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Marmaris for eating, drinking, and a beach break (Reports from the Summer Road Trip)

the coast at twilight

the coast at twilight

As we headed west on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, Mom and I stopped in Marmaris for a few days.  It’s a good ferry-port for visiting Rhodes and another nice beach town in Turkey.   On the drive down the mountain from the highway, we could smell both the pine forests and the salty sea breeze, interrupted by the occasional roadside “milky corn” stands.

Since we arrived late in the afternoon, we had two items on our agenda: beach and dinner.  As a natural multi-tasker, I thought it was best to find a beach while we had the sun, and then figure out dinner from there.  The coast is lined with resorts and it was difficult to find a pathway to the water, or even a public beach sign.  Each resort has its own section of beach stakes its claim with rows of umbrellas and chaise lounges.  Sometimes, you can just sit there and enjoy, and other times somebody comes up and demands money for the privilege of sitting in their chairs.  Since I never know which kind of place it is, I’ve taken to sitting wherever looks good and having some ready-cash on hand.  We were definitely on a resort’s property since everybody around us was speaking Russian and wearing wristbands, but luckily, at this particular beach, nobody pestered us for fees.  Eventually, two spots on the pier opened up, and Mom and I upgraded our lounging and stayed until sunset.

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For dinner, we ventured into the old town of Marmaris for a restaurant I had found on tripadvisor.  It’s called the Drunken Crab, which I know doesn’t sound very Turkish but is definitely worth a try.  It’s owned by a Turkish/British couple, Mustafa and Kim, who cook all the food and run the place.  You choose your menu by picking meze and seafood items from the refrigerator, and then it’s all cooked to your liking and served with hot, fresh bread.  For dessert, the restaurant has a tradition of bringing an unbelievably delicious hot brownie surrounded by fresh seasonal fruit.  It was some of the best fruit I’ve tasted in my life!  Of course, the restaurant is on Bar Street, an infamous place in Marmaris for British stag/hen parties and drinking tours.  It’s rarely dull in the evenings!

Our hotel was down the street from the Wednesday market, and since it was the right day, we checked it out.  Mom made friends with lots of the salesmen and got to see what kind of stuff is on offer at a regular market (it’s a bit different from the bazaars in Istanbul).  She also got to try simit, which is a Turkish bagel-type bread covered in toasted sesame seeds.  Of course, simit goes best with kaymak (kind of like clotted cream), and sure enough, when we reached the dairymen, a guy slathered a bunch of it on her bread so that she could eat it properly.  If you’re ever in Turkey and hungry with no money, visit a market.  You can definitely fill up on all the samples – they’re impossible to refuse.

Since the whole point of staying in Marmaris was to take a day trip to Rhodes, we headed over to the ferry port to get our tickets.  It’s a good thing we did this the day before, as throughout the summer we encountered fully-booked ferries all over the place.  The ferry port is at the edge of Marmaris and next to the National Park.  We drove towards the park to find a less commercial, resort-y beach vibe.  Stretches of Turkey’s coast are completely undeveloped, and occasionally the edge of the road hits the ocean from erosion of the shoreline.  After a few minutes of this, we passed a lot of drabby parking lots and a few sad, crumbling restaurants.  Finally we parked at a little rundown place on a cove and checked it out.  These beach chairs were free, and they bring you drinks.  We also ate at their cafe, which had tables right on the beach, overlooking Marmaris proper across the bay.  I wish I could remember its name, but I don’t think it even had a sign.  Basically, drive past the ferry port and stop when you see a pebble beach with a 10 m rock behind it.  If you pass the yacht club, you’ve gone too far.

This place became our Marmaris hang-out.  We stayed until sunset, and then a little later, because it was THE SITE for sunset photo shoots.  At first one girl showed up with a photographer and a costume bag, but as the sun dipped, more photographers, with couples or families, arrived. It was great people-watching.  Mom and I even returned the next evening after our trip to Rhodes for a sunset cocktail, and we weren’t disappointed with the view – sunset and even a Marilyn Monroe lookalike!

Karnı Yarık a.k.a. eggplant that you actually want to eat!

