One Finger Salute *UPDATE*

You guys all remember my infamous “One Finger Salute” post from wayyyy back in 2019, yeah?

Well, The Turk recently told me that he thinks he might know who the crazy T-1000 Terminator is!

I know!

Apparently The Turk was recently playing Okey (Turkish tile game) at a local  kıraathane (coffee house) in the Village recently when he got talking to an acquaintance (who will for the sake of this post be called T-1000). What follows is a “probably” accurate account of the conversation:

T-1000:            Is your wife yabanci (foreign)?

The Turk:         Yes.

T-1000:            Did she give have an altercation in Çamlıbel a while ago?

At that moment, the Turk realised that T-1000 is the crazy feck who threw his entire body on our car so was very particular with how he continued.

The Turk:         Yes, she did. She was waiting patiently in traffic and was being respectful to the driver in front of her that was trying to park. Some impatient prick (my words, probably not The Turk’s) behind her kept using his horn. So, she gave him the finger.

T-1000:            She was in the wrong.

The Turk:         Was she? Or was the micro peen (again my words) in the wrong for not respecting the road rules.

T-1000:            She would have been at fault legally.

At that point The Turk said he was steaming, and told me it took everything in him to not lose his shite.

The Turk:         The fecking prick (yes, yes, my words) is lucky that I wasn’t there because I would have beaten him senseless for disrespecting my wife!

T-1000:            *stares back down at his tiles and says nothing more*

The game resumes and fresh çay was brought to the table. The Turk (being a champion at times) coughed lightly into his hand and “accidentally” nudged T-1000’s çay glass causing it to spill all over him.

Oopsy daisy!

I have never been prouder of The Turk than I am right now!


Did you know that Janey in Mersin was named one of the Top 20 expat blogs in Türkiye by Feedspot? Ch-ch-check it out here!

Kanlıdivane

As you all know I love to take my cross poodle / bishon fraise, Hurley, out on adventures. He’s 12 now and becoming a bit of a grump so we want to keep him happy and active as much as we can.

Recently Daughter and I took My Hurley Dog to the Kanlıdivane Archaeological site north of Ayaş, Mersin.

The entire archaeological site is built around a natural sinkhole. Among the highlights, there are: the Tower of Zeus Olbios, the Armaronxas Family’s Relief, the Church of Papaylos, and a temple mausoleum. The mausoleum was built by Queen Aba for her husband and sons who are said to have perished in a plague.

Like most archaeological ruins, Kanlıdivane has a rather gruesome back story attached to it. It is said that the Turkish name, Kanlıdivane, derives from the ancient name Canytelis, which translates to “bloody crazy”. Now, technically, it no doubts refers to the red colour of the walls of the sinkhole; however, I prefer the legend that in Roman times criminals would be executed by throwing them into the sinkhole: Totally plausible reaction if you ask me.

A five-minute walk up the road from Kanlıdivane leads you to Çanakçı rock tombs. These four tombs have figures carved into the walls and an inscription condemning any grave robbers that happen upon them.

Kanlıdivane has been extensively restored by the government with pleasant walking paths (although those cobblestones are not high-heel friendly so wear walking shoes), good parking, clean toilets (always a bonus) and a small café and shop.

And, yes, My Hurley Dog had a wonderful day.

The Mersin International Music Festival holds concerts here each year.

Hours:        10.00AM – 17.00PM (summer) | 8.30AM – 17.00PM (winter)

Address:     Kumkuyu, Kanlıdivane Caddesi, 33750 Ayaş Bulvarı, Erdemli/Mersin

Telephone: 0324 231 96 18

Cost:           ₺12.50 (circa 2022)

Difficulty:  1

The only way to get here is by private car. From Mersin, head west down the Mersin-Antalya yolu (D400), then follow your GPS directions into the mountains.


If want a copy of the ultimate guidebook to Mersin you can grab your copy at any of the following online retailers (and yes it is available in Turkiye):

Amazon US – Kindle or paperback

Amazon UK – Kindle or paperback

Trendyol – paperback (Turkiye only)

Akademisyen Kitabevi – paperback (Turkiye only)

Did you know Janey in Mersin was recently named one of the top 15 expat Blogs in Turkey by Feedspot?
Ch-ch-check it out here!

