Sunday, 2 September 2012

Hospitality and kindness at every turn – from Kovancilar to Elazig, Turkey (2 Sept 2012)


Kovancilar is a small one street town located east of Elazig. We stopped at a bakery that was churning out fresh steaming bread. It is Sunday, the villagers, all men, were having their morning tea at the local café, some watching the morning traffic, most were chatting away till we came by.  We waved and gleefully they waved back, peering to have a look at Our Sorento, probably wondering where we are from. Dad bought two loaves of bread, just out of the oven. A few meters away dad spotted a man chopping vegetables and putting them into a clay pot. We stopped and got out of the car to take a closer look. No longer surprised, we were greeted with typical Turkish friendliness. Mr Ismail and his nephew Omer Faruk, gestured to us to come nearer to the clay pot and chairs were shoved for us to sit on. They were making “Kuzu Guvek”, a traditional Turkish dish made up of layers of aubergine, tomatoes, garlic, peppers and lamb (all cubed) cooked in a clay pot.

>> Mr Ismail (right) and his nephew, Omer Faruk (seated) preparing the Kuzu Guvek (claypot lamb stew), a traditional Turkish dish.

>> The final product.. Mr. Ismail topped his Kuzu Guvek with lamb fats and a generous amount of butter before taking it to the nearby bakery to bake for 2 hours. Once cooked, the dish will be shared with his baker and his friends.

 Just as we were about to leave, a young man carrying a tray of tea, “cay” in Turkish, and a flat bread walked towards us. Without us knowing, Mr. Ismail  had ordered tea for us and he immediately served us glasses of the piping hot tea. The flat bread was courtesy of the bakery. We obliged, with Mr. Ismail proudly continuing to tell us how he prepared the Kuzu Guvek. It will bake for two hours at his friend’s bakery. He invited us to stay for a lunch of the Kuzu Guvek stew (wish we could) but we politely declined. Dad wanted to buy the watermelon he picked which Mr Ismail was selling at his grocery store, but he refused to accept our payment even when dad insisted. We thanked him for his generosity and waved everyone goodbye. We felt very blessed to have met so many kind, generous folks on our journey through Iran and Turkey so far. Never fails to put a smile on your face. May God bless them all.

>> Group photo before we said our goodbyes. In the background is the small grocery store that Mr. Ismail operates with the help of his nephew.
L to R: Dad, Osman Bedretin Sonay, Mr. Ismail Sonay, Omer Faruk Sonay and Mum.

>> Turkish tea called “cay”. Tea drinking is an important part of Turkish culture. Turks drink their tea black, with sugar cubes or sweets. Milk is never added. The tea is strong, the taste of which is not at all the same as the Boh or Lipton tea we are used to at home.



We left the Sonays and made our way towards Elazig, passing by parts of Keban Baraji Golu (Keban Dam Lake). According to Wikipedia, this huge lake which is a reservoir created by Keban Dam, is currently the fourth largest lake in Turkey with a surface area of 675 sq. km. It was the largest man-made reservoir in Turkey until the Ataturk Dam reservoir came to be built.

>> This is the first few glimpse of Keban Dam Lake that greeted us as we drove along “Elazig Bingol Yolu”. This road runs along the south west part of the lake.


>> Near the village of Elmapinari, dad saw a fishing boat making its landing. We took the first dirt road towards the edge of the lake. A truck from a local restaurant was waiting to take the fishes, all trout, away. We took photos of the activities as the fishermen sorted the trout for the restaurant guys.

We decide to buy 3 trout for dinner tonight. The middleman misunderstood and thought that we wanted to buy 3 kilos! When we saw him enthusiastically putting the fishes in a large bag, we stopped him and with more signing and hand waving, the fisherman must have finally understood that we only wanted 3 pieces and not 3 kilos. We had our money out ready to pay but the fisherman absolutely refused to accept payment. We thanked the fishermen and said goodbye to everyone. 

>> Fishermen  working while the two boys take a dip in the cool waters of the lake.

>> Fresh trouts, 3 of which are our dinner tonight.

>> Another view of the Keban Dam / Lake.


We followed the dirt road along the lake to make our way back to “Elazig Bingol Yolu”. It is now lunch time and we started to look around for a place we could stop and have our picnic lunch. At about 1pm, we were nearing Elazig town. We decided to continue on Elazig Bingol Yolu (or D300), bypassing Elazig town centre. By now, we were very hungry and have no desire to maneuver around traffic in Elazig town centre. Unfortunate for us, the road in this stretch are like motorways with side barriers not much places that we could stop. So, as soon as we find some shady trees, we stopped. Just as we were parking, the owner of the orchard came towards us to shoo us off. We gestured to him that we are stopping for a short lunch and would be off soon. He realized we are travellers and invited us to use his gazebo instead. We thank him and he disappeared. He soon came back with tray full of grapes, apricots, peppers, apples and peaches and gave them to us. He disappeared again but soon came back to sit with us. We asked him to join us for lunch, but he declined saying he had his already. He did accept some curry chicken and bread to taste though. He thank us and disappeared again, this time we watched him. He walked in the direction of his house and moments later reappeared with his wife. By then we are done with our lunch and started to pack our things. Mr. Nejati Kanter and his wife insisted that we stayed and have tea with them. We obliged so as not to offend them.
As his wife made tea, Mr. Nejati gave us a tour of his orchard. He showed us all the veg and fruit trees he had. There were a lot of them but he said that he mostly planted them for his own consumption and gives them to his neighbours as well. Mrs. Nejati soon joined us again. She then took mum and I on a tour of her double storey bungalow. It has been recently renovated. We chatted over tea and Mr. Nejati and his wife told us about their family. They have a son and a daughter who are currently living abroad. They keep in touch through Skype. Through their daughter in the US, Mr. Nejati and his wife learned some basic English.

>> Our simple picnic lunch of chicken curry, bread and salad. Mr. Nejati Kanter gave us the tray of grapes on the right and the container of apples, peaches, appricots and peppers.

>> Mr Nejati happily giving us a tour of his orchard. Here he is showing us his aubergine plants.

>> “These are apricots” said  Mr. Nejati  proudly. Apricots grew abundantly in this region. Having only ever seen dried apricots so far, we mistook the apricots for plums that has not yet ripened. We are now a little wiser.

>> Family photo at the balcony of Mr & Mrs Nejati’s house. Mum is holding up dried peppers and aubergine. The extra harvest from their garden are cleaned and the insides hollowed out. The veg, especially chilli peppers and aubergine, are then stringed together and hung on the balcony railing or windows to dry in the hot sun. Once completely dried, Mrs Nejati cuts them to smaller pieces and stores them.
Stringed peppers and aubergine hanging to dry outside houses is a very common sight in Turkey. When they are completely dried, their vibrant colours are still intact, which makes nice decorations. On a windy day, they almost sound like wind chimes.

>> Here we are, almost done with tea, served with some sweets and sugar cubes.
L to R: Mum, Seher Kanter (wife), Bedri Kanter (Mr. Nejati’s brother, who stays in the next plot), Yasmin Kanter (Mr. Bedri’s wife), Mr. Nejati Kanter and dad. So ever glad to have visitors to their house for tea.
Mr. Nejati’s brother and his wife came over too.


With loads of fruits and vegetables, courtesy of Mr. Nejati and his wife, we left at 3pm and continued to drive for another 50+km on “Elazig Malatya Yolu” / D300 towards Kale. We took a slow drive and enjoyed the view. We made a short stop mid way to cook our trout curry for dinner tonight.

Just after 6pm, we crossed Komurhan Bridge and saw a spot along the edge of Karakaya Dam Lake where locals were fishing and having picnic dinner. We decided to stop and watch the sunset as we enjoy dinner. 

>> Komurhan Bridge at Karakaya Dam Lake.








>> Our dinner, trout curry with bread, fresh vege and fruits.


>>We are not yet in Muster or Colmar, France but we did come across this solitary nest perched on an electricity pole. Taken near the village of Yolüstü, Elizag.



>> Escaping the heat under shady trees we find ourselves right next to the railway tracks near Yolüstü village.


>> Make shift refrigerator next to the veg/fruit stall.
Waterholes like this are very common around Turkey. This is one of the larger ones we came across. The water is super cool, a nice contrast against the blistering heat. Excess water are channeled to nearby agricultural land. 
We were told the water is drinkable as they are underground water. Most of the time, we use the water to wash and cool the fruits we bought before we get to eating them.

>> Grapes on vine. Taken in a village near the Keban Dam Lake.

>> A fruit and veg stall near Keban Dam Lake. Note the old scale with weights here. They are now antiques at home.
We couldn’t resist the grapes and peaches, dad bought some to add to the fruit stock pile we have in Our Sorento. A healthy snack for when we feel like munching on something.

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