England’s South Coast…

I had never realised Folkestone was a town in all honesty.

All I thought it was was a small sprawl of shopping centres and business parks places strategically around the railway and the Le Shuttle.

However, I was happily surprised to discover a quaint town, beautiful sandy beach and impressive harbour wall which we were tied up to.

As well, the town is in an extremely pretty place, with beautiful views of the White Cliffs and France, which is just about visible.

Having discovered that Folkestone does actually have a town, I was intrigued to learn a little about its history.

So it goes, the town has gradually expanded since the Medieval period, with original plans to build Folkestone harbour all the way back in 1541, when King Henry VIII wanted a main embarkation hub for troops and supplies in his invasion of France.

Unfortunately, plans for a harbour at Folkestone wouldn’t become a reality until 1703, when a local engineer advised Fisherman (who had just lost there ships in a storm), to build a sturdier breakwater.

It wasn’t until 1804 however that a Stone breakwater was built, and ever since then owners have changed, as well as additions to the overall structure.

As of now the harbour is predominantly used by fishing boats, yet the breakwater makes for a splendid walk.

One of the most significant points of Folkestone is the conspicuous Martello Tower, which was built as a lookout during the Napoleonic wars back in 1806. Unfortunately, I couldn’t walk up to it and take a closer look.

Because the harbour in Folkestone is tidal, we had planned on staying for only one night, and at 10:00 that morning we ventured out back into the English Channel, entourage to Southampton and the home of yacht sailing in the British Isles, the Solent.

Having followed the coast before on previous trips, it felt natural for me to point out the towns and significant places along the coast!

Unexpectedly, we made incredible time on passage towards Southampton, so the captain decided we would anchor off the eastern side of the Isle of Wight. So at 02:00 in the morning of the 6th of August, we dropped our anchor in Sandown Bay.

When daylight broke that same morning, we got the ship ready and ventured up the Solent to the next port of call, Southampton.

The Solent really is a beautiful place. Coming from a yachting background, I was jealous to see all the lovely yachts whizz past whilst we motored up the channel.

So much history surrounds these waters…Portsmouth and the naval base, (where one of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers was at berth!), and the great wooden ships which were hand crafted would off sailed out from, Cowes and the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron, and Southampton, the port from which the doomed Titanic set sail from…

Off in the distance, we could see Ben Ainsle and his America’s Cup challenge boat flying along, which was really cool! Even the chasing RIBs struggled to keep up!

Unfortunately, where we moored in Southampton was quite underwhelming. It’s was cool to moor right by the Royal Research Vessel Discovery, but beside that the location was a bit boring.

Though it was impressive to see the massive ferries and car carriers race up and down the channel.

Our next destination would be much better suited for a vessel like Pelican however. Let me give you a hint…it’s where the Mayflower, HMS Beagle and Sir Francis Drake set off on their respective endeavours, and where it’s also where Napoleon was brought before being sent to St.Helena…

That’s right, Plymouth!

I hope you enjoyed this blog, and please like and share!

Learning The Ropes Of A Tallship…

“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.” Sir Francis Drake

Having set off from Sharpness at 19:00, I was very excited to see what Tall ship sailing was all about.

Our first destination was Folkestone, a total of 447 miles, and we would take 3 nights because the permanent crew and captain wanted to use the trip as a training session for the new crew.

As we departed the Severn estuary, and passed underneath the grand Severn bridges, I observed how I had now started a once in a lifetime experience. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do, sail a Tallship, ever since I watched ‘Master and Commander’ and the Hornblower series, so the fact I’ve been able to take part is a dream come true. What’s even more amazing is it’s a circumnavigation of the British Mainland, so I will get to know my homeland from the sea, which in itself is quite incredible, but doing it on a Tallship is even more special.

My first watch was from 4 am, so luckily for me I had a full nights sleep.

When my watch did start, we were just passing Lundy island and Bull point on the north Devon coast. Lundy island is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, but seeing it from afar makes me want to visit even more. It’s rugged cliffs and amazing bird life are meant to be incredible, and from afar it’s easy to confirm both!

As we trundled down the coast under engine (because we were heading into the prevailing wind and weather), we observed how the seas became busier as we approached Lands End and the Traffic Seperation Scheme which protects the shipping from passing the dangerous Isles of Scilly and Cape Cornwall.

Ironically, I had only sailed past this piece of coastline three weeks before, when I skippered a 32ft yacht from Levington to Milford Haven.

It’s quite annoying in some respects, because how the night watches are organized, all the days seem to merge into one. And also because the crew keep us all busy, it’s as if I skip days. For example, we be just south of Penzance, and then suddenly we’d be at Portland Bill.

However, you’ll be glad to know we arrived safe and sound at our first destination, Folkestone.
With the tall grey breakwater that extends out from its sandy beach, Folkestone seems like quite a quaint and precious seaside town. I imagine on really clear days, you’d be able to spot France, but when I was there it was a little to misty. Dover was visible however, and seeing some of the massive ferries and ships which skirt in and out of the large intimidating port is really a sight to behold. As I mentioned in the blog about my yacht delivery, I well done to Dover Port Control for making sure all the shipping is kept safe and organized!

What I’m enjoying most about the trip is meeting new and interesting people, all from different places and stages in their lives. It’s quite fun to be at one moment talking to a marine biologist about an areas water ecosystem, and then to a Tallship watch leader about rigging and sail setup!

Just so you all know, I’m trying my best to keep up to date with blogs, but because of the watch system it’s been quite difficult to find the time.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share!

Life On A Tallship…

The Pelican Of London…

This week has been amazing!

For those who aren’t aware, I have been fortunate enough to have been chosen to take part in a circumnavigation of the British Mainland onboard a Tallship!

The Tallship in question is the “Pelican of London”. This beautiful vessel was once a fishing trawler vessel, that was built in France in 1948. The ship was then a small freighter and cargo runner, but it’s career was cut short when on a trip from Finland to Norway, she was impounded for smuggling Vodka(!)…in 2003 she was converted into an incredible tall ship, and since 2008 has been operated by the sail training charity ” Adventure Under Sail “, who operate the ship with an impressive rigging and extremely freindly and efficient crew. They have been more than happen to show me the ropes and take me under their wing, albeit very stressed and tired wings!

The ship has been recently refitted, so when I joined the crew I was immediately put to work and over this past week or so, I’ve been deep into the bilges playing a very difficult game of Tetris with multiplying red boxes which I somehow managed to get stored. I’ve also ascended aloft into the rigging, where the Bosun, Pete, was enthusiastic to let us gain confidence up in the sails.

So far the Tallship preparation experience has been really different from what you’d expect of a yachts refit and preparation.
I suppose the finest example of that is the sails…
Pelicans sail setup is really diffferent to most tall ships, primarily because she has been rigged with upwind performance in mind, which is really rather difficult for most tall masted vessels.

Now some of you may be wondering why, and what I’m doing.

To put it simple, the Pelican of London is working with a company called Darwin200. The aim for Darwin is to commemorate Charles Darwin’s voyage abroad HMS Beagle, and follow his world Voyage to not only see how they’ve changed, but also to spread awareness for climate change, the impact of single use plastics, and overall changes in the worlds seas and respective wildlife because of our earths industrialisation.

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This UK voyage is to whip up support for sponsors and followers to get involved with the world trip, to see what the organiser, Stewart McPherson, and his willing team of scientists and naturalists discover and explore.

It’s been quite surreal to take part in this. Already I’m loving it, especially since everyone has been so kind and welcoming. The officers have also been so enthusiastic to make us work and learn!

Of course, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions, but at the moment I’m 90% certain I’m going to fall in love with tall ship racing. Let’s hope I do, since I’m on here for 2 months!

Expect a blog over the next few days, since this evening we are leaving for Folkestone, and at long last, my new adventure has began!

My First Yacht Delivery…

This past week has been VERY busy.

As I mentioned at the end of my last blog, I was skippering a yacht delivery from Levington in Suffolk to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales.  Spoiler alert, the trip was successful, and as I’m writing this now I’m snug in my bed with a cup of coffee and a crumpet, thinking back on what an incredible experience it was and how lucky I am to be able to do something like it.

The boat was a Beneteau, which was good, because I know my way around the “Plastic Fantastic” French Yachts.  The only difference to our yacht ‘Steady on Jean’ however, is the yacht I was delivering was somewhat smaller….32ft to be precise!

Now anyone who sails will realise that packing liberally for a sailing excursion is essential, especially since Yachts in general have very limited space.  So I spent Monday evening last week organizing things to take on my epic voyage half way around Britain.

So Tuesday comes along, I get up at half past five in the morning, prepare the last things and tidy up the apartment I’m staying in, jump in my ride down to the marina at seven o’clock, and away we go by seven thirty…

Not quite.  I certainly jumped in my ride at 7 o’clock, but in typical sailor fashion no one was there.  The boat I’m delivering is locked, so I can’t even brew the kettle!  I walked up to the sea schools office that is organizing the delivery.  No one there.  So I sit, and wait…

After some considerable time of twirling my fingers, admiring a Halberg Rassey in the boatyard, and checking over the last bits and pieces of the yacht, my crew and voyage companions arrive.  So we get the boat sorted, prepare the last few odd things, fuel up, and (at last) we’re off…only an hour behind schedule!

Now before I continue, you’re probably wondering why a 16 year old is taking charge of a 32ft sailing yacht on a 500 mile (800km for my Continental followers) trip.  To answer that, in a none superfluous and simple way (which I will find extremely difficult as I like talking!) basically, I am qualifying myself to do an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal exam, which needs the person to have done a 400 mile trip in Tidal waters, acting as 2 days as captain, and must have lived on a yacht for a minimum of 30 days(hahahahaha), along with 12 night hours…

Out of those 4 things, the only one I needed to get was to have done 400 miles in Tidal waters.

So now you understand why my first sailing trip in UK/Atlantic waters in 6 years or so is quite the baptism of fire!

The trip in general wasn’t particularly hard, but there were some parts that were difficult.  Most notable, there was crossing the Thames estuary, were you’ve got to avoid the innumerable amount of Wind Turbines.

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There was also the Goodwin Sands, which can be quite difficult in strong tides.  Luckily, the only thing we had to worry about were the UK Border Force, who had a nice good look at our boat from afar.