Life, Interrupted

Gosh it’s been eons since I gave you guys a proper update of life here in Mersin.

Summer is upon us yet again and bloody hell it’s hotter than Satan’s asshole after a dodgy tantuni (my most recent Twitter post)! With things hotting up I intend to spend as little time as possible in front of the computer and as much time as possible at the beach… or in the pool. Yep, I live in a complex with a pool, and a beautiful garden, and 24-hour security… everything a girl could ask for… including an elevator (my knees are forever grateful!)!!

I am officially now a city girl and completely spoilt for choice.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give up my time in the Village for quids. It was always one hell of an adventure. But living in the Village permanently was hard work (which for those of you who have followed me since the beginning will know all about). My relationship with The Turk was never that strong to begin with, in fact one of the reasons we moved to Türkiye was because he was so miserable back in Sydney. Surely moving back to his homeland would make life better? Pfftt!

What I’ve now learned about The Turk is that he is a glass is always half empty kind of guy. He is a very good man who makes extremely bad decisions and will always put everyone else’s needs ahead of mine and Daughter’s. As time went on life just got harder. We spent little time together to begin with, as time passed little became practically none… and I realised that I didn’t really care. COVID struck with a vengeance, then the economic crisis, and we took hit after hit after hit. It was time for me to re-assess what I wanted to do with my life.

And while I didn’t want to leave Türkiye, I couldn’t continue to live in such a toxic environment. The backstabbing and bitchiness that would go on in the Village was astounding, and wayyy too much of it was directed at me. Every day there was yet another drama and, in the end, my mental health was becoming affected. I had to make a move.

Within a week of coming to my decision I had found an apartment to rent. It’s in an amazing part of the city, close to my favourite Migros and, even more importantly, my favourite restaurant!

It’s been 18 months now since I moved out of the Village and into the city and it has changed my life. Daughter is well on her way to finishing a communications degree and recently returned from Australia. I’ve written and published two more books (including a guidebook on Mersin… you can grab your copy here). I’m putting finishing touches to my next novel, Galata and Nutmeg as well as a contemporary fiction novel set in Mersin that has blown out into an epic saga is now on its second round of edits.

So if you’re looking for me I shall be by the pool… or maybe at the beach… or maybe, just maybe, having an extraordinarily large glass of red wine at my favourite restaurant (which is now stumbling distance from home).


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Meet Nancy Habbas

I met Nancy a few years ago when she first moved to Mersin. Nancy allowed me to join her on many photography expeditions around Mersin (and even further afoot), introducing me to places that I would probably have never found by myself. She is a well-renowned photographer, having taken part in photography exhibitions and festivals around Türkiye and internationally, with her most recent exhibition in Istanbul this month being a near sell-out!

One of the things I love about Nancy is her desire to get the best photo possible. She doesn’t hold back and will climb over rocks, wade through silt up to her knees or even dodge traffic to get the shot. For those of you who follow my Instagram stories you would have noticed a number of stories featuring Nancy and her crazy high-jinx’s as we travelled around Mersin taking photos and researching for the book.

These are a few of my favourite photos of her:

Sunrise at Kizkalesi. Beautiful, yeah? Gorgeous? Breathtaking?

Sunrise at Kizkalesi is all of those things and so much more. In an effort to get the photo for our cover Nancy climbed onto a long-abandoned dock resulting in her slipping in the pre-dawn light, nearly impaling herself on a metal pylon and looking like she had just done five rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson.

She also had quite a few encounters with the local dogs who were more than willing to model for her and a few even more curious four-legged friends who thought that she may or may not be available for, ahem, other things.

Nancy was never afraid to climb to the highest point of any sinkhole, ruin, mountain or cliff face dragging me kicking and screaming along for the ride!

And on-coming traffic is never really a concern… I mean they’ll stop, won’t they? Won’t they?

Mersin: All Over comes is available on Amazon on 1 June 2022. If you’re visiting Mersin, or just want to know more about the area you can pre-order your ebook here. Paperbacks will also be available on Amazon from 1 June 2022 and hopefully for those of you living in Türkiye I’ll have some available for you as well.


