Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2015 Wishes

Happy new year to everyone! Here is our card for 2015, made by Yusuf Tansu Ozel as always.
Please visit for his other marvelous works.

This year, we have more belief in Santa Claus than in our current president; and letting the goats run away literally meaning "kecileri kacirmak" in Turkish, says that we are going slightly mad... 

...and hereby in beloved memory of Freddie Mercury, we wish more awareness on STDs in 2015.

We hope there is more peace on earth for children, as the word "war" should be one of the last words to learn at the age of 5.

We wish that people stop buying hearts from petshops. Hearts are not for sale, they are out on the streets and in the shelters looking for other hearts to warm them. New year's eve is a time, probably when the most food is wasted globally; try to deliver the left-overs of your new year feasts to those who will eat not for joy but to stay alive.

Hopes and wishes are endless and we are not perfect but we can all try to be better.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ancient Site Assos Behramkale

Excavations in Assos, Behramkale

Newly unearthed mosaic in Assos, Behramkale 2014
Photo courtesy of Prof. Nurettin Arslan.

Assos was the first site to be excavated by the Archaeological Institute of America as it was also the first archaeological excavation ever for Assos, between 1881-1883. 

The findings from these excavations were shared between the Ottoman Empire and the Archaeological Institute of America according to the contract signed between sides. Today you can see findings from Assos, at Canakkale Archaeological Museum, at Istanbul Archaeological Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Paris Louvre and Metropolitan New York City.

The next official excavation in Assos was directed by the deceased archaeologist Prof. Umit Serdaroglu from 1981 until 2005. Aside from being an archaeologist Prof. Serdaroglu was also a graduate of architecture. He has initiated the restoration of the ancient amphitheater in Bodrum, founded restoration departments at Fine Arts Faculties in two different universities.

Since 2006, current excavations are directed by Prof. Nurettin Arslan from Canakkale 18 Mart University. Dr. Beate Böhlendorf -Arslan also participates in the excavations when she can find time from her own studies. Dr. Beate Böhlendorf is an academic historian; she has studied pre, early and mid history later concentrating on Byzantine history. She is currently teaching at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. Assos, living in the rocks, is a book written by the couple and you can find the book online and also can purchase it at the entrance of the temple of Athena in Behramkale, Assos.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Stuffed Mussels Midye Dolma

                         Mussels stuffed with spicy aromatic rice are called Midye Dolma in Turkish. It can be consumed in huge amounts and can become addictive! Raki and meze restaurants (Meyhane) would offer them but it is much more common to eat them from street vendors ! 

It is a  tasty accompany to raki and beer. The recipe calls for onions, blackpepper, cinammon, pine nuts, raisins, all spice; so a banquet of aromas. Mussels sound scary at some point but it is worth taking the risk, I've eaten them all my life, so far so good. So look out for midye dolma vendors in Istanbul, in Canakkale, Izmir, most Aeagean cities and villages including Assos will offer stuffed mussels, enjoy.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

More art at Assos Alarga, welcoming autumn in Behramkale

We are madly in love with guests coming and integrating in an instant. These  drawings captured our hearts, both are handmade by love and we are so thankful to them. Thank you so much for visiting us, for stepping into our small world with your gifted hands and your big heart.

Thank you again and again Caglayan Ekinci and Gurcan Bulut.

Autumn in Assos, Behramkale is beautiful and cosy...

Caglayan Ekinci at Assos Alarga. small design hotel in Assos, Behramkale

Gurcan Bulut at Assos Alarga; big great guests at small design hotel in Assos, Behramkale

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Canakkale International Biennial 27 September-2 November 2014

Bashir Borlakov will be one of the artists this year... You can visit the 4th International Biennial in Canakkale between the 27th of September and the 2nd of November 2014 at various spots...

Panaroma 5, 2006, Photography, 45x300 cm

check out the Biennial map of Canakkale for 2014

Saturday, 30 August 2014

30th of August, Victory Day in Turkey, 2014

August the 30th, is the Victory Day in Turkey. Today is the 92nd anniversary  of the victory over the occupying forces of Greece in Anatolia.
The ‘Great Offensive’ reached its primary goal in the battle of Dumlupinar, 4 days after the initial counter attack and the Greek army in Anatolia was defused on 30th of August 1922. Only after this achievement, the remaining Turkish cities and towns invaded by the ‘Allies” of the WW1 were saved one by one. The 30th of August marks a huge step of the Turkish national independence forces decisive victory and is officially celebrated annually since 1935.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Salep, Vanilla, Orchid

                        Visiting Istanbul in winter, you will see vendors of Salep around, just like this one.

It's a popular winter drink in Turkey and in Middle East, over the lands where once Ottomans ruled. The ground real Salep is easily found in Spice Shops, in Turkish called 'Aktar'.
 The original drink is hard to find and expensive to consume as it is made from the powdered roots of some mountain orchid species mostly grown in Anatolia. 
According to a research in 2004, in order to obtain a kilo of Salep, 1000-4000 orchid tubers are used. This should explain why a kg of salep is 500 Turkish Liras. 
Salep is not only used in its popular drink but is also a main ingredient for ice cream production.
Real ice cream 'dondurma' in Turkey is not to be made with eggs or corn strach but from Salep.
Today, orchids used in Salep making are unfortunately announced to be endangered and are under protection. A new project launched in 2014, by the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs in Turkey aims to cultivate 2 million new orchids in gardens established for genetic studies and transfer them to their natural expansion zones until 2018. 

