Follow us in Barcelona…at
Follow us in Barcelona…at
We spent most of 2015 deciding where to move and then doing it. We chose between Berlin and Barcelona, making our first reconnaissance trip to Barcelona in early January and to Berlin in mid February. The weather did not factor into our decision, but the fact that walking in Barcelona we found the neighborhood we wanted to live in, and we couldn’t find its counterpart in Berlin sealed the deal.
For an American, without an EU passport, getting a visa to apply for the residence permit is challenging. Especially when gathering all of the information from two countries while in one with poor mail delivery – even express mail (Turkey, it’s complicated.)
We travel heavy, and pets add complexity…the pets needed titer tests, a four month procedure, which I didn’t start until June…having missed that little detail earlier. So, though we’d found and rented our apartment beginning in June in Barcelona, we stayed in Moda until October 28. Meanwhile we had some painting and other minor renovation done in Spain.
We’ve been here in Spain almost two months now. It is Christmas Day and we will be cooking dinner for new friends, who are also fairly new expats in Barcelona.
I know I’ve abandoned you, my readers. And for bloggers that’s the ultimate offense. I quit writing this blog because as things developed in Turkey, I found it inadvisable to publish what I really wanted to say, and that killed the joy of the process for me. I’m sad about Turkey and its situation. Living there was an adventure of my lifetime. I took to it immediately and thrived. I miss a lot about it, and certainly my dear friends.
Here is a (very amateur) video I made in May in advance of our leaving.
I was asked often what I would miss about Turkey. It was impossible to know the whole answer to that question before going, but I did know it would be the creatures. As I rewatched the video I was filled with such nostalgia and longing. The whole street animal thing combined with the city’s integration with the sea is special and unique in the world I think.
Yes, it was a wonderful experience. We lived there nearly three years, and I am so glad we did.
I will migrate this blog in some fashion…to another name at least…but for now I’m limited to an ipad as my single device and camera, and so will publish here for the near future.
We conceived our Istanbul adventure to include travel, and this is a great geography to journey from. With pet care under control, we are free to go, and recently we visited Amman, and Petra in Jordan.
Claude Monet was 68 when he first traveled to Venice, Italy. He was leery of even visiting because he was afraid of repeating what painters had already captured. Once there, though, he painted multiple versions of the gorgeous views in varied light. I can appreciate his apprehension as I show these photos of Petra.
Most Americans may not have ventured to Jordan and Petra, but many have seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The images of the place are well-known. And photos are no substitute for the glory of seeing Petra.
We had a wonderful day at Petra, and one day was just enough for us. Winter in this region has been warm and dry, and we had bright comfortable weather at the end of February. We were about a week before the seasonal onslaught at the beginning of March. The park was quite empty. In season it gets 3000 visitors a day.
We walked the ten-mile round trip from the entrance, climbing 800 steps to the Ad-Deir (Monastery) and down again. What we enjoyed most was engaging with the Bedouins who live and work in the park. Once, many families lived the caves. Most have relocated to a modern nearby village, but some 30 families still live there, and host overnight guests, and satellite dishes are in evidence. We learned the caves have internet, and air conditioning, powered by generators. The Jordanian government supplies the site with water.
Jordan has done a good job in supporting the Bedouins and operating the site. There are many vendors, most with the similar merchandise, who ask for the sale…once. Unlike at the pyramids in Giza Egypt, they do not hector visitors. In Petra, a refusal to buy is met with a smile or humor or both, and it is easy and comfortable.
The world comes to these Bedouins’ door. They are attractive people and many are quite well traveled themselves. Some speak multiple languages, at least well enough to cater to tourists. Jim was shown President Obama on one’s cell phone.
Our friend Berin and I had a delightful 3 kilometer camel ride…I rode Daisy (a male), she rode Antonio, and Jim walked with Ahmad, who held the lead, questioning him about his life. He is 28, his father has 23 camels, they live in the village nearby, and Ahmad has had a girlfriend in Holland for the last three years, who is in medical school. The Bedouin life here looked quite peaceful…it seemed natural and adequate at the worst, and affluent at the best. Ahmad was one of the more affluent.