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Mersin: All Over

I know I’ve been threatening to do this for a while now but it looks like it’s really happening… Mersin: All Over is being formatted as we speak and will soon be live to purchase on Amazon, IBooks, Kobo, and many more!

If you’re thinking of visiting Mersin, or maybe, like me, you visited family each year and always found yourself wandering around aimlessly having no idea where to visit next, then this is for you:

MERSIN: ALL OVER

Written with 20 years of experience, expat Jane Gundogan, has assembled her knowledge, anecdotes and research into Mersin: All Over. This is the ultimate guide to uncovering the real story of this fascinating part of Türkiye. For the first time ever, this area is getting the recognition and resource it deserves, catering to a little of everything, from hidden castles to the author’s favourite restaurants. You’ll be surprised by what this often-overlooked part of the Mediterranean has to offer.

In Mersin: All Over you’ll visit the Big Five of Mersin including the incomparable Kizkalesi, historical Tarsus, the stunning dining experiences at Mersin Marina, the almost hidden Alahan Monastery, the recently-discovered Gildiere Caves and, of course, the unspoilt beaches of the Mediterranean coastline. This book will give you the inside information to discover little known places and the juicy stories behind them that bring the area to life.

Inspirational colour photography by the well-renowned photographer, Nancy Habbas, does more than just provide pictures of Mersin, her images prepare you for the beauty of what you will see. Mersin: All Over doesn’t stop at giving you helpful guides and information on places to avoid, it is also filled with hilarious anecdotes, and tips to fit everything into your day. Jane shares her expert advice for exploring the wonders of this little-known province so you can make the most of your time in Mersin.

Release date: 1 June 2022

Pre-order available soon.

And for those of you living in Türkiye I am currently in discussions with a Turkish publisher so you can buy direct at an excellent price (none of those pesky international postage charges that we all loathe).


Loving this blog? Please help me build my audience and share with like-minded people who, like you, want to know more about this beautiful area of Türkiye. You can also subscribe or like me on Facebook for all updates.

Selefkia Wines

Thanks to Andrea Lemieux from The Quirky Cork, it has recently come to my attention that there are a few wineries in the region.

If you are an amateur sommelier or (maybe you’re like me) just drink too much wine, you might like to look at her book on Turkish wines here.

Photography by Nancy Habbas

I recently visited Selefkia Wines, which is located outside of Mukaddem, Silifke. They hold regular wine tasting and tours at their production warehouse (their vines are high in the Toros mountains). Ebru speaks excellent English and is ready for you to tour the winery if you are passing. Selefkia Winery is unique in that it is a vegan winery.

But isn’t all wine vegan? It’s just grapes, right?

Not quite. Many wineries use animal products in the processes of winemaking. This could mean egg whites, gelatine, fish bladders and milk proteins. These are all used to clarify the wine. Lots of vineyards also use animal products in their fertilizer like fish emulsion, blood and bone meal.

Ebru tells me that Selefkia Winery ensures that their wines are organic and animal-friendly from the soil up and use the proteins from peas to clarify their wine. This process has no effect on the quality, taste, and alcohol content of the wine.

Hours:        By appointment only

Address: 244, Sokak. Mukaddem, 33940, Silifke/Mersin

Telephone:  0530 346 3704

Web:          https://www.instagram.com/selefkiawine/


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Foodie’s Paradise

I’ve been thinking about food quite a bit the last few weeks. Maybe it’s the cold weather, maybe it’s the only thing I miss about living in the Village, but either way, I’m hungry.

Food in Mersin is rather unique with its mix of Turkish, Ottoman and Arabic, and a flavour all of its own. Food is always better when it is produced locally, when it is distributed locally and when it reaches the table locally. One of the biggest attributes to Mersin food is everything is fresh, straight from the pazar to the table. Here are some of my absolute favourite foods to enjoy in Mersin.

Photography by Nancy Habbas

Tantuni

Mersin has many dishes that originated from the province. My favourite and probably the best known of all Mersin dishes is – the tantuni!

Tantuni is a traditional street food dish consisting of thinly sliced beef that is seasoned with Turkish spices and herbs, usually cooked with onions and tomatoes. The combination is cooked in specially designed tantuni pans.

Traditionally, the dish is served rolled in a durum wheat wrap, with ground sumac and a lemon wedge on the side. Since every tantuni chef has his own method and secret technique of preparing the dish, it is said that the flavours of tantuni are never the same. 

