Saturday, August 4, 2012

Turkey and Greece 2012 - Part 1

This is the first of a five part post, y'all! And I'll end the five parts with a giveaway! Directions for the giveaway will be on the final post and I have to get 20 or more new followers (your picture in the box) in order for the giveaway to follow tell your friends!

I have been to Turkey twice before since I met my husband. Before I met my husband, Turkey is what I ate at Thanksgiving. It sounds silly I know but I just never really thought about the land region that is so rich in amazing history and a bridge from Europe to the Middle East. Now, I think about all the richness and wonder why I never knew about the wealth of this nation before.

Everyone wants to go to Spain, France or Italy. I am guilty of the same having moved to Italy in my youth and staying as an expat for a while! I wish I had known about Turkey.

The language is rooted in Balkan/Eastern Europe and Arabic with a touch of Latin thrown in, making it tricky to pick up but very cool.

Turkish customs are amazing and the cuisine sensational. As I go on I'll expand on these things.

This trip was EPIC!

When you see this view - Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque - you know you've arrived!

We started in Istanbul. My sister in law lives in a gated community on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Her view from her terrace is amazing and gives a great view of the water way. At dinner on our first night we saw a huge freighter passing through and a fireworks show!

Don't let "gated community" stray you. A gated community in Turkey is a community in which there are stacked apartment buildings with tiny balconies and terraces not tract homes with gardens and lawns.

After our initial day in Istanbul we had one day to piddle around the city. I requested Istinye Park...I'm American what can I say, I love a mall. But let me tell you, Turks love their malls too! And this shopping mecca is nothing to scoff at! At the mall I was thinking and thinking of a store I loved when I first came to Istanbul. I kept calling it Mada Style. It was actually Mudo Collection and after half a days searching my niece figured it out. When our time at the mall was done, we got in a taxi to venture home. I always thought that Italian cab drivers were the dcariest and most dangerous. I was wrong. We got in a cab with a very polite, young driver who sped around nearly killing us several times. So the verdict: Turkish drivers are WAY more sketchy than Italian drivers.

We went back to the house and sat down to a sensational supper of Patlican Yemegi (the husband loves this and I finally learned to make it thanks to Berrin, my sister in law) and other meze. By the way, the recipe I have here is not our family recipe. I will add a proper recipe at a later time. This is just for your reference. It includes nutritional content as well; I love that...nevertheless...a traditional recipe is going to follow!

After dinner, we prepared for the the long trip ahead of us the following day. On the map above, you can see Istanbul. If you look South and East you can see near Ankara, a town called Afyon.

Afyon was, perhaps, my favorite part of our trip. It was my first experience with a Turkish bath which was amazing. Actually, there is no word with enough emphasis to say exactly how it was. In Afyon, I experieced true unfettered Turkish culture (men sitting around while the ladies ran around setting the table and cooking) and in Afyon, we were invited to a circumcision/after party. I am quite sure not many other Western ladies get to say that!

 More from Afyon:

Afyon is famous for their Sucuk.
Dried peppers and eggplant and spice. 
Dried Okra

Tulumba Cheese
Sausage casings

There is a castle up there!

The view from Teyze's terrace.

After touring Afyon and having a delicious sweet treat and speaking in sign language wishing to the heavens that I could speak Turkish, we headed back to Tayze's house where she had prepared a sumptuous meal. Thus ended our trip to Afyon. There aren't any real words to explain the feeling of the place; of the people. It is somewhere that Westerners infrequently visit but a town of great history and charm. Turkish independence was won here. The international delight of Soucuk was invented here and perhaps the most notable of all, my husbands mother was born and raised here. And thank goodness. My husband is extremely bias here, though.

Photo 1 (upper left): Pideli Kebap. Photo 2 (upper right): The ladies prepare for dinner. Photo 3 (lower left): Berrin {my sister in law} Tayze {my husband's aunt} and Bulo {my husband}. Photo 4: The grapes in this picture are not extraordinary but the apricots, my word, they are like sugar in your mouth.  These apricots are why "Turkish Apricots"  are so famous - the delectable Sekker Pare.

We spent the night. Tayze gave up her bed for us. Imagine my alarm and guilt when I woke up to seeing Tayze on the sofa still in her little dress. After a very early breakfast, we got on the road again and headed to Pamukkale. 

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