After that, Dover, and the worlds busiest shipping lane, the English Channel.  It’s standard practice as a yacht to call up Dover Port Control and ask permission to cross the entrance of Dover port, since the traffic is really quite incredible.  Ferries, tankers, cruise ships diving in and out, passing you on all sides.  I can only imagine the hard work the people at Dover Port Control have to cope with, so well done and thank you!

Passing Dover was quite mystical, since the sun was setting and the silhouette of Dover castle stood menacingly over the outrageously busy docks.

Once we passed Dover, our beautiful, warm sunny day turned into a traditional English day, as it rained all throughout that evening.  Thankfully, by the time the night watch sessions began, it had cleared, and during the night it held off.

My watch session was 3 o’clock the next morning, so I settled in to a deep sleep, ready for what lay ahead.

Wednesday came along.  The boats still floating, so obviously my plan worked haha!

As I start my watch session, we’ve just passed Beachy Head and passing Brighton, heading towards some flashing red lights (which later turned out to be ANOTHER wind farm!).

We had originally planned to stop in Brighton Marina to fuel up, but it seemed like the old girl still had some miles in her!

As the day rattled on, we passed the Isle of Wight, where a massive cruise ship lay at anchor, redundant due to Covid(!), Poole and eventually the day ended just off Portland Bill.

Still no need to fuel up, so we set our sights on Plymouth for the next day.  I had the 9 till 12 watch tonight, which was good fun since off Portland Bill and the Shambles there was a considerable breeze, so I managed to get us sailing at six and a half knots over the ground…  I don’t know how many of you have sailed at night, but if you ever get the opportunity to, do it.  It’s so peaceful and quiet.  Especially that night since there was no traffic and light pollution, which meant the stars were incredible!

Besides my spectacular night watch, Wednesday in round terms of the whole trip was probably the most boring, since navigationally, it was pretty much straight lines…

Next morning, I take watch from six o’clock.  We’ve made it across Lymes Bay, and we were just off Start Point and Dartmouth.

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As we round the headland and start our approach for Plymouth, we get amazing wind.  Bearing in mind it’s a delivery, we want o be as quick as possible.  However, since all of us onboard were fed up with the whirring of the Yanmar engine, we started beating upwind towards Plymouth Sound.

What we found to be the biggest nucance throughout the whole trip was the placement of fishing pots.  It seems as though the fisherman aren’t very concerned with where they place them, since they are right in line with the approach from Salcombe to Plymouth Sound.  Luckily, unlike the Turks and Greeks, the fishing pots are bright orange balls, which are somewhat easier to spot…

After many hours of great sailing, the wind, (in its typical fashion) died off, leaving us to drift.

So we cranked the engine back to life, and followed the Eastern channel towards Queen Anne’s Battery Marina, right on the Barbican, where the Mayflower set off from.

I hadn’t been to Plymouth in many years, so it was nice to see the Plymouth Hoe and it’s iconic Lighthouse again.  I was looking forward to be right In The centre of town and go for an explore that evening…

Unfortunately for us, QAB had no fueling pontoon, (or at least they had a fueling pontoon but no fuel), so we quickly came up with our next plan of action, and decided on going around the corner to Mayflower Marina.

This marinas a bit too far out of town, but nonetheless, it’s a secure place where you don’t get thrown 5 feet into the air every time you go over a wave…

So we had done 302 miles so far, in four days…not bad going, especially keeping in mind we were going into the prevailing weather and wind!

So back out to sea on Friday.  Rounded some very significant headlands today, such as Lizard Point (the most southerly part of the British mainland) and Lands End (the most westerly part of the British mainland).

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Both headlands are significant aswell for seafarers, as they represent very dangerous areas where the sea can whip up and cause many problems.  Lizard point is sometimes known as the “Graveyard of Ships”.

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However, Cornwall in general isn’t that hospitable to ships, since it is thought that on Cornwalls 250 mile coastline, there are an estimated 6000 shipwrecks!

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It’s no surprise really, especially if you consider the county’s position and how unprotected from the Atlantic it is.

Lands End was very impressive.  Not only the fact it symbolizes the end of Britain before the expanse of ocean, but also the phenomenal cliffs, that are incredibly jagged.  It’s no wonder countless ships have been wrecked!

However, we safely rounded both points, and that evening we settled in for the last leg of the passage.  A simple straight line from Lands End to the entrance of Milford Haven Basin.

I had the 12 to 3 o’clock watch, which was good fun, especially since we were sailing really well in 17-25 knots of wind.

Funnily enough, I managed to see the distant lights of my hometown Newquay, so for my Newquay followers, just know that I waved hello!

So, Saturday.  The last day of the trip was very rolly, bearing in mind we had a some big Atlantic rollers coming in.  At this point we were still sailing, and had been for the past 10 hours-it wasn’t until we entered the basin of Milford Haven that we dropped our sails, and that wasn’t for another 3 hours!-though what made the last leg even better than was for about an hour and a half, we were surrounded by about 40+ Dolphins, who gleefully danced and lept out of the water really rounding out an epic and impressive voyage.

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I love seeing Dolphins, especially when they seem so cheerful and happy to play on the bow of the boat and cruise alongside us.  If they could make it more obvious when they are jumping out of the water, that would be better, since they’re really difficult to get good pictures of!

