A much-needed weekend in Ankara
Can you travel too much? Before I started the Olmsted experience, I would have responded with a definitive “No way!” Now I’m not so sure. Since arriving in Turkey I’ve been away from home (Ankara) more often than I’ve been in town. I think was so excited by the travel trifecta of time, money, and friends to see that I went wherever I could as often as I could.
When somebody asked me where I liked to hang out in Ankara, my first thought was the airport. I realized that instead of the desire to return that I feel about most places I visit, Ankara is a city that I truly enjoy leaving! On Thanksgiving morning, however, when I woke up four hours after my plane took off, I realized that maybe I had gone overboard with all the travel. After a string of international trips in August, I resolved to limit myself to one international trip a month, which I thought was still being very generous with myself. But things came up, and I ended up doubling down on big trips each month. So on Thanksgiving, mostly because I had some kind of flu, but also because I think the flu was probably aided by exhaustion, (I did get the flu shot), I cancelled my highly anticipated trip to Paris. And then this weekend, when some friends missed their flight to Istanbul, I decided not to go as well. I was almost relieved to spend a healthy weekend at home!
Since I’ve barely moved into my place, and haven’t had a normal weekend in Ankara, I decided this would be the weekend to do all those normal weekend things, and maybe get to know my city a little better. So I organized, cleaned, worked out, read, and shopped.
Yesterday I had plans to go to an art exhibit and holiday bazaar, but I was a little late getting going, got lost, and then got stuck in hellacious traffic and missed everything. In the process of driving all over the city trying to find the museum I did discover some new neighborhoods and pretty streets, so it wasn’t a total loss. I also learned that driving through the city’s main drag on a Saturday afternoon is no quick feat.
Today I managed to find the farmer’s market, which is also an antiques (but really just used stuff) market once a month. Since I’m still trying to get the place together, I didn’t buy any stuff, but enjoyed browsing the tables and furniture stands. After a really hilarious transvestite lectured me on what produce to buy from what vendor I did manage to buy some groceries.
I also hit up the hardware store to buy a fake Christmas tree. Unfortunately, although they had trees on display, they’re only to show lights and ornaments – you can’t actually buy a fake tree. Apparently I could have if I had come in November, but they sold out, and nobody was sure if they were going to order more this year or not. They absolutely would not sell me a display. Although I left with a sad “living room pine” asking about all the possibilities was a great chance to practice my Turkish.
Finally I got home and decided to try and cook ayva, a Turkish fruit that I eventually learned is quince. We bought some in Goreme when we thought we were going to miss breakfast. It’s a good thing the innkeeper fed us early, because after biting into one fruit as if it was an apple I threw it out! The first flavor that came to mind was crabapple, which we used to eat on dares as kids. It’s not sweet, pretty sour, and really fibrous. Since I still had two pieces left, I found a Turkish recipe for ayva tatlısı, or Quince Sweet/Quince Dessert. Turkish food names are sometimes really lame. Basically, you peel and core the quince, throw some spices and sugar in the hollow, put them in a pan with a little water, and cook them all day on very low heat. I used a 100C oven, which I think is like 220F. The transformation is really amazing – they go from nearly inedible yellow orbs to something like apple pie filling, but less sweet. I ate mine with vanilla ice cream, but traditionally they’re served with kaymak, which is clotted cream from raw buffalo milk and frequently used as whipped cream in Turkey.
Hopefully I get similar results with the other unidentified vegetables that I bought today.