager in cat form — sampling the water of the swimming pool.

Cezmi by the pool

Cezmi by the pool

So we’re working pretty hard at the moment, doing long days six days a week. Rain is our only interruption, and it’s getting to the time of year when rain is a rare event. A couple of Sundays ago we gave ourselves the day off and went for a drive in the mountains. Here are Sirem’s parents posing at the side of the road. This spot is about twenty minutes up into the hills behind our house.

Sirem's mum and dad, Nadire and Dogan

Sirem’s mum and dad, Nadire and Doğan. We wouldn’t be making so much progress if they weren’t doing a lot of the cooking and shopping for us — thanks!

We had lunch in the beautiful village of Birgi, right next door to the ski resort at Ödemiş, about 80km northeast. And did a tour of the local garden centres, but more on that later.

View of Birgi

View of Birgi

Traditional Turkish architecture in Birgi

Traditional architecture in Birgi

The building work is progressing well. We’re roughly on schedule, but can’t afford to relax as there’s still a lot to do if we want to be ready for our first guests by the end of summer.

The first phase of the work was getting the bathroom walls up. (They’re made of brick so we don’t have to worry about water from the showers ever penetrating the straw bale walls.) We’ve learned to lay bricks pretty well, I think, although we are nowhere near as fast as Koray.

Bathroom brickwork

Bathroom brickwork and improvised sunshade

The next step was taking the 10cm x 10cm lengths of treated timber and bolting them down to the concrete slab to act as a secure base plate for the timber framing. This went a lot easier than I thought it would. Luckily we have a beast of a drill that makes holes in the concrete without any fuss at all. We then used a two-part epoxy to glue 14mm threaded rod into the holes. Incredible stuff and it’s all rock-solid now.

Putting down the treated timber base plates

Putting down the treated timber base plates: you can start to see the floor plan

After that it was time for the timber framing to begin in earnest. Of course it’s not something we’ve done before, but after watching some videos on YouTube how hard can it be?  🙂



The walls have gone up fast, although there are still details to take care of, like completing the internal stud walls and finishing all the window sill and lintel boxes. We’ve currently moved on to the spine of the building and put up some columns and beams that will help hold up the roof. Lots of this timber will be exposed in the finished build, so we took a bit more time with it and sanded each piece before it went up.


View of the exposed column-and-beam arrangement in room 1, looking through to the kitchen and cafe beyond. Please disregard the blocks of scrap timber temporarily holding it together.


The spine of the building, looking the other way towards the pool. Note that the ridge of the roof will be about 1.6 metres higher again.


Detail of a wooden column with T-bar support for the beams


Our favourite local mountain shot through the framing

There has also been some progress on the landscaping front. The gardens still look a bit dry and sparse but hopefully as everything matures they will become beautiful.


The fruits of a trip to the garden centre


Trying to make the most of the slope by building lots of small gardens on different levels


Kumquat and some kind of grass thing


Bougainvillea that will one day be encouraged to wrap itself around a verandah post


Lily in the sun

The pool railings are finished and installed: welding by Koray, painting by Sirem. We like how the ferforje (curly bits) turned out. Ornate, but not too fiddly.


New railings in place


Terracotta pots seem to suit the pool area

Most of our photos are taken from the south side of the building site, perhaps because that’s where the driveway puts you as you come up the hill. Here are a couple of shots from the north side that give a different perspective. The first one is a panorama showing the current condition of the pool area. The seating on the left is going to be great once we render the brickwork and build a pavilion roof: it’s possibly a bit too sunny at the moment.


Pool panorama

This one is taken from across the road on the opposite hill. You can see the whole project from here. From left to right: slab for our house, slab for rooms 3 and 4, the pool area (behind the poplar), timber frame under construction, and the driveway.


Project overview shot

And finally, I know I take too many photos of this mountain, but forgive me.  It’s hard to resist, and I don’t get out much.