All orchids look beautiful but their tubers are named after their fox testicle appereance which according to some resources is where the name Salep derives from the Arabic transtation for fox testicles hasyu- al-tha 'lab.
Talking of orchids; on the left we have a sample of an orchid and on the right there's vanilla and salep. Yes, vanilla is another wonder of orchids.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

How are sheep turned into carpets?

First of all you need to have the right sheep, not every breed is good for shearing. Daglic is a common breed in North Aegean part of Turkey raised for its meat, milk and wool. You can identify them easily thanks to their black make up.

  • You need housing for them and need to take them grazing daily.  The climate, jointly the flora allows, it’s never too cold for the sheep to go out and graze around Assos/Ayvacik.
  • All sheep must be officially registered; you can’t claim any loss on an unregistered sheep.
  • You need to keep an eye on them, you can’t just let them out and expect them to come back home all together. Eventually they will be stolen, lost or hit by a vehicle.
  • If you manage to keep them alive and healthy, then comes the moment to shear them. Shearing can be done once or twice a year depending on the breed, but for timing, it’s better to do it before your sheep vaporizes with the heat. Spring in this case is good. Anyone can attempt to shear but if you have never done it before you are likely to injure your sheep. Electrical shears may simplify this process. It may be a good idea to fast the sheep before shearing, to avoid unwanted dirt in your work environment and on your future carpet. A world record of hearing a sheep is 38 seconds. Oh well I can’t even shear myself that quickly…
Not all of the fleece is good, so skirting is done after shearing to get rid of useless parts. 
Skirting is the removal of the belly and butt and leg bits which are usually easy to spot as they have manure marks all over them; smelly dreadlocks. 

The wool is standing now free of lamb. Imagine wearing the same woolen sweater, everyday for 8-9 months, going out and playing on the grass with it, sleeping&eating with it among fellows like you, day and night. It needs a deep wash!  

The raw fleece contains lanolin, roughly lanolin is sheep grease and it only starts melting at 35°C/95°F, the primary goal in washing is getting rid of most of this grease. Some fleece with low lanolin ratios can be cold washed but not around Ayvacik.

Once your wool is clean enough than it needs combing, this is the first step for the fleece to turn into wool. There are different combs and techniques for this all over the world but basically you need to comb it somehow before starting hand spinning. Combing is also a time taking work.

Hand spinning is a thousands of years old tradition of turning fleece into a yarn. Since the industrial revolution it has almost become extinct. In some rural villages it is still a part of the daily life. Sheep get sheared once or sometimes twice a year, so there’s always some wool to be spun. Women would do this in any given free time throughout their lives.

Dyeing of The Yarn

Some colors would settle on the fiber without the help of another chemical substance, some will need to go through the process of mordanting. Mordants are chemicals (alum, iron, tin…) that fix a dye in or on a substance by combining with the dye to form an insoluble compound. They also help generating different shades and tones. 
Depending on the type of wool and the natural ingredients that will be used, mordants can be applied before, after or at the time of dyeing.

Natural dyes; obviously are made from ingredients found in nature such as vegetables, plants, animal bases, bark, nutshells, berries, insects. Within the same country from region to region resources will vary as flora and fauna varies. The laborious hand work of collecting and preparation remains the same. Plants are collected, air dried, then depending on the color demand some are mixed some are used on their own for dyeing.
Red comes from the plant Rubia tinctorum (madder)   which was once the number three export product of the Ottomans to the world. The term and the color Turkish Red is derived from this trade power that was controlling two third of the market. Still today, the red color mostly is given by madder.
Yellow: In Ayvacik area chamomiles are used to obtain yellow. A study shows that yellow can be obtained from 84 different plants in Turkey and  from 10 types of chamomile.
Blue: The most popular plant for is woad, isatis tinctoria (the common species in Anatolia and Europe)  also known as the oldest natural source for blue colors. It was used in Mesopotamia even 5000 years ago. The land that produced the first beers and the wine also learned that isatis tinctoria needed natural fermentation to give out a blue color. In antiquity; the fresh leaves were crushed and hand kneaded into small balls, left for drying than powder crushed to be fermented in water. This fermentation aims breaking the sugar molecules in order to bring out indigotine, finally when indigotine is exposed to air it becomes air oxidized and blue.

Green:  Though the nature is green, the color green can’t be retrieved from nature, mixture of blue and yellow will give us green. Indigo and reseda applications are common in Ayvacik area.