Icli Kofte

Anyone who has been to a Middle Eastern or Lebanese Restaurant would have tried the similarly made Kibbe, but I know that a Turkish Icli Kofte is just that little bit better. They are incredibly difficult to make, and the few times I’ve tried have been nothing more than a disaster, but if you happen upon a local making them do not leave before you taste one (or a dozen).

Künefe 

Künefe is a crazy ass desert served here in Mersin and throughout Turkey made of cooked cheese, syrup and icecream. Künefe is well known throughout the provinces of Mersin, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis and Adana, although it is served in many Arabic countries.  If you do want to make an attempt of this amazing dessert I suggest you go check out Ozlem’s recipe.  She is, as usual, my go-to person when attempting Turkish food but this one looks a little out of my league.

Cezerye

Made with caramelized grated carrots, sugar, and nuts, this sweet concoction is rolled into balls and usually covered with shredded coconut before consumption. When I was in Tarsus recently, I was told that Cezerye is an aphrodisiac, so consume with caution.

Kısır

A classic Turkish salad made with thin bulgur wheat, tomatoes, mint, garlic, parsley, and either lemon juice or sour pomegranate molasses. Red pepper flakes are often added to the salad to make it spicier. A must-have for your mangal.

Sarimasakli Kofte

People may try telling you this is an Adana dish but don’t you listen to them, it’s definitely a Mersin tradition. Made from the same bulgur wheat as the kısır, they are rolled into tiny balls and boiled. After cooking its topped with a sauce made with garlic, lemon, salca, parsley and oil. Delicious.

Batkırık

Similar to kısır, batkırık is my go-to for a quick and easy meal. These are so easy to make but the secret to a successful batkırık is the sauce. Onion, cumin, salca and oodles of garlic. Mix it into the bulgur wheat before making patties. Batkırık is also sometimes made as a cold soup with tahini and water added.

Fındık Lahmacun

A specialty from Tarsus, these are easy to snack on at any time of day. Topped with mince meat, herbs, red peppers and spices, these have the added ingredient of hazelnuts before being baked to perfection.

Sıkma

When you’re driving down the D400 you’ll probably pass tiny shacks on the side of the road selling sıkma and çay. Usually made with flat durum wheat break or rolled pastry they are filled with onion, white cheese and parsley. Sıkma means handshake so I imagine these little morsels were thus named because they fit in your hand so easily.

Karsambaç

A traditional dessert originating from Camliyayla, a small town high in in the Toros mountains. Similar to a snow cone, but completely unique, Karsambaç is made with a combination of clean mountain snow (straight from the mountain) and a sweet syrup such as sugar syrup, or molasses.

Taş kadayif

Crispy on the outside, walnut in the middle, and coated in a decadent sugary syrup.

Kerebiç

A local dessert unique to Mersin, is made with semolina and is often served during Ramadan.  


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The Bane Of My Existence

No, I’m not talking about my monsters-in-law (although they would run a very close second). I’m talking about my inability to get a fecking decent hot chocolate here in Mersin.

I love me a good hot chocolate. Always have, always will. As a child, my mother would make hot chocolates with cocoa and marshmallows, and as an adult non-coffee-drinker, I would usually buy myself a hot chocolate as a treat for my morning pick-me-up. Today, and particularly in winter when Mersin’s temperatures resemble the Artic circle, a hot chocolate is my go-to to warm up my weary bones.

Türkiye is famous for its excellent kahve (coffee) and its çay (tea) served in tulip-shaped glasses. Sipping on a çay as you shoot the breeze is practically a national sport. People just don’t drink hot chocolate. And I appreciate that, in fact before Starbucks arrived in Mersin getting a decent hot chocolate was as rare as hen’s teeth. If you were lucky enough to find a place that serves them, they usually varied from bad to an abomination that will live in infamy in certain circles. But hear me out, if a restaurant has sıcak çikolata (hot chocolate) on the menu, then damn it, they should know how to make one, at least.

“If you’ve ever wondered what tar and the tears of children taste like – drink their hot chocolate.”