Mount Mycale and Mount Thorax in changeable morning light


Planning permission is go

Big news: the council has finally granted planning permission for our revised four-hotel-rooms-plus-a-house idea.  Like every bureaucratic process it took longer than we expected or wanted, although we did get some reassuring feedback on the structural soundness of our designs.  Anyway, we’re really glad it’s all sorted, and now we can move on to getting quotes for the concrete-slab foundation work and the pool.

Now we can build all this!

Now we can build all this!

A while ago we passed our one-year anniversary of being here.  It would be great if more had happened up in the orchard by now — at the moment it’s just the fig trees, dry grass, marker pegs, and one steel telegraph pole with a light and a power connection box.  But we’re optimistic that with all of the red tape out of the way, some earth should start getting moved around very soon.

One thing that we did manage to finish before the one-year mark was the kitchen.  I know it has been drawn out over many blog posts, but it is now finally, properly finished.  Here are some shots showing the tiled worktop and the finishing touches on the woodwork.

High-angle view of the kitchen.

High-angle view of the kitchen.  Hope everyone likes the tiles.

The kitchen sink view looks out into the street at tractor-wheel height.

The kitchen sink window looks out into the street at tractor-wheel height.

Free-standing cabinet between the fridge and the door.  Plus added cat (Maya).

Free-standing cabinet between the fridge and the door. Plus added cat (Maya).

My mum and dad came to stay with us for the first half of August — we are trying to talk them into coming at a less outrageously hot time of year for their next visit.  But it was good seeing our progress through their eyes, as they were last here almost exactly a year ago.  Dad was extremely helpful in the garden, as he was the first time around.  And they talked us into taking a seaside break for a few days: the first nights we had spent away from this place since we arrived.  (A huge thank you to Sirem’s sister Çisem for holding the fort and feeding all the animals while we were away.)

We spent three nights at the Panion Park Hotel in the coastal town of Guzelçamlı, close to the entrance to the Dilek National Park.  It was a really pleasant, quiet hotel and we can recommend it.  They have a lovely pool and an equally lovely bar by the pool.  They’ve only been open for six years and we were impressed with how well their landscaped garden had come along.  Lots of ideas to file away for future reference.

The view from our room in the Panion Park Hotel.  Great garden.

The view from our room in the Panion Park Hotel. Great garden.

What else have we been up to?  A recent carpentry project was the door to the second bedroom.  The old door was a bit of a mess and we had to lock it with a very amateurish chain and padlock around the handle.  More importantly, the doorway was much lower than it needed to be, with a small window over the door for no good reason.  More than one taller visitor had smacked their head on the low lintel (sorry, Mark). So we came up with a plan for a full-height door that included a central window with shutters for extra ventilation in summer.  Sketchup again, of course.  We think it all turned out OK.

New door from the outside, shutters closed.

New door from the outside, shutters closed.

From the inside: going for a medieval look with all the black iron hardware.

From the inside: going for a medieval look with all the black iron hardware.

And with the shutters open to let in a breeze.

And with the shutters open to let in a breeze.

The weather has been really hot, of course, but never humid.  We found that the sun was tracking so far north that we weren’t getting enough shade on the sedir in the middle of the day.  So we’ve rigged up some sheets to make it feel more pleasant.

Dealing with the heat: sheets as shadecloth.

Dealing with the heat: sheets as shadecloth.

The grape vines do well in all that sun.

The grape vines do well in all that sun.

Summer also brings the insect population to life.  (Which is mostly fine, honest: even the wasps have their role in pollinating the figs.)  One day we found some ants struggling to lift something up the wall and into the garden.  Turns out they had stolen a cat biscuit, and were cooperating admirably to get it back to the nest.

The ant helpfully standing on the biscuit must be the one in charge, surely.

The ant helpfully standing on the biscuit must be the one in charge, surely?

