Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | October 26, 2013

Balci Koyu- far away from Molly’s Café!

Recently my accountant invited me to visit his village with him, as he had some business there. Since I had not been out of Istanbul for two years, except to go to Texas and Canada, I decided I would do it. I closed the café for the day and ventured out.

I was on the ferry to Kadikoy as the sun was just reddening the sky. Yasar met me at the iskele and led me to his car, where his lawyer, Murat, was in the front seat and Yasar’s wife, Birgul, was in the back. We immediately headed out to Adapazari and beyond. We left Birgul at the bus station in Izmit, as she had some things to take of (a sick relative, it turned out) and stopped on the highway outside of town for a huge traditional breakfast buffet, with everything from ‘village’ bread to fried vegetables to melemen (slightly sloppy scrambled eggs). We ate and ate. Outside I petted a friendly dog and then off we went again.  On the way we stopped so I could take photos of a dam that i guess was built to help with irrigation.  It was a good opportunity to look at the countryside.









Yasar and Murat had business at the courthouse, so we had to go to a small town called Kandira. On the way, we stopped to see a dam that had been built. It was not the grand dam (ha ha) that I had expected, but the view was very picturesque. I waited at the courthouse for their case to come up and I chatted with Yasar’s relative, a chubby young woman. They are trying to correct the deed to their property, which has not been sorted out since Ottoman times. Of course various people have died in the past 80 years, so sorting it out is problematic, as there are a lot of relatives involved in it now. After the hearing, they had to do something else in another part of the complex, so I waited outside and took a picture of the typical dog sleeping in the sun. CIMG0236




After they came out, we went across the street for some tea and then had to go to the tapu (deed) office. There I saw some other people who were evidently also trying to get their land ownership sorted out, as their documents included a photocopy of papers written in Osmanlica, the old form of Turkish written in Arabic script. Yasar and I waited outside, where we looked at the cows that were grazing in the empty lot beside the road. I commented on their necklaces and Yasar told me that they were to ward off bad luck. The man looking after the cows sat on the upper roadside with his dogs. Apparently he can take his cows to graze any empty lot as long as he has permission and/or it does not damage the land. CIMG0239CIMG0238





I commented on the many realtors I had seen around. This area is in the vicinity of where the highway to and from the infamous third bridge will be. Now a donum (about 1000 square metres) that used to sell for about 500 lira might sell for 30,000 lira. People will buy them as an investment or to build their country villas on or developers will buy a lot of them to build ugly apartment buildings and villas.


CIMG0241Balci Koyu (Village) is tiny. There are maybe half a dozen houses in a hidden little spot. You cannot see it from the main road (well, at least the paved road). We had the one sister with us in the car and the two other sisters greeted us at the gate. The mother waited for us in the house until we had finished looking at their large garden and their outside oven, in which they had made pide for us. CIMG0243They had also roasted chestnuts in it for us. They grow enough food to feed themselves and to give away. They also have a small acreage nearby where they grow maydonos (like parsley) and onions, and also where they have a small greenhouse for more onions and lettuce. These women do all the work themselves, except for having someone come in periodically with a tractor to plough the acreage.




CIMG0249We went inside for a wonderful lunch spread. This included meat from the ‘kurban’ they had during the Feast of the Sacrifice. This was cut into little pieces. There were also fried potato pieces, the potatoes from the garden of course. Fresh green peppers, fresh white cheese they had bought from a neighbour, store-bought helva, and what they called lokum. This usually refers to Turkish delight, but in this case it was a bread with walnuts and a little sugar in it, a sort of Turkish version of cinnamon rolls. Of course there were also olives and endless glasses of tea. CIMG0250




CIMG0268After we had eaten as much as we possibly could, in spite of urgings to eat more, we walked out to see the small acreage. This is part of the land that is in court. Yasar pointed out a mountain in the near distance and told me that the Black Sea was just on the other side of it. CIMG0270Two of the sisters picked maydonos and told us that they got about 80 kurus (40 cents) for two bunches, which then sell to the consumer at 1 lira or more. They showed us how if the stalk of the maydonos was white or pale green, it was acceptable for sale, but if it was yellow, it would be rejected. Part of the area had been harvested but isolated bunches were coming up. When winter comes, the whole area dies down. CIMG0266









CIMG0258Then we walked around the village a bit. Across from their house is a cesme, a spring. This one dripped out of a pipe. When the area it dripped into got full, the water went into a trough from which the animals could drink. The people in the village used this and another one for their own water, but now they have running water. CIMG0259CIMG0294Nearby was an old stone that was used to pound bulgur. Now it just collects rainwater. Other interesting things I saw was a tall narrow slatted structure. This is for holding cobs of corn as they dry. I saw a full one in another village later on.



CIMG0281When we got to the end of the village road (maybe 100 metres down), we saw another spring. A woman was cleaning it up a bit. Like the other one, it had a trough for the overflow. However, the water in it came up from the ground in three different places. When the village used the water from it for their homes they would send someone down to clean it out once in a while– 10 metres of cold cold water! However, they complained that when the city put in the new brick roads, the way the spring was covered made it hard for the anyone to get in and clean it.


CIMG0271As we walked, we were barked at by dogs, mewed at by kittens, quacked at by ducks, mooed at by cows. There were chickens around the village. A group was in the bushes when we came out from looking at the field and there were others here and there. CIMG0286 At one corner there were a few chicken condos. The chickens knew which ones were theirs and returned at night. The human owners could check for eggs, though if an egg was laid elsewhere it was fair game.









CIMG0256When we returned to the house, we sat outside and were given chocolate, real lokum, cookies, more tea, Turkish coffee, more tea, nescafe (I passed), more tea. They have a very comfortable place for the summer, as there are a few couches and an armchair under the metal roof. CIMG0257CIMG0256





CIMG0299When we left, these generous woman loaded us up with goodies. I took home two bags full. While I was waiting for the ferry home, I looked to see what was there. One full bag of mint, from which I found some pieces with roots and planted them in my ‘garden’ at the café The other bag contained some of the lokum bread; some of their homemade village bread, solid and crusty; some of the spinach pide they had made in the outside oven; and some home-grown organic maydonos.


It was very interesting to spend time in the tiny village with these authentic village women. After we left, I asked about them. The daughters ranged in age from 30 to 45 and had never married. There was no one in the village and they did not want to move to a bigger city to find a husband. Also their father became ill and died a few years ago and now their mother is ill. They are very lucky that Yasar is helping them. He and his wife see them as a little helpless, and they probably are in the worldly sense. However, at the same time I saw them as strong women. They take care of their mother, they plan and plant and harvest their garden and fields, and they manage their house. I really enjoyed my time with them. I certainly enjoyed getting into the beautiful countryside and out of the city.


As we drove back into the present, Yasar would point out various villages where his relatives lived. I really got a sense of how wide the Turkish family can be. I was very pleased to have been invited in to that world for a day.




  1. Great day out, Molly , and reminiscent of some of my own unlikely forays into deepest Abruzzo in my early times there. It was so kind of people to take us on such outings, and these experiences are interesting in terms of re-evaluating our own societies’ ways of living, I think.Thanks!

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