Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Home Stay on a Turkish farm

Kaputas Beach
After a couple of lazy, blissful days in Kas we set off on our journey again around the spectacular Turkish coastline, stopping briefly at the beautiful  Kaputas Beach.  We have glorious beaches in New Zealand but it is the colour of the water in Turkey that is sublime - aqua turquoise near the shore, changing to sea green and then to navy blue further out.  I could have stared at it for hours but we had a schedule to keep and were heading to a farm home stay high in the Taurus mountains. 

Fertile valley in the Taurus Mountains
Our route took us past the town of Kalkan, sadly now over run by ex-patriots, and through the world heritage site of Xanthos, then onto bumpy, twisty, narrow roads which wind through crumbling villages, their lush orchards and vines groaning under enormous crops. Our bus climbed ever upwards until, finally, we turned into the  farm which was to be our overnight stay.  This farming family provides a home stay experience to supplement their income and, like most in the area, is home to three generations of the same family.  Our accommodation was basic, in a dormitory, sleeping on foam mattresses on the floor, but it was a fantastic place to spend a night.

Bergil and Layla prepare our lunch
We settled in and then went to watch grandmother, Layla, and daughter, Bergil, prepare our lunch.  In their small kitchen they made delicious gozleme (Turkish stuffed pancakes) filled with cheese, onion, dill, cumin and parsley and cooked over an open fire,  which we ate at a long table under grapevines dripping with grapes.  Lunch was accompanied by their homemade Ayran, a sour yoghurt drink.
Ursil and his son show us the valley below their farm

After lunch and a relaxing snooze Ursil, the daughter's husband and their small son took us for a walk around the hillside and part way down to the valley.  It is an astonishing place, a veritable garden of Eden fed by natural, gushing spring water. We passed grape vines, figs, persimmons, quince, pears, blackberries, red currants, sunflowers, corn, beans and other crops, all growing in abundance and on every spare piece of land until we arrived at a lookout over the vast, fertile valley floor crammed with crops.

Layla weaving a Kilim rug
At the farmhouse with our hosts
Back at the farm we watched Layla weaving a kilim rug with walnut stained fingers and quick deft hands and then enjoyed a happy hour before another delicious meal under the vines.  We spent the evening chatting with the family, (Bergil spoke good English), buying a few of their handcrafts and drinking sage and mint tea from their garden.  In bed that night we giggled and joked like school kids on camp, even making shadow animals on the ceiling.  In the morning my friend, Hils, complained she hadn't slept because it had been "snorers alley".  The funny thing was that we all said the same thing...well somebody must have been asleep! I know I hadn't slept well because the farm dog was barking, a cock was crowing from about two onwards and I was nearly strangled by my sleeping bag liner, quite apart from being bothered by snorers!

 Everything for breakfast came from the farm; butter, cheese, bread, olives, apricot jam, honey, grape jam and eggs. 

The grape vine beside the farmhouse
Layla is a wonder woman.  As well as caring for the livestock on the farm she weaves rugs, knits jerseys, embroiders scarves, make all the jams, bread, pickles olive oil etc, ably assisted by Bergil, and still manages to look very youthful. 

Heading off down the mountain after our stay
After breakfast we loaded our van and then set off with Bergil and her little dog, Bonjook, for the 2 hour walk down the mountain.  It was quite difficult on the uneven, stony ground and narrow pathways but also very enjoyable.  Along the way we met several farming families harvesting their crops.  They were all so welcoming, friendly and generous pressing luscious peaches and great bunches of grapes into our hands.  Bergil told us that when her grandparents lived on the farm there was no road up and everything had to go up and down the mountain on donkeys.  That must have been tough!
The local farmers harvesting grapes
and, below, proud grandparents handed us peaches

This farmstay was a wonderful and unique experience.  How lucky we were to stay with a local family and gain an insight into  life on a Turkish farm. They were the loveliest of people, charming and obliging hosts and their farm, high in the mountains is a quiet and magical haven.