Road Sign to Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province

I recently visited Izmir and toured parts of the Izmir province.

Today I publish some of the photos I took in the small seaside town of Iskele (Skala in Greek).

The Swan is the symbol of the ancient Ionian city of Klazomenai

Iskele is located a short distance away from the city of Urla (Vourla in Greek), built near the site of the ancient Ionian city of Klazomenai (Clazomenae), the birthplace of philosopher Anaxagoras.

Goalpost in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province, Turkey

The city of Urla is located 40km west of Izmir, on the Rythrean peninsula.

Fishing boats in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province, Turkey

The small port of Iskele in the 19th century and early 20th century was very busy when the famous raisin of the area was shipped abroad. According to some sources, in 1910 more than 1,600 tonnes were exported to Austria alone.

The summer house of the Seferis family in Iskerle, Urla, Izmir Province

Many wealthy families from Izmir and Urla had their summer residence in Iskele. One of the them, was the family of Stelios Seferiadis, a lawyer, and father of the Greek Nobel Laureate Giorgos Seferis, who was born in Izmir and raised in Urla. The residence is a complex of buildings that has been turned into a hotel and restaurant.

Renovated house in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province

According to the census of 1920, the city of Urla had 50,000 inhabitants; 35,000 Greeks, 5,000 Turks and 10,000 Armenians and Jews. Only 500 of them were living in Iskele.

Public Park in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province

As I was walking in the small town, a local resident asked me in Greek «where are you from?» And he knew the answer before I gave it to him.

Houses in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province

Sujuk Borek a la Greque – Μπουρεκι με Σουτζουκι

Τετάρτη, 17 Οκτωβρίου, 2012

This post is about a tasty component of the Eastern Road. The Eastern Road is the gateway connecting the Greek civilization with the East.

I confess that I am eternally fascinated by the multivaried taste of sujuk.

A good sujuk is like a door opening to a new world, for you to discover.

(Sujuk is a dry, dark, spicy sausage produced in the Balkans, Turkey and other countries like Armenia. It can be eaten raw, but I prefer to eat it cooked.)

I was lucky to receive a wonderful sujuk the other day, and by association I instinctively decided to create a sujuk borek.

The warmth, the enveloping flavours, the melting texture, make borek one of the all time favourites in my kitchen.

(Borek or Bourek is a baked or fried filled pastry made of thin dough.)

The filling of the sujuk borek comprises in addition to the sujuk: sliced tomatoes, sliced hard yellow cheese (I used Greek gruyere), and mint leaves.

The phyllo for the borek is made with flour, water, salt and a touch of olive oil. It has to be crispy and dry.

I place the sujuk on the phyllo, then the tomato slices, the mint leaves, and on top of everything the cheese.

I prefer to give the borek the shape of a baguette, as it is easier to bake and serve. If you prefer you can fry it, but baking is far superior for this dish.

The borek needs 20 minutes in 250 C and immediate serving, steaming hot.

It can be one of the most satisfying eating experiences.

Crispy crunchy phyllo, the Spartan side of the dish, partnered by the succulent flesh of the sujuk, flavoured by the mint leave, lubricated by the melted cheese and bound by the acidity of the tomato.

Accompany it with a glass of ouzo. Bon appetit!

A crouching Aphrodite in London

Δευτέρα, 15 Οκτωβρίου, 2012

I was in London for a few days and had the opportunity to visit the British Museum.

This post is about a crouching Aphrodite in the Museum. All the photos are mine, unless stated otherwise.

The statue’s official description given by the Museum’s web site is:

«Marble statue of a naked Aphrodite crouching at her bath»

Roman, 2nd century AD; a version of an original from Hellenistic Greece

The woman portrayed is a young woman, who literally sits on a jug of water which she presumably used to bathe herself.

Aphrodite or not, the woman is ordinary. There is nothing exceptional about here.

There is a very strong sense of motion in her body.

The body is turned to the left, but the face is looking at something to her right.

There is a sense of surprise in her look.

Her right hand is almost touching her hair on the left.

The overall posture of the body seems to be unusual by today’s strandards, and this is not only because of the jug.

Why did she assume this highly uncomfortable position?

What was the reason she turned her head to her right?

Was her name Aphrodite? Or the artist named the model in such a way due to commercial reasons?

This statue is sometimes known as ‘Lely’s Venus’ since it once belonged to the baroque portrait painter Sir Peter Lely (1618-80). It was subsequently acquired by King Charles I (reigned 1625-49).

(Source: British Museum’s website)

The three-dimensionality of the statue is typical of Hellenistic sculpture, as is the hairstyle with its elaborate top-knot. (Source: British Museum’s website)

Other versions of the crouching Aphrodite are known: some have an additional figure of Eros, the god of love, while others show the goddess kneeling on a water jar to indicate that she is bathing. (Source: British Museum’s website)

The way of expressing the human figure is realistic.  The idealization of the classical period has gone.

Another classical feature that is absent is the focused sexuality of the female body.

I look at this body and it has strength, it has tension, it stands solidly on earth, but is not the body that invites to sexual pleasures by its posture or disposition.

Compare and contrast with this statue, which stands next to the crouching Aphrodite.

It is this unique ability of the artist to portray a normal woman taken by surprise after taking her bath that moved me. It is real, it is strong, it is right in front of you and makes a statement: «I exist». The nakedness of the body is not shocking, or arousing. It comes naturally. This simplicity and directness and total respect for the unadulterated human body, makes this statue special.


Human relationships are diverse. But they can age like good red wine. This is what was circling in my mind the other day, after three dear internet friends had left Marathon.

We spent some wonderful time together, meeting in person for the first time after some four years of internet-relating.

The three friends are in alphabetical order: «J», a writer and journalist. «K», a professional in a vitally important industry. «N», an engineer in one of the most important sectors of the economy.

«J» is Greek, but lives abroad. The fact that she was in Athens gave us the opportunity to meet! Unusually, she brought with her a book written by another author, because she liked it and as she said «I do not like to give my books».

We started with an incredible appetizer: «K» created miniature «dolma» (stuffed parcels) with vineleafs, accompanied by a light but tasty sauce.

This is not a dish, it is a handcrafted artifact.

The miniature size ensures that this is not suitable for the «stuff your mouth» enthusiasts. It requires contemplation, careful observation of the physical object, prior to its consumption.

While caressing it in the mouth, it unleashes steadily and slowly the wonderful but restrained flavours of the vineleafs and the minced meat with rice stuffing.

Although I liked the sauce, I preferred to enjoy the «dolma» as a parcel of restrained joy and beauty.

«K» surprised me I must confess, because she is a very successful professional with a full schedule and a wonderful family. I never doubted the cooking talent, but the fact that she invested so much time in preparing the dish, is something I will never forget.

My fishmonger gave me some relatives of the red mullet, called «koutsomoura» in Greek. They were tiny, and straight out of the sea.

Before cooking them, I placed them in a water solution of coarse sea salt for one hour.

I fried and served them whole, without gutting them. No lemon, no salt.

I confess that I ate the whole thing, bones and the rest. Incredible sensation.

A cocktail of the flavours of the sea.

Para-singing Sinead: «Nofish compares to you»

My butcher supplied me with two legs of lamb, weighing three kilos in total.

I rubbed some coarse sea salt over the flesh, stuffed it with rosemary and two chilly peppers and roasted it in the oven.

The meat was lean and tasty, with firm texture, but not tough. I noted something rare for a lamb, there was no «greasy» aftertaste.

It was accompanied by stuffed aubergines baked in the oven, a variation of the «Imam Bayildi» recipe.

Sweet, tasty, but restrained, the aubergine developed a taste that lasted long and accompanied in an ideal way the robustness of the lamb’s flesh.

What a pair!!!

With the «dolma» and the fish we enjoyed a bottle of Torricella 2008 by Barone Ricasoli. A mighty chardonnay of 14 degrees, with a kick that can counter even red meat, exhibited amazing smoothness.

Wwith the meat and the aubergines, a Catalan red from Priorat, Embruix 2003 by Vall Llach, a Grenache blend, gave a memorable boost to the taste of the food, and helped me maintain the memory of it.

The concluding part was the sweet part, that started with sour yogurt made of lamb’s milk served with caramelized figs (with their skin).

A treat from the island of Andros, small pastries made with almond paste. gave a more firm texture to the sweet part.

We concluded with sweet custard pie, called «galaktompoureko» in Greek, a treat kindly brought to the team by «N».

The intense pleasures of the food and drink were marvelously enveloped by the smoke emanating from Upmann puritos.

«N» was also the one the steal the show at the end, when she gave to each one of us a gift to remember our meeting.

Thank you «J’, «K’, «N’, until the next time…

Ο ποιητης Νικος Καρουζος ταξιδεψε στον αλλο κοσμο την 28η Σεπτεμβριου 1990.

The Greek poet Nikos Karouzos died twenty two years ago this day.

Σχεδον δυο χρονια πριν, στα τελειωματα του 2010 ειχα γραψει ενα αρθρο για τον μεγαλο Ελληνα ποιητη.

Almost two years ago, at the end of 2010, I wrote an article about the great Greek poet.

The Greek poet Nikos Karouzos

Σημερα, τιμωντας την μνημη του για μια ακομη φορα, παραθετω ενα εκτενες αποσπασμα απο ενα κειμενο του που ξεκινησε να καμει κριτικη στον Καζαντζακη, αλλα επικεντρωθηκε στην «αγωνια κατάντικρυ στο μηδεν» (Νικος Καρουζος, Πεζα Κειμενα, Ικαρος Εκδοτικη Εταιρεια, 1998).

Today in his memory I publish an extract from an article he wrote criticizing Nikos Kazantzakis. The article is focused on the «agony in front of nothingness». It goes like this:

«…. Ας παρουμε λοιπον, αν οχι τιποτ’ αλλο, το Ταο τε κινγκ,   το περιφημο βιβλιο του Λαο-τσε, την πιο αμυθοποιητη μεταφυσικη διδασκαλια της Αρχαιας Ασιας. Την αγωνια που μας βαζει συστηθους απεναντι στο μηδεν – απ’ τη χαμηλοτερη βαθμιδα της ως την υψηλοτερη, εκεινη που φανερωνει μ’ αλλα λογια την αγωνια ως υψωτικη μεριμνα – την κανει να υπαρχει, κατα τη διδασκαλια τουτη, το κτητικο-προσκολλητικο στοιχειο της υπαρξεως: η ατομικοτητα.

«… Let us then take, if nothing else, Tao te Ching, Lao Tse’s masterpiece, the most metaphysical teaching of Anceint Asia that is not prone to Myth. According to Lao Tse, the agony we experience in front of nothingness – from its lowest degree to the highest, where it is experienced as redemption anxiety – emerges out of the posessive – attachment attribute of our existence: individuality.

Martin Heidegger’s Feldweg in Messkirch, Germany

Εκεινος που δινεται στην μελετη 

γινεται πιοτερος μερα με τη μερα. 

Εκεινος που αφιερωνεται στο Ταο

ελαττωνεται μερα με τη μερα. 

He who devotes himself to learning

(seeks) from day to day to increase (his knowledge);

he who devotes himself to the Tao

(seeks) from day to day to diminish (his doing).

Lao Tse

Ελατωσου κι ακομη ελαττωσου

για να φτασεις καποτε στην απραξια. 

Με την απραξια

τιποτα δεν υπαρχει που να μη γινεται.

(Ταο τε κινγκ, 48)

He diminishes it and again diminishes it,

till he arrives at doing nothing (on purpose).

Having arrived at this point of non-action,

there is nothing which he does not do. ((chap. 48)

C D Friedrich: Der Wanderer

Θυμιζουμε την οντολογικη θεμελιωση της ταοϊκης διδασκαλιας:

Let us be reminded of the ontological foundation of taoism:

Ο γυρισμος ειν’ η κινηση του Ταο.

Τουτο φανερωνεται στο να’ ναι κανεις εξω απ’ τη δυναμη. 

Ολα τα οντα πηγαζουν απ’το Ειναι

το Ειναι πηγαζει απ’ το Μη-Ειναι

(Ταο τε κινγκ, 40)

In Tao the only motion is returning;

The only useful quality, weakness.

For though all creatures under heaven are the products of Being,

Being itself is the product of Not-being. » (chap. 40, tr. Waley)

The Greek poet Nikos Karouzos

Το Ταο ειν’ ο δρομος προς το αδειασμα της ατομικοτητας, πηγης της κτητικοτητας και του εξουσιαζειν.

Tao is the way to get rid of individuality, which is the source of posessiveness and power.

Το Ταο ειν’ ο δρομος προς την απραξια, που σημαινει βασικα την μη προσκολληση στ’ αποτελεσματα του πραττειν, ειτε αυτα ειν’ αγαθα ειτε αυτα ειν’ ασχημα.

Tao is the road to doing nothing, which means non attachment to the results of acting, good or bad.  

Το Ταο ειν’ η κινηση προς την καθαρα πνευματικη χρηση του Ειναι, προς το μη-εγω που ειναι τα αταραχτο εγω της μη-ατομικοτητας, του μη-κτητικου-προσκολλητικου στοιχειου της υπαρξεως, προς την εξουδετερωση της αγωνιας, προς την μεταμορφωση σε πνευμα της υλης: την αταραξια.

Tao is the movement to the actualization of Being, to the non-Being, which is the undisturbed nucleus of non-individuality, of the non-posessive, non-aatached element of existence, to the neutralization of anxiety, to stillness.

Φτασε στην κενοτητα την υψιστη

και σ’ αταραξια διατηρησου…(16)

The (state of) vacancy should be brought to the utmost degree, and that of stillness guarded with unwearying vigour. (16)

Γιατι το ειναι και το μηδεν γεννιουνται το εν’ απ’ τ’ αλλο.(2)

So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other (2)

Σ’ αυτο το σημειο το ειναι και το μηδεν ειν’ ακριβως ο,τι ο Ηρακλειτος ονομαζει «ζων» και «τεθνηκος» που ειναι «ταυτο».

Ειν’ η παντοδεχτρα ζωη κι ο παντοδεχτης θανατος, οπου αγωνια κι ο Καζαντζακης…

It is at this point that being and nothingness is exactly what Heracletus calls «living» and «decesaed» that are «the same».

It is the all encompassing life and the all encomapssing death, where Kazantzakis’ anxiety originates.


ταὐτὸ ζῶν καὶ τεθνηκὸς καὶ ἐγρηγορὸς καὶ καθεῦδον καὶ νέον καὶ γηραιόν· τάδε γὰρ μεταπεσόντα ἐκεῖνά ἐστι κἀκεῖνα πάλιν μεταπεσόντα ταῦτα.

Ηρακλειτος (αποσπασμα 88)

And it is the same thing in us that is quick and dead, awake and asleep, young and old; the former are shifted and become the latter, and the latter in turn are shifted and become the former.

Heracletus (fragmentum 88)

… because incoherence is preferable to a distorting order …

Τρίτη, 25 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2012

“In certain places, at certain hours, gazing at the sea is dangerous.

It is what looking at a woman sometimes is.”

Victor Hugo

«I looked at Pauline and asked her if she felt she had the courage to bear the pounding brilliance of the sun and the strength to walk on the sand»

Honore de Balzac

«I was nearly sixteen when I met Simone, a girl my own age, at the beach in X. Our families being distantly related, we quickly grew intimate.»

Georges Batailles

«I am most useful when I am not needed»

My personal self

«what is in life that is not an enigma riddle?

isn’t life itself a riddle enigma»

Nikos Eggonopoulos

“Like all texts, the beach has an author – not, admittedly, a named individual, but a historically determined set of community practices that have produced material objects or signs.”

John Fiske

«The sea washes away and cleanses every human stain»

Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris

Notes: 1.The phrase in the title is quoted by Roland Barthes as being «Gidean», ie belonging to Andre Gide.

2. I took the photographs in Marathon Beach, Attica, Greece, in mid September 2012.

It is almost ironic that one of the bloodiest chapters of Sheikh Bedreddin’s rebellion in 1416-1420 was written on the Karaburun peninsula, in the Aydin province, 90 km west of Smyrna, or Izmir, the theater of a huge humanitarian disaster in 1922. I wrote about this in the previous post. Now, trying to console my self, I pay tribute to Sheikh Bedreddin, a Sufi preacher and rebel in the first half of the 15th century.

Karaburun peninsula

“Share all you have apart from the lips of your beloved one”

(attributed to) Sheikh Bedreddin

Sheik Bedreddin (or Bedrettin, or Badraldin), was born in the town of Simavna (or Simavne, today in Greece, municipality of Kyprinos, locality of Ammovounio), in the southwest of Edirne (Adrianople) around 1358, the son of a gazi (warrior of the Islamic Faith) and the daughter of the Byzantine commander whose fortress he had captured.

He studied in Adrianople and Bursa, and then he studied philosophy and law in Konya and Cairo he had gone to Ardabil in Ajerbaijan (today in Iran) which was under Timurid domination and the home of the mystical Safaviyya order founded by the Kurdish mystic Sheikh Safi-ad-din Ardabili (1252–1334).

Mawlānā Rumi’s tomb, Konya, Turkey

«The Ottoman seraglio in Bursa and/or Adrianople in the fourteenth and the fifteenthcenturies was open to literary circles interested in Ottoman–Christian interaction. A Sufi and lettrist teacher such as Bistami advertized that he had spent time in Chios ‘with thelearned and virtuous of the Christians’. Sheikh Bedreddin also sought to utilize connections with the Christian world. Owing to the common emphasis laid on psychophysical askesis by both Hesychasm and Sufism and the dissemination of the Greek language, Islamic mysticism could conveniently accommodate crypto-Christian tendencies.Christians and Muslims, Greeks and Turks met on an esoteric and spiritual level and the graecophone Jews (Romaniotes) often assumed the role of mediator. It is no coincidence that the pillar of Roman Orthodoxy, Gregory Palamas, reflected upon his discussions with the mysterious Chionai he met during his Turkish captivity in 1354 to the effect that a symphonia between mystical Islam and his notion of Orthodoxy was only a questionof time. Moreover, adherents of both Bektashi and Hurufi devotions and incipient sectarianisms were familiar with eastern Christianity, directly or indirectly initiating the secret islamization of Christian monks.» (1)

Sheikh Safi al-Din’s tomb

Sheikh Bedrettin had a great feeling for social justice and freedom. He was an adherent of a democratically elected governing model and defended the oppressed Turkish, Greek and Jewish poor people.

Carrier of a mystical universalist tradition with links to Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi,Rumi and Haji Bektash, Sheikh Bedreddin proceeded to an attempt at unifying the three Abrahamic monotheistic religions into a universal religion destined to subvert the Ottoman establishment. Bedreddin’s mysticism had deep roots extending beyond theimmediate Islamic framework.

Haji Bektash Veli (1209–1271)

I open a parenthesis here in order to say a few things about Haji Bektash and his teachings.

Haji Bektash Veli ‘s philosophy was based on love for God, love for humanity, tolerance, sharing, social peace, and honesty. He continuously emphasized the importance of knowledge, wisdom, honesty, tolerance, brotherhood, unity, friendship, and morality. He approached religious and Sufi issues clearly in his book Makalat, which was written based on “four gates” and “forty authorities.” The four gates represent ShariaTariqaMarifa, and Haqiqa, and the forty authorities represent the understanding accepted and followed by Turkish Sufis.The Sufism movement, which started with Ahmed Yesevi in Turkistan, inspired Haji Bektash Veli, Rumi, and Yunus Emre in Anatolia. These three people, being more advanced than their contemporaries, laid the foundations of Anatolian tolerance and understanding.

Those who attended Haji Bektash Veli’s lessons and conversations and followed his path were called BektashiBektashism is an Alevi Sufi order that represents Haji Bektash Veli, and this order has been accepted in the Balkans, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Hungary, and Azerbaijan. Bektashism is a teaching that focuses on “the human.” Its aim is to reach a level of competence and perfect human status known as Insan-I Kamil, and a training process is essential to reaching this level. The system can be summarized by saying, “Be the master of your hand, waist, and tongue.” It requires free minds that are always thinking. Their philosophy is far from fanatical, and it requires a loving approach toward God. The collaboration of both men and women is highly crucial in this philosophy.

Close parenthesis.

Musa Çelebi (?-1413)

Bedreddin developed pantheistic ideas, building on the work of Ibn Al’ Arabi on the «Oneness of Being». Ibn Al’ Arabi never used the term, but the idea is implicit in all his writtings.

«The doctrine of «Oneness of Being» sought to eliminate the oppositions which framed life on earth – such as those between religions, and between the privileged and the powerless – which were considered to inhibit the oneness of the individual with God. The struggle for oneness gave the mystic an important role for it was he, rathen than the orthodox cleric, who had the wisdom, and therefore the task, to guide man to union with God  » (2)

Though his religious universalism was not necessarily incompatible with his role as head kadi (military judge) under Musa Çelebi (1411–1413), it appears that at a time of economical and political instability his mystical-reformist movement grew fast in the European part of the Ottoman Empire.

Musa Çelebi’s rule soon encountered problems.

«He began to resent the power and wealth gained by the gazi chiefs through booty and timars, and turned increasingly to the servants of the palace (kapikullars), transferring positions and timars to them, while ordering the gazis to stop their raids into Christian territory. At the same time, Beddredin’s doctrines, while appealing to the impoverished masses, were abhorrent to the orthodox religious leaders and Turkish notables alike, so that the latter began to plot to eliminate the regime as rapidly as possible.  The conservative religious leaders openly criticized Bedreddin as heretic and demanded that Musa remove him. This doctrine was potentially highly subversive of evolving Ottoman efforts to establish through conquest a state with Sunni Islam as its religion and their eponymous dynasty at its pinnacle.» (3)

In 1413 Mehmet I (reign 1413 – 1421) overthrew Musa Çelebi and crowned himself sultan in Edirne. He restored the empire, and moved the capital from Bursa to Edirne

Mehmed I Celebi

Mehmed I exiled Sheikh Bedreddin to Iznik. At the time, Bedreddin had already achieved considerable mass following, and the economic consequences of a long period of military campaigns added to his popularity among the impoverished. From Iznik Bedreedin worked to rebuild his order, sending out preachers to spread his message and  organize secter cells of supporters.

Afraid of what Mehmed I might do to him in his Iznik exile, Bedreddin fled to Samsum in 1415, hoping to get support from the Candar (Jandar) beylik (principality). However, the beylik smelled trouble and sent Bedreddin away to Rumeli, in Wallachia, where Mihail, Mircea’s son was the ruler. Mihail gave Bedreddin material support to raise a revolt in the European part of the Ottoman Empire.

The Rebellion of 1416, probably the largest in Ottoman history, began in 1416 and took place on two fronts—the western coast of Anatolia and the Zagora region of Bulgaria.

Sheikh Bedreddin

While Bedreddin was preaching in Rumeli, his supporters raised several revolts in Anatolia. It seemed very likely that a popular protest might sweep the Ottomans out of Anatolia altogether.

Sheikh Bedreddin’s revolt was short lived.

After the revolt was put down, Bedreddin was judged and executed in 1420 at Serez (Serres), accused of distrurbing public order by preaching that property must be communal and that there was no difference between the various religions and their prophets.

He was buried in Serres. His remains were transferred to Turkey in 1924, at the time fo the Greco-Turkish population exchange, but did not find a final restin gplace until when they were burried in the graveyard around the Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud II, near the covered market (bazaar) in Istanbul.

Sheikh Bedreddin’s Tomb

The Turkish poet and Nobel Laureate Nazim Hikmet wrote a poem inspired by the rebelious Sheikh «The epic of Sheikh Bedreddin».

Returning to the lake,

Bedreddin spoke to himself:

“That fire in my breast has ignited

And is mounting with each day.

Even were my heart forged of iron,

It could not endure this fire. It would melt!

The time for me to emerge and burst forth has come!

The time for we men of the land to rise up

And conquer the land has come!

And we shall see confirmed

The strength of knowledge, the secret of Oneness!

And we shall see canceled

The laws of all nations and religious sects!”

Nazin Hikmet


(1) Sect and Utopia in shifting empires: Plethon, Elissaios,Bedreddin, Niketas Siniossoglou, University of Cambridge, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies Vol.36 No. 1 (2012) 38–55

(2) Osman’s Dream, Caroline Finkel

(3) History of the Ottoman Empire and Modrn Turkey, Volume 1, Stanford Shaw


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