However, in true Welsh fashion, there had to be a bit of rain.  Luckily for us, the trip in general had had very little.  Certainly at night it was chilly, but I had thermals, gortex, gloves and coats layered on to deter wind chill.

It was only in the last 2 hours of our approach to Milford Haven that the rain really started throwing it down, which dampened the mood considerably.  But after following another one of my great passage plans (the other one being entering Plymouth Sound) we made it safely through the bouyage and through the lock into Milford Marina.

And there we go, my great baptism of fire for sailing in British waters again, and first time as skipper without the security of going out with my sailor friends in Turkey or my family.  It was really a great experience, and certainly one I will remember and cherish for many years to come.

If I were to be critical of my approach, which every captain after a voyage must be, then I would change only a few things.

Firstly, I would have made the nightwatches fixed times, whereas on this trip we were on a router, which not only messed up our sleeping schedule, but also meant there was a lack of discipline as such on board.  As you can imagine, being on a 32 ft boat out of sight of land can be quite boring, so knowing you have set times adds some organisation, which is essential on yachts.

Secondly, I think (and the people I were with agree with me), that my way of waking up the crew was a bit….gentle.  What I mean by that is if that person wasn’t on watch at a particular time, I’d be doing it for him.  I suppose I should of stuck to my guns, but hey ho!

I won’t chat about the drive back or Milford Haven itself, since regarding both things there isn’t actually much to talk about.

However, I will leave this poem here, since I find it quite poignant and I hope whoever’s reading this will appreciate that it really shows how I feel towards the sea, and boating.  It’s a really beautiful poem:

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.”

Sea Fever by John Masefield

Keep an eye out for my future blogs, as I will soon be documenting my travels on the Pelican of London…

If any yachtsmen are reading this, I’d be really interested to know how you organize you’re crew for a long haul delivery.  Leave your comments down below!

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The Start Of A New Chapter…

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So it has been quite a while since I last wrote a blog, but time has not stood still.

The last year or so has been predominantly sailing around Turkey.  Warm waters, sun all day, good winds, no tides…!!!

Life’s been going well.  I completed 4 of my IGCSE exams last year, so I’ve been free from school for a little while.

Anyway, the reason for my surprising and long awaited return is because I have some great news.  On the 10th of July, I flew back to Britain, to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity.


At the end of this month, I will be joining a 45 metre Tallship, called ‘Pelican of London’, and venturing on an epic voyage all the way around Britain.  We will visit the beautiful Isles of Scilly, the far flung St. Kilda and the mysterious Orkney and Shetland islands

On the trip I’ll be helping out as crew, hopefully learning the ropes of a tallship, which I’m sure will be different from a 45ft “Plastic Fantastic” Beneteau!

The crew and captain are really experienced and have done this trip before, so I should learn a lot.

Currently I am at the East Anglian Sea School, which is one of the largest and most respected sea schools in the UK.  

At the weekend I did a Powerboat Level 2 course, which I passed, and today I did a First Aid course, which I also passed!

This blog is quite short, because tomorrow we are delivering a yacht from Levington in East Anglia, to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire.  This is about 450 miles (720 km) and we will probably do it nonstop unless we stop for fuel.

For now, I’m going to leave it there, so in the next few days, expect a blog about my trip to Milford Haven, and more about the Tallship voyage.

Really looking forward to my adventure this year, and I hope you can join me for them!

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Screen Printing At Ottostop…

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And Fethiye’s New Concept Store…..

 

It’s been a very, very creative couple of days!

Resourceful, productive, ethical, festive and fun! When you live in a country which doesn’t have a Christmas celebration it’s sometimes difficult to remember the hype and intensity with which Christmas and the preceding festive season is accompanied back in England. So, it’s great to be able to tap into the festive spirit a little and – even if it’s only for a day or two – get into the spirit of things!

These days of frivolity and creativity began by returning to Yaniklar and the Ottostop screen printing Studio. By venturing deep into the eclectic jungle which grows beneath the shelter of a giant avocado tree is in fact the garden of one Leyla Temiz, Ottostop’s chief designer and creator, her studio nestles into the eclectic garden and jazz soothes out into the damp autumn air.

My sister and I are here for another of Ottostop’s exciting workshops and as it is (almost) the season to be jolly, we are here this time to hand print this year’s Christmas cards and gift tags. What a great idea, resourceful, ethically responsible and supportive of local companies too.

 

Leyla’s enthusiasm for her work and in her teaching is contagious and soon there are veritable masterpieces coming out of the press! The fact that I decided to print red stars over my multi coloured snowflakes, which unfortunately makes the whole thing resemble a bloody clue from a crime in The Midsummer Murders, is incidental……. They are still made in the spirit of giving and hand made with love (and bloody stars!)

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My sister is far more artistically inspired than I am and cleverly produced a variety of great cards, bookmarks, notebooks and a calendar, even hand stitching the pages in the books! Leyla is a remarkable teacher and the atmosphere in her studio is always so alive and full of fun, plus she supplies tea and local Turkish nibbles, so a morning spent attending one of her workshops is a must as we approach Christmas time, and there is still time to organise your own hand made cards if you get a move on.