One of the things we love in Istanbul is the urban wildlife…street dogs, cats, and birds, We enjoyed the animals as well as the people at Petra.
A beautiful part of the day was when all were heading home. All quieted down. We were in no hurry, and a lot of the park had emptied before we left. We captured the last long, golden rays of sun, before driving back to Amman in the dark.
We had a leisurely, relaxed and stimulating day. And now, we’ve been to Petra.
Over 3 months have passed since I last posted here… busyness due to stretching to absorb new activities. We have an active amateur photo group here in Istanbul with volunteers who plan excellent photo treks all over. Between joining those treks and participating in various workshops over the last few months…I’ve amassed a lot of photos, at the expense of maintaining this blog.
As the novelty of living here has worn off, so has the novelty of writing about beginners’ impressions.
Shifting direction, I’ll show the Turkey I am experiencing more through images than words. One of my regrets in art school is not poking my nose into the photo/video area. I used digital images extensively for reference shots and serigraphy. Now, I’m learning to move out of my camera’s auto mode. Seeing this place I love through the lens, and the camaraderie of the international group of mostly women who participate in the group is great fun. After Jeroen from Holland left, Jim became the sole male member…hopefully we’ll pick up more men soon.
A recent trek was was to the area near Çatalca where charcoal is classically and manually made from wood. Their market is home-grillers and restaurants in Istanbul. This is laborious and dirty work, probably not very healthy, but picturesque.
After cutting the wood, it takes a week to build the pyre, which will burn for another week.
Once burning is complete, they dissemble the burned down stacks and stack the charcoal.
This process is traditional and manual and somewhat hazardous, components of the Turkish life that can be very charming. You can see a few more photos of Çatalca here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31594849@N04/sets/72157641856380293/
For our first solo road trip outside of Istanbul we chose the Dardanelles Straits and the Aegean Coast. We drove from Istanbul along the European coast, crossing to Çanakkale on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles Straits to visit the battle grounds of Gelibolu Yarımadası (Gallipoli Peninsula). We love little local hotels, and stayed on the Çanakkale harbor in the Limanı (Port) Hotel. The Limanı is not a family hotel and actually has a sister hotel on the island of Bozcaada (also recommended as a wonderful place to visit). We had a comfortable, attractive, though small, room facing the harbor. Kahvaltı (breakfast) is always included, and Turks make a big deal of that meal.
Even in the most modest of travelers’ hotels, breakfasts typically include freshly cut cheeses, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, assortments of breads and cakes and so on. There are rarely packaged foods, maybe only jellies and butter. The kahvaltı at the Limanı was special, including large assortments of each category of foods, nothing packaged, special items like eggplant jam, eggs to order and filter coffee, not Nescafe. Here, Turkey trumped its own renowned hospitality. The pièce de résistance of the Limanı kahvaltı was arriving at my seat with my plate of food our second morning, to find my kahve and warm milk, prepared just as I had requested the day before, awaiting me. The little Limanı Hotel on the Dardanelles, in off-season.
Çanakkale’s population is a bit more than 100,000. It is a colorful town with a small tourist core. Locals directed us to the proper path, from which we intentionally strayed…allowing us to discover the city’s charm.
It was originally the Ottoman fortress of Kale-i Sultaniye, which later became known for its pottery. Çanak kalesi “pot fortress”, became Çanakkale. The area also has distinctive rug motifs. We have a rug from mid-20th C. Çanakkale (although it doesn’t follow the motifs I see in my book on tribal village rugs), and some Çanakkale-style pottery.
We booked a tour to visit the battlegrounds of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Çanakkale gets tourists from Australia and New Zealand who are visiting the graves of the fallen ANZAC (Australian/New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers during World War I.
The Ottoman Empire, considered the “sick man of Europe” prior to the war, commissioned and paid for two battleships from Great Britain. At the onset of the war, Britain requisitioned those ships for their own use, so the Germans stepped in and provided two cruisers. The Ottomans allowing those ships to pass through the Dardanelles violated international law as a neutral party, and the Ottoman Empire became allied with Germany.
