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First Trip to Turkey

  • Published by Brenda Farrell
Brenda Farrell blogged her first visit to Turkey in the Fall of 2005.

brenda_farrell.jpgShe tapped the unfamiliar keyboards in Internet cafes and those of the occasional computer provided free for customers of some stores.  Since this first visit in 2005, Brenda is convinced that it is the experience of travel that delivers the stories and memories that last forever and has recently embraced - and is now promoting - the notion of Lifestyle Travel. 

Over the last five years, Brenda has returned to different regions of Turkey many sometimes as Tour Leader, once as Consultant to a TV film crew and other times when she met with suppliers.  Her first-time experience in Turkey was enough to convince her to work in the travel industry and to promote tourism in Turkey and she now works as Turkey and Lifestyle Travel Specialist at Renshaw Travel - a Virtuoso® agency - in Vancouver, Canada..  For more information, visit www.brendafarrell.com

 

October 17 2005

I'm in Fethiye, Turkey ... arrived last night from London via Istanbul. My friend Jane met me at the airport and we drove back to her lovely new home - about an hour from the Dalaman airport. I was tired but excited as I observed my different surroundings and smelled the jasmine permeating the evening air. It surprised me that neither Jane nor Carol our long time pal from Britain had heard anything at all about the bird flu!! Suffice it to say that life goes on and from my initial experiences in the town today there is no sense of danger whatsoever.

 

The people are warm and friendly. This part of Turkey is known as the Turquoise Coast and is in the south on the Mediterranean. On Friday I will go to Greece - Rhodes Island - for the day. Also have to start looking at carpets early so I get an idea of what is available - and pricing.

October 20, 2005

This is day 4 in Turkey. I was too confident that I had not experienced jet lag ... well, it has hit me today! I am feeling a little slower but still excited about exploring the bazaar.

Yesterday, Jane and I went to Kaya Koy (not sure about the spelling) where we spent hours exploring the ruins of the hillside village of 2500 Greeks.  The entry fee of about three dollars was good value.  The Greeks had occupied this village for several centuries and when they left were said to have placed a curse on their land, which was on the side of steep hills.  Not surprisingly, the concrete homes remained uninhabited -- until recently. As we climbed, we noticed the occasional tethered cow, dogs and chickens, yet we saw nobody except a few other tourists - mainly Brits. We then learned that these ruins can now be purchased for about 25,000 British pounds (no symbols on this keyboard!)  One family had reportedly spent 25,000 plus the same again to put a roof and add electricity and make their "new home" somewhat habitable.  Not exactly our idea of rustic living but very interesting nonetheless. 

We saw the occasional gecko and wondered at the amazing views from the top of the ruins. As we wandered and wondered we tried to reconstruct life in the town - to imagine how the people had lived, how they spent their time,  how they accessed the water from the huge concrete tanks, etc. There was abundant evidence of the Greeks' love of all things blue, with faded but nevertheless blue walls and wall decorations - even in the dilapidated churches.

We were hungry after climbing, so we went to a local rural "restaurant" where we had Turkish Pancakes (pide) with potato and cheese. We watched as a woman, cross legged and sitting next to a wood fired brick oven, rolled the dough over and over and then added the filling, folded it over and put it into the Brick oven, turning often. Simple, and so delicious. One thing I have noticed is how clean these places are ... the floors are clean as are the washrooms and there is always soap and running water.

After a cup of Nescafe (the only coffee in this place other than the very strong Turkish coffee, which is not my taste) we caught the dolmus (mini bus) back to Jane's, where I cooked dinner. We had a tomato salad with garlic, olive oil and fresh oregano that we had picked among the Kaya ruins, followed by a plate of shaved fresh carrot, fresh pinto beans, broccoli, roasted green pepper and local parsley! Healthy, and very filling.  And fresh?  It certainly was!

When we went to the weekly street market, I was in my element. There was so much life and colour to observe - beautiful Turkish fabrics, cushions, clothes, shoes, spices, fruits and vegetables.  The most colourful and beautiful to me were the spice stalls.

I bought some oats and thick creamy yogurt, almonds and walnuts and each morning have this with local honey!! Yum! This is my breakfast at home too, but it does taste different here - probably due to the locally made yogurt and honey. Sometimes we also have a piece of toast with sheep cheese and berry jam. We make coffee in a cafetiere (french press) and take our time to enjoy the tastes and sights as we eat the first meal of our day.

