Report No. 6. Days 8 and 9.

Day 8 of 21. Sunday, September 24, 2000. Isparta and Environs.

We watched the Olympics last night, and because I'm in this new location for the first time in my life, I keep thinking that the Olympics are in Turkey, not Australia. Sometimes the narrative has been in English, more often German, but mostly in Turkish.

After our hotel breakfast, we load up and by 6:30am, I am cranking up the GPS, letting it synchronize on the satellites. We take off for Acigol, which Cihan says means Bitter Lake. It is a salt lake and is northwest of Isparta, our destination for the evening at Cihan's parents' home, where we will spend the next two nights. We make our way out of the city (Antalya), headed north, and are witness to a great sunrise -- a big orange ball, the bottom half cut off by a mountain range, is the memory I retain.

At one intersection, we wait for a stoplight which has an extra indicator. There are the three lights -- red, yellow and green, but there is another above them. It has the number 45 in it, which changes to 44 after one second, then 43 another second later. It is a countdown timer and tells the driver how much time it will be till the light changes from red to green. Amazing. 38 ... 37 ... 36 These are uncommon in our experience, and this is the first one we've seen. 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Green means Go. At other types of stoplight, a green light blinking is the equivalent of our yellow light, meaning the light is about to change to red. The yellow light is turned on in addition to the red light, to tell the drivers that the light is about to change to green. Everything is centered in making sure the driver is ready to go when it's time. It is at this red+yellow phase, that all the cars behind the front ones start honking their horns. "Go go go!!! Can't you see that there is no traffic coming from the sides, and that even if there were, they must stop because of the blinking green light?"

As we are driving around the countryside, there are thousands of little mom and pop roadside stands that are also eating places. They have (not very well-made) hand-painted signs announcing something like "ET MANGEL" or "GOSLEME." Meaning cooked meat or a type of pancake or crepe. The gosleme are filled with any number of possible tasty items.

As we are driving down the road at 96 km/hour, here comes a little yellow Fiat at about 40 km/hr. He is on our right, but driving towards us, in the pullout area. I had read that this would happen, but this is the first that we've seen it. Sharon looks up "gosleme" and, as is the case with many Turkish words, it has definitions that are widely different. For example, this word means observation place, lookout, or pancake or waffle.

There are also stands where you just buy 100% fresh produce, grown within a mile of the stand probably. The tomatoes are all perfectly ripe or a little overripe, the latter to be thrown away by the stand operator that evening. Because of the transportation and storage problem in the U.S., the tomatoes are picked early, before they ripen, so that they maintain their fine, fraudulent APPEARANCE. Here, they look good, and taste GREAT. Everywhere we have been. None of this cardboard-tasting junk the grocery markets want us to buy in the supermarkets and even produce stands in California.

We see what appears to be orange groves, but the oranges are all gone from the trees. As we are climbing now, heading north out of Antalya, the outside air temperature, in a display on the dash, says it's 15 now. In Antalya, it was 31. Fifteen is about 60F, and feels nicely refreshing. We check out a bird that we can't quite ID. It's close to a Willow Warbler, but the tail doesn't seem long enough. All other possibilities have problems so we have to let it go.

We notice that all of the telephone and light poles are made from concrete, not from wood. Almost all of the lumber-type forests were cut down centuries ago, I have read, although we are seeing stands of what must be "new" growth. We also see bare logs being hauled around by trucks, but for the most part, concrete and stone have replaced wood as the building material of choice.

I fill up with petrol at 604,000 TL per liter. That's about $3.80 per gallon. Our car gets about 26 mpg, so that's about 19 cents per mile. Back in the U.S., our pickup gets about 9 mpg, and costs about 20 cents per mile for fuel. So the transportation fuel cost here is about the same as our pickup in the U.S. Meaning berbat (bear-BOTT), or terrible, in Turkish.

We round a corner, and a lady and a number of cows stare at us. We see a flock of Yellow Wagtails. Very elegant, and popping their tails up and down, not side to side, which is what I would call wagging. Oh well. We come to our salt lake, called Acigol Golu, and begin birding. We can see RUDDY SHELDUCKS quite a way off, and a couple of Lapwings [NOTE: This is a life bird, but I did not realize it at the time. It is not included in any of the daily totals, until the very end of the reports].