In Black Sea “exercises” with the new ships, the Ottomans attacked Russian ports. The British and French seeking a route to Russia and to attack the Ottoman capital of Constantinople fought the Ottomans on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Early in the war, a month before the Battle of Gallipoli, the Allied sea campaign to sail up the Dardanelles failed.
We asked Australians on our tour why Australians and New Zealanders would be fighting at Gallipoli? They said the young kids volunteered for the adventure and to see the world.
Basically, the peninsula was a slaughter ground for the ANZAC and the Turks. ANZAC held the high ground for just two days, before the founder of modern Turkey, a young, smart General Mustafa Kemal, later called Atatürk (Father of Turkey) defeated them.
The tour stopped at ANZAC Cove first. It is a beautiful knoll overlooking the sea, with colorful flowers among the gravestones. Understanding that the soldiers were there voluntarily, I was dismayed at the sentiments on the markers. Of course, the families choosing them had to live with the reality, and I viewed the day through the filter of my politics. I hate war. I believe it largely unnecessary, but it is the obvious and often profitable route to gaining power and dealing with differences. I also dislike the multi-leveled rationalization that inevitably goes along with it. Unfortunately, I also don’t think it will end, certainly not in my lifetime. I am afraid war might be integral to the human species, its weak link.
At Johnston’s Jolly, named for Australian Brigadier General George Johnston, fighting occurred in April and May, and then again in August. The no-man’s land was narrow, the space between opposing trenches was close. When not fighting, soldiers from both sides shared food and provisions by tossing them back and forth between the trenches.
There was another story of cooperation, at the same location. On May 24 2015, there were so many rotting corpses on the battlefield from previous days’ fighting, that a truce of 9-1/2 hours was called, to bury the dead.
Words from those who were there…
“This whole operation was a strange experience – here we were, mixing with our enemies, exchanging smiles and cigarettes, when the day before we had been tearing each other to pieces. Apart from the noise of the grave-diggers and the padres reading the burial services, it was mostly silent. There was no shelling, no rifle-fire. Everything seemed so quiet and strange. Away to our left there were high table-topped hills and on these were what looked like thousands of people. Turkish civilians had taken advantage of the cease-fire to come out and watch the burial. Although they were several miles from us they could be clearly seen.
The burial job was over by mid-afternoon and we retired back to our trenches. Then, sometime between four and five o’clock, rifle-fire started again and then the shelling. We were at it once more.” [Albert Facey, A Fortunate Life, Ringwood, 1984, p.268]
“The time was taken up by making friends with the Turks, who do not seem to be a very bad sort of chap after all. After today most of our opinions on the Turks were changed …”[De Vine, quoted in Bill Gammage, The Broken Years, Ringwood, 1990, P 104]
Climbing back on the bus at Johnston’s Jolly, disgusted at the idiocy, violence, waste and irony of it all, I said “aptal savaş” (stupid war). Heads nodded.
All over the peninsula are memorials built and exquisitely maintained by the international Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Our guide, Bulent, went into great detail about each. For me, though, one memorial looked like the next. The weather was grey and, despite my new coat, cold. The scenery of the peninsula and the Dardanelles is beautiful, but at the stops that didn’t promise different pictures, I stayed on the warm bus and practiced my Turkish with the driver. He was a good teacher, who told me that since I’d been here for a year, my Turkish wasn’t good enough and I should get a new Turkish teacher. I told him it wasn’t Elif’s fault, that I didn’t do enough studying. (The driver did not speak English. So, clearly my Tarzan Turkish is somewhat serviceable).
Çanakkale is at the narrowest point of the strait and the tour involved short ferry rides across the Dardanelles between it and Eceabat. Once back in town we had a truly excellent seafood dinner at Yalova Restaurant and got up the next morning to drive to Assos.
