A fındık (hazelnut) fiesta in Güneşliköyü


Recently, the puppets joined me on a trip with the Archers of Okçular. Clinging onto the backseat, the puppets didn’t complain as we wound our way through the mountains of the northeastern Black Sea region near the Georgian border. M’Lady was thrilled to be so close to Georgia – a place she visited during Soviet times in what feels like a century ago.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0443.jpgWhilst exploring the small towns near the border, we came across an ancient Keystone Bridge. The puppets insisted on getting out and taking some pictures – it’s not every day you see such a relic. Check out the pictures here from the old bridge in the small hamlet of Güneşliköyü, which is even locatable on a Google map. And, I might add, the use of the word “hamlet” is a generous one – we saw only two houses on the winding river road.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0444.jpgAs we poked around the bridge, a figure emerged from the hazy green distance. He carried a hoe and wore a plaid shirt with a rolled up sleeves. His hair was silvered with the ages and his eyes were twinkly. Greeting us with warmth, we worked our way through the pleasantries – where we were from, how lovely the area was, falan filan. (i.e. yadda yadda in Turkish). His name was Fazlı.

Fazlı Bey soon whipped out his cell phone and asked for assistance in programming it. “Who the hell knows how to work these damn things anyway,” he said with a chuckle, I’m a pistachio farmer… This isn’t my expertise.” None of us could figure out the magic touch. Losing interest in the cell phone, Fazlı Bey announced that we would be ceasing that activity and would henceforth be gathering hazelnuts.

“You will not leave without a bag of my hazelnuts! Even though my wife and I are locked in an argument so deep I can’t even remember what it’s about anymore, she’d kick me if I didn’t share some of our beloved nuts with you – and I want to share with you!” Kenne, the Queen of Manners, nodded her head in approval.  “While this man is somewhat disheveled, at least he has a mind for manners!”  Mercan Bey shot Kenne a sidelong glance, pointing out that he was a farmer after all, his hands dirty with honest work.

As those ornery puppets began to quarrel, we tromped on into the fields just off the road, and quickly filled the plastic bag with fresh hazelnuts. It was a treat to see where the central ingredient in Nutella comes from…Recently, the United States’ National Public Radio reported on hazelnuts, mentioning the tradition of hazelnut farming in Turkey.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0452.jpg“Karim Azzaoui, vice president for sales and marketing at BALSU USA, which supplies hazelnuts to the U.S., says the hazelnut trees grow on steep slopes that rise from the Black Sea coast. The farms are small; grandparents and children help to harvest the nuts, usually by hand. “It’s a very traditional way of life,” Azzaoui says. “The Turkish family farmers are extremely proud of the hazelnut crop, as it has been part of their family history for centuries. Farmers have been growing hazelnuts here for 2,000 years.”  Nutella is now making this traditional crop extremely trendy…That’s pushed up hazelnut prices. And this year, after a late frost in Turkey that froze the hazelnut blossoms and cut the country’s hazelnut production in half, prices spiked even further. They’re up an additional 60 percent since the frost.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0442.jpgBack in the States, as I listened to the radio on my way home from work, it was wonderful to have a face to add to the story in my ear.

I wish Fazlı Bey all the best for his hazelnut crops for years to come!


Posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Turkish destinations, Turkish Food!, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dreaming of deniz börülcesi

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0427.jpgLately, the puppets have been complaining about the polar vortex that has descended upon us.

The little chorus of dancing ladies have had to cover up their skimpy clothes with fat parkas, and they are none too happy at the effect this has on their girlish figures.

I have encouraged them to reframe their feelings from negatives into positives in the form of memory – specifically memories of summer.

As if floating adrift on the Pacific ocean in a boat (just like the characters in the super movie “Unbroken”), all of the puppets have begun dreaming of all their favorite summer food. and today, the topic of their obsession was – sea beans. More specifically deniz börülcesi.  It’s all I have heard about all day.

On the island of Bozcaada, you often see groups of restaurant worker sitting around a table at midday pulling the stems out of each tiny sea bean frond. It is a labor of love. Later, these sea beans are steamed lightly and finished off in the simple sauce of lemon and garlic – with olive oil of course.  You can read all the details about how to prepare this dish over at A Seasonal Cook in Turkey.