The Ruddys are spectacular combinations of rust, black and white. In flight, you see strong black and white. When they are on the ground, you see dark rusty bodies and lighter rust or cream head. A black ring neck divides the two shades of rust. There are also flamingos and regular SHELDUCKS. The male Shelducks have a dark green head, white neck, rusty breast, white body. Their bill is orange. We check further around the lake and see several AVOCETS. These are similar to American Avocets in the U.S., but are a different species. They feed by swinging their head from side to side, with their bills in the water. Cool.

We drive further around the lake, now maybe halfway around. We see a bird like a Marsh Harrier, but there is no white on the top of the head. As it gets higher, we can see white on the upper, outer wings. They might be Spotted Eagles, but we're not experienced enough to tell, and let them go.

We continue on, and suddenly Sharon spots a bird on the rocky mountainside. We stop, and check it out. It's wonderful to see this particular bird, and very observant of Sharon to spot it. It's a LITTLE OWL, and is a daytime bird like our Burrowing Owl. It is the most common owl here, but who cares about that, when you've never, ever seen one? A little farther on, and we come across a fresh water source, emptying into a creek, and ultimately into the lake. A group of women and children are enjoying the cool stream on the hot day, and they yell "Hal-lo" to us.

We stop shortly beyond them, and scan the shorebirds in the area. From a distance, we get our last new bird of the day, a BLACK-WINGED STILT. It is quite similar to our Black-neckedStilt, but we see only one, among the other shorebirds. We finish up, and head back towards Isparta.

Sharon reads that this city was named sort of like New York for York. The Greeks who conquered it named it Isparta, because they were from Sparta. We call Cihan on a phone card telephone. He tells us to go to the PTT in town and wait. The PTT is a combination of postal, telephone and telegraph office. When children learn the alphabet here, they say, "ah, beh, jeh, deh… peh… seh, teh," etc. So here, of course, you don't say "pee tee tee," you say, "peh teh teh."

Anyway, he calls his dad and tells him to meet us there. We drive into town, have to ask a couple of times, but get there in late afternoon. We call Cihan again, he calls his dad, and Kemal shows up in his car about ten minutes later. It is great to see him again, after their visit to America earlier. They live on the continental first floor, which equals the American second floor. There is a lift, but they take the stairs because it is quicker and they like the exercise.

Cihan's mother Aysel meets us at the top of the stairs and so we are all together. We carry up all of our luggage, and they show us to our room, after we take our shoes off just inside the door. Now I know why Turkish carpets work in Turkish homes. It's because muddy, wet and dirty shoes don't walk on them. They show us to our room, and we deposit our luggage there. Then they give us a tour of the home.

The living room opens to a balcony facing the street, where we see our car below. The door out of the living room is a hallway. To the left is our room. Straight ahead is the hallway, and a right turn leads further down the hall. On the first left is the Turkish toilet (trench type). The second left is the western toilet (my type), with shower and tub. The hall turns right here, and in the corner is the entry to Kemal and Aysel's bedroom. Continuing down the hall, the kitchen is on the immediate left and another room is at the far end of the hall. This is their storage room, aka Cihan's storage room. There is a clothes washer in this room, but no dryer. The preferred method of drying clothes in Turkey is to hang them out on lines on the balcony, and that's how Aysel dries theirs – on another balcony, just off the kitchen. So what's always seemed sort of shabby to me is the preferred laundry way here. They say the clothes feel and smell better when dried on a line, and I can't disagree. Mom used to dry our laundry that way. The apartment is light and feels very warm and friendly. It's great fun to be inside a real Turkish home.

We review my marked-up map and I tell Kemal about our Turkish travels, past and future. They have photos of Cihan and Cihan's sister Canan (JAH-nahn) from their earliest days and are great fun to look at. There is lots of marble in the apartment, including on the balcony, and Kemal says that marble is inexpensive in Turkey because there is so much, I guess. After some refreshing drinks, Aysel tells us that dinner is ready. There are lots of Turkish dishes and a few western dishes to make us feel at home. Almost all are delicious, and we fill up. Sharon and Aysel each have a translation dictionary, and they consult them often. The food is outdone by the hospitality, and we have a perfectly great dinner. Afterwards we look at some more pictures, and Kemal and I check out the satelliteTV in the room Sharon and I will sleep in. The Olympics are on, plus soccer and other things. Aysel makes our bed up from an extra long couch, and it looks so inviting that we jump in, with Sharon reading and me watching the Olympics. But we're so tired that it isn't too long before we're out cold.

New Life Birds: Ruddy Shelduck, Shelduck, Avocet, Little Owl, Black-winged Stilt.

Life Bird Totals: Today 5. Trip 52.

Impressions of the Day: There are two ways to think that the cost per mile we're paying here is about the same as the cost per mile of our pickup back in California. The unspoken kicker is that the cost of driving the pickup, at 9-11 mpg is about twice as costly as driving Sharon's Volvo, at 22 mpg.

Being inside a Turkish home is a delight impossible to express. I have a natural tendency to comparing each and every item or method of doing things here vs. in California. Laundry, lighting, taking off shoes in the house, on and on. There are many things we could do better, and I'm looking forward to re-thinking all of this when we get home.

Day 9 of 21. Monday, September 25, 2000. Shopping, Birding and Gnoshing Isparta

Next morning, Aysel has a huge breakfast prepared for us and we enjoy the delicious meal, even though at the beginning of the meal, I felt like I just ate. I think it's the same throughout the world. When loved ones get together, everybody eats too much.

Sharon starts digging out our dirty laundry, and when Aysel sees what Sharon is doing, she insists on doing it. Several times, Sharon tries to help her (the custom in America), but Aysel won't have it (the custom in Turkey). Aysel wins.

At mid-morning, Kemal takes Sharon and me in his car into town. Aysel won't come and will stay at home while we go out. We drive into an open area, like a courtyard, in the center of a square. We park and get out. We are surrounded by shops, almost all of them carpet stores. In addition, there are about 30 men standing around right in the middle of the courtyard, with carpets unrolled onto a marble floor area. Kemal introduces us to several, as he describes what we are looking for. And what we are looking for is one hallway runner, about 30 inches wide by 90 inches long. We translate that to centimeters, and we're in business. We are also looking for a square piece, about 18 inches on a side, with reds and yellows for Jeane, Sharon's sister.

We learn that there are several styles of carpets. The one you are thinking of is called a hali, pronounced HALL-uh. It can be wool on wool, wool on cotton, silk on silk. All of the above are hand-knotted carpets, not woven. The "X on Y" notation above refers to the "X" as the material of the visible part, while the "Y" refers to the type of threads through which the colored threads are "woven." The fringes are of the "Y" material. In addition, they may be old (60 years), or very old (over 100 years or so). The older, the more expensive, of course. They may use natural dyes or chemical dyes, the natural ones used in the older carpets. There is another style called a kilim (KEE-lim), often cheaper. They are not hand-knotted, but are entirely woven and are much flatter than the regular carpets. There are other styles I won't go into, but we are interested only in the hale today.

We go into one store, but they can't match our dimensions. Another can't match our color requirements, to go on our dark rust carpets in our home in California. Another's are too old and more than we want to pay. Kemal finally meets a man who takes us down into the basement. Here we find our carpet.

The dimensions are close, the colors are authentic and will go well on our home carpet, the material is wool on wool. They strike a match, pull a couple of threads out, and light the threads. You take a whiff, verifying that it smells like burned wool. By the way, do you know what burned wool smells like? I didn't, but Sharon did and Kemal did, so there ya are. Now for the price. After we chose our carpet, and he quoted us 65 million TL, we turned Kemal loose on the owner. They quickly got down to 50 million asked, and 40 million offered. Kemal asked us for the money. Sharon pulled out five 10-million lira bills and held it out to Kemal, but out of sight of the salesman. Kemal pushed one of them back to Sharon, turned around, and handed the 40 million to the salesman. "43" I heard the salesman yell, but Kemal keeps talking and out-argues the fellow, who finally accepts the 40 million. About sixty dollars. In our ignorance, we had expected to pay $500 or so for this runner. Some days just go like that. You know?

Then we go back to a store we had been in earlier to look for a piece for Sharon's sister. They had great pieces for 2-3 million TL, about $3-5. We can't believe they are so inexpensive. They are beautiful and we buy more than you are thinking. We watch in fascination as an employee gets what looks like a sheep shears. The small carpet squares are actually woven onto one continuous backing, with about a two-inch space between each square. So the employee cuts the "strings" in the middle, and presto, you have your carpet square. Each string of carpets is comprised of between four and six carpet squares. We have finally got everything we wanted, and head out.

Kemal takes me to an electrical store, where I buy four sets of four AA batteries that are in the colors of Duracell, so I think that's probably what they are. The name stamped on them is Jinpao, and I don't know how much they cost because Kemal insists on buying them for me. I also need a new 220/110 volt converter, and we get one of those too, which Kemal insists on paying for, more Turkish hospitality! I burned out my U.S.-purchased converter somehow.

We come home, and I learn that the new carpet runner is too long to fit in the large suitcase I bought especially for the trip. We will have to invent Plan B to get this carpet home. We arrive home to find that Aysel has not only done ALL our laundry, but ironed it too. Aysel, Aysel. Aysel, you are the Bomb!

We all get into our rental car and head downtown for lunch. Cihan has told us about this lunch place, and how it is what we would call a hole-in-the-wall in America. Small, much character, old, with fantastic food. It is run by Chef Ibrahim, and it has been in their family for about 200 years. Kemal lets Sharon and Aysel out near the restaurant and we go down into the car park, then walk back out. Inside the restaurant, called a kofte restaurant, we are shown a table and chairs that will be our home for the next half hour or so. The 'o' in kofte has two dots over it. If you know German, it sort of rhymes with "schoen" in danke schoen. Anyway, kofte is like hamburger, but in the shape of a hot dog. A little smaller, about half as long.

You tear off a piece of flat bread and put the meat inside the bread. You can also add some chopped vegetables, which they provide. Lezzetli. But we start off with something like pizza. Cihan describes it as ground beef in pita bread, but the name is too long for me to get very interested in. It tastes sort of like pizza, and just when I decide it is great, the kofte comes.

Kemal says, "Eat quickly. You must eat it while it's hot." I crank my eating speed up, but only by about 10%. This dish is wonderfully delicious, but after several, and I reach for another, Aysel and Kemal say, "No, it's too cold" and won't let us have any more. Then some more, piping hot, arrives. So we switch to the hotter new plate

After we are stuffed, another course comes. It is also of pita bread, but is covered with a smooth melted cheese – maybe ricotta or some cottage cheese, but it tastes sweet. We learn that it's because they put sugar on it. Kemal puts a lot more sugar on his, and I do too. This dessert, I guess you would call it, is really tasty. We have cokes (as usual, normal for Sharon, lite for me – meaning diet).

We then go to a shopping center where Sharon wants to look for some lace doily things. You know, guys, foofoo stuff. But out of the corner of my eye, I notice that the craftsmanship is beautiful. Kemal shows me some exotic bird and aquarium stores, and then we wait for them, but they are no shows. So we go around looking for lace shops, which we find upstairs. There are two of them, and we go in to see what's up. Sharon is looking at some that she likes, but some are of silk and others are of linen. Sharon likes the silk, but they are the more expensive. They liked some in another store better, but the proprieter wasn't in when they were there. Aysel sort of shakes her head, meaning let's go back to the other store. These aren't a good bargain, so we thank the lady and take off. The proprieter is in at the other store, and he begins to show Sharon. You must buy a set of ten or twelve lace pieces. There is no such thing as buying one or two individual pieces. Each piece is about 4-5 inches on a square side. There are two different ones she likes. One of linen in a set of 12 and another of silk in a set of 10. The less expensive ones are in one shade of white, while the more expensive are in two shades. The total asking price is $165 as I recall, and the bargaining begins. When it's all over, and two cups of cay (pronounced cheye, to rhyme with eye) are drunk, we shake hands at $140. Sharon is delighted with them (she's getting all her Christmas shopping done), and I love to see her like this. Once again, Kemal was instrumental in getting us the right price, Aysel in getting us the right quality. One of the sets was made near Izmir, on the Aegean Coast, and the other in Iskenderun, on the Mediterranean Coast, but much farther to the east.