Highly affordable service is one of the really great things about living in Turkey.  For instance, because I really don’t enjoy cleaning, and definitely don’t do it as well as a professional, I have a lady come once a week to make my place shine.  But she’s such an awesome person that she doesn’t want to leave when she finishes cleaning the house.  Instead, she looks around for stuff to do to ensure that she puts in a full day’s work!  After she ironed everything she could find, mended all of my clothes, and fixed all of my experiments in home agriculture, she decided to start teaching me to cook Turkish style!

Sometimes I feel like one of the girls in The Help.  I love seeing Sarap, and she teaches me so many things about cleaning and all of the other facets of domestic engineering from a distinctly Turkish perspective.  After concentrating my Turkish studies on the high academic vocabulary of international relations, it was almost a relief to learn the words for bucket (kova) and broom (süpürge).

We started our cooking lessons with my favorite Turkish dish, karnı yarık, which translates to riven belly (like it’s torn or split – Turkey has lots of great dish titles).  It’s a eggplant boat with a vegetable/minced meat stuffing.  I always liked eggplant (this is an effect of growing up vegetarian) but didn’t fully appreciate it’s versatility until I came to Turkey.  Now, it’s my favorite ingredient.  Turks treat eggplant like Bubba treats shrimp – you always have options.

I was relieved this summer in Thessaloniki, Greece, when my friend Kim and I were at a Greek restaurant and overheard a group of Turk’s a few tables away asking the waiter what kind of eggplant dishes they offered.  This is usually my first question at menu-less restaurants here in Turkey, and their asking the same thing reinforced that I had properly embraced Turkish cuisine.

If you want to make karnı yarık, you’ll need the following  for 8 pieces:

  • 8 eggplants (the long skinny kind is best)
  • 100 g ground beef
  • vegetable oil
  • 8 hot peppers
  • 1 tomato, sliced into 8 pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • tomato paste
  • lots of salt and pepper

Start by cutting the ends off of the eggplant, then peel them in a striped fashion.

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Meanwhile, saute the hot peppers in the oil until slightly charred, then remove.

Mix the chopped bell pepper and onion in a bowl.

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Place the eggplant in the same pan and cook until browned on all sides (this may require multiple batches and lots of turning).

browning the eggplant

browning the eggplant

Once all of the eggplants are browned, remove from oil.  When cool enough to touch, slit them down the middle with a knife.

In another pan, cook the ground beef.  Once slightly browned, add the onions and bell peppers, and a little butter if you think it’s necessary (most Turkish cooks think it is!).

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Cook thoroughly, then add about 2 T tomato paste.  When the tomato paste is fully stirred into the mixture, add the chopped parsley, then remove the pan from heat.  This is your filling for the eggplant.

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Arrange the cooked eggplant in a deep skillet.  Fill each slit with the meat/veg mixture, then press a hot pepper and then a tomato on top of each eggplant.  Fill the pan with water to about 2/3 the height of the eggplant, then cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or so.  You have to taste to make sure it’s done.

This is best served over buttery rice.

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Afiyet olsun! (Bon appetit)

Kicking It from Kas to Kekova (Reports From My Summer Adventures)

kap  2013-07-08 at 14-03-32The last time I wrote about my summer, we were jumping off of Babadag (https://libertinelog.com/2013/08/11/jumping-off-a-mountain-the-best-way-to-really-see-a-place/).

After having so much fun in and around Fetihye, we changed it up a bit and headed east along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.  Our first stop was Kaş, another of many charming beach towns in Turkey.  The drive out there reminded me of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) with its crazy curves and roads built right to the cliff’s edge.  Here, instead of getting stuck behind RVs going only 40 mph, you’re stuck behind old cars going only 40 kph, which is far worse whether you bother to do the conversion in your head or not.  The good thing about road grandmas interrupting your speed is that you have a little more time to check out the scenery – huge rocky mountains on the right and sparkling sea on the left.  The bad thing is that just like while driving the PCH, I always have a slight fear that I’ll sneeze or something and jerk the car right off the edge.  But the tiniest bit of anxiety just makes it more fun!

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We meant to stop for lunch in Kalkan, which I heard was a cute village relatively unspoilt by tourists, but since we drove right past it, we ate at a little fish place along the road.  Here we sat on a little terrace overlooking inhospitable cliffs and the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.  Over the rail, a couple of broods of chickens spent the hours rushing each other, which was perfect entertainment while we waited to eat.