And to conclude: some readers will be unsurprised to learn that our four kittens have not found new homes yet.  We still haven’t named them, because we are clinging to the (perhaps foolish) belief that we’re going to successfully give most of them away.  In an effort to show potential adopters how cute they are, here are some photos at 2 weeks and at 5 weeks.  Incredible how much the ears grow over that time.

The tabby one.

The tabby one.


The black one.

The black one.


The white one.

The white one.


The grey one (who Sirem refuses to give away).

The grey one (who Sirem refuses to give away).


More spring weather, more ruins, more plans

OK, this will be a quick one.  It’s a beautiful day and I’m supposed to be putting in irrigation pipes for the new trees, not sitting around at the computer.

Things are going well.  Spring continues to mean that plants are just erupting out of the ground: it’s amazing how quickly things grow here.  Here are a few shots of flowers and the garden to show what I mean.

lambs-4 lambs-5 lambs-6 lambs-7

The grape vines are definitely back.  We missed them!

The grape vines are definitely back. We missed them.

The season has also brought some new lambs to the farm of our friends at the other end of the village.  The lambs are very cute and Sirem could not resist having a cuddle.


Only 24 hours old.


Ready for her close-up now.

Sirem with her favourite.  The lamb also looks pleased.

Sirem with her favourite. The lamb also looks pleased.

And visitor season is also continuing.  Our recent guests Enrico and Bethany gave us an excuse to check out one more of the archaeological sites in the area.  We took them to see the ruins of Tralleis, up on a bluff above the provincial capital of Aydın.     It must have been a very imposing city in its heyday.  The biggest feature still standing is a distinctive triple arch that looks out over the valley.  All very Ozymandias.

The arch at Tralleis.  Some people for scale.

The arches at Tralleis. Some people for scale.

The arch from the other side.  Notice all the construction on the lower level: cellars or tunnels perhaps?

The arches from the other side. Notice all the construction on the lower level: cellars or tunnels perhaps?

Again we had the privilege of walking around a site like this without paying any admission fee, and seeing almost no other visitors.  I think those people in the first shot were our only company.  It’s not that Turks and tourists don’t care about these places; more that they are spoiled for choice about where to go.

Finally: we put in our revised plans for the hotel bungalows a couple of weeks ago, and we’re waiting to hear back from the council about whether the new version can be passed as just a minor revision of the old.   The differences weren’t huge, so we’re optimistic.

Probably the biggest change is that we’re now building a house for ourselves at the top of the orchard.  It’s quiet and peaceful there, and the view is fantastic, so  we can’t resist.  That means two fewer guest rooms up in the orchard, but in the long run we’ll make up the total of six by converting some rooms down here in the old farmhouse.

Another change is that we combined one of the guest bungalows with the cafe / kitchen, rather than having them as two separate buildings.  We think it makes the overall plan look less cluttered, and the thick straw bales mean the guests shouldn’t hear anything from the adjoining kitchen area.

An overview of the new plan.  You can see the existing farmhouse buildings on the far left.  Then, from left to right, it's the cafe plus two guest rooms, the pool, another two guest rooms, and then our new house at the end.

An overview of the new plan. You can see the existing farmhouse buildings on the far left. Then, from left to right, it’s the cafe plus two guest rooms, the pool, another two guest rooms, and then our new house at the end.

The cafe will have big french doors out onto the terrace area.  There's also a higher ceiling as the roof is common but the floor is lower. This seems to make the building blend into the slope a bit more.

The cafe will have big french doors out onto the terrace area. There’s also a higher ceiling as the roof is common but the floor is lower. This seems to make the building blend into the slope a bit more.

Plan view of the cafe, kitchen,and two guest rooms.

Plan view of the cafe, kitchen,and two guest rooms.

The double bungalow above the pool.

The double bungalow above the pool.

Interior of a typical guest room.

Interior of a typical guest room.

Interior view of our house.  Always wanted a mezzanine!