Outside, we watch the local peasant's' goats, tethered, enjoying whatever they can reach. Ramazan's goats are not pets - he told me that the little one will be "crrrrkkkkk" at the end of Ramadan. Poor baby will become a celebratory meal!

Weather wise it is lovely and warm, and sunny during the day and cool at night. Not the cool we know back home, but definitely cool enough for a sweater or light jacket. We are walking so much that I am warm most of the time. I don't think I have walked this much in years ... I like it but need to rest now and then!

'Bye for now. If you are following my trip, please send me a comment, below. I'd love to hear from you.

Gule gule!! (Go with a smile)
Brenda

October 23, 2005

Day 7 in Turkey and I'm in research mode now... Went to a live outdoor show last night and saw traditional Turkish dancing - wedding dances from different regions of Turkey. The price was reasonable at $CAD 24 as it included a full evening of entertainment as well as a wonderful buffet dinner and transportation.

What did we eat I hear you saying! Well there was chili dip, coleslaw made with that wonderful local yogurt, eggplant with tomato, potato and tomato salad so different to what we know,  fried potatoes with garlic and for the less adventurous, hard boiled eggs and macaroni. Then, mixed vegetable stew, lamb kofta (meat balls shaped like sausages) tomato cous-cous:  the lamb was very strong tasting and I only ate one of the meatballs but overall it was a learning experience. There was an open bar so Jane and I each had a beer and Margaret (Jane's friend) had white wine. Nobody abused the free alcohol. After dinner, while the dancers performed, we sipped on coffee.

There was a male and a female belly dancer. If I could do with my abs what they could, I would be a happy camper ... or would I? It was really contortion at its best!

We arrived home at 11.30, tired but content.

I am loving the sights and smells of flowers and had a fresh pomegranate juice this morning - there is a pomegranate tree right outside Jane's place. When I've been here longer I will write more about the food. It is Ramadan at the moment so traditionally the days are spent fasting and the evenings feasting. I read that at sundown the fast is broken with a snack before prayer and then a feast after prayer.

Well must go ... life is too short to spend a lovely day inside an Internet cafe in Turkey!

Gule Gule!!

October 24 2005

After our tour yesterday, I made our dinner. We had a kilo of fresh tomatoes, and the oregano I had picked on the mountain ... so I made a fresh pasta sauce - garlic, olive oil, chopped tomatoes and fresh oregano - fresh, and tasty too. After dinner we played cards - rummy and several games later, 'Turkish NAP.' It is our new version of SNAP ... Jane couldn't get the word SNAP out of her mouth quickly enough, so because we were laughing so much, we decided we had to add more drama to this familiar game!! Each time somebody won, they had to choose the word that would define the winner ... well, we laughed even harder as we tried to remember the word of the moment ... and the variations of those words as they came rolling out of our mouths were even funnier! I kid you not, we were two schoolgirls again...

I am in an Internet cafe, one of three I have visited. It is only one dollar an hour but the room leaves a lot to be desired. There are always lots of young men and boys playing games ... even fathers with their sons. The only women I have seen have been tourists.

Tomorrow is market day. This will be another day of wandering and wondering ... It is HUGE and unlike anything we have in Canada. Local Artisans bring their crafts - even home-made wooden-spoons. Can't wait.

The people here are so friendly and kind. As we were leaving the apartment building this morning, a taxi had dropped someone at the same building and offered to take us, 'no charge' into town as he had to go that way!! Can you imagine a taxi driver doing that in Vancouver? I gave him a tip as a thank you and he beamed and said he will keep it for luck!!

I very much like the local drink, Ayran. It is a salted yogurt drink and is very refreshing on a hot day. The waiters are always surprised when I order it as tourists don't usually drink it. As well, Kefir is available and very inexpensive compared to home. That's my bedtime drink. With all this yogurt you would expect to put on weight but I am feeling my clothes a little looser. We walk so much that this must be the reason... wonder if my Yorkshire terriers, JJ and Murphy, can walk five miles a day!!

Gule gule!!

