Troy – Yes, It Does Exist but where the heck is it?

I’d always thought Troy of Homer’s Iliad, Helen, the Trojan Horse and Brad Pitt fame was in Greece, I didn’t know that it was in Turkey. Fortunately I wasn´t alone and several in our tour group didn´t know it is in Turkey either. That was a bit of a relief as most appeared to be highly intelligent (unlike the person who was looking for a Vietnam Vet in Gallipoli!) and I didn´t want to appear to be the only dumb cluck.

This was the first visit where we used our ‘Whispers’ (walkie talkies) so even when wandering off we could receive information.  It was a nice visit but didn´t take too long, as there aren’t a lot of archaeological “wow” moments as Troy lacks many of the grandiose columns and buildings of ruins like Ephesus and is mostly the remains of stone walls.

It’s not easy to make sense of because it is made up of cities on top of cities, so the levels start at the bottom and work their way to the top.  Often a city was destroyed and a new city would be built in the same place. What you end up with is the first city Troy I, then subsequent cities that are numbered up to Troy IX.  I found it quite confusing even trying to follow the map makes my head spin.

Troy (5)

Was it worth the visit, IMO it was, a place so famous well you just have to go to say  ‘I have been there!’ even if there is not that much around and the giant wooden horse out the front – a replica of course, is good for the tourist photo-shoots.

Troy (13)

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A must see – Las Tablas de San Andrés, Icod de los Vinos

Las Tablas de San Andrés is a crazy tradition that is celebrated every year on 29th November in the town of Icod de los Vinos, in the north of Tenerife.  Whilst it leads up to the celebration of when the bodegas open their doors for visitors to sample the new wines of the region, by comparison this is quite a staid event even though at the bodegas vast quantities of vino can be involved.

In essence, the “tablas” is a celebration of the customs of ordinary folk in years gone by which has been adapted to present day and involves sliding down the town streets on your bum and hoping you reach the end still in one piece.

The name San Andres might sounds religious but the celebration itself has nothing to do with the church or religion and is just an easy way to remember when it takes place.

To understand the origins of the “tablas” it helps if you know that the terrain of the municipality like many on the island ranges from high up in the mountains all the way down to sea level and Icod is typical. It is also worth bearing in mind that shortly after the Conquest, the first vines were planted on Tenerife in 1497 and wine production commenced.

Tenerife became the largest producer of quality wines in the Canary Islands and there was a huge demand in Europe. To meet this demand, wine makers would take wood from the high lands to the workshops by the sea where casks could be made. They also carried empty casks from the cellars for cleaning in the sea, as salt water apparently removes acids from the inside of the barrel. In the absence of adequate transport, the wood travelled down the steep streets either by rolling or fastened to a large plank. To avoid accidents branches were used to steer the precarious route and as brakes.

With this chaotic picture in mind, it is easy to see how many of those involved in accompanying the barrels found it amusing and exciting. And so the tradition was born….

Despite the passage of time and improvements in transport, the ritual is always repeated on the same date and just gets crazier with each year that passes.  Everyone joins in.  They start them early in the north and little kids make their first intrepid attempt as they slide carefully with mum and dad close to hand in case of an accident. The pre-teens move to the steeper streets getting braver as they get older until you are finally left watching the teenage boys as they career faster and faster down the twisting streets until they end up, hopefully in a pile of tyres and with no bones broken or macho pride bruised.

All the excitement makes you hungry so it is fortunate that the local bars have set up stalls and braziers selling roast chestnuts.  For me a reminder that winter has arrived and Christmas is just around the corner. So if you are on the island, make sure you add the event to your diary as this unique tradition should not be missed.

Roasted-Chestnuts

Images courtesy of Ayuntamiento de Icod de los Vinos
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Tips on Turkish Coffee

I have said on several occasions how I love coffee and my over indulgence has on the odd occasion brought on a caffeine headache. It was therefore a surprise that I hated Turkish coffee. I don’t understand how anyone can drink a cup of mud like substance and not throw up. The giveaway was when the taste was describes as “interesting” – I should have realised then that I was not missing a lot.

Nevertheless I thought I would give the recipe as explained by our Tour Guide, Aykut, on our recent Turkish road trip in case anyone braver than me is tempted.

Firstly you must understand that in Turkey coffee is a big thing.  The question is not do you want a coffee, but rather how do you have your Turkish coffee. By ‘how’, your host is asking about the amount of sugar you would like and to answer, you say “sade” – no sugar; “az seker” a little sugar; or “sekerli” very sweet. It is then the responsibility of the person making the coffee, usually the youngest girl of the house (I will expand on this when I get around to arranged marriages) to prepare it according to everyone’s individual preferences.

Making Turkish coffee requires no special skills but there is a ritual to follow and it cannot be rushed especially if each person’s preference is different as cups are made individually and not just in a large pot.

According to Aykut, the Turks buy tiny quantities of coffee, about 250g at a time, to ensure it is always fresh. It is ground extra fine and used as needed rather than storing in a jar. You also need quality water and a metal spoon for stirring, together with a special wide bottom pot, usually made of copper with a long wooden handle called an Ibrik. Coffee is always served in cups the size of an espresso cup, however even the beautifully decorated cups were not enough to tempt me to try a second time.

   

Turkish coffee is famed for the way it is made.

  • Always use cold, filtered water. To measure the amount of water for each cup, use the coffee cup you are serving the coffee in, rather than a standard measuring cup.
  • For each cup of coffee, use a heaping tablespoon of ground coffee.  Do not stir it yet. Just let the coffee “float” on the surface of the water because if you stir it now you might cause it to clump together. Put the pot on the stove to heat.
  • Add sugar to taste. Still Do Not Stir – let the water warm a little. Turn the heat to medium-high for about 3-4 minutes.
  • When the coffee starts to sink into the water and the water is warm enough to dissolve the sugar, stir it several times this encourages foam to build up.
  •  As the coffee warms and the bubbles form on the surface, turn down the heat. This dark foam is important. It is customary to serve Turkish coffee with foam on top.
  •  Using a teaspoon, transfer some of the foam into each coffee cup.
  •  Return the pot to the heat, when hot, pour half the liquid into the cups over the foam.
  •  Return coffee pot to stove again for an additional 15-20 seconds and pour the rest of the liquid into the cups, filling them to the rim.
  •  It is extremely important never take your eye off the process. Do not let the temperature get hot enough to start boiling or the coffee will taste bitter.
  • Keep it at the “foaming” stage as long as you can. The more froth, the better it will taste.

Serving and Drinking Turkish Coffee

  • Turkish coffee must always be served with foam on top. Do not stir after pouring into cups or the foam will collapse.
  • Wait about half a minute or so to let the grinds settle to the bottom of your cup, then drink sip by sip.
  • Turkish coffee is always served with a glass of water. Drink this first to cleanse your palate.
  • Cream or milk is never added to Turkish coffee.
  • If you want to go authentic or want to tone down the strength and intensity of the brew, you can add spices such as cardamom or anise.
  • Most people like to serve coffee with a small sweet like Turkish delight or a chocolate.
  • When it comes to serving, it is important to start with the eldest guest in the room. It is a sign of respect to acknowledge their age and considered disrespectful not to do so.
  • Since Turkish coffee is much denser than filtered coffee, it is not customary to drink more than one cup.
  • In some regions, your fortune can be told by the placement of the coffee grinds left in the cup!

Images taken from various sources on internet
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Airport – Reduced Mobility Assistance

Having been asked for this information today and on several occasions in the past, I thought it a good idea to publish the information on here so that I know exactly what to tell people when next they ask as ordinarily I am rooting around trying to think!

“Sin Barreras”

Capture

This information is taken from a leaflet “Sin Barreras” available in Spanish and English at all Spanish airports.

It is an overview of what is available and how to obtain assistance. The leaflet can be found at Tenerife Sur Reina Sofia airport by the “Sin Barreras” station near the departure gate number 1. I don’t know about the North airport but I imagine something similar.

Different disabilities by code: -

WCHC entirely immobile and not self-sufficient. Must be accompanied to their seats and need complete personal assistance.

WCHR help needed getting from the aircraft to the terminal. They can board and move around the aircraft on their own.

WCHS help needed getting from the aircraft to the terminal and also for boarding. Are self sufficient on the aircraft.

DEAF Deaf passengers

BLND Passengers with visual disabilities

How to get help: -

REQUEST IT
Request at least 48 hours before flight i.e. when booking flight. If not requested far enough in advance the quality of the service cannot be guaranteed. Available by phoning 902 404 704 (within Spain) or by www.aena.es

GO TO THE MEETING POINT
At a prearranged time, go to the meeting point (it is a tall black sign displaying the disability avatars). Use the intercom and wait. You will be collected from the meeting point.

CHECK IN AND BOARDING
You will be assisted and accompanied during check-in and security checkpoints until in your seat on the plane. You will be helped with luggage and personal needs.

ARRIVAL AT DESTINATION
You will be helped to deplane and retrieve luggage. You will be accompanied to the airport meeting point (within Spain).

COMPLETION OF SERVICE
If requested you are asked to evaluate the service given. Any complaints contact sinbarreras@aena.es

For further information there is a Spanish phone number to contact 902404704.

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Home at Last

He’s home at last, a mother’s son, a fine young man, his duty done,
Yet not for him the fond embrace, a loving kiss, a smiling face
Or cries of joy to laugh and cheer the safe return of one so dear,
It is his lot to show the world a soldiers fate as flags unfurl
And Standards lower in salutation, symbols of a grateful nation.

Sombre now, the drum beats low, as he is carried, gentle, so
As if not to disturb his rest, by comrades, three and three abreast
Who now, as quiet orders sound, they, one by one then move around
To place him in the carriage decked with flowers in calm and hushed respect,
Preparing for the sad, slow ride through silent crowds who wait outside.

So the warrior now returns to native soil and rightly earns
The great respect to one so young, though sadness stills the waiting throng,
While flowers strew the path he takes, as the carriage slowly makes
A final turning to allow the veterans standing there to show
The soldiers pride, a silent, mute, proud and respectful last salute.

Yet, while onlookers stand and see the simple, moving ceremony,
There is a home, a place somewhere, where sits a waiting, vacant chair,
And one great yawning empty space in someone’s heart, no last embrace
To bid a final, fond farewell to one who will forever dwell
In love and cherished memory, a Husband, Son, eternally.

And we who see should not forget that in this soldier’s final debt
And sacrifice for duty’s sake, it is the loved ones who must take
The hurt, to bear as best they can, and face a future lesser than
The one they dreamed in bygone years, now to regard with bitter tears,
Reflecting, as time intervenes, on thoughts of how it might have been.

But in their grief there’s quiet pride that loved ones bravely fought and died
Believing in a worthy goal which helps give solace, and consoles
By knowing that the loss they bear is shared by all our peoples where
In gratitude, their names will be forever honoured, guaranteed
To be remembered and enshrined, beyond the shifting sands of time.

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A poem by Tony Church who joined the Army Apprentices in Arborfield in 1955 serving a three year apprenticeship, being transferred into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers to serve a further nine years with the Colours and three in the Reserve.

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Remembrance Day and the Poppy

On a recent visit to the UK, we took a trip to the Tower of London to see the 888,246 ceramic poppies planted in the Tower’s moat, each poppy representing a British military fatality during the war. This made me wonder how the poppy became the international symbol of remembrance for the fallen of World War I.

It began on Saturday morning, 9th November 1918, two days before the Armistice was declared. Moina Michael was on duty at the YMCA headquarters in New York. This was a place where servicemen would gather with friends and family to say their goodbyes before they went on overseas duty. During the morning, a young soldier left a copy of the “Ladies Home Journal” on Moina’s desk. As Moina browsed through the magazine, she came across a poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. The words and images of beautiful red poppies among the death and destruction of the Western Front deeply moved her and she made a pledge to wear a red poppy as an emblem for keeping the faith with those who died.

During the day, some men attending a conference at the HQ asked Moina to accept $10 in appreciation of her effort to brighten the place with flowers at her own expense. She was touched, showed them the poem and said she would buy twenty-five red poppies with the money. The delegates took the poem back into the Conference. Moina found the small artificial red silk poppies in a department store and when she returned to the YMCA she gave the poppies to the delegates and kept one for herself.  According to Moina, since this group had given her the money with which to buy them, she considered that she had made her first sale of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy on 9th November 1918.

Moina Michael was determined to put all her energy towards getting the Poppy adopted as a national memorial symbol in the United States and began a tireless campaign at her own expense, starting with a letter to her congressional representative in which she asked him to put the idea to the War Department, which he did. She wanted to act quickly so that this new emblem might be ready for the signing of the peace treaty at Versailles in June 1919.

In March 1919, Moina moved back to her home state of Georgia.  She taught a class of disabled servicemen and learnt first-hand about their needs. She realised that while the memory of those who died needed to be honoured there were thousands of ex-servicemen who were returning home with mental and physical needs that also needed support. This gave her the impetus to widen the scope of the Memorial Poppy idea to assist all servicemen who needed help for themselves and their families.

By 1920, Moina Michael was beginning to lose hope that the Memorial Poppy idea would ever come to fruition. However, in August 1920 she learned that the Georgia Department of the American Legion was to meet in Atlanta. Before the convention, she approached the delegates and subsequently the Legion adopted the Memorial Poppy and agreed to have their members wear a red poppy on 11th November. A month later, the National American Legion agreed on the use of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy as the United States’ national emblem of Remembrance.

A french woman Anna Guérin attended the National American Legion’s convention and was inspired by Moina’s idea. When she returned to France, Anna got a team of French women to make artificial poppies, her intention was that these could be sold and the proceeds could be used to help fund the restoration of the war-torn regions of France. Anna was determined to introduce the idea of the memorial poppy to the nations that had been Allied with France during the First World War.

In 1921, Anna Guérin first introduced the British Legion in London to the Memorial Poppy and the first British Poppy Day Appeal was launched that year, in the run up to 11th November 1921.  Since that time, the red poppy has been sold each year by The British Legion from mid October to raise funds in support of the organisation’s charitable work.

In 1922, the Poppy Factory was established in the Old Kent Road, London. In 1933, the demand for poppies was such that the Poppy Factory had to move to larger premises in Surrey. The demand for poppies continued to grow each year and today the Poppy Factory is producing nearly 40 million poppies for wreaths, sprays and buttonholes.

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Surprise – How a prank became a tradition in Tenerife

The Dia de la Fuga de San Diego is a tradition in Tenerife that dates back to the early 20th Century.  The custom began when Diego Ximenez de Cisneros a new teacher arrived at the Instituto Cabrera Pinto in La Laguna. He decided to stop the students from attending the Romería of San Diego del Monte and students being students (nothing changes) decided to disobeyed him and not attend class.

Traditionally the students of La Laguna used to visit the hermitage of San Diego to count the number of botones (buttons) around the statue.  Some say it is impossible to count them all, but if a student correctly guesses the correct number their schoolwork would be vastly improved for the year.

Old image taken from 20 minutos.es

13th November 1919 was the first ‘Escape’ and over the years, the tradition became accepted by the University of La Laguna, then other schools and other Canary Islands followed suit.

Today’s students have adapted the tradition and many use the day to escape from school and throw a party although it is not an official holiday.

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Isla Baja – A special place in Tenerife

In the north of Tenerife is a region known as “Isla Baja” a quiet place away from the usual tourist haunts that is made up of four municipalities Buenavista del Norte, Garachico, Los Silos and El Tanque.  It is a haven of tranquillity in the heart of the countryside where visitors can enjoy nature’s magnificent scenery in its purest form. A place where sleepy villages full of traditions, crafts and authentic cuisine are all closely linked to the land and the sea.

Buenavista del Norte

Or just plain Buenavista is a quiet village that has grown in recent years to a popular town due to the development of rural tourism. Previously it was probably best known for what is claimed to be the best designed golf course in the Canary Islands, Buenavista Golf.

Los Silos

In the heart of the Teno Massif, offers a wealth of flora and fauna as well as interesting architecture. Its origins date back to the Guanches and in my opinion, the old town is one of the most beautiful on the island with its lush gardens and cobbled main street. In the centre is the Plaza de La Luz with the church whose construction began in the 16th century and the former Convent of St. Sebastian. Many local festivals take place around the Plaza such as honouring the patron saint, Our Lady of Light, but there are also modern festivals taking place annually such as the Festival Boreal or the International Storytelling Festival that appeal to the younger generation.

Garachico

In the 18th century, the town of Garachico was the most important port in Tenerife, until the eruption of the volcano in 1706, which buried practically everything in the port. The town’s economic and cultural roots with the past can still be seen in the religious and civic buildings in the picturesque old town. The castle of San Miguel, the church of Santa Ana, the former Convent of San Francisco, and El Caleton where the lava flow of 1706 created natural swimming pools are just some of the attractions tourist should visit.

El Tanque

El Tanque is an area of steep slopes and deep ravines. It is also home to the Corona Forestal Nature Park, the Teno Rural Park and the Chinyero Special Nature Reserve. Although away from the sea and with no coast of its own, it offers visitors some of the best views of the island’s northern coastline.

From the protected area of Teno Rural Park, perfect for nature-lovers, you can see many breath-taking panoramic views that show off the beauty of this area. Predominantly the picturesque village of Masca can be reached by a long and windy road. Many hardy hikers visit and enjoy the 2-hour walk down to the small beach below. The coast is filled with small coves and clear seawater pools that invite you to take a swim. The most visited spot of Punta del Teno is where the intense north sea and the calm southern sea of Tenerife meet, it can be very windy, so you need to be extra careful when visiting.

If you have just a few days then this magical area on Tenerife’s north west tip is ideal to escape the routine, unwind and enjoy.

NB: Images of Teno courtesy of Turismo de Tenerife  
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Things to do in Tenerife in November 2014

What to Expect

The weather starts to cool down a little in November – it is after all the beginning of the winter season however, average temperatures of 24°C are common in the south with night time temperatures dropping to around 22°C for the earlier part of the evening.  In the north of the island the highs average 19°C with lows of 16°C.  There is also the chance you may get the odd showery day.

November Highlights

29 November marks the start of the new wine season on the island and as the town of Icod de Los Vinos is central to Tenerife wine production there is no better place to celebrate. After the initial ceremonial opening of the new wine barrels there is an unusual twist derived from the age old practice of greasing the barrels for transportation. The youths apply wax to a board and slide down the hills in the town.  Dangerous and unique the race attracts a large number of participants as well as the public who can only experience this spectacle in Tenerife.

Fiestas de San Andres in Icod de los Vinos : JL González

Other Celebrations in November

1st to 9th November Celebrations in honour of San Martin de Porres – Cabo Blanco
To 2nd November - Fiestas de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios – Buenavista

29th The Fiesta de San Andrés is the last one in Puerto de la Cruz’s festive calendar. Similar to neighbouring Icod the festival marks the start of the wine season.  The young make strings from pots, pans and cause an infernal din as they pull them through the streets. The festivities are concentrated in the Plaza del Charco where visitors can sample delicious roasted chestnuts, washed down with the young wine sold from kiosks are around the town and harbour.

Author Caco of Tenerife

 

For weather & news updates around south Tenerife check Queenies Daily Snippets

Continued Page 2

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Real Turkish Delight

I unabashedly love Turkish Delight. I don´t mean the chocolate covered stuff you get from Fry’s that conjures up images of deserts and harems and men on horseback waving scimitars.  I mean the real McCoy and after first discovering it many years ago, I was hooked.

The origin of Turkish Delight dates back to the Ottoman Empire and is one of the oldest known confectionaries in the world. In an attempt to please his many wives, a famous Sultan ordered his confectioner to create something ‘special’. Eager to please, the confectioner blended a concoction of sugar syrup, various flavourings, nuts and dried fruits then bound them together with gum Arabic and a tasty mouth-watering sweet emerged. The Sultan was so delighted he said a plate of Turkish Delight had to be served at all celebrations in the Ottoman court.

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Today, Turkish Delight is the sweet of choice in many Turkish homes. The subtle flavours compliment coffee and sweeten the breath at the end of a meal. Sweet, chewy exoticness in a box.  Needless to say, we bought several boxes.

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