Leyla can be contacted by telephone to arrange a workshop, or by her Facebook page.
Why not check out her online store, here, https://www.ottostopdesign.com and follow Ottostop on Instagram to see pictures of her latest creations! https://instagram.com/ottostop?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=17y67wjz01rnh

Leyla had mentioned that the day after we had been printing with her she was running a public workshop in one of Fethiyes newest shops, downtown. So, we decided to pop along for a look, and also to be able to introduce you to this wonderfully – new to Fethiye – type of store.

Ottostop was running an introduction to screen printing in the Commercial space above the new EMNASTUDIO. Le Concept Store.

Founded and run by Emna Rached who is the chief architect and designer from the store when you venture in, you will find it incredibly difficult to wander back out, empty handed or empty bellied!

That’s the beauty of a ” Concept Store “, it seems…. but I did, actually have to ask Emna, what actually a concept store is?

 

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Emna explained to me that even though she is the designer and creator of the incredible furniture and homewares you can find in the shop, it isn’t actually a furniture store….. and even though there are incredible pestemels and natural linen products and cushions in her shop, it’s not actually a soft furnishing store either…….and not to forget, that while the squeals of excitement from the screen printing workshop in the commercial space could be heard coming from up the stairs, we could sit and merrily partake of the tastiest herbal tea around, accompanied by village honey and Emnas trademark sticky, chewy macaroons…..it’s not actually a tea shop either!

And, so- from my be – fuddled understanding, that is exactly what a ” Concept Store ” is, it’s the realisation of an idea, or an ideal- have it as you will.

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Regardless of semantics the store is an eclectic mix of superbly crafted furniture, household tranquilments, the very finest, inspired linens and the newest ideas on the market. It’s a cutting edge, remarkable store for Fethiye and is sorely needed, you really must pop along next time you are in town and I dare you to try and leave empty handed!

 

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Needless to say mother absolutely adores EmnaStudio and is slowly purchasing the entire stock… it’s at times like these that I’m eternally grateful that we live on a yacht otherwise there would be tables, trays and candlesticks everywhere!

EmnaStudio can be found at Cumhuriyet Mahallessi Carsi, Cd. No: 118. It’s down the one way system on the same side as Pasha kebab but further down heading towards the fish market. The commercial space will be used again by Ottostop, and Emna has a whole season of exciting workshops and seminars planned, contact details below to find out what is coming up. The commercial space upstairs has desks and wifi and the space can be rented if people need a transient work space for a day or two or week!
https://www.emnastudio.com/

If you enjoyed this blog, why not leave it a like and share it with your friends!

 

The Sehit Fethi Bey Park…

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…A Superb Addition To Fethiye…

As you may know if you’ve seen my Twitter or Instagram, we are now back in Fethiye.

It’s great to be back home, and for the next week I will be settling back into the Turkish-(and the home school!)-way of life.
One of the places I was looking forward to exploring upon arriving back in Fethiye was the new park, which has been built on the flat wasteland area between Fethiye and Calis.
The new park is called the Sehit Fethi Bey Park, and this is in honor of the first pilot of the Ottoman Air Force and the towns namesake ‘Fethi Bey’.
His story goes that he was flying from Istanbul to Cairo, but unfortunately, on the 27th of February, he crashed his plane into the desert between Damascus and Jerusalem.

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For his gallant effort, he received the title of the airforce’s first aviation martyr (‘şehit’ means ‘martyr’ in Turkish).

As the pilot was from the area, the people of Makri thought it apt to name the town after the martyr, so in 1934, Makri became Fethiye.

-(As a side note, on the 27th of February this year, as part of a service commemorating Fethi Bey, we admired two Turkish Air Force F-16s fly over the statue in attendance of pilots and other senior Air Force officials)- a fitting tribute to this aviation hero and noisy beyond belief!

The Sehit Fethi Bey park opened in July 2018, so, I’m trailing behind my fellow Fethiye bloggers and newspaper journalists that have already written about the park, but, never mind- great things are always worth the wait!

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It was good to see in illustrations of the park before its build that it would cater for both the young and the old, with a series of outdoor gyms, play parks, a skatepark and basketball ball court for the youth, whilst older people would enjoy the wonderfully well kept gardens and it’s two library areas.

It’s more than great to see the realisation!

Sure enough there is plenty to see, do and enjoy for young and old alike…. The playground facilities are far and away more adventurous and ambitious than the projections made for the area…in fact we ( my friends and I ) had so much fun there we immersed ourselves in the best game of hide and seek – ever – which went on for some hours!

My fellow hiders and seekers ( who, incidentally, were aged between 20 and 26 years old [clears throat] ) came away from the game with flushed cheeks and grinning like children…..and I would just like to clarify a point, we weren’t actually the only ” grown up ” children enjoying the parks grounds and equipment! We saw adults trampolining and sliding down the massive tower slide…….we even saw a dog on a swing??

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Another brilliant thing about the park is now Fethiye and Calis are joined with a better cycle and running path. Previously, you would have had to either cycle along the road or braved the marsh/wasteland with some seriously muddy off roading and a couple of fences to scale avec la bicycle……… but now, I – and you – can enjoy a flat and comfortable ride all the way.

When you wander about the architecturally modern and pristine park you admire a fine selection of sculptures, including that of a metal man standing on a metal fish, perhaps recognising the many fishermen around this part of the bay.