October 26 2005
Unfortunately I do not have my journal with me and as we are always on the go, can only write what immediately comes to mind... yesterday was market day again and we met up with Jane's friend Helen - another Brit who has bought a holiday home here. She lives In Ozumlu, about 15 minutes away by car, in a lovely valley Ii the shadows of the Toros Mountains. It is still very traditional despite the two and three storey traditional style apartment buildings here and there. Goatherds wave and pose for photographs with their charges and little old ladies, bent in 45 degree angles from years of working on the farms, walk around with heavy grocery bags.

We drove up a narrow mountain track, almost to the top, but decided to return in full daylight so we can visit the Lycian ruins. It was close to dusk and we were starting to get hungry... back to Helen's where we lit a barbeque and prepared veggies to roast. We cooked lamb kabobs and had roasted potato, onion, eggplant, garlic and tomato. As we sat outside to eat, the air was clean and still, save the occasional barking dog.

While I'm talking of dogs ... I have not seen any that look uncared for.  Even the strays (and I haven't seen many) are tagged and look healthy. It's the feral cats that break my heart ... so many little kitties everywhere, some mewing and others searching everywhere for food. How I wish a program could be established to manage the kitty population. In fact, at the fish market restaurant the other evening I fed three little ones that looked at me with big eyes ... and one was pregnant.

The fish market in Fethiye is a unique concept and one that Granville Island and other markets could possibly develop. We bought our fish from whichever vendor we wanted (they were in a circular central-core layout with restaurants and tables and chairs all around the outside.) We then chose our restaurant and they would cook the fish for us, and for the equivalent of $4 they provided wonderful salads and bread. The shrimp I selected were not as good as those of BC, but the hard roe and calamari were delicious. Imagine a similar concept where one not only chooses the protein but also the vegetables, and the chef creates a unique dish in front of the customer!

I finally chose a Turkish carpet. It was difficult as there were two that I couldn't choose between ... in two different stores. I am looking forward to putting it in our living room. I would love to buy a Turkish table (copper or Iron circular tray on cross-trestle wooden legs) but won't be able to carry it. Next time...

If you have thought of visiting Turkey, do it! I have been to Cyprus and Greece and even though there are similarities, it is different. There are lots of new cars on the roads and young women and men dress like their Western peers. I have seen neither a beggar nor a drunk. OK, so it is Ramadan, but not everybody fasts.

Well I'd better sign off for now ... more exploring to do!

Gule Gule!!
Brenda

November 2 2005

I spent a day alone, exploring Fethiye town, while Jane stayed home. The weather was very warm, about 22 Celsius, but with a lovely breeze. The 45 minute walk to and from town was, as always, a feast for the senses of this roving researcher. Sounds, sights and wonderful scents abounded. I explored hardware stores (don't know why, but I find them fascinating and quite revealing about the local population), bakeries (the bread smells - and tastes - so amazing), supermarkets (what do people put in their buggies) and the local bazaar, where I bought last minute gifts.

For lunch, I stopped at a Turkish restaurant and ordered Pide. It's not pizza, but may be considered similar. Beside the built-in wood-fired oven, the baker removed a piece of dough from a lidded wooden box. On floured marble, he rolled and pulled the dough until it was paper thin, at which point he rolled it into a double-point oval shape. Lavish amounts of feta cheese and chopped spinach were added and the flat-bread was put into the brick oven. He clearly took pride in what he was doing and checked the pide often. When ready, it was served with a wonderful arugula, tomato and parsley salad and, of course, my standard glass of ayran! A very FRESH! and satisfying meal and it cost only about $5!

After lunch, I walked back and again poked my head into hitherto unseen stores and buildings. As I walked past a graveyard, with some very elaborate headstones, I noticed an empty bottle of Coke on one ... hmmmm, I thought, did he or she like Coke, or is that just another contribution to environmental pollution?  Of course, I'll never know. However, I did notice a disturbing trend ... Turkish restaurants were offering the types of food that they felt tourists would want - burgers, fries, pop etc. - often to the exclusion on the menus of real Turkish dishes. However, one of our favourite restaurants, Pasa Kebap, seems to do a good job of maintaining a traditional menu while pleasing the less adventurous eater. My tip? Watch what the locals eat and ask for the same!

Once home, I made a cup of tea and sat down to read my latest novel ... The Da Vinci Code. Having just completed a couple of great books, Tales of a Female Nomad and The Kite Flyer, I was finding this latest book difficult to put down. It really is a riveting read - although certainly different to my usual choices. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I left it on Turkish Airlines between Istanbul and London. I have to finish it as the story is just starting to unfold ... library, here I come.

In the evening, Jane cooked rice with vegetables and I had a persimmon.  Gin Rummy was our game of choice and we ended the day reading our books.

November 3 2005

We woke up early ... today was to be our gulet trip. We boarded a dolmuc (mini-bus) to the harbour and after listening to the offerings of the various operators along the water's edge, we chose our ride - a magnificent tall sailboat.  Along with 33 other Germans and Scots, we took our places on the deck and watched with wonder as the gulet motored out of the harbour ... the scenery was very beautiful and the sun, now lower in the sky, delivered many Kodak moments.

Lunch was prepared and cooked in a tiny galley by the wife of the Captain, a friendly young Turkish woman. Some people ordered a beer, but we had chose water.  We all dined, family style, at a large cane and glass tables on deck and enjoyed:

Whole sea trout or chicken
Salad with arugula, cucumber, parsley, tomato and onion
Turkish potato salad with yogurt
Pasta in olive oil
Fresh apples

Once again, the food was absolutely delicious, local and FRESH! No Imported, frozen or pre-packed veggies ... and we sat around large tables, sharing conversation with others ... truly a Slow Food experience!

The crew of four worked very hard to provide their guests with a wonderful day. We dropped anchor close to small bays on four different Islands. The landscape presented small brick homes, goats, sheep, historical ruins, dry grass, dogs and little else.  The fast food moment of the day came when a young entrepreneur, about 16, drew alongside in his motor boat with a large Algida poster showing ice creams for sale.

Here's a highlight of this day for me ... I started to talk to a woman who lives In Scotland, but who had a British accent... anyhow, to cut a long story short, she had lived, many years ago, just 5 doors away from my grandmother in a small village In Britain and remembered many of the same local places and experiences as did I from my childhood... it really is a small world.

A slight wind signaled an opportunity to sail. The engine was cut and the crew hoisted the huge sails.  Gliding silently through the clear, turquoise waters, we added another experience to our travel portfolios.

We sailed back into Fethiye harbour some seven hours later ... rushed home to change ... tonight we were going to a Turkish Bath!

Well, what an experience that was. After changing into our swimsuits, we were taken into a large circular room with murals and a domed ceiling. Many sinks were attached to the walls at intervals of about 8 feet. In the middle was a circular, raised marble platform, with small white cushions. Water was constantly being thrown onto the platform, which apparently has heater coils underneath ... the air was moist and warm, quite unlike a sauna.

We had the standard "body scrub" experience, where one is literally covered with bubbles, from head to toe, and washed!! We were also given an abridged version of the Turkish Massage which is a deep-tissue massage.

We returned home and slept soundly.

November 8 2005

Well, I'm back In Canada and finding it difficult to sit and write. First, I have been enjoying the time with my family and catching up with my friends. Also, the new Turkish carpet added a rich, different dimension to our living room and necessitated some furniture rearrangement!  Also, I have some research projects looming...

The kitchen is still my favourite room in the house and I always seem to be thinking about and preparing new and tested dishes (I just put some organic chick peas to soak so I can make a batch of delicious dip and sandwich filler - hummus).

I will sit down and journal the highlights of my final days In Turkey in the next day or two. They cannot be rushed as I will savour the experiences contained in the words as I write!  Deliciously. Slowly.

The highlight of that trip to Turkey?  There are too many to list now, but certainly I am excited about an opportunity that presented itself : to lead cultural tours of the different regions of  Turkey. This is a tour for 'culture vultures' who seek an exploration of the cuisine, music, history and peoples of several regions. Believe me, the stories behind the many ruins, some dating back to before Christ, (B.C.) are fascinating and the cuisine is healthy and delicious. Add diverse scenery, friendly and hospitable people, exotic music and dance and you have the key ingredients of an exciting and atypical travel adventure. Watch for more on this offering ... hopefully there will be one tour in May and another in September (p.s. they did happen!)
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