Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: climate

Spring is here

Fantastic news: spring has arrived in south-west Turkey. We had some long cold nights through winter, but now there are wild flowers in the fields and new growth everywhere.  The first buds and leaves are out on our grapevines — soon we will have our green canopy again.

Our village by night.  (One day this will be the view from the restaurant terrace.)

The village on a cold winter night.

Spring flowers.

Spring flowers.

Cherry blossoms near Şirince.

Peach blossoms near Şirince.

And it’s not just plants coming out. One sunny morning a chameleon turned up in our back garden and I was lucky enough to get some pictures. At first we thought he was an escaped pet, but it turns out they’re native to Turkey and some other parts of the Mediterranean as well as Africa and India.  He was an impressive character, although he didn’t do a lot of colour-changing.

Chameleon suns himself on the roof of a dog house.

Chameleon suns himself on the roof of a dog house: both the dogs and the cats were not sure what to make of him.

The warmer weather has brought human visitors too.  My brother Sean and his family flew in from Vienna last week.  It was great to see them, and also great to have an excuse to put down our tools for a while and revisit places like Magnesia and Şirince.

The theatre at Magnesia — looking a little flooded with spring rain.  it was too dark for photos last time we were there.

The theatre at Magnesia — looking a little flooded with spring rain. It was too dark for photos last time we were there.

We also got to explore the Dilek National Park (Milli Park in Turkish) out on the Mycale peninsula.  (This had started to become a bit of an embarrassment for us: on two previous attempts last summer the authorities foiled our visit plans with the simple countermeasure of a 4pm closing time.)  So glad we finally got there.  The park is fantastic and we will be recommending it to all our future visitors.  It has beautiful, secluded beaches that look across to the Greek island of Samos.

Stone tower on a quiet beach in the national park.

Stone tower on a quiet beach in the national park.

A picnic table as close to the sea as anyone could want.  That is my brother being dynamic and sporty in the background.

A picnic table as close to the sea as anyone could want. That is my brother being dynamic and sporty in the background.

Much of the park isn’t accessible by car but only on foot.  We tried the first section of one of the many walking trails.  Doing the whole trail would have been quite a walk: it goes straight up and over the ridge of Mount Mycale (1237 metres).  But at least the first part, walking through deep canyons with little streams running through them, would be the perfect escape from summer heat.  And I really enjoyed getting an impression of what the landscape around here might have looked like before human settlement.

Walking path in the park.

Walking path in the park.

Stream coming down from the mountains.

Stream coming down from the mountains.

I’m sure we’ll be back soon.  As spring turns to summer we have lots more visiting friends and family lined up.  And that beach in proper swimming weather will be amazing. (We hear that it’s also an excellent spot for diving.)

On to construction and renovation topics: well, the kitchen is nearly there.  If I was a more disciplined person I would hold out and only show you the photos once it was 100% finished, but I can’t help myself.  I’m quite proud of what we’ve done with it, and the work definitely makes our life more comfortable.

The current state of the kitchen: ready for floor-levelling, tiling, and building a new worktop.

From this…

From Sketchup plan...

via a Sketchup plan…

to this!

to this!

We like the new splashback tiles a lot, and we were very happy when, having wrestled the corner wall cupboard section into position, it stayed up as the plans suggested it should.  Not much left now: there are a few cupboard doors still to build, and the worktops need to be tiled.  But then it will finally be done.

Wall units above the worktop, with a corner shelf for cookbooks.

Wall units above the worktop, with a corner shelf for cookbooks. The walls are made from clay bricks, so I didn’t want to drill into them: everything is supported from the floor upwards.

View from the doorway showing the sink, the dishwasher, and the new marble-tiled splashback.

View from the doorway showing the sink, the dishwasher, and the new marble-tiled splashback.

With the perfect weather for laying concrete nearly upon us, we’ve been talking to our favourite civil engineer and architect team, as well as surveying our block with a tape measure and a home-made water level.  We’re making a few revisions to our original plans, now that we’ve lived here for a while and know the land better.  We’re also happy to move our planned buildings around a bit if it will save some trees — will show the new layout in a future post.  The day we actually start pouring foundations up in the orchard will be our biggest milestone.

And I can’t let you go without at least one pet picture, can I?  Here’s Zeliş looking sad and dignified at the same time.

Our beautiful dog Zeliş.

Our beautiful dog Zeliş.

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…

Straw bale fire testing

A few posts ago, we saw that straw bale construction holds up well to earthquakes. What about fire?

Turkey is dry enough in summer that you can get fires in the pine forests up in the hills, so you never know. And a lot of people’s first reaction to the idea of a straw bale wall is that it would surely be a bit flammable. Are we in danger of losing our hotel bungalows to a fire that comes sweeping down from the mountains?

Loose straw obviously burns very easily, and so cleaning up on the job site is important. Straw in a bale doesn’t burn as well as you would think, because it’s hard to get oxygen in there. And once you get 40mm of clay plaster on them, straw bale walls turn out to be surprisingly fire-resistant.

Here are a couple of videos. The first one is from Australia and shows a really dramatic simulated bushfire with temperatures of over 1000 °C pitted against a pre-fab straw bale wall. Temperatures on the other side of the wall stay at a comfortable 35 °C. The second video shows more of a backyard test but it gives a good impression of how the thick coating of plaster helps stop the bale from burning.

Latitude and climate

We’ve lived in the UK (and briefly in Germany) for almost twenty years now. We both grew up in hotter places, so we’re really looking forward to the climate of the Aegean coast. Hıdırbeyli is at 37.9 degrees north, and, like much of south-west Turkey, is in the Köppen climate zone “Csa”, i.e., dry-summer sub-tropical, or Mediterranean. Sounds good!

I was curious to see what cities 37.9 degrees puts us level with. Around the Mediterranean, it’s great to see that we’re on the same latitude line as places like Athens, Palermo, and Cordoba. Further afield, the results are a bit more surprising. In the US, we’re about level with Richmond (Virginia) and San Francisco.  In east Asia, we’re lined up with Seoul and Fukushima.

World map showing 37.9 degrees north and south.

World map showing 37.9 degrees north and south.  Map borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.

What if you flip things around to the southern hemisphere?  Strange to note that in Africa there’s no land that far south. We’d be in the sea off Cape Town. In South America we’re level with the Argentinian beach resort of Mar del Plata; in Australia we line up with Melbourne; and in New Zealand we’d be midway between Auckland and Wellington.

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