Mystery of Purple, well ask your seller about purple… So far all the colors I asked about had one or two popular answers. The rumor says that purple formulas are kept as a secret by the natural dyers. In ancient times, so called the imperial purple was obtained from sea snails and were very pricey, so possessing purple dyed textile and wool products was a sign of wealth a symbol of status. Of course in time with the help of mordant substances blend of red and blue giving plants give out purple. Dyers may also use only one plant for example: Rubia tinctorum (madder), mordanting and some source of oxidation for the red to become purple. A cauldron filled with water and full of rotten nails is one source of oxidation as revealed to me by a dear guest…

With the finding of synthetic dyes and the industrial revolution, production and usage of natural dyes faded.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Turkish Carpets; an Anatolian Poem

A hand woven carpet or a kilim is the story of goats & sheep being raised, sheared; collecting raw materials, experience and knowledge of ingredients, methods and recipes for dyeing, days and nights of spinning, combing and weaving, traditions passed on from one generation to the other, over the centuries. It’s the journey of fleece becoming an object of protection from hard weather conditions; it’s the thousands of knots making part of a dowry; sometimes, the tale of women weaving their emotions into an item of garment for next generations.

Why is carpet more expensive than kilim?
Kilims are formed with flatweaving; meaning the rope travels between warps & wefts without knots. As for the carpets, with each or every other warp, at least one knot is required. The work for carpets consumes much more time and effort than it does for kilims.

What determines the price of a carpet?
Number of knots per square inch is the primary factor. The higher number of knots, mean a finer carpet. Just like a fine digital image of higher resolution, with bigger number of pixels on the digital display...
  • Elements used: Is it hundred percent wool, what kind of wool? Silk or is it mixed with cotton? Synthetic dye or natural dye?
  • Design: Curvy patterns like floral designs need more knots than straight lined geometric shapes.

If you are to buy an old one, then of course, the age and the condition of the rug, it’s availability in the market and the demand for it should all be considered.

How will you know you are paying the fair price for the carpet you desire?

Unless you are an expert, you will never know! There is no fixed rate of labor and emotions reflected on these marvels. Having knowledge, reading books about weaving will only be theorically informative. Just like choosing the wine; takes years of tasting, smelling and looking into the glass, expectations of evaluating the carpet, will not be instantly fulfilled. Certain certifications like Dobag can guarantee that you are not making a mistake on a purchase from a Dobag dealer; but to truely understand and value a carpet or a kilim completely on your own is a long journey. With today's modern techniques, it may even be difficult for the naked eye to distinguish the hand woven from the machine woven, the natural dye from the synthetic dye. So I would say, if you wholeheartedly like it, buy it. In other words, trust your dealer with all your heart. Carpet sellers are supposed to be very informative, like the most in Turkey are. They are welcoming, yes, their aim is to sell you carpets and kilims, but either you buy or not, they should be willing to answer your questions and show you examples. So take your time and enjoy the chat, and maybe with even a glass of Turkish tea or a cup of Turkish coffee.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Visiting poetical Turkey with Nazim Hikmet Ran

Prior to or throughout your trip, reading Nazim Hikmet will give you, perhaps a better insight to this land's geography and people under and above it. His voice calling out for universal humanism and democracy. A life spent in exile, in prison yet his words like white doves, like colorful balloons still linger in the skies against imperalism and war.

This one below, like Le Petite Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, is a lifelong  companion. 

On Living
Living is no joke, you must live with great seriousness 
I mean expecting nothing except and beyond living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
You must take living seriously,
I mean to such an extent that,
for example your arms are tied from your back, your back is on the wall,
or in a laboratory with your white shirt, with your huge eye glasses,
you must be able to die for people,
even for people you have never seen,
although nobody forced you to do this,
although you know that
living is the most real, most beautiful thing.

I mean you must take living so seriously that,
even when you are seventy, you must plant olive trees,
not because you think they will be left to your children,
because you don't believe in death although you are afraid of it
because, I mean, life weighs heavier.


Suppose we're very sick, in need of surgery,
I mean, there is the possibility that
we will never get up from the white table.
although it is impossible not to feel the grief of passing away somewhat too soon
we will still laugh at the funny joke being told,
we will look out of the window to see if it's raining,
or we will wait impatiently
for the latest news from agencies.

Suppose, for something worth fighting for,
suppose we are on the battlefield.
Over there, in the first attack, on the first day
we may fall on the ground on our face.
We will know this with a somewhat strange grudge,
but we will still wonder like crazy
the result of the war that will possibly last for years.

Suppose we are in the jail,
age is close to fifty,
suppose there are still eighteen years until the iron door will open.
Still, we will live with the outer world,
with the people, animals, fights and winds
I mean, with the outer world beyond the walls.

I mean, however and wherever we are
we must live as if there is no death...


This earth will cool down,
a star among all the stars,
one of the tiniest,
I mean a grain of glitter in the blue velvet,
I mean this huge world of ours.

This earth will cool down one day,
not even like a pile of ice
or like a dead cloud,
it will roll like an empty walnut
in the pure endless darkness.

You must feel the pain of this now,
You must feel the grief right now.
You must love this world so much
to be able to say 'I lived'...

Monday, 13 January 2014

A Winter's Tale

To fight against Rna virus, to beat influenza we have created this fruit plate with love. Easy and fun to do at home on your own as well. For those of you who have the flu, we wish you get well soon.

Thursday, 2 January 2014