The Karagöz Puppets muse on Turkish (neo-colonialist?) influences in Kuzey Kibris


Flags from the Turkish Republic next to that of Northern Cyprus in Kyrenia's castle - two peas in a pod? (Image by Liz Cameron)

Flags from the Turkish Republic next to that of Northern Cyprus in Kyrenia’s castle – two peas in a pod? (Image by Liz Cameron)

Although it has been a few months since our exploration of Northern Cyprus, our consideration of what we saw there continues to be a daily source of discussion. The  Karagöz puppets who inhabit my head, in particular, have much to say, so let me let them speak to you today:

Celebi, the modernist puppet begins the discussion: “The woes of Cyprus. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. These days, people focus on the crisis in 1974 when Greek groups attempted to annex Cyprus to Greece and the Turkish military ostensibly came into protect the scads of ethnic Turkish Cypriots who had lived there for centuries side-by-side with Greek ethnic Cypriots.  So says one part of the story…”  Sighing, he rubbed his head for a while before continuing.

“Many we have met here say that the Greeks were just as bad as the Turks – killing and disappearing many Turks – but the Turks were also bad to the Greeks  - doing just the same. The incident in 1974 goes down in history with Turkey being the bad guy – that’s not a new role for us is it – but the fact is the Greeks were bad too – both were bad it was awful and it is still awful.”  In an unusual fit of frustration and hopelessness, Celebi pounds a glass of single malt and keels over, drunk as a skunk.

Hacivad Bey, the learned Sufi elder puppet steps in at this point (or rather over the drunken, passed-out body of his overwhelmed colleague). “But, my dear friend Celebi – oh – he can’t hear me – well – anyway – there is some sense of a way forward. Between United Nations efforts to reunify the island through a peace process, some small steps have been made. Of course, there was the most recent referendum on the merger of the northern and southern parts of Cyprus. A majority of people on the northern side of Cyprus favored reunification well the opposite was true on the Greek side. A sad situation indeed, despite nascent hope gleaming on the far horizon.” Sighing deeply, he stroked his beard and a tear dribbled down his cheek.

Yehuda Rebbe puts his arm around his teary comrade-in-arms, and takes his turn, saying “Hacivad Bey, let us focus on another aspect of this situation – what we saw on this trip. Overall, our sense of Northern Cyprus was that it was a relatively secular place without too much of the growing Islamist movement we have observed in Turkey over the past decade. That said, the shiny new mosques built in small towns in rural areas felt a lot like the projects we have seen in the more rural areas of Anatolia – perhaps an effort to distribute what some would refer to as “the opiate of the masses.” So what is Yehuda Rebbe getting at here? Well, as I see it, it relates to what M. and I have noted across Anatolia, funding for new mosques may-just-may correlate with voting patterns leaning towards the AKP government.  But who are we to say but mere human observers with no hard data to stand on?

Wishing to move the conversation out of Internet censorship-worthy territory, Safiye Rakkase steps in with her usual flourish.  As she is the expert fashionista amongst the members of the puppet troupe, Safiye Rakkase interjects her unique lens of opinion at this point: “Of the men and women in religious Islamic garb we came across (versus traditional Turkish dress often mistaken for religious Islamic dress), we felt that none had accents that were Cypriot – they were from Kars, Van, Antep and other cities across Anatolia.  That place was more Turkish than parts of the Western Aegean coast in high summer!” Wow, that’s just about as serious as we’ve ever heard from the vainglorious dancing girl puppet, the well-known stomper-of-flamenco-feet, Safiye Rakkase.

Esma, the hippy puppet who is ever interested in the underdog gracefully stepped in front of Safiye Rakkase at this moment – she hoped, you see, to steer the conversation away from potential commentary on fashion in Northern Cyprus.  Pressing her most earnest face towards the crowd, she, takes over the commentary from here: “and while we were happy to see that people from Anatolia had opportunity in Cyprus, albeit funded by Turkish government relocation programs, this effort has clearly and nearly wiped out the unique Turkish Cypriot culture – not to mention the remaining Greek Cypriot cultural enclaves on the northern side of the island for the most part. At times, I felt it might as well have been any province in Anatolia. All the children the human spoke to plan to attend university in Turkey, Turkey was the bright shining star of their future.”

