Some things we’ve observed about Turkey:
Turkish pants – in Antakya we saw men wearing funny pants (people of our generation may remember the fashion trend of Hammer-pants?); they are really baggy pants with the crotch hanging down close to the knees, but the waist is at the waist (not like the young hipsters back home these days who wear the waists around their butts to accomplish a similar effect). I think they remind me a little of pants that genies wear in cartoons. Around Egirdir we saw women (but not men) wearing similar pants, but with even lower crotches, almost halfway down the calf. I would compare them to “gypsie-pants” (though we are eventually heading into actual gypsie country, and I may have to revise my Hollywoodized notions).
Food: Turkish food is spicier than that of the previous three countries. More dishes contain hot spices (I am unfortunately very sensitive to spicey foods ). Throughout Jordan and Syria, hot peppers were a common appetizer and garnish, along with mint leaves and slices of lemon, whether we asked for them or not. Also in Jordan, the pickles were quite spicey.
The Turkish people are very fond of white (ie, French) bread. Though flat bread is still served with kebabs, the white bread has taken over as the side-dish. The Lonely Planet indicates that as a result, Turkey is among the most obese nations in the world. I understand the correlation, but we haven’t been seeing very many large people. The bread is a nice change, but we do have to be careful not to get carried away, as it’s not the healthiest. It often also lacks butter.
Pistacio is a very common flavour throughout the region (can’t remember if I mentioned that before) – everything from ice-cream and garnish on puddings, to candies and pistachios for snacking. I also think I saw a chick-pea chocolate bar yesterday (I was trying to convince myself that it was hazelnut, but they looked more like chick-peas than hazelnuts).
Yogurt is also quite popular in Turkey, often used as a sauce/garnish on dishes, and they are quite fond of a yogurt drink called Ayran. We haven’t tried it, not sure that we will.
Weekly markets seem to be a popular thing, almost a social event. I’m fairly certain that they were common in the other countries as well, but we seem to be encountering them here more often. Likely a probabilities thing as we don’t spend more than just a few days in any given place. We’ve also enjoyed paying what we feel to be a fair price for produce that we buy at the markets – 1 Lira for a very fresh pound of cherries, half lira for some beans, etc. Getting ripped off was really only a problem in Egypt, but it really left it’s mark.
Solar panels on the roofs are a very common sight, but we were told in Jordan that they had commonly been replaced by gas which is very cheap there. It appears that in Turkey, the panels are still used, for heating water. Our pension in Göreme used solar panels, and the water was hot! Indeed, one morning, the pension owner was telling people they needed to have long and hot showers, or the water would become too hot for the plastic pipes. They do have a backup coal furnace for rainy/cloudy days.
We’ve been quite surprised to find that we have more language difficulties here than we had in the three previous countries. Turkey is trying to prove that it’s ‘Westernized’ and is trying to gain admission to the EU, but we’ve had a generally hard time finding English speakers outside of our pension hosts. French is virutally non-existant, though German appears to be a fairly common second language. Well there’s another incentive for learning German (I’ve always wanted to, another thing I never really got around to it). We’re just very surprised that we had generally fewer problems in the three previous countries, where Turkey is the most affluent and westernized of the region.
While we saw wild poppies growing in Syria, here they are cultivated as well. It’s really beautiful to be riding through mountain valleys and meadows and seeing fields of planted poppies (the field borders are clearly delineated, and the poppies are quite a bit denser). Toward the southeast, where we entered Turkey, there were also fields upon fields of sunflowers. A very colourful countryside.
There is a lot of pride in maintaining the towns and cities that we’ve been to so far. Fountains are a common site, as are well-manicured medians and greenways. Flowers are in great abundance, along the sidewalks and medians, in the parks, in people’s gardens… everything from petunias and pansies and snapdragons to roses and roses and roses. Boy do I wish we could grow roses like they do here!
The people here really are living up to their reputation as wonderful hosts as well. The welcome is not as noticeable as in other places (not as vocal, I guess), but when someone decides to help you, they really help you – yesterday we had a gentleman walk us several blocks from the minibus station to the bus office, simply because he wanted to – we didn’t ask at all. He asked us where we were going when we got off the minibus, then told us to follow him. He went from bus company office to bus company office, inquiring when their next bus was leaving, and he left us at the office of the company who had the soonest bus. All we were able to offer in return was a thank you. These kinds of actions are especially appreciated given the language barrier (the gentleman spoke English, and we’ve found that most bus company employees do not).
That’s all for now. I’ll keep making of notes of things as we see them.
Tags: Cairo to Budapest and Beyond, food, observations, Turkey