Traveling in Turkey is very easy to arrange. There are highly suitable hotels everywhere. Driving in Turkey is challenging because many roads are under construction, directional signage is poor and maps, including GPS and Google, are inadequate. Plus, Turkish drivers have their own way of doing things…sort of like those in Boston, and one has to stay alert. In the future we will seek to combine drivers and guides, all readily available and of reasonable price, as we seek to explore this fascinating country with its deep history of humanity.
Turkey is delightfully Eastern and exotic, yet very familiar and comfortable too. It reminds me in many ways of the US. There is a great variety of terrain and culture, some of it very dramatic, a lot of it just gorgeous and interesting. I’ve seen amber waves (not on this trip), purple majestic mountains and spacious skies.
I will describe the rest of this road trip in another post.
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I love Istanbul more each day. Not every minute of course, but it is a comfortable, normal sort of place to live, and yet it is SO different! Many times it feels like an earlier time in America. The goods at the Sunday antique flea market conveys that. I felt similarly visiting novelist Orhan Pamuk’s collection of obsessive effects in the Museum of Innocence (both a book, and a place in Istanbul), where he cataloged the 1970s Istanbul life of his lover. That assemblage evoked in me the 1950s in the US http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Museum_of_Innocence.
This morning we met to “walk” with friends and cameras through the Feriköy Antika Pazarı. It was a foggy, chilly day and when we finally reconvened for çay we needed its warmth.
Naturally, there are many things one would rarely, if ever, see in a US flea market!
Jim and I have joined the Istanbul Photography Club, a multi-national group of mostly expats. We are also taking photo seminars, and tons of photos. (I’ve yet to pick up a paint brush here…because painting takes chunks of quiet time, which I haven’t found). I want, actually need, to paint, so must manage how much time I spend with the camera…it is seductive, but yet another thing which will keep me in front of the computer and away from the canvas.
No matter where one is in Istanbul, fresh food and drink is at hand. Çayçılar (tea makers/runners) are ubiquitous, pouring and delivering to shopkeepers and vendors continuously. This market also had two gözleme makers, rolling out yufka-like dough to make the Turkish version of crepes (using dough, not batter) filled with meat and vegetables.
This market appropriates a weekday parking lot…surrounded by a gentrifying neighborhood of huge residential high rises. Many of the sellers tables sit under a dark and, this morning, damp concrete structure. As usual, my forward motion was slowed by the inquiries and kindnesses of the people…AND my very slow, halting Turkish. Always “where are you from”, and I’m happy to say, “Kadıköy’de, or Moda’da”, then I tell them I came here a year ago from US, or California. Then we always get into a “conversation”, where I nod enthusiastically, apologize for my zayıf Türkçe (weak Turkish) and do my best to understand– “yavaş, tekrar” (slowly, again) and reply somewhat relevantly. My 3D puzzle that is learning the Turkish language is still stuck on 1D.
I didn’t succumb to impulse purchases, but there were many cool old things I hadn’t seen in a long time. Over our çay we shared our treasures. Linda bought a fabric print block which she expected would be more than she was willing to pay, and Nancy bought some children’s books. “For me!” she said, when I asked if they were for her grand-kids. That was a great idea, and I rushed over to buy some myself, paying 2 ½ TL ($1.25) for five, while having an engaging conversation in “Turklish” about making ceramic sculpture. Now I have to learn to read those little books.
What a place! I can see myself going back periodically just for the color and pattern of it all. Some of the sellers do a wonderful job of displaying their wares…and it is fun to revel in the nostalgia of the things.
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Mom loves living in Istanbul. Me, not so much. Mom says my stress is her stress.
When we moved here we lived in a hilly part of town. I loved all the cats on the street. They are different from California cats – not afraid of me. They just stand and spit…I like it when they run and I can chase them. Mom made me leave them alone. Now people laugh at me…there was a kitty and it blocked the stairway we were on. I left it alone as I was supposed to, I gave it wide berth, so there wasn’t room for us to walk on the stairs…people watching thought I was afraid of the cat….can you imagine? I do chase a cat when I can…
In California, most people said nice things to me, or ignored me. Being ignored is fine…I’m not worried about other people or dogs, I just follow Mom and Dad and the toy they are holding.