Interior view of our house. Always wanted a mezzanine!


Magnesia underestimated

We’re still feeling pretty low after the events of last week — and thanks, everyone, for all the support. Fortunately, I guess, we have a backlog of earlier activities to talk about.

In August we visited the ruins of Magnesia for the first time. We were especially interested because it’s the closest of the many ancient sites around the Menderes valley. That first visit we were impressed, but we missed out on seeing the stadium and the theatre as a walk up into the hills didn’t feel like a great plan in the heat. We should have been more adventurous…

In mid-September we went back with our visiting friends Berkan and Sofie. I was struck again by how the road and the railway line cut right through the old city walls, making for strange pairings of ancient and modern.

Truck driving through ancient Magnesia.

Truck driving through ancient Magnesia.

The honey-coloured stone is at its best as the sun sets.

The stone is at its best as the sun sets.

Don't blame Berkan for this: I asked him to pose like that.

Don’t blame Berkan for this: I asked him to pose like that.

It turns out that you don’t have to walk up into the hills to see the stadium. There’s a dirt access road that’s separate from the official entrance to the ruins, so a) you can drive in, and b) you can do it any time. The road goes past orchards and farmhouses and then you park by a massive wall of stone blocks. But nothing prepares you for the scale of the place as you walk around the corner and see row after row of stone seating dug out of the hillside. It’s an experience that will stay with me for some time. (Here’s the spot on Google Maps, if anyone is curious.)

Forgive the cheesiness, but in the three photos below I’ve circled the human figures in red. It was the only way I could think of to get across some sense of scale.

Taken from up on the western side of the stadium. That's Sirem sitting inside the red circle.

Taken from up on the western side of the stadium. That’s Sirem sitting inside the red circle.

Parts of the stadium are still buried; that huge ramp of dirt is what remains for the archaeologists to dig out.

Parts of the stadium are still buried; that huge ramp of dirt is what remains for the archaeologists to dig out.

The open end of the stadium looks out to the north, across cotton fields and towns.

The open end of the stadium looks out to the north, across cotton fields and towns to the hills beyond.

Half-buried column showing the fantastic colours in the stone.

Half-buried column showing the fantastic colours in the stone.

So, Magnesia is even more amazing than we thought, and we’re lucky to live so close to it. We spent nearly an hour wandering around the stadium, and the four of us were the only people there the whole time. I think that shows just how rich Turkey is in archaeological treasures: if this sort of structure was in most other countries, there’d be a crowd and a queue to get in.

The theatre was not quite on the same monumental scale, but was very beautiful, and also totally devoid of people. Unfortunately it was dark by the time we got there, so no photos yet. But that just gives us an excuse for another visit.

The plan

So what are we planning to build, exactly? Here’s a “before” picture showing what we’ve got to work with. Our fig orchard is that area with the trees up on the hill, and the courtyard with buildings on the left is the farmhouse where we’ll live while we work on the project. Towards the back of the picture you can see a cutting where the road goes up to a nearby lake and on into the mountains.

Plan showing the orchard and farmhouse as they are now.

Plan showing the farmhouse and orchard as they are now.

We want to build a six-room hotel, with the rooms grouped into three pairs. Each building will be a generously proportioned bungalow, and each room will have its own secluded verandah. We also need a swimming pool (of course!) and a kitchen with a terrace for serving breakfast, etc. Here’s our current plan for how it will all be laid out. That’s the kitchen and terrace at the bottom centre of the picture, and you can see a couple of pergolas giving shade for the garden. There’s also a low wall that runs along our southern boundary. Most of the verandahs will look out across the pool and to the south. Plenty of room on the roofs for solar panels, too.

Plan showing how the different buildings will be laid out on the orchard block

Plan showing how the different buildings will be laid out on the orchard block

These pictures were done in Sketchup 2013. It’s a great free-to-use 3D design program and we totally recommend it if you’re building anything from a bookshelf to a house.

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