At this point, all of the puppets began to speak (in a big hubbub as they are wont to do) of the almost ever-present Turkish flag seen across the island. As you will note in our header photograph for today, the Turkish Cypriot flag is to the right of the Turkish flag. According to Turkey, technically, Turkish Cyprus is it’s own country.  Of course, Turkey is the only nation that recognizes Northern Cyprus as such (maybe North Korea??). Therefore, what the rest of the world sees is that Northern Cyprus is indeed an add-on to the Turkish mainland (it is, after all, encompassed in the zip code for the southern coastal city of Mersin). Some might even say it is a neo-colonial entity.

A looming statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Dipkarpaz, Northern Cyprus, home to circa 500 Greek Cypriots who remained after 1974 (Image by Liz Cameron)

A looming statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Dipkarpaz, Northern Cyprus, home to circa 500 Greek Cypriots who remained after 1974 (Image by Liz Cameron)

And the neo-colonial feel in Northern Cyprus was egged on by the fact that there were numerous statues, plaques and billboards depicting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic. While we “love us some Mustafa Kemal over here at Slowly By Slowly,” we feel it vital to note that he did not, by the way have anything to do with the founding of Northern Cyprus as all of that happened WAY after his death. Troubling. Very, very troubling.

Of course, Karagöz, the agent provocateur puppet, had something to say as well, so we might as well let him speak: “all I have to say,” he squeaks with glee, “is that clearly the Turkish government has f*d Northern Cyprus! What a beautiful country gone to rubbish, smog, poverty & controversy!” And while we do agree with this sprightly and oppositional puppet to some extent, we wouldn’t extend our views to the realm of cursing.

To leave you on a positive note, Mercan Bey steps in as Karagöz is pulled out of the way by his protectors (as in – “get off the stage immediately you oaf!”). As you know, this well-traveled puppet, originally from the Arabian Peninsula, trades spices all over the region. His interests normally fall in the realm of food – And in this case agriculture. Indeed, he has engaged in many conversations with various Cyprian puppets (as the Karagöz puppets do not converse with humans other then M’lady) during his visit, and would like to share the findings of his queries.

Holding his hand up to silence the rest of the puppets, he claims the last word, and it is a positive spin. Clearing his throat, he begins “as you know, recent developments in the ongoing saga of the accession of Türkiye by the European Union has required that trade relations see. Of course, there appears to be a significant and thriving black-market, however this has had a positive impact on the environment overall. As northern Cypriot agricultural products cannot be exported, the nascent nation has decided to only produce that which it needs. This has the odd effect of contributing to a country in which poverty is clearly present, but no one appears to be hungry. Additionally, this has meant that many of the chemicals used to foster agricultural development in other countries are not used here – thus the lovely organic fruits and vegetables – not to mention meet – that we have sampled here.”

So there you have it, the last word is a positive one. Overall, the puppets recommend visiting this interesting country/neo-colonial outback especially if you’re interested in observing a current manifestation of Turkish – informed controversy and sociopolitical intrigue. And of course, don’t forget the joy of delicious natural northern Cypriot cuisine and the quiet breezes on the Karpaz peninsula.

Westward Ho!: Of scorched earth and strawberries in Yeşilırmak


Strawberries galore in Yeşilirmak don't belie the scorched earth nearby…(Click here for link to image source)

Strawberries galore in Yesilirmak don’t bely the scorched earth nearby…(Click here for link to image source)

As you may have seen from our last post, we’ve been eating our way across Cyprus. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to find an amazing restaurant run by a Turkish Cypriot re-patriot named Mustafa. Çiftlik evi was phenomenal and both humans and puppets were thoroughly sated not to mention besotted. After a congenial chat with the proprietor, we explained our plan to head West. Thanks to Mustafa Bey, we stood up from our most excellent repast armed with the name of a tiny hotel in Yeşilırmak, the
westernmost town in Northern Cyprus.

After scooping up all my
bloated puppets and tossing them into my purse, we rolled out of
Çiftlik Evi (Farm House Restaurant) with heavy stomachs and heavier eyelids.

Forget hearing from the Karagöz puppets today – they are in a food coma in the backseat of the car.  You can read about our gorge-fest here.

Scorched earth in Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Scorched, terraced earth in Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

The road from Gaziveren to Yeşilırmak is as twisty and windy as an ancient
olive tree and often goes by half-developed beach areas that feel a
bit sad and forlorn…but then again it is “winter” in Northern
Cyprus despite the 75 degrees F.  Given our food coma state,
we didn’t talk much over the din of food snoring from the backseat
where my puppets had crashed after a belabored crawling out of the
purse exodus.