Istanbul is different. People and other dogs sometimes are not too nice. Mom doesn’t always see the mean street dog sleeping under a car, and is surprised when I try to get away. I have to, because those dogs bark a lot and bite some. Mom’s learned to hang onto my leash, to protect me from cars, in case I have to dart away from the street dog. I am glad Mom and Dad respect my need to avoid the street dogs. Sometimes there are so many on one street that we need to go a totally different way to get somewhere. Mom and Dad pay attention to my needs, and I am relieved.
It is hard to make friends here. Many people act very afraid of me. They make unfriendly faces and run away. Some kids think it looks like fun to throw the ball into the water for me, but are afraid of me when I bring it back to them. Some people want me to come to them, but not too close. What is wrong with them?
Some people are very mean. This morning there was a friendly dog with a halter but no leash…his mom was nearby waiting for him to come inside. We played, peed on the same curb, and sniffed each other. He then went inside. But, a friendly (surprise!) street dog wanted to join the game, and came to sniff me. I knew we were in the middle of the street, Mom was calling to me and a car was coming. We didn’t get out of the street in time, so he just hit us. His fender was plastic, he wasn’t going fast, it was really just a nudge out of the way…but Mom was really mad! Dad said, “Good thing I wasn’t there”.
I like the big park across the street, and I like to swim in the sea. The park, the sea, the weather are all similar to home, but here I am trapped inside, with no gate that gets left open, so I can’t escape and go roaming by myself. Sometimes kids in the park like me. Dad always invites them to pet me, and get to know me. Sometimes people understand that I am a sweet, obedient girl…mostly though; they don’t even give me a chance.
Dogs with families and homes aren’t always that nice either. They steal my ball in the park, and their parents don’t stop them. They get away with things. Like, they pull their people all over the place, and they bark at me. Mom and Dad won’t let me do that. Their parents don’t always pick up after them either. Mom is so fanatic, if I happen to poop on the steep slope in the park, she climbs after me to clean it up. I don’t know why she bothers; no one else would do that.
We live in an apartment now. In our California house I could bark as much as I wanted, although the parents always wanted me to stop. Here they have some machine that bothers me when I bark. I limit it now to the things I must bark about, like when the doorbell rings. When they are gone they close all the curtains so I can’t see dogs outside to bark at. Pretty boring. I used to bark my head off at Dolores and the vacuum cleaner. Wouldn’t you? I hate that machine, it scares me. Mom and Dad have been doing the vacuuming, so it’s not fun to bark at them. Today they have someone else doing the vacuuming…but I’m not barking. Maybe I’ve outgrown that.
There are some things I love, but I can’t tell you why…the simitici, for example. He is a man who carries simitlar (Turkish “bagels”) on his head, and walks the neighborhood calling, selling to people who send baskets down on string. He takes the cash, loads the bread and they haul it up for breakfast or afternoon snack. That call really touches something deep and primal in me. When I hear it I can’t help but throw my head back and join in with a howl. It makes the folks laugh every time. They call him “my boy”. Sometimes when we are walking Mom will say “Lucy, there’s your boy”. I don’t know what she’s talking about…”my boy” is only a sound. Another thing I love, there are a lot of snacks on the street. Mom always yells at me to “drop it”, but she’s not fast enough. I won’t tell you what they are, but they are good.
The streets are interesting too. One day there was a wooden slat box lined in plastic on the street. I sniffed it and was so shocked at what I smelled that I had to jump back. I can’t describe what it was, but I did a double take. Mom looked at it and didn’t see anything. I could walk for hours just sniffing and peeing. So many have been by the same place, there is so much to notice.
Mom and I go for long walks all over town in the evenings when Dad’s at the gym. I like that – so many new streets and places to see. Mom tells me what a good friend I am, and how happy she is I am here with them. Also, we go watch the boats out on the breakwater. Sometime she ties me to a post and shops for things. Being tied up used to make me nervous, but I’m a city dog now.
