Tag Archives: Turkey

Bespoke Beachside Bungalow

Bespoke beachside bungalow

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15 Great Expat Blogs About Turkey

Here are 15 great blogs to check out if you are curious about living in Turkey, want to try out more Mediterranean Cooking, or are just searching for some travel inspiration:

  1. Turkey’s For Life: Julie and Barry, two UK citizens, share advice, recipes, and plenty of personal adventures on this extensive blog.
  2. Ozlem’s Turkish Table: Photos, easy-to-follow recipes and interesting tales woven together by an award-winning chef who also happens to offer online cooking lessons.
  3. Turkey from the Inside: Pat, a UK-origined former Thomas Cook travel specialist, travel book author and writer for Today’s Zaman takes readers on a whirlwind tour through the culture and history of many different Turkish regions
  4. Back to Bodum: An Aussie expat and her Turkish husband re-adjust to life in the Turkish countryside
  5. Pul Biber – With Everything (Red Pepper with Everything) Two retired UK expats living in Selçuk adjust from their fast-paced London life to soaking up the small town sights, smells and occasional serenity
  6. Adventures in Ankara: A Pennsylvania native and lawyer by profession shares her adventures and observations after moving to Ankara with her Turkish husband. Plenty of travel tips, trip reviews, and a culinary corner as well.
  7. A Seasonal Cook in Turkey: A 30+ year expat resident of Istanbul share’s the years’ best fare with recipes fit for every season.
  8. Slowly By Slowly: “Roadtripping through one Turkish-American marriage with a troupe of backseat-driving Karagöz puppets”
  9. Almost Turkish Recipes: Simple and tasty meals you can make in your own kitchen, regardless of whether you have access to Turkey’s extensive outdoor bazaars.
  10. From the Seven Hills of Istanbul: A Wisconsin native who has lived almost continuously in Turkey since completing her MA in Turkish Studies in 2009 now shares restaurant reviews and travel tips covering Bursa and Istanbul.
  11. Binur’s Turkish Cookbook: Recipes, tantalizing photos.  What more could you want in a simple food blog?
  12. The Turkish Life: A SF native residing in Istanbul and writing about food, running, photography and the environment
  13. Far From the Sticks: An East Coaster residing in Ankara with her Turkish husband shares stories, photos and culinary adventures.
  14. Adana Adventures: Part travel /living guide, part blog written by an American expat living in Adana with his Turkish wife.
  15. Inside Out Istanbul: Lisa Morrow, author of  Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City and Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries shares book reviews, life tales, and plenty of photos.

+ 1 Best of Bursa: An expat family shares their favorite experiences in a city they’ve come to call home.

Looking for More Reading: the Daily Sabah has also collected an “Ultimate list of expat blogs on Turkey” to be found here.

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Turkey’s City Street Food

If you’ve been around the beach, you know the basics (or can find them here: Turkey’s Best Beach Food): gözleme, ayran, stuffed mussles, melon ice cream bowls, steamed corn, fresh fish.  But what can you eat when you hit Turkey’s urban streets?  Here are some of the must-try simple street snacks (or full meals) you’ll find in almost every urban center:

19555587985_89648f59d8_zBreakfast:

Head to the nearest wheeled glass cart labeled “halk ekmek” (“people’s bread”) or the small shop by the bus stop and grab a few simit for a simple start to the day. At first glance a simit may look a bit like a bagel covered in sesame seeds.  Cracked open it can be eaten with soft spread cheese.

3077558355_04f058d2be_mTired of simit?  Ask for a poğaça instead.  At 2/1 lira they’re still quite cheap, and come with a variety of savory stuffings  like olive (zeytin), cheese (peynir), or spicy sausage (sucuk).

salepFinish off your breakfast with a glass of strong Turkish tea or salepa traditional drink made with powdered orchid root and flavoured with cinnamon.




Lunch/Quick Dinner/Midnight Snacks

Turkey’s most popular savory street food is the doner kebab (here known as durum) with long strips of lamp of chicken rolled in flatbread with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and the occasional french fry (curious about what defines a kebab? read our post here). But if you only know the doner… you’ve barely dabbled in Turkish street tastes!

7793420340_cf56c7e319_zOnly got 10 minutes for lunch? One of Turkey’s most popular “fast foods” is lahmacun, a flatbread topped and backed with minced meat and a garlic-tomato paste, almost always paired with a cool glass of ayran (salty yogurt).  Almost any neighborhood will have a lunch joint with 2 lahmacun + ayran lunch specials for about 5 lira.  Don’t forget a squeeze of lemon!

tantuni

If you’re seriously on the run, grab a tantuni or “Turkish burrito”.  Tantuni are wraps composed of ground meat cooked on a wide metal plate with spices and oil then rolled up with slices of onion, tomato, cilantro and lettuce.  Take it with a hot green pepper if you can handle extra-spicy.