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There are also several installations of horses at different points of a gallop which are imposingly large and impressive.

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Despite not being traditionally Turkish, there are also some Dutch style windmills that are dotted about the place and the new canal-style river system has fine watermills, and Ducks patrolling the river ways.
In many respects, it reminds me of the sculpture park in Kemer-in the Antalya Province which sits close by to the marina, but The Sehit Fethi Bey park is much more structured and impressive.

There are also a splattering of giant snails, Teletubby hills and some freaky wonky houses thrown in for good measure…..interesting and eyebrow raising concepts.

Despite being built on quite a large area, there are signs steering you to the various different vicinities dotted about the recreational ground, and there are plenty of illustrative maps giving you a comprehensive perspective of where you are and where everything is.

Personally, my favourite part of the park is the small amphitheater that sits beside a water feature and pond, and is situated on the opposite side of the river from the three storey climbing frame.

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The water in front of the amphitheatre has a rather small island archipelago, where tortoise, small turtles/terrapins, ducks and other water birds paddle and enhance the peaceful surroundings. I’d find this area the most soothing place to sit down with a book and glass of çay In hand and get lost in the pages of an interesting travel story whilst relaxing in the serene ambience.

It also has a personal autonomy with me as there are beautiful metal sculptures of flamingos that stand in the water, silhouetted against the backdrop of Fethiye bay. This brings a smile to my face as I recall my recent road trip and final sailing adventures as, in Porto Lagos, which was the starting point of both of these recent journeys the nature park and wetland reserve there had flocks and flocks of real flamingoes, bright pink and camera shy unfortunately!

In conclusion, the Sehit Fethi Bey Park has become an outstanding addition to Fethiye. With its plethora of sculptures, the beautiful and well kept gardens, and the modern and indeed adventurous playgrounds, the place truly is somewhere that caters for everybody’s needs. It’s a place were people can meet up and have fun, locals and visitors alike.

As an important note, picnics are not allowed-(though food and drink can be bought either just outside and also from kiosks on site)- Dogs are not allowed either but there is parking on site. Also, don’t worry about having to pay an entrance fee, as the park is completely free and open and available for all to enjoy……

Apparently – I hear – the lights in the recreation ground are quite an awesome spectacle at night….. I’d better take my tripod and go and see, watch this space……. ” hide and seek” anyone?

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Cesme’s Impressive Fortress…

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Standing impressively on a slight hill, with a strategic view looking out through the entrance of Cesme bay and towards the Greek island of Chios stands Cesme Fortress. The fort was built in 1508 under the order of Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid the Second.
Despite being relatively new compared to other Castles in proximity to Cesme, it has been the centre of many conflicts involving the Ottomans. It was most recently damaged extensively by the Russians during the 1770 Russo-Turkish War-(Not to be confused with the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War that I wrote about in my Battle Of Shipka Pass blog).

After some renovations and alterations by the Ottomans until their demise in 1920, the castle continued to play a key role in Cesmes five year hundred year history.

Before I continue with the history of Cesme Fortress, I will tell you about visiting the castle and what to see at the place.

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From the outside, Cesme Fortress doesn’t seem very big. However, your perception immediately changes as you enter through the small arched doorway. When you proceed through the castle, the first thing you’re expected to look at is the three room archeological museum.

This museum exhibits artefacts found in the surrounding areas archeological sites and the artefacts include; very small glass jars, ceramic amphorae, Roman, Hellenistic and Ottoman coins, and a small selection of stone statues.

As you walk up the slight incline, you come across the first courtyard area. When we went, there were workmen planting and repaving the small garden area, which also exhibits a selection of Ottoman gravestones and should be most impressive upon its completion. From here, you can head up and along the castle walls, where from the top there are amazing views of the town, the Greek island of Chios, and surprisingly, you can see the Northern coast of the Karaburn peninsula.

The castle also has two more exhibition areas. One is in the bottom left tower, called the … tower, which contains Roman and Ottoman gravestones, and Greek statues.

The other exhibit room is at the bottom of the castle. This one was particularly interesting to me, as it detailed the Battle of Cesme of 1770, during that Russo-Turkish war.

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It’s interesting to hear this battle is sometimes considered by the Russians as their Battle Of Trafalgar.

In the exhibit there are paintings, portraits, uniforms worn by both sides, coins from both countries during the time and information about the leaders of both countries and captains that took part in the battle…the most famous of which is Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha.

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Born in Algeria, he was a fleet commander during the Battle of Cesme, and despite the Turks losing most of the Ottoman fleet and the destruction of the castle, Pasha became a Grand Vizier, and later Admiral. If you’re interested in him, he’s a bit like the equivalent of Admiral Nelson!
Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha began his sailing livelihood as a Barbary pirate and ended it during the last battle high he fought in which was during the Russo-Turkish war of 1787-1792, where – at the age of 85 – he orchestrated his fleet on three different occasions-(may I add, however, that he lost all of those engagements!).

Outside the castle, there’s a statue of him beside his pet lion, which he actually domesticated, and it went everywhere with him.