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The waiter brought out a huge metal tray containing the morning’s catch – we chose a bright red snapper that turned out to be my best fish of the summer.    Along with the fish the restaurant served french fries, salads, and bread.  It’s pretty standard that at the fish places you order your fish, and then the waiters bring all kinds of other foods for you to along with the main course.

We resumed our ride and eventually reached Kas.  Mom found a great restaurant on tripadvisor in one of the shopping squares in town.  On our way down to eat, we found lots of shopping opportunities – jewelry, soaps, and Turkish textile shops were everywhere!  Following our bellies, we resolved to eat first then spend money!  At Kasim’s, Mom had the best fish of her trip (even better than the red snapper) and we shared a few eggplant dishes (my favorite meze).  This place was so great that we ended up eating here both nights in Kas!  The restaurant’s tables are all out on the square, and unfortunately this brings up the one downside of Kas – mosquitoes!  I definitely advise getting some spray or repellent for going out at night.

Our first night in Kas we checked out a few tourist companies to figure out how to see Kekova, the remains of a city half-sunk and completely abandoned after a earthquake in the 2nd century BC, rebuilt, and then abandoned again in the 10th century after one too many Arab incursions.  All the tour companies offered kayak tours and party boats as a means to see the sights.  As both options started at 8:30 in the morning, Mom and decided to try our luck with just driving out there and hiring a boat from the pier.  The one issue about driving the Turkey’s Med coast is that there are huge mountains between the beach towns and the road, so hopping from town to town is best done by boat.  Otherwise, you drive all the way up the mountain, hit the main road for a few minutes, then all the way back down the mountain to your next beach stop.  This is a big problem when you reach your destination and can’t find an ATM!  Between us, Mom and I had 200 lira, which we hoped would be enough for a boat tour and lunch, and that we’d be able to find enough coins to cover parking.  We lucked out with a three hour boat tour for 120 TL and enough cash left over to share yet another amazing fish lunch.

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We motored out toward the current town of Kekova, which is only accessible by water.  Our first view was of an old tomb that appears to float on the water.

Next we sailed along the coast in a no wake zone.  If you look closely at these pictures, you can see staircases, walls, and even drainage pipes of the old settlements.

My favorite part was the swimming stop in a nice cove.  Even here we found a few ruins amongst the rock cliffs.

Sunday Hike: Fall Colors Spectacular With a Touch of Snow

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After such an amazing summer, I’ve had a hard time adapting to the changing seasons and accepting the cooler temperatures of autumn.  I wanted to spend a few more days wiling the day away at a sunny cafe and driving with the top down.  This weekend’s hike to Seviller Valley (Gerede, Bolu) with amazing fall colors and hints of winter provided me a pleasant antidote.  Now that I’ve tasted the beauty of fall, I’m ready for the transition.

Fall hiking is tricky because you never know what kind of weather to expect at the top of the mountain.  Some friends chided me for all of my layers, and I even stashed a pair of light gloves in my pockets.  As they shivered, I was happy to spend the day taking jackets off and putting them back on as the clouds moved blocking the sun’s warmth.

At first the hike was pretty standard for this area of Turkey.  We passed by pine trees and fire roads and small villages.

Then we entered a clearing, where everyone was shocked to see patches of snow!  We threw snowballs and took tons of pictures – it’s the first snow any of us saw on the ground this season.  The guides said we were only at about 1000 m of elevation.

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After another hour or so, we had lunch by this lake, where the solar-heated ground provided a perfect resting spot.

During lunch we all fretted at the graying sky and the quick moving clouds.  We consulted our smartphones for some consolation from the weather reports, which all promised sunshine and temps around 65, despite the chilly winds and gray skies we felt.  Luckily our path led us away from the gray and towards the sunnier areas.

We trekked down the mountain into glorious panoramas of the valley and a few teasers of the surprises in store.

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I was so happy to learn that the remainder of our path led right through this amazing scenery.  Once we descended the mountain, we walked along a small creek.  It was so beautiful that I think it’s fair to call it a burbling brook – is that a term?  Maybe it’s a bubbling brook?  Anyway.  Along with the beautiful sights in every direction, we were surrounded by the sounds and smells of falling leaves.

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I love learning about all the edibles along the paths in Turkey.  On Sunday I learned about two more.  Both berries were really tart, which is probably my least favorite taste, and after giving each a try I spit them back out.

Eventually we ascended from the creek valley along a path lined with leaves, which is another one of my favorite tokens of fall.  We also found a few surprises along the way.

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On the way into the village, we passed by this house where the women were baking bread in the brick oven.  One of them summoned a hiker to her fence and offered a huge piece of fresh bread for us to share – incredible.  They also had a ton of turkeys around – it’s the first time I’ve seen them in Turkey.

The house was the first sign of an amazing Turkish country village – it turns out everybody had turkeys and freshly-baked bread.  We all managed to buy a hot oven-fresh loaf, for 5 TL (about $2.50) from the lady who bakes for the entire village.  Bonus: the bus smelled amazing for the whole ride.

Finally, a reminder of how small the world is.  Doesn’t this mosque look like it should be in a New England town?

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See what keeps me smiling everyday in Turkey

Warning: Don’t watch this video if you’re hungry! Do click for a great view of Turkey’s food and producers, as well as lots of smiles!

Faces of Turkey from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

An Hour of Ups and Downs in Ankara

In the process of running a few errands today, I ran into to all kinds of personalities.

First, I picked up my rugs.  I had bought two silk rugs when I lived in Bahrain seven years ago and since then never managed to get them cleaned.  Everybody has rugs here, and most places that offer dry-cleaning also do rug cleaning.  When I dropped mine off, the clerk warned me that cleaning them would be very expensive because they were silk.  When I asked how much, she said 10-15 TL per square meter.  I’ve learned that “really expensive” here is generally affordable to me, and I went for it.  So today, when I picked them up, it was 40 lira total for 2 rugs, or about $20 – pretty awesome for cleaning eight years of wear.  Score!

Next I went to a frame shop to pick up stuff from this summer’s travels.  This shop is full service.  As Serdar was presenting my items, each had a little plastic baggie attached to the back with picture hangers and nails.  They even offered to come and hang them if I didn’t have anybody to do it for me – wow!  But the kicker came at payment time.  I forked over my credit card, which didn’t work the first time.  He ran it again and offered me tea, which we drank while he kept swiping the card.  As we finished our second glass of tea without a successful transaction, everybody agreed that the machine wasn’t going to work today, and since there was no ATM nearby, I should just come back sometime next week to pay.  Can you imagine that happening in the States?

After I loaded my pictures into the car, I started hearing some shouting that felt, somehow, directed at me.  I looked right up into Turkish balcony culture, which I had often heard about but had as yet not seen.  In the building I had parked in front of, everybody was out on their balconies, enjoying afternoon tea.  An older lady, teacup in hand, was yelling at me about my parking job with her neighbors clicking along in approval.  Basically, she wasn’t happy that my car’s bumper was essentially kissing her car’s bumper.  Fair enough, I thought, everybody has their own opinion about the actual purpose of bumpers.  My Turkish is decent, but it’s harder to understand with the street noise and somebody four stories up yelling down with everybody else throwing in their two cents.   Their basic premise was that my car couldn’t fit into the spot, which I found absurd, since it had already been parked in the spot for going on an hour.  I summoned all of my confidence to yell back that I would move the car slightly to see if there was any damage to her car.  After much back and forth,  the balcony chorus eventually agreed that this would be okay.  So after moving my car about an inch, guess what?  No damage!  I think I was the only one not surprised by this outcome.  After lots of waving and apologizing and a few offers of tea, I was free to go on my way.  Whew!

Back to Blogging

Hey, remember me?

I’m that girl who used to write about living in Turkey and traveling all over the place.

As much as I really enjoyed sharing my adventures, this summer writing the blog while traveling with family and friends became the excess baggage that I tossed when I decided instead to maximize the time with friends and family.

So now I’m back, and I’m going to start detailing the trip from where I left off: paragliding off of Babadag, all the way to Spain and back – it really was an epic summer of travelling!

As I go through stories and what I remember from all the stops along the way, I’ll be peppering my tales with bits and pieces from life in Ankara.  Even if I managed to write daily, I don’t think I’d be able to keep up with all the surprises that I encounter here, even after living in Turkey for over a year – it really is a fascinating country!

While I get the next post together, here’s a teaser of what’s to come:

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