Hit by 3 am hunger pains? Head for a kokoreç stand.  While chopped sheep intestines might not sound appealing during the day, this savory, spicy and complex flavoured sandwich is sure to satisfy your midnight cravings.

19271026726_4d83c7aa55_zLooking for something a little more sophisticated?  Pideoften nicknamed “the Turkish pizza” is a boat-shaped oven-baked bread topped with everything from spinach and feta to chicken and tomatoes to ground beef and cheese. Expect fresh bread hot out of the oven, with the juices from the toppings just starting to sink into the dough. Ask for a side of tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with a sprinkling of lemon.

13692321384_ef09d9baf1_z

Vegetarian? No worries. bulgar-based Çiğ köfte is savory, sometimes spicey, and always delicious, whether eaten alone or in a wrap. Each region has it’s own recipe for Çiğ köfte though, as a rule, the ingredients include and bulgur, chopped cilantro, onion, tomato paste, spices, crushed garlic and salt.  Again, everything is better with a slice of lemon!

Snacks

2037583738_eb5fcd9dfb_zIn winter warm your hands and your soul with a cup full of hot roasted chestnuts (kestane) and served in a paper cone for 2-5 lira per portion.

Don’t forget that Turkey has great regional varieties in cuisine – while in Kayseri you’ll have to try the kayseri mantisi; in Bursa, iskender kebab, and in testi kebab in Cappadocia.

Hungry for more? We know you are… Check out these pages extensively covering Istanbul’s street food scene, and share with us you favorite street foods from around the country.

World’s Best Street Food: Istanbul Edition

Beyond the Doner: Real Turkish Food

IstanbulEats.com

Culinary Back Streets: Istanbul’s Best Street Foods

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Is it Still Safe to Travel in Turkey?

One of the most common questions popping up on travel forums this past week is whether or not Turkey is still safe for travel. So many tourists have been scared off by recent news of regional turmoil that the beaches are bare and top resorts running at half capacity.

But are people right to be scared off? Is there really a threat to tourists in Turkey?

First, a short situation summary: December-January of this past year witnessed the bombing of Turkish-Syria border cities, most famously Kobani, and the subsequent fleeing of Syrian refugees into Turkey. Most of those refugees have either been settled in refugee camps around Turkey’s South East, or have made their way to Istanbul to try and start a new life their or seek asylum in Europe. There have been scuffles with border police following the Turkish government’s decision to close the border to men wishing to turn back to Syria and take hand in the fighting after seeing women and children to safety.

Flash forward to June: during parliamentary elections the AKP, Turkey’s 12-year ruling party, finally lost it’s majority hold, in great part due to the HDP (Kurdish Party recently united with left-wing liberals) passing the 10% threshold and gaining 80 seats in parliament. There is speculation that the incumbent president and AKP head, Recep Tayip Erdogan, is attempting to forestall government-creating coalition talks and force early elections in the fall. The theory goes that, in order to win AKP support back from those who supported the HDP in the last elections, Erdogan is trying to cast the HDP with the PKK (a pro-Kurdish terrorist organization operating out of Syria) and demonstrate that the country will lose stability without a unified single-party government and strong government head. July 20th witnessed a suicide attack possibly initiated by ISIS in Suruc, a Turkish-Syrian border town. Following the attack, Turkey has bombed several ISIS strongholds in the northern Kurdish region of Syria. Unfortunately for Erdogan, his support has only slipped since the last elections and it is unlikely that an early election would bring the AKP back into power.

So…is it safe? Certain towns in the South East do seem to be having security/stability issues and it is not recommended to travel in those areas. Most likely nothing would happen (you’re still more likely to die from a lightning strike than a terrorist attack), but to be on the safe side, we’d recommend you avoid Diyarbakir and everything to the south and east. In Istanbul’s tourist areas you may encounter the same problems that pervade every large city: pickpockets, overpriced sandwiches and crowded trolley buses. Take your normal precautions as a traveler, and you should be fine. For everday safety tips, see our more general post here.

As for the Mediterranean coast – it is quite far from the Syrian border and any of the affected towns. Antalya is 1,162 km from Diyarbakir and 1,076 km from Kobani/Suruc. For comparison, Tijuana to San Francisco is less than 840 km – and few would expect the sporadic violence in Mexico’s border city to migrate up to the golden gate city. Having lived in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago, where just crossing a single street could throw an unwitting pedestrian into hostile territory, I would say that it is quite unlikely travelers will encounter ISIS sunbathing at the beach.