Moe, 2022

This quote refers to the most God-awful concoction that was purportedly passed for hot chocolate that I and my friends had the misfortune to try from a very well-known restaurant here in Mersin. I will not name the restaurant, mostly because I don’t need the blow-back, but let me tell you the story.

After a lunch with a group of my yabancilar friends, a few of us decided to hang around enjoying the pleasant ambience of the restaurant. We would frequent this place regularly. The food was pretty good and the prices were always reasonable. At this point I should mention that there was in fact a Starbucks located directly across the street but we chose to stay put, mostly because we couldn’t be assed standing in the queue.

Hot chocolates were ordered.

Within minutes a glutenous concoction in a small white mug was delivered to each of us. It was thicker than mud, hotter than the sun, and as stomach-churning as kokoreç (well-known Turkish offal dish) on a good day. Honestly? It resembled the packet pudding that is so often served in Türkiye and tasted like it as well. After a polite explanation as to how a hot chocolate should be made, the apologetic waiter retreated to re-order. We stared longingly at the people sitting in the sunshine opposite us, no doubt sipping on their perfectly made Starbucks hot chocolate, until our waiter returned with attempt number 2. I crossed my fingers for him and for us, I even prayed to all the deities available to me that it would be good.

It was not good.

Am I a Karen? Have I become an entitled expat who expects the niceties from my homeland having no regard for local custom? I took a Buzzfeed quiz to check whether I am, in fact, a Karen and can thankfully report that I’m only half Karen… the other half is pure Janey with a little bit of bitch thrown in for good measure.

And while I’m just having a little whine for comedic purposes it doesn’t take away from the fact that I just want a fecking decent hot chocolate!

_________________________________________________________________________

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Inside Out In Istanbul

The passion for traveling has been something that people have been doing for centuries now, but being able to document and blog your traveling adventures is just awesome.

Lisa Morrow is a great example of an expat and blogger who has documented her life in Istanbul. With her very popular blog, Inside Out In Istanbul, and four best-selling books released to date, it’s time to get inspired and discover what it’s like to live in Istanbul with my excellent interview below.

I first met Lisa in Istanbul during one of my getaways from Mersin. I must admit I was a little intimidated by her because

she was such a successful author and blogger, whereas I was just a dabbler writing what amounts to “filth” in some people’s eyes (you’re welcome, by the way).

But I am happy to report that within the first moments of meeting Lisa my fears were unfounded. Here is a woman who, like me, is doing what she loves, and blessed to be doing it in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A northern-beaches girl, a lover of Vegemite, and one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

Your blog was one of the first blogs I found when I decided to move to Turkey and I think I read each and every post you wrote. When did you start blogging? And how, or perhaps when, did you make the decision to take what you’ve written and turn it into a book (or, more correctly, 4 books)?

Actually it was publishing the first edition of my essay collection Inside Out In Istanbul in 2011 that started me thinking about blogging. I wrote this book for people planning to come to Istanbul or those who’d already visited once, wanting to better understand what they see and experience in the city.

I was really new to the world of social media back then so it took me until 2013 to start my own blog. At that time most internet sites about Turkey were either commercial ones selling tours, travel insurance and so on, or personal blogs by people who had visited Istanbul but never lived here. I wanted to share the Istanbul I live in, the real everyday extraordinary of the city outside the well-known tourist areas.

For my blog I usually write short pieces capturing my impressions or put together photo essays. However my passion and I believe my forté is writing essays that combine Turkish culture and history with my personal experiences. The longer I live in Istanbul and the better my Turkish becomes, the more I have to write about, which is how my other books have come about.

Did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Not really. I’ve always made sense of the world through words. I have to be able to accurately describe what I see and experience in writing, otherwise my understanding remains incomplete. It’s the feedback I’ve received from readers rather than the process of writing and publishing my books that’s had the biggest impact on me. Readers say they feel like they’re walking the streets alongside me in Inside Out In Istanbul. Strangers feel they know me after reading my memoir Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom. Turks no longer living in the country say Exploring Turkish Landscapes makes them feel homesick but also as though they’re back home at the same time. It’s gratifying and rewarding to hear all this and makes me want to continue writing in the same way.

Congratulations on becoming an Amazon top 10 seller with your most recent release, “Longing for Istanbul: The Words I haven’t said yet”. That’s an amazing achievement (I’m not at all jealous). Has becoming a Top 10 seller changed how you look at marketing? Do you market? Or do you rely on word of mouth or other reviews?

Thank you for the compliment. Selling is, as you know, hard work and marketing is key. Millions of books are published every year and even though books sales increased worldwide in 2021, unless people hear about your books they won’t know to buy them. Being a Top 10 seller is fabulous but statistics change all the time so I never rest on my laurels. Word-of-mouth is really important but my audience spans the globe so I do market on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Strangely, although the latter is based on visuals, it’s a good platform for authors. However reviews on Amazon and Goodreads do have a big impact. These days a lot of people want to know in advance they’re going to like your book, so a positive review, even a short one, goes a long way.

Speaking of reviews… do you read them? And how do you deal with less than favourable ones?

Many writers say not to read reviews but I do. Writing is a solitary occupation and a lot of the time it feels like throwing ideas out into space and never knowing where or if they’ll land. Positive reviews are the echo telling me a reader gets what I’m trying to do. Luckily I haven’t had too many unfavourable ones (fingers crossed saying this won’t jinx me). What I really dislike though is when a reader gives a one or two star rating and can’t be bothered to say why. Maybe they don’t like Turkey, possibly they don’t like something they think they know about me or it could be they really didn’t like my writing after all. Unless they give a reason, it just pulls down the book rating and doesn’t help potential readers decide whether to buy it or not, which is one of the major reasons to leave a review.

You recently had Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries translated into Turkish (Türkiye’yi Keşfederek Sınırlarımı Aşarken). Why did you decide to have it translated and where is it available?

Back in 2019 I was interviewed by SBS Turkish radio (in Turkish) about why I moved to Turkey with my husband Kim, also a non-Turk. After it broadcast I received dozens of messages from people telling me I was THE topic of conversation in supermarkets in Melbourne, Australia, where the majority of Turks live. This was the first time they’d heard from a non-Turk who’d chosen to live in their home country and they were fascinated about why I’d done so and what it was like. Many of them were thinking of moving to Turkey themselves, even the Australian born ones, and they really related to what I said in the program. It was clear to me I should make my books available in Turkish because there was an audience keen to know more.

I chose to start with Exploring Turkish Landscapes because it covers my experiences in different parts of the country, and at different stages of my life and knowledge of Turkish language and culture. It’s available in Turkey as an ebook through D& R or internationally from Kobo and in paperback from Barnes & Noble and other booksellers.

I’m visiting Istanbul right now doing research for my next book… a literary pilgrimage, so to speak. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before you visit somewhere new?

When I first left Australia to travel to London and from there to Europe and eventually Turkey, I did very little research. The internet didn’t exist, travel guides were heavy and expensive and I preferred to party than check out books at the library. Now the internet provides thousands of websites, blogs and references and it’s easy to drown in too much information. I’ve been to all the main tourist sites in Istanbul, many several times, but these days I travel further afield. Every outing involves food in some way, whether it’s a new restaurant to try or going to a shop selling specialty Turkish foods or hard to get non-Turkish items.

Usually what happens is I’ll be on my way somewhere and spot something unexpected from a bus or the corner of my eye. A church tower or intriguing doorway I hadn’t noticed before, a sign that piques my interest or an unusual window display. Depending on my schedule (and my hunger) I might go in straight away, or just make a note or take a photo and research it when I get home. I use guidebooks and the internet to find out more and focus mainly on Turkish origin blogs and websites as they often contain more information than those written in English. However I read a lot of non-fiction books about Istanbul too, and when I come across references to places I don’t know about, I write them down and then go looking for them.

It’s the unexpected that excites me most so I prefer to visit a place first and research it later. Otherwise the joy of immersing myself in the atmosphere and discovering small beautiful details is lost in the act of looking for particular things noted in guidebooks. That’s the idea underpinning my essay ““Büyük Çamlıca Camii” in Longing for Istanbul.

Is there anywhere in Istanbul that you still want to visit, or perhaps a hidden gem that you’ve kept to yourself?