Please try these wonderful sea beans the next time you’re on the Aegean coast! And please send some warmth this way!


Posted in Turkish destinations, Turkish Food!, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

An unexpected interfaith moment in the Muratlı mosque


Note the menorahs carved into the pulpit in this rural, out-of-the-way mosque in Turkey. Maybe not an accurate depiction, but it is the thought that counts. (Image by Liz Cameron)

Muratlı Village is hardly the place you would expect to find cosmopolitan and open armed views about the intermingling of religions and global peace.

And we could use a bit of an interfaith moment these days, what with the pain of what is happening in France at this very moment.  But back to a far corner of the earth…

Muratlı (“muh-rat-luh”) is a truly tiny town exactly on the border of Turkey and Georgia. In fact, there is not even a crossing point into Georgia although the country is just in the town’s backyard. Quite literally.

Always interested in driving to the edge and living on the geographical edge (i.e. Provincetown), we saw the name on the map and had to go there.

I must say, the drive from Çamlıhemşin to Muratlı was a stunning one full of /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0460.jpggreen mountains, tea plantations and twisty roads.

But nothing prepared us for the wonderful Imam we would meet – and his special (albeit tiny) mosque.

As with any visit to a mosque, we prepared by rolling down sleeves and wrapping up our heads. The ladies, anyway on the scarf front. We also locked Karagöz in the car just in case he were to make a scene or insult somebody on a whim.

As we entered what Christians would refer to as the narthex, we were greeted with intricately carved wooden panels and doors. You can see some of them in these photos.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0453.jpgAs we entered the sanctuary, I was reminded of a circus tent upon looking at the inside of the dome…it was painted in an almost gaudy red, yellow and blue and augmented by a crystal chandelier as are so many mosques in Turkey.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0458.jpgWe heard the Imam discussing something with his congregants in the women’s gallery…but upon catching a glimpse of us, he excused himself from the ladies and bolted down the stairs to greet us. The spry and energetic man greeted us warmly and heartily, each one. I remember feeling surprised that he shook my hand and then feeling embarrassed that I thought that. I thought that that was probably a result of listening to Kenne, the queen of manners and maintenance of ladylike behavior puppet along with her handmaiden Zenne the nervous Nellie like a bowl of quivering jelly.

Encouraging us to ask questions, he showed us through his beloved space. He was clearly a passionate and caring man. He told us that he was most proud of his mosque because of its physical statements in support of interfaith relations…not in so many words but this was the gist via translation. In order to support his point, he turned to the mosque’s pulpit. This was no ordinary pulpit – it was carved from deep brown, thick wood.


Image by Liz Cameron

Speaking at a passionately breakneck pace, the Imam explained what he meant:

“You see it has been carved with the symbols of the religions and cultures that have intermingled here in the Black Sea region. We have the menorah as well as the crescent and star and the cross. We have ships to represent those that have come from across the sea. We used to have a star of David on this pulpit but a very misguided member of the congregation came and cut it off. I /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0461.jpghad to really work with my congregant for him to understand the error in his ways. There is so much pain in the world, and it pains me to see it play out this way.”

(This dialogue is taken from my diary from last summer – so if my traveling companions remember it differently they should please weigh in…)

And as we listened to our new friend, indeed, we could see the symbols he mentioned. Even more so, we could see the clarity and honesty with which he presented his pride about the pulpit…and what that must mean for this tiny town.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c31/25541592/files/2015/01/img_0456.jpgYehuda Rebbe and Hacivad Bey, the religious elders of the puppet troop had the final word “There is a lot to learn from a small mosque in a far corner of the world… It’s harder to learn to live together and celebrate one another’s faiths and cultures, isn’t it? But we must.”




A panoramic view of the village…not much there!




The village mosque in the distance…through the pine-covered mountains of the eastern Black Sea region just on the border of Georgia…Image by Liz Cameron


Posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, On Islam and Muslims, Puppets on the move around the world, Turkish Controversies, Turkish destinations, Visits from the Karagöz puppets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments