Lydia Barends (1/4)

Lydia Barends runs a small guesthouse, Dirimguesthouse, on a mountainside in western Turkey, where she lives with her dogs, cats and donkey. “Apart from being sociable and good companions, the animals are also very useful, because the dogs guard the house, the cats catch mice, and the donkey keeps the grass short and accompanies me to the forest when I fetch wood.” This month, Lydia tells Flow about her life.


The house on the mountain
How did I end up here? That all has to do with my mother’s photo albums. She was born in Poland and after the war, she traveled with her twin sister and worked in Germany. The photographs in the books are fascinating, full of sunshine and laughter: my barefoot mother calf-deep in the snow; picking flowers on mountain pastures; on a boat with flowing hair; and in foggy thermal baths. Hers was a very different life compared to mine, because I was a Dutch child who wandered through the polders of South Holland together with my dog, picking buttercups and Cuckoo Flowers, and leaping over dark locks full of duckweed into which my clogs would no doubt fall. But in my dreams, I was far far away.

I had a strict upbringing, with the Bible, but it was not the faith that drew me into the book, it was the countries. I found the maps of Asia Minor and Greece inside it fascinating. And then there was my grandmother, who had taken me as a toddler to her vegetable garden that was hidden among the greenery on a mountain. I really wanted a garden overlooking the mountains.

That garden is located in Turkey. I found the land because I often went to visit a colleague who lived in the olive grove below me. The important thing was not the fact that I had found the piece of land, but whether there was water. An old hermit had lived on my land. His hut stood more or less by accident, and his own piece of land lay next to it. This old man had a well that he had dug himself and under the well was a spring. So there was always enough water for me to use. To start with, the bushes had to be cut down and a road had to be built. Then came the construction workers from the village. Every morning, they trudged up to me, and in the afternoon they went home to eat or their wives brought their food up to them.

The bricks for the house came from a nearby stone quarry. The cargo was transported by truck and deposited at the bottom of the mountain. A digger then loaded it into a trailer and a tractor drove it up through the narrow road.

I drew up a plan for a house, which was converted into a technical blueprint and then we got started. It must have been about the third week that the spirit level broke, but that didn’t pose a problem: the builders simply used their eyes and a piece of stretched-out string to check if something lay straight. All in all, things went differently than planned here and there, but hey, what does planning matter!

The adventure only really began when I went to live in my house. In the winter months, the electricity often stops working, the water freezes, and the road washes away. But apart from that, I am, once again, the girl from my past: I walk with my dogs, picking flowers and lighting fires. But I had never imagined that life here would change me so much.

One of Lydia’s drawings: the fruit and blossoms of a strawberry tree.