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I’ve started this post a couple of times because there is too much to say. For the sake of my sanity, I’ve decided to just write about the food of Turkey. I will write about where we went in another post. Please post questions you have about our trip or the country so I know what to make sure and include. There is just too much wonderfulness…
My husband came home one day to tell me he found great tickets to Turkey and a Rick Steve’s tour was going the week of spring break. I said okay. I thought, “Why not Turkey?” My gut told me to do it and my gut has an amazingly good track record.
When we originally signed up for the tour, we were called by a Rick Steve’s representative because they like kids to be over 12 for their average tour. We explained that our kids have traveled a lot, but she recommended I contact Lale Aran of SRM Travel. She puts together the Rick Steve’s tours in Turkey and she could help us create a family tour.
Lale called me on the phone and we had a great chat. I told her what we were looking for and she was pleasant and amazing. She and her husband have two boys and they travel all over with them. She knew exactly what we needed and she put us back on the RS tour. Unfortunately, it was cancelled because not enough people signed up. I contacted Lale again and told her we still wanted to come. She then created a trip of a lifetime for us.
People often asked if we were worried about going. We’ve never worried about going to Chicago and it has more murders than Istanbul. We would go to New York City in a heartbeat and it’s had it’s share of terror and crimes. How many TV shows are based on the crime rate in U.S. cities? Too many to count. We get used to our own country and it doesn’t stop us from traveling around here. I felt like it was the same.
I asked Lale what people’s opinions were after the travel ban and she told us that most people look at it as something Trump did; not what Americans did. And once we got there, everyone was so friendly. Mert even joked with other people that they should be careful because we were best friend’s with Trump. The response to this was usually humorous (or maybe insulting depending on your political leanings.) In fact, most people were excited we are from America because tourism is in such a slump. Turkey is very safe. I guess we can’t believe everything we read.
We left Montana at 1pm Friday and got to Istanbul 4pm Saturday. There is a 7 hour time difference. It was the hardest jet lag to get over.
When we got to our hotel, Mert Taner was there to meet us. He was going to be our guide while we were in the country. We dropped off luggage and headed to dinner. He ordered for us and gave us an overview of what our trip would entail.
I don’t remember much about this meal but I do remember that it was the beginning of a week long love affair with olive oil. I’ve always loved olive oil, but Turkey’s oil was amazing. It was flavorful and rich and I would pour it all over my bread. You dip your bread in olive oil in the states. I recommend drowning your bread in it in Turkey.
I also started a friends with benefits relationship with fresh hummus. They would pour some olive oil on the hummus as well so olive oil always knew it was first in my life. I cannot put into words how amazing the hummus was. Normally, I ask if there are free refills on the Diet Coke. Here I was asking if there were refills on the hummus.
At the end of the week, we drove past hundreds of olive trees in Izmir. I looked out over them with the burning feeling in my soul that they knew I loved them. I haven’t sent out Christmas cards the last two years, but I may send them a card. Maybe Valentine’s Day would be more appropriate.
While we are talking about food, I must recommend the Old Greek House in Cappadocia. Their Baklava is from heaven. Seriously. When we die, if we are good, there will be plates of Greek House Baklava surrounding us. It just melted in my mouth. I tried many different Baklava while in Turkey and I shed a tear when I knew I had had my last piece from the Greek House.
All of the food was perfect and I ate more than a normally do. So much so, that I said a little olive oil prayer before I put my jeans back on for the return flight home. (Let’s be honest. The olive oil wasn’t the problem. The fresh baked bread that was swimming in it affected the jeans more.) But the olive oil was kind and my pants still fit.
My 9 year old’s teacher is reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in class. He kept asking Mert if we could try Turkish Delight. I had forgotten that was in the book. We tried pomegranate, rose, almond, and a couple other flavors. I no longer judge Edmund for following the White Witch to get more of it. Only someone without taste buds wouldn’t have followed. Seth was so excited to buy some and share it with his class!
When we were in Cappadocia, we had lunch with Fahriye. She is in her 60’s and still works her family’s fields. Her family has lived in her house for 250 years. We walked around it and the basement is the original first floor. It was remarkable to see her food storage in the 250 year old living room. The first floor sank with earthquakes and the passage of time and is now the basement. The family simply built more rooms as needed.
We had a lunch she had prepared for us in her summer gathering room. It’s too cold to use in the winter, but it was warming up enough to use it that day. It looked like a room you would imagine in Turkey. Cushions all around the walls and a large handmade rug in the center. Actually, she had made the rug when she was a young girl.
Her food tasted homemade. We had rice and potato salad. For dessert, we had dried apricots from her fields she had dried last fall with a little cream. The cream was usually goat milk based or water buffalo based. I don’t know which this was but my kids loved it. It was simple food prepared well.
After we ate, we talked, with the help of Mert. She doesn’t speak English and we could only say hello, good morning, and thank you. She had just done her pilgrimage to Mecca last year and was very grateful she was able to do that in her lifetime. Then she showed me how to wrap my hair. When one of our kids was laughing and ‘released gas,’ she commented, “Ah. Just another unexpected American terrorist attack.”
She complained about her kids not helping in the fields enough. (Her son worked for a large restaurant, but it closed down because of the lack of tourists. His family has moved back with her.) She told our kids to learn as much as they could. She couldn’t go to college because she had to take care of her parents and it was her biggest regret. Her sisters were able to go to college, and she wished it had been her. Her life is so different from ours, and yet so similar. No matter where you go in the world, regrets and hopes can be the same.
60 year old women in Montana have told our kids to study hard. I often wish my kids did more around the house.
I may live in a 3 year old, all enclosed house in a country that is about the same age as her house, with my hair uncovered, needing fresh food to be delivered most of the year, but our basic hopes and desires are very similar.
This is what I loved about our visit to Turkey. It doesn’t matter how different we are from the people we meet; we can always find similarities too.
If only fresh olive oil could be one of those…