What’s most notable about the exhibit, is how it explains Russia’s rise as a world power and the desires of the Tsars and monarchy for Russia to become a global colonial power. It’s examples of this were the several wars Russia had against Turkey/the Ottoman Empire, and its wars with Poland.

Cesme castle then, is an incredibly interesting place to visit, and a place you simply must visit whilst in Cesme.

I may release some blogs about Didim and Kusadasi in the coming days, and keep an eye out on the Fethiye Times, where my ” Whistle Stop Tour” articles are regularly released. Go check it out, I talk about traveling to beautiful hotspots and locations in Turkey such as the Gocek Bay, Bozburun Peninsula and Datca’s Peninsula!

Please go and give the Fethiye Times a follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Myrina-The Gem Of The Aegean…

So, we’ve left Porto Lagos and we are making our way southwards down to Fethiye. It’s been a fun year travelling and we’ve had the chance to explore the hidden treasures of Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, but we are now looking forward to getting back to Fethiye and having a home….
The only way to get southwards, however, is to island hop….
Island hopping in Greece isn’t as much fun as you’d expect, especially in the winter, and especially this far north as its cold, stormy and to top it all of, the weather forecasts are usually unreliable.

So, a week into the trip and we we’ve so far been Harbour bound twice, on two islands. Samothraki, where everything seemed to be closed – a normal problem on the Greek islands in the winter- and Limnos.

It was our first time to the island of Limnos, and we were in the harbour on the islands capital, Myrina.
Approaching from the sea, you’ll immediately notice that there’s an impressive castle that sits on a rocky headland that splits the surprisingly large town in two. On the two sides of the headland, there are sandy beaches which spread out before the town and the pretty waterside promenade.

After parking side-to on the harbour wall, the picturesque town is overshadowed by the marvellous Byzantine castle, which throughout history has been modified and modernised by the Genoese, Ottomans and Germans.

Walking up to the castle, it’s easy to identify that it has been under recent renovation, making it one of the best preserved in Greece. The stroll up to castle from the harbour takes you through the burgonvillia covered cobbled streets, extraordinarily pretty, which lead you too a winding path, which consequently leads to the grand entrance of Myrina castle.

After a short while, you arrive in an open green area that is surrounded by the walls of the castle.DSC_9592

Within the castle are several ruins, such as the derelict foundations of the former Ottoman barracks and Mosque. Looking upwards, you’ll notice the Citadel. Walking up the the steep steps, from the top there are astounding views of the sea and surrounding town. Also at the top, there’s many ruins that are begging to be explored.

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At the far side of the castle, there’s a former Ottoman gunpowder store.
Now, imagine you’re defending the castle when suddenly, your enemy starts an artillery bombardment. As the bombardment continues, you begin to worry and head towards the bunker, which just so happens to sit beside the gunpowder store…that’s right, the bunker is right next to the gunpowder store… Only in Greece…..

You can easily spend several hours walking around the castle grounds, and if you are into nature you can admire the wide variety of wild flowers and plants, as well as the wild goats and deers which roam freely.

Another noteworthy thing to do whilst in Myrina are the several cultural/historical walks which are easily signposted and tell you the history of the town and its people.

There are four trails you can do, “The Historic Centre Trail”(trail A), “The Prehistoric City Trail”(trail B), “The City Through The Ages Trail” (trail C) and the “Tsas and Prosfygika Trail”(trail D).

When we were in Myrina, we incorporated trail A and B into one long half day walk, and despite being rather tired afterwards, we saw many sights of interest, such as the former Greek and Turkish quarters, the ruins of Prehistoric Myrina, the Memorial to Cypriot Fighters-(which is dedicated to the Cypriots who rose up against the British who controlled Cyprus between 1952-1955)-and the Memorial to the Executed of WW2, which is built in the pit where the Greek resistance fighters were shot in during the German occupation…

Following the walk can be quite difficult at times, as the signposts can be rather difficult to identify, whether it be because they’ve faded or there in hard to identify places-e.g.halfway up a telegraph pole(!). So a place I’d recommend to start is at the Archeological museum – which probably isn’t open on a Monday – , whose staff were very helpful and friendly.

They actually gave us a map with the walks on, and they also gave us a leaflet about the museum, which houses artefacts that come from surrounding archeological sites, which date as far back as 4,700 BC.

In conclusion, Myrina town is a wonderful place to explore, and in one day you can learn about its several thousand year history. With its fine cobbled streets that have a wide variety of shops and cafes, it’s beautiful harbour, and brilliant castle, it’s a lovely place to visit. It was shame however, that we couldn’t head elsewhere on the island, as its renown for its organic wine and for also having some of the oldest archeological sites in Europe.

What’s nice to see is that despite being quite a large island, Limnos has retained its traditional fishing harbour feel, and hasn’t fallen into the trap of being your generic tourist central.

In other news, please go and read this: https://thechill.at/2018/11/04/casey-russell/

It’s about me, and it’s written by my good friend Claudia Hilmbauer, so, please share it with your friends-(also, go and check out her blog!)-. The article, however, is in German, so if you don’t speak it you can have a laugh at Google translates attempt at translating it!

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A Few Days Around Transylvania…

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Transylvania, an area of ancient mystical mysticism shrouded in old ancient mystery…its the place renown for Vampires, Wolves, Bears and many mysteries of ancient mysticness and as its Halloween we are all for some mysticalness! …Transylvania is a place which has – unlike the rest of Romania – become the frontier for the countries tourism.