Kemal and Aysel are taking us out to dinner on a little peninsula in a lake in the region where Kemal was born – one of six or seven brothers and sisters, I think he said. This is the lake where we wanted to bird, so they are our trapped companions. It takes only about 45 minutes or so to drive to Lake Egirdir. The 'g' is silent, and you pronounce this something like "eh-EAR-duh." There is a military commando center on the peninsula, with a military hotel at the top of a very high hill overlooking the lake. As the parents of a son in the military, Kemal has a special card that allows him access to the hotel grounds. By the way, the military is revered over here.

I stop when the sun is just right, the view is just right, and the pullout is just right, to take a photo of the lake and the hotel. We hear a whistle blowing somewhere, and know that there must be a soccer game underway. But Kemal says they are blowing the whistle at us, and we must not take photos. What sharp eyes. We drive along the lake a while, admiring the view and the atmosphere, then head back towards Isparta, but turn onto the military hotel hill first. After receiving permission to enter, we drive up to the parking area, exit the car and take some photos of the surrounding lake views. Sharon sees some swallow-type birds flying around the upper parts of the hotel, and tries to ID them. I try to get on them too, and even take some video. They are CRAG MARTINS. As we start to leave, we are met by a couple of military officers who are a little upset that we are staring into their windows and taking video. Kemal talks to them, and acknowledges the request for the Americans to not do that any more, so we're released again. Sharon keeps apologizing all the time, but it was my video that was the problem, I think.

Anyway, we exit the premises intending to head up the left side of the lake. We turn onto the road going along the west side, following it for some distance and check the birds. Kemal has bought a newspaper, and usually when we stop to get out, he and Aysel just read the paper. Very smart. We get a soft rusty colored bird, with light brown upper parts, and a very orange upper tail. It's a female REDSTART, and is totally unexpected. At the same stop, we get another of many, many wagtails. But this one is slightly different, so we check it carefully. It is similar to a Yellow Wagtail, but differs by having a slightly longer tail, entirely gray mantle (upper back, just below the neck) and back, and brownish-black wings. White throat, yellow upper breast, white belly, yellow under-tail coverts complete the picture. It is a GREY WAGTAIL.

We move further up the side of the lake, deciding that we will bird till 5:30 PM, then turn back and go to the restaurant out at the point of the peninsula. At another stop, Kemal gets out and spots some kind of gull, but we're already chasing two other birds and can't break away yet. One is grayish, and I think it might be a Rock Nuthatch, though we first thought it was a shrike of some kind. It disappears, and we start up the road to check out Kemal's bird when a robin-sized and –shaped bird flies in, diverting our attention again. It is all black, with an orange-yellow beak and orange-yellow ring around the eye. It is a BLACKBIRD, and I was hoping that we would see this extremely handsome, understated bird.

By the time we finally make it up to Kemal, his bird has flown. We show him some pictures, but the best we can make out is that it was a gull. Time for dinner.

We drive into town, out onto the peninsula, and park near the restaurant. It is windy and cool, refreshing from the heat of the day. Kemal has known the owner for some time. Like Cihan, he makes friends with the proprieter of the restaurants he frequents. He says our fellow is newly married. We have another fabulous meal, with fish towards the end of the courses. Delicious. We finally head for Isparta and get home pretty late. Earlier we told them we wanted to get up at 5:30 AM tomorrow, and they had to have the time repeated several times, because they couldn't believe it. They wanted to know when we usually got up in the morning. We explained that this happens only when we are birding, and driving long distances. We request a SMALL breakfast, or NO breakfast. Instead we would like to have some tomatoes, fruit and the like to take with us. No problem, said Aysel, and we all head to bed for a great sleep, as usual.

Anyway, Sharon and I go to sleep. We're sorry for having Kemal and Aysel get up so early tomorrow, but our desire to bird overshadows our desire to be polite.

New Life Birds: Crag Martin, Redstart, Gray Wagtail, Blackbird.

Life Bird Totals: Today 4. Trip 56.

Impressions of the Day: We were in awe of Cihan's ability to bargain in California, but when I watched his dad do it, I know where Cihan got his training. Before I lived in Japan in 1969-70, I was afraid to bargain, but I learned over there that it is fun, and to just jump right in. So watching our friends in action is a real treat.

The military is revered here. If a man walks down the street in a uniform, he is liable to be stopped several times by older men who express their thanks to him. There is nothing like this in the U.S., in my experience.

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