Should I cancel my trip? Unless you were planning on hiking around South East Turkey, there’s probably no need. The rest of the country is still quite stable and enjoys lower crime rates than half the countries in Europe. We can’t promise that nothing will happen. No locale is completely safe – be it your backyard or some city halfway around the world. But it’s quite likely that you would pass your vacation in Turkey without incident – and enjoy deep discounts coupled with quiet beaches. Keep checking the news – but for more objective information remember to read reports from a few different news outlets, both national and international.

As turkeytravelplanner insightlfully summed up the situation:

You must answer this question to fit your personal tolerance for risk. If you believe the statistics and look at it rationally, you’ll probably go. If you’re going to worry about safety a lot while you’re there, the worry may make your trip less pleasant, and so you probably shouldn’t go.

3 year Istanbul Resident Joy at the blog My Traveling Joys came to the same conclusion: Every place has it’s faults, but you should be fine in Turkey.  Read more on her post “Living Safely in Istanbul & American Ignorance”.

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Exploring Ephesus… And More Surprises in Turkey

Following our post last week, Matador Travel Network featured 17 surprising (and interesting) facts about Turkey this week.  Scroll down to number three!

17 FACTS ABOUT TURKEY THAT WILL SURPRISE YOU

1. It has one of the world’s oldest and biggest malls.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, or Kapalı Çarşı, dates to 1455 and was established shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Over the centuries it has grown into a warren of 61 streets lined by more than 3,000 shops and currently occupies a nearly incomprehensible 333,000 square feet. You’ll never possibly be able to explore it all, but that doesn’t keep people from trying — according to Travel + Leisure, the Grand Bazaar was the world’s #1 attraction in 2014, drawing over 91 million people.

2. You might find chicken in your dessert.

The signature Ottoman treat is tavuk göğsü, or chicken breast pudding. It’s a strange blend of boiled chicken, milk, and sugar, dusted with cinnamon. And it’s delicious. Look for it on menus across the country.

3. Turkey is packed with cultural heritage.

In fact, there are 13 spots in Turkey inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, and a whopping 62 on the tentative list. They range from a Mesolithic temple (Göbekli Tepe) to a Biblical city (Ephesus) to a World War One battlefield (Gallipoli), and help make Turkey the sixth most-visited tourist destination in the world.

 Read the full article here.

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Typical Costs to Build Your Budget for a Summer in Turkey

We can’t give you a definitive budget – everyone’s travel styles and daily habits are different – but we do hope the following list and resources will help you craft a reasonable budget for your stay in Turkey.

my blue cruise guletWhen creating your budget, ask yourself what type of traveler/tourist/seasonal resident/retiree/expat you are: do you enjoy laying on the beach? Seeing all the sights? Sampling local foods at small cafes or going out to big dinners? Staying at posh resorts, renting a flat, or even camping? Do you plan to drive or fly, or are you fine with taking the train and long-distance bus? What does your nightlife look like?  All of these factors will play a great part in how you should set our budget.  Some students travel through Turkey on a few hundred Euros a month; others spend that much on a half-week gulet tour. Some retirees live off their government pensions with ease; others choose to live off the same budget they would use in the US or UK, only allowing themselves more comforts and luxuries than that income would allow in their home country.

Prices below are all for the area surrounding the popular resort town of Didim, for the summer season. Other areas along the Turkish Riviera may be more or less expensive.

villa konak hotel kusadasiAccommodation 

Unless you own property, you have three main choices in Turkey: stay in a hotel, stay in a pansion (pension), or rent an apartment.  Prices vary depending on season and locality; for single people and couples, it is often cheapest to stay in a pansion with half board (breakfast and dinner provided) at 30-50 lira/day person; for families, the most economic choice is often renting an apartment by the week or month at 150-300 Euro/week in summer, or 500+ lira/month year round.

  • Typical monthly rent for a decent/average 2 BR flat: 600 TL
  • Weekly Rent in Summer:  150-700 USD (1 bedroom flat-villa)
  • Monthly Electricity Bill (Summer): 100 TL for a family of 5
  • Monthly Water Bill (Summer): 50 TL for a family of 5
  • Monthly Phone Bill: 90 TL (full plan); 20 TL (texting, calls and minimal internet use)
  • Monthly Internet Bill: 60 TL

Turkish kofte with sauceFood and Dining Out

  • Weekly Groceries: 200 TL  for a family of 5
  • Full Breakfast Out: 8-15 TL/person
  • Pastry and Tea: 4 TL
  • Lunch Out: 12-30 TL
  • Sandwich or Toast: 6-10 TL
  • Dinner: 15-30 TL; Many restaurants have 20-25 lira specials with fresh fish and sides
  • Drinks at the grocery store: 1 TL water, 5 TL beer
  • Drinks in a restaurant: 8-15 TL for beer; 10-20 TL for a glass of wine


kusadasi street sceneTypical Expenses:

  • Bus or Subway Ticket: 1-2 TL
  • Taxi around town: 10-20 TL
  •  Shuttle or Taxi to Airport? 40-50 Euro
  • Fake designer sunglasses: 5-10 TL
  • Casual canvas shoes: 20-50 TL

Travel, Entertainment and Sight-Seeing

my blue cruise guletUnusual Expenses and Other Notes

Three things are generally more expensive in Turkey than might be expected: gas, alcohol, and international brand names – all due to high taxes.

Gas is generally 4-5 TL/Litre, making it more expensive than many European countries.  For this reason, the budget-savy traveler will often choose to travel between cities by coach bus and locally by dolmus (public minibus).  Coachbuses are comfortable and often cost around 10 TL/hour on the road (i.e. the Ankara-Istanbul route takes 4-5 hours and bus seats are 50 TL). When debating between flying and taking the bus between towns, keep in mind that bus stations are often located near the center of town and near other forms of public transportation, like the subway or city buses.  For getting the best deals when flying in and out of Turkey, see our guide on finding the lowest-priced airfare hereturkish gozleme

Alcohol can also be a considerable expense in Turkey.  Grocery store beer prices are around 4-6 TL/bottle.  Casual bars around student-friendly locales like Olympos will generally sell beer for 7-12 TL/bottle, but beer and other alcoholic beverages at urban bars and at tourist spots can run upwards of 20 lira/drink.

You will also find that, due to import taxes, international brand items (such as bags, shoes, sunglasses and clothes) will be more expensive in Turkey.  If there is something specific you need, bring it with you (see our Summer Packing List for Women here).  But, no worries – you can also find high-quality items made in Turkey for a fraction of the price, and unbeatably-priced ‘genuine fakes’ of everything from watches to jeans to purses to crocs.

ephesus stadiumWorried about any specific expenses?  Check out the full statistics on Cost of Living at Numbeo here, or send us a message.

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Cool Summer Sweets: Sütlaç

IMG_1307Sütlaç’s closest kin is rice pudding, but you’ll notice that the inside texture is silky, and the top is coated with a thick and creamy skin.  It’s perhaps accurate to call fırın sütlaç (or, oven-milk pudding) a cross between Crème brûlée, custard and iced arroz con leche.  While originally made with rose water, today’s sütlaç  is more commonly flavored with vanilla. Served cold in thick clay dishes, it’s the perfect dessert to cool off on a summer eve – or cool your tastebuds after a spicy dinner.

History: Fırın sütlaç originated in Ottoman kitchens. The original name “sütlü aş” identifies it as hailing from the Rumelia (now Balkan) region, which is why you can find similiar rice pudding dishes across the Balkan states.  Today sütlaç is popular across Turkey, though rice grains, ingredient ratios and topping or flavoring will vary from region to region.


This photo of FELAMURDA KAFE/RESTAURANT is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Recipe: Unlike crème brûlée, sütlaç’s main ingredient is simply milk.  Most cooks swear by using fresh and unpasturized whole milk when making the dessert. While not exactly a health food, sütlaç won’t kill your gut or fill you with regret.

If you want to make sütlaç you will need: 4 cups milk (preferably fresh), 1/2 cup rice, 2 T cornstarch or rice flour, 1 cup sugar (or pekmez), 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 beaten egg yolk.

IMG_1306

  • First, boil the rice with 2 cups water (though some recipes recommend cooking the rice with milk to give it fuller flavor).
  • After cooking the rice (about 25 min), stir in all but 1/4c of the milk, sugar and vanilla extract.  Bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat, letting it boil gently for about ten minutes.
  • Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk.
  • After ten minutes, add the cornstarch mixture to the rice and milk, gently stirring it in. Lower the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  • After the pudding thickens stir for another 2-5 minutes before removing the mixture from the stove and pouring 1/2c-1c servings into individual bowls or foil tins. Swirl a small part of the egg yolk into each serving.
  • Let sit until the pudding has cooled to room temperature, and then sprinkle with sugar and broil in the oven until the top has browned.

Serves 8

You can find other full sütlaç recipe (there are dozens of varieties) and instructions here and here (rosewater with pistacho crumble)

Our Favorite Variations:  If you want to truly try sütlaç, make sure you are tasting the real deal.  The pudding should be ice cold, have a thick skin half golden-brown, and be served in a red clay cup.  Traditional sütlaç is flavored with rose water (not vanilla) and topped with crumbled pistachios, and can be found at Ottoman restaurants; for more modern variations, try a dessert cafe like MADO.

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