An abandoned village near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

An abandoned village near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

“Aha!” M. cried out, “see that – it’s the Islamists
in disguise!”  Too full of food to make too many sounds, I
grunted some sort of “huh?” response. “ASPAVA!” M. exclaimed with
only the glee that an observant, anthropological atheist could.

“ASPAVA Resort and Beach – see it there?” he said, pointing
wildly to both sides of the road.

Yes, I did see the word through the haze of post-food endorphins coursing through my body.

“It is a creative application of Islamic praise and way of life, I suppose,” M.
explained with furvor, “ASPAVA stands for:

Allah (God)

Sıhat (health)

Para (money)

Aşk (love)

Versin (give)

Amin (amen)

“Clearly, the Turkish immigrants from the east are gaining footholds here.” Let me back up and explain a bit: When M. refers to “Turkish immigrants,” he is referring to people from (mostly) Anatolia (a.k.a. the Asian mainland of the Turkish Republic) who received financial incentives from the Turkish government to emigrate to Northern Cyprus after the Greek and Turkish atrocities of 1974. This program was created as a way to stimulate both the economy and population growth after the exodus of many ethnic Turkish Cypriots who had lived there for centuries before 1974. As a result of this program, we met many people – in fact the majority of the people that we met – who were Turkish but had no family history in Cyprus other then the most recent generation.  M. was guessing that the ASPAVA folks fit into this category – as nary a “true” Turkish Cypriot we met had anything religious about them (granted, a convenience sample, but anyway).

Military warning sign near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Military warning sign near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

So, as we drove along discussing the lovely aspects of the ASPAVA philosophy we passed our turnoff for Yeşilırmak and headed into the area abutting the United Nation‘s buffer zone between Northern and Southern Cyprus.  It was a stark contrast to the lovely ASPAVA ideal, if you ask me.  With military compounds, barbed wire and menacing signs abounding, we began to consider turning around – we wouldn’t want a third run-in with Turkish military types after all!

And as we were looking for a place to pull off the narrow road to turn, we entered an area of scorched earth – presumed to be scorched so that people attempting to cross the border could be easily spotted.  Most sad were the remnants of a village caught in the crossfire as the famous “green line” was implemented to divide the nation.  It looked bombed out – but was likely just impacted by the windy sands of time…despite the Turkish sentries who had set up shop nearby.

Road overlooking the Mediterranean Sea near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Road overlooking the Mediterranean Sea near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

We were quite saddened by the site of this village…and as we wound our way back to our bed for the night through fields and fields of budding strawberries (Yeşilırmak is famous for its strawberry festival), we reflected on all of the stories we had heard over the past week from Turkish Cypriots still living in the pain of what happened in 1974.  And as much as we hope that the new life (strawberries) can win out in a future for both Northern and Southern Cyprus, we fear that the old life (scorched earth) will continue for some time.

Wintry view of the Ak Deniz over the grape arbor - from our window in the rooms above the Dillarga Lokanta in Yesilmak, Northern Cyprus - the westernmost town! (Image by Liz Cameron)

Wintry view of the Ak Deniz over the grape arbor – from our window in the rooms above the Dillarga Lokanta in Yesilmak, Northern Cyprus – the westernmost town! (Image by Liz Cameron)

And that, my friends, will be what the Karagöz puppets tell me they will rap about in my next post, the events of 1974 in Cyprus and the fallout since…keep it locked for politics, puppet-style!

 

 

Çiftlik Evi: Mercan Bey & M. Sniff Out Delicious Food (Yet Again)


Olives as part of the meze at Mustafa Bey's Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Olives as part of the meze at Mustafa Bey’s Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

As you may have learned over the years here at Slowly-by-Slowly, one of the  Ottoman-era puppets who inhabits my brain (with the goal of assisting me in my cross-cultural marital road trip) is Mercan Bey ( that’s “Mehr-jahn”), the Arabian Spice Trader Puppet.  You can read a bit more about him by clicking right here.

Now, Mercan Bey has travelled near and far – and always sniffs out the most delicious grocery items, spices and places to eat.  He is, therefore, closely related in some spiritual sense, to M., who with only about a 1% fail rate, always chooses the best places to enjoy breakfast, lunch or supper.  Unfortunately, I used to think that I too have this gift, but given my 99% fail rate, pointed out to me by Mercan Bey, I have given up and given in to the whims of M. and Mercan Bey on the food-locating front when outside of the home.