I think there will always be places I want to visit in Istanbul. My list expands all the time, partly because there is already so much to see but also because there are new discoveries being made almost everyday. Add to that long abandoned sites being restored and opened to the public and the possibilities are endless. My focus in the coming months (when it gets warmer) is to use Istanbul’s excellent public transport system to go further afield. I don’t drive in Istanbul so going to Beykoz, Atatürk Kent Park or Polonezkoy is a bit of an expedition. I enjoy it though, because being on trains, buses and ferries gives me what I call empty time, when I have the space to daydream and random thoughts often become concrete ideas.

One thing I really love about Istanbul is whether you’re rich or poor you can drink tea and eat a meal by the water, enjoying the same mesmerising views, no matter your budget. It’s very democratic in that way so my hidden gems are the places locals can go and feel like royalty, whatever their social status. Spoiler alert – they’ll stay hidden.

What surprises you most about living in Turkey?

How kind Turkish people are, no matter what’s going on in their lives. I’ve seen the Turkish economy rise and fall over the years and right now people are doing it tough. Yet that doesn’t stop them thinking of others. Last week I was on the way to my gym and an older man slipped and fell while running for a bus. He cut his forehead quite badly. I picked up his transport card as a younger man helped him up and both of us gave him tissues to help stem the blood. Two woman suggested he might need stitches so the younger man escorted him across road and directed him to the hospital. This level of assistance is normal. I tripped on a bollard once and fell over and people even crossed a busy road to help me!

Then there’s the traditional pay it forward schemes like askıda ekmek where you buy an extra loaf of bread for someone without means and the modern version called askıda fatura. People in need are carefully vetted by councils and the government so strangers can pay money towards their bills (fatura in Turkish). This level of humanity is rare in the world these days but it’s an everyday occurrence in Turkey,

I Googled you today. Not only are you an author and blogger but you also write for media outlets, like CNN. Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline you can reveal?

Yes I do. I have a feature on beaches along the Lycian Way coming out in CNN Travel in the next few months and have also had an article on Istanbul accepted by the New York Times. I don’t know when they’ll be published so watch this space!

Add your own question that you’ve always wanted asked but never has been…

I’ve always wanted someone to ask me what I find the most frustrating part of writing. The answer is finding the exact word to describe a specific moment, feeling, touch, taste, sensation etc. I want people to know how Istanbul smells, what it’s like to be bathed in urban sweat, the emotions you go through as you negotiate life in Turkey as a both a foreigner and a local, and that can be extremely difficult.

I grew up in a house full of books, played word games with my parents and am a former English teacher (both as a foreign and second language). I know words matter and choosing the correct one can be agony. However when I do find the word that expresses precisely what I’m trying to say, it fits into place seamlessly and gives my writing an almost organic character, as if it came into being fully formed. In truth it’s the result of hours sitting at my computer, staring out windows, making notes and writing the same sentence three or four different ways to see which one works best. Nonetheless, no matter how exasperated I get, I love writing. It’s a privilege to be able to share my words and thus my world with others.

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The Legend of Shahmaran

It’s well known that I love me a good legend and while in Tarsus recently I came across a doozy.

This is the story of Shahmaran and Camasb.

Camasb is a young man who lived in Tarsus. While out foraging in the forest he explores a cave where he finds Shahmaran. Shahmaran is a mythical creature, half snake and half woman. He falls in love with this exquisite creature (no judgment) and they live together for many years in the cave. Eventually Camasb decides he wants to return home but promises he will never share the secret of Shahmaran.

Many years pass and the king of Tarsus becomes ill. The only treatment for his condition requires the flesh of a Shahmaran. Camasb double-crosses Shahmaran (well, duh!) and discloses her whereabouts. Shahmaran is killed but before she dies she gives a dire warning to the vizier “blanch me in an earthen dish, give my extract to the vizier and feed my flesh to the sultan”. The king eats her flesh and survives while the vizier drinks the extract and dies.

Personally, I think that Camasb deserved that extract more than the vizier who was only doing his job.

If you visit Tarsus there is a hamam called “Shahmaran Hamam” where, it is said, she was killed. I’m not sure that’s a great endorsement for any hamam but that’s not for me to question.

A statute of Shahmaran remains in Tarsus today to commemorate her sacrifice to save the King.

If you visit Kırk kaşık Bedesten (Forty Spoons undercover market) you can find a range of souvenirs of Shahmaran and many vendors ready to tell you her story.

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