So here is a guide, lets say, of Transylvania, one of my new favourite places!

What made Transylvania famous amongst foreigners and locals alike is down to two things-

1:Irishman Bram Stokers thriller, Dracula, was an instant hit in Europe and the English speaking world, but 2: what really boosted the recognition of Transylvania was the rather perculier mind of Megalomaniac, Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Ceausescu made Vlad the Impaler an important figure head for the national morale, and the legend of him was used as a brilliant piece of propaganda and advertising for tourism.

When you visit Transylvania you’ll either fly into Brasov or Sibiu, the two main cities here. Brasov old town is a brilliant place to explore on your first day, since it’s been renovated to resemble how the town would have looked a few hundred years ago.

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Brasov is also a superb place for those who want to shop, since the whole pedestrianised area has a wide array of designer, outlet, second hand, antique, big brand and many other shops..(Side note for gentlemen, make sure to hide your wallets!)

Sighisoara

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An hour north is Sighisoara. The beautiful Citadel dates back from the 14-15 th centuries, and is simply a brilliant example of a Transylvanian fortress and a Transylvanian Saxon town. I’ve done a more in depth blog of Sighisoara here, where I detail a walk around the Citadel.

Rasnov Citadel

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A fine example of one of the periods citadels is in the town of Rasnov, south of Brasov. This citadel overlooks a dense forest on one side, and a plain which acts as an agricultural and industrial heartland for the area on the other side. You also have spectacular views of the nearby Carpathian Mountains.

To get to the Citadel, there are two ways. You can either drive to the car park provided by the council, and board a road train that takes you via the dinopark-(yes, a dinopark)-, or you can park in the town and ride the vernacular up a steep incline, which means you can admire the pretty surroundings.

Rupea Citadel

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Another example of ruined citadels is on a hill over looking the town of Rupea, between Brasov and Sighisoara. Rupea citadel is also on a high hill, with great views overlooking the small town below and rolling hills around. Most of the towers have been renovated, so it feels like the place has been hardly damaged throughout its history.

Viscri Saxon Village

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Nearby to Rupea through a traditional gypsy settlement there is a small village , which not only has two houses owned by HRH Prince Charles, but is also the town which proudly exhibits a Saxon fortified village. The enclosed village has stables, rooms, and an Anglo Saxon style church. This Saxon village is probably the best example around and is called Viscri. The origins of the fortified church date from 1100, and people lived within these walls right up to the 18th century.

As I mentioned, Prince Charles bought two houses and had them renovated. So now, people who want to experience the incredible Transylvanian way of life can holiday there.

Bran Castle

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If you want to stay on the more touristy path though, you could do the very busy and well known castle of Bran, situated nearby to the town of Bran between a pretty, wooded valley. As you’d expect, tourists from all over the world clog the paths and streets, as well as swarming like ants all over the inside of it. It can get quite claustrophobic at times with the hordes of multi nationals descending on the well preserved rooms. This place is supposedly the castle in which Bran Stocker got his inspiration for Draculas castle.

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We’ll end in Sibiu, with another well maintained and restored old town, which, like Alba Lulia, is situated behind rows of defensive walls. In many respects, Sibiu is somewhat of a smaller, messier version of Brasov. As my mum put it so eloquently, “if the Maramures is the Lakes, and Bucovinas the Highlands, Sibiu is Romanias Salford”

Whilst in Sibiu, we got lost in the old town, which is actually very pretty. With many squares, it’s a pleasant place to stop and dine whilst observing passerby’s.

What is quite haunting when you wander the boulevards and streets in the old town however, are the window holes on the roof of the buildings which this town is famed for, which look like eyes and seem to follow you…
Whilst in Sibiu, we paid a visit to Sibiu zoo. It had Bears and Wolves and Tigers and Lions, all of which seemed unhappy, and probably the most lively animal was the massive great pig…

Transfagarasan

 

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One last thing I’d suggest is to drive on the greatest driving road in the world, the Transfagarasan highway which connects the historic provinces of Transylvania and Wallacia over the Fagaras mountain range. On this road, you can witness some brilliant views and enjoy corners like those from racing tracks.

Was there anything I missed? I don’t think so, but I’m open to suggestions so make sure to leave a comment of where I should visit next time I’m here!

In conclusion, Transylvania is an incredibly interesting and beautiful place. We explored many wonderful attractions, both on the beaten track, and off.

We met many friendly and welcoming people, all of whom treated us like old friends, and we’ve created memories that’ll last a lifetime..

I would like, however, to add that Transylvania has become somewhat of a hub of tourism, and the Dracula myth and story has fueled a misleading claim about the place.
Whether this is a good or bad thing, I’m not sure. On the one hand, I feel the tourists litter and ruin the idea of the place, but on the other it helps the local economy, and keeps the tourists from Bucovina and the Maramures, which means it stays beautiful and unspoilt for the likes of me and you!

It’s been a brilliant trip, and if anyone were to visit this region, Bulgaria and Romania are must do’s! I may write a longer blog detailing the places more in the not to distant future for a friend of mine…

The one last thing I’d like to say, is thank you Romania!

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