Mom and Dad are happy. Rita is doing OK, and they protect me from the street dogs. It isn’t as good as my old life, but it is good.
In daily Turkish, if you are traveling and want to refer to your luggage and all that goes with a trip plus bags, you say “bagaje m-agaje” (bah-gahj–mah-gahj). Sort of like simplified pig Latin, you repeat the word replacing the first letter with “m”. So Ҫay may (“chai, my”) means tea and all that accompanies it.
Linda was sorry she told me this. Nancy and I traveled with Linda to Rize. In the boon year of 2008 Turkey produced nearly as much tea as China, and more than India. Usually it ranks fifth. Tea is grown in the Rize area on the Black Sea, about 50 miles from the Georgian border. The eight-year-old in me chanted “dondurma, mondurma” (ice cream), “”pastane, mastane (pastry), and so on. We were all hungry and Linda and Nancy rolled their eyes at my age-inappropriate silliness. Thrilled to learn something other than my pathetic schoolbook Turkish, I have to use it or lose it, right?
Turks drink more tea than Brits per capita (at least in 2004), and it is ubiquitous in everyday life. Linda was charged with photographing çay-may for a book on tea in Turkey written by Pelin Aylangan http://www.teainturkey.com/ . Nancy and I tagged along with our cameras.
We flew to Trabzon and took the bus to the town of Rize, the capital of Rize province. Year-around, the area gets the most precipitation of any place in Turkey and in Western Asia. It is yemyeşil (very green). There is little other industry in Rize, and çay-may dominates. In town, steep verdant growing fields meet the sea, processing plants line the shore road, wholesale and retail shops abound as do tea houses where men sip the hours away.
Stakebed trucks, with tea leaves escaping their canvas covers, share the road. I winced as I noticed leaves fluttering away, after seeing all it took to get them in the truck. Up the hills in the growing areas, freshly cut tea leaves are bundled in big colorful tarps and tossed in pickups or pushed on carts to storehouses by men and women, tea-pickers take lunch by the side of the road, the slopes are dotted with bunches of pickers and their collection tarps. The smell of tea, either freshly cut or being fermented in the factories mixes with sea air.
Pelin had arranged for a Lipton representative to take us to the plantations. Halit, our guide, is a local with a degree in forest management. He told us the Rize area is semi tropical, hot wet summers and some winter snow, so typical tea pests are not resident and pesticides are unnecessary. He cheerfully obliged Linda’s requests, driving us around, securing approval for photo taking from pickers in the field, hosting a lovely lunch at a fish restaurant on Fırtına Deresi (“storm creek”), and finally taking us to an outcropping on the sea shared with a modest fish restaurant. While we were there the couple whose wedding he was attending later that evening showed up for photos.
We got the lowdown on çay research and production the next day. We visited the General Directorate of Tea Foundation, and watched both black and green teas being processed. Black tea is processed from leaf to bag in about 11-14 hours. All of the fields are privately owned. There are some migrant workers, but often it is family members who do all of the cultivation and harvest. The average farm is 10 donums which is about 2 ½ acres.
The çay plant is a dense shrub, and fields are closely planted. Pickers stand in narrow furrows and use shears to chop the new growth three seasons a year. Only the upper half of a picker is visible. Pickers use shears attached to a collection bag, which they empty into tarps laying across the top of the plants.
It is hard work, especially on steep inclines and in the humid heat of the summer, but I was struck at relative ease of growing tea versus coffee. In Turkey, these family farms can earn a solid living for the owners. The plants have economic lives of 50 years. Other than three seasonal prunings, they require little upkeep. Ҫay farmers contract with the tea processors, similarly to how residential and small vineyards contract with wine producers in the California wine country.
By comparison, coffee – the specialty coffees most of us drink – is also produced on small farms, but those producers struggle to survive. In El Salvador, where Jim and I visited fairly-traded coffee plantations in 2006, we saw the relatively greater difficulties of picking the beans, and profitably navigating the predatