Upon leaving Istanbul we have quickly fallen into the rhythm of travel. Melon and salty cheese for breakfast, a beach side stop for quick BBQ and salad lunch followed by a skinny dip and then find a place to pitch the tent for more BBQ and salad for dinner.
Today we left mainland Turkey to visit Gokceada one of only two Turkish Islands. Umit had told us of its beautiful beaches and rugged landscape, he was not lying. Interestingly it is also attempting to become entirely organic. Our map (which covers all of Europe) showed only five roads on the whole island and so our plan was to drive around the island then decide the best place to pitch up camp. And so after we got off the ferry we took the first dirt road to our left (not marked on our map) and drove ensuring that the sea was on our left. This was more or less fine until the road ahead of us was completely washed away, by what looked like a flash flood, all that was left was the concrete bridge over a small rocky stream. With no way onto or off the bridge we were forced to back track to another track away that went over the mountains.
On the other side of the mountains was the township of Gokceada. The road being washed away was actually a good thing as Gokceada provided us with local Sunday markets to replenish our salad and cheese supplies. The nicest butcher in the world from whom we bought four small lamb steaks and then gave us half a massive local beef sausage as a gift which Rob had wanted, but was scared of how big it was. The butcher didn’t speak any English but somehow understood our discussion. Plates, glasses and a hat for Julie (we still need cutlery). Some bread and a bottle of local 2008 Syrah.
We spent the rest of the day adventuring around the island as close to the coast as the mostly paved roads would allow in search of a campsite. Seven kilometres off the main road we found Marmaros. An isolated cove surrounded by mountains with no one in sight except goats and the sound of their bells tinkering around their necks through the hills and forest. Just as we decided that this would be the perfect place to camp heavy rain started. Followed by the biggest thunderstorm we have seen in the bell tent just after it we got it up. After the storm we realised that across all the ground was beautiful wild thyme which filled the air with a fantastic scent and a calm evening so we could enjoy a campfire.
Grilled Green Chilli Peppers – Cold Mezze
The Turks love grilling whole green chilli peppers and eating them with BBQ, we have also been enjoying them. At the markets there was an old man selling some good looking ones and so we decided to get ten or so, however he enthusiastically kept adding more to the bag until we had a kilo, not too worry they only cost us 1TL (1 Turkish Lira is about 35 euro cents). We grilled a few of them up to have with lunch and while they had delicious flavour they had none of the spiciness that we really enjoy. This is not a recipe, just how we enjoyed a kilo of tasty long green chilli peppers. The hot biber chilli flakes were from the Istanbul’s biggest market in Kadakoy (on the Asian side). The market man warned us that they were very hot and then proceeded to give us enough to last a life time. He wasn’t kidding about how hot they are.
Long green chilli peppers
Hot biber chilli flakes
Fry the long chilli peppers on an oiled griddle pan until they are well charred all over. Sprinkle with salt and once cool chop roughly. In a bowl mix the chillies with more olive oil and a couple of pinches of hot chilli flakes.
We enjoyed this with the lamb from the butcher which Rob marinated with some olive oil, lemon and pepper and the wild thyme on the ground. It was amazing, the lamb was tender juicy and with all the flavours of the island that we had been smelling all day. The wine was a perfect match, in fact it tasted just like a Chambers Winery red (from Rutherglen). Just as we were settling down to enjoy the camp fire we had one more surprise, what can only be described as a cacophony of frog mating calls. For those of you that know of Julie’s tombo (dragonfly) camping story in Japan, it was not quite as loud as that but not far off.