Hummus - not really a Turkish thing - but we were in Cyprus after all at Mustafa Bey's Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Hummus – not really a Turkish thing – but we were in Cyprus after all at Mustafa Bey’s Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

And so it was, that upon our escape from Kyrenia (a lovely looking, but soul-sapping city by the sea in our experience), that we ended up eating lunch at 10:30 in the morning.  As we set out to the west, intending to go to the very western tip of Cyprus, (because, why not?) we wove through dusty foothills with a few girly clubs thrown in here and there – the bass thumping even in daylight, a large water damn project in the works and kilometer upon kilometer of citrus plantations. I began to snooze a bit, my head lolling back and forth in between attempts to practice reading road signs (we were in “Gaziveren” village now) and respond to M.’s happy banter, and then it happened:

So-fresh-you-can't-imagine-how-happy-our-mouths-were salad at Mustafa Bey's Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

So-fresh-you-can’t-imagine-how-happy-our-mouths-were salad at Mustafa Bey’s Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Both Mercan Bey and M. shouted “Eureka!” at the same time.  Now, while some of you know that this was the term that gold-panners called out upon finding their lump of ore, in my life, this means “We’ve found the right place to eat – and we’re going right now!!”  Of course, this set all the puppets into a riotous spin of activity – mainly involving the tying of napkins around their necks and the like…before even knowing where we were going.

And as the car careened to the right towards a dirt path through an orange grove, then I saw it, the simple wooden sign, with green letters, saying “farm house” or “Çiftlik Evi,” in Turkish.

Mint on yogurt at Mustafa Bey's Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Mint on yogurt at Mustafa Bey’s Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

And after several miles of twists and turns through red-dirt farmland, waxy green citrus tree leaves and a small village with very narrow roads, we emerged into the parking lot of the proprietor Mustafa Bey’s farm house restaurant.  Kenne, the Queen of Manners and Etiquette for Ladies reminds me that I must remind those of you who do not know that in Turkey, last names are often not used, especially in the countryside, so everone is Mr. Mustafa (Mustafa Bey) or Liz Hanim (Mrs. Liz).  And if one is trying to be very proper and respectful, it becomes Mustafa Bey Efendi (sort of “Mr. Mustafa, Sir”).  OK, Kenne is satisfied and will leave me alone to type my own post now.

Fresh bread at Mustafa Bey's Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Fresh bread at Mustafa Bey’s Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Born in Gaziveren, Mustafa Bey and his family left for Leicester, England, circa 1974 (the historical line-in-the sand that seems etched into the hearts and minds of all Cypriots we met).  Schooled and raised in England, Mustafa Bey married, had three girls – and now has a granddaughter as well.  His lifelong dream has been to return to this village, and to open a farm-to-table restaurant…and while he is clearly thrilled to be doing what he does, he was kind enough to share that it is a challenge when one’s daughters and granddaughter are so far away…not to mention a challenge given the tenuous economic situation in Northern Cyprus (i.e. not able to trade with other countries -legally- given that the country is not recognized).

Pickles (and pickled peppers) at Mustafa Bey's Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Pickles (and pickled peppers) at Mustafa Bey’s Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Regardless of these worries, we continued our “eat across Cyprus” theme and gorged ourselves on the best of the farm – all of which was the most fresh tasting (and smelling) food either of us have ever eaten.  From the meze of plain yogurt with mint, local olives, pickled vegetables and a nutty hummus (not often seen in our locales in Turkey – more of an Arab thing – but there it was on the Cypriot table) to the whole, gluten-rich wheat bread with ayran (salty yogurt drink), we shone with food happiness and the puppets rolled around the table in fits of glee.  Karagoz himself just rolled around in ecstasy as he was rubbing his tummy as lamb-jus spilled out of the corners of his mouth.

Our salad included vegetables that SMELLED like vegetables and our entree, which Mustafa Bey introduced as “what the Greeks call Kleftiko” was a heavenly slow-cooked lamb shank with rosemary-baked potato wedges.

Lamb shank, slow-cooked (sorry vegan and veggie friends, I fell off the wagon) zt Mustafa Bey's Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Lamb shank, slow-cooked (sorry vegan and veggie friends, I fell off the wagon) zt Mustafa Bey’s Çiftlik Evi in Gaziveren, Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Dessert was a plate of the freshes grapefruit, apple and new dates.  It was all we could do not to fall down on the lawn of the restaurant and take a nap.  Luckily, Mustafa Bey pointed us in the direction of his nephew’s small hotel in exactly the most western town in Northern Cyprus – and we headed off for a nap.  More on that later!

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