The first year of our relationship was a long distance affair as I was finishing my education in England. However we saw each other as often as we could manage and within less than a year we had set upon looking for virgin land.
The idea was quite spontaneous, we sat one day by the Bosporus and I mentioned that it would be nice to by a plot of land someday and within a week Erkan had organised a trip to the west coast of Turkey to look at olive land. Erkan chose this area because it is his familys origin. His mothers mother came from a village in the area and his fathers father was involved in the olive business there. I, who knew very little about Turkey and could not form an informed decision of my own, was naively happy to trust Erkan's judgement of the area. It was a simple procedure, we looked at one plot of land and it didnt feel right, we looked at a second said yes and that was that, decision made. Our spontaneity and faith has been our saving grace but we have been lucky, it is only now with our experience of living there that I realise how many things could have gone wrong.
Firstly we had looked at the nearby river as a source of beauty and enjoyment. Having no prior experience of ecological building and not considering much in advance we had not consciously realised that this river was our most important life source. We were on a plot of land kilometres from the nearest house with none of the modern conveniences such as running water and electricity and this river has provided us with an endless supply of water. The area is also windy, an element that Id previously viewed with distain. Years of cycling against tough winds in London made wind my least favourite weather variation. But, with the assistance of a small wind generator and a recycled car battery we have a sustainable supply of electricity. Our life on the land is basic and we dont need much, just enough light to read in the dark evenings.
It took us a while to discover the area and we are learning everyday about the richness of birds, animals and herbs and plants of the environment. We knew that at one point on the river there was a bridge and the water got deep enough to swim and we used to visit there everyday. It took us two months to discover the waterfall with its great pools and summer café selling cay and gozleme! This was a great discovery. I have realised that (most) humans are essentially social creatures, something perhaps that we take for granted in the city when we can see our friends when ever we wish. But it was great to know that we could enjoy the peaceful tranquillity of the land but also be in a social environment in 10 mins walk.
This area along the west coast of Turkey is a tourist haven for city Turk escaping the heat of peak summer. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The plus point as I have mentioned is the social aspect, the area becomes buzzing with people at the pazars and cafés and restaurants. However this huge influx creates a concentrated of waste a pollution in such a small amount of time, in an area that it not equipped for it. Many leave their pick-nick waste by the river and on the beech, waste collected by the café owners is often buried or left in unseen parts of the river assuming that it will be washed out to sea in the winter months. Recycling bins are appearing in the larger cities but need to be in the local areas and in supermarket car parks too be effective and there is still a huge lack of education in Turkey generally about responsible disposal of waste. It is heart breaking to see the natural road littered with coke cans, crisp packets and plastic water bottles and bear bottles and cigarette ends floating in the fresh water.
Another positive aspect is the fact that the local people over many years have become used to the tourists and even seeing the odd foreigner. They are very relaxed and welcoming people. Certainly for us the support and generosity from our local village has been overwhelming and an incredibly important factor of us being so happy there. We have becomes great friends with the family from whom we bought land. They have taught us everything about how to farm the olives and we all work and learn together about new and old ways of ecological building.
As I mentioned, being so spontaneous about our move has been our saving grace. We did not have time to build up a perfect image in our minds and thus have not been disappointed, however I am grateful for our good luck and the way that things have turned out for us and it makes us believe that it was meant be. It is our intention (and of others in the area) to create an ecological community network to help create more awareness about ecological methods so that this beautiful Turkish coastline from Canakkale to Ayvalik does rot with the development and pollution of the increasing tourist population.