That means Hello in Turkish, and pretty much summarizes the extent of my understanding of this country's language to date. Turkish is not an easy language to learn, and I don't pick up languages easily, so it's a deadly combination. Most people know a bit of English here, and I've gotten better at gestures and sign language, so getting around has been fine. But, I had forgotten what it is like to be the quiet foreigner in the corner, only able to say hello and smile when others try to interact with you. It does foster creativity though, as Steve, Dave (steve's dad) and I try to come up with our own interpretations and meanings for words and signs we see as we walk and drive around the country. I think we're wrong most of the time, but in our minds, we're doing a great job!
So, instead of writing everything we've seen and done for the last two weeks, I'll write about things that have stood out for me so far....
The food: For me, food is one of the more exciting aspects of traveling, especially traveling abroad. I love figuring out what the locals eat, how they eat it, and sampling things to determine my favorites. Western Turkey is full of good fresh food. We've hit several markets, indulging in fresh tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, carrots, and cucumbers. The standard breakfast here (and by standard I mean the ONLY breakfast you can get in Turkey) is bread (the white variety), cheese (usually hard white, feta-ish cheese, but we've also gotten cream cheese-ish stuff too), fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, olives, and sometimes a hard-boiled egg. Vegetarian food is fairly easy to come by, with eggplant dishes quite common. I've also found beans (garbanzo or some kind of white bean), shakshuka (poached eggs in a tomatoey sauce), and salads. But, my staple is bread and cheese. Bread is served with every meal, and Turks eat ALOT of bread. It's heaped on their plates at the beginning of the meal, and gone by the end. It's quite amazing actually. We've found some brown bread at bakeries, but at restaurants it is almost exclusively white french bread, fresh and yummy, but very white. If Steve was writing this post, he would rave about the doner stands at every corner - the turkish street meat! You can get chicken or lamb, and is cooked on a spit and then shaved off and put in bread with lettuce and tomato. Steve loves them.
Turkey is a very interesting place, filled with both devout Muslims in their traditional hajib and Europeans in their trendy western clothing. Walking around the cities, you pass a store selling head scarves for women right next to a store selling tube tops and string bikinis. Every city and town has several mosques, each blaring the call to prayer 5 times a day. I love the eerie singsong noise that comes from all directions during the call. We were in the kameralti (central bazaar) yesterday during the noontime call to prayer, and all the men set out their blankets and pieces of cardboard and knelt down for prayer in perfectly even rows. It was an amazing transition from a noisy market to a silent church-like atmosphere.
Turkey is also much more developed and modern than I had anticipated. In the country, you still find women and men working by hand in the fields, living in very basic stone houses. But, in the city there are high rises, huge new condo developments, posh restaurants, brand new cars, and style, style, style. I think we'll find a different Turkey as we travel east, but so far it feels more like a western european country.
More later - we're off to find a cord for our camera (we brought the wrong one), some pants for Steve (he has huge holes in both pairs he brough with him), food for dinner (we're cooking our specialty - potato burritos! - for Liz and Gulchen (steve's aunt and her roommate while in Turkey), and perhaps a hike up to the teleferik for a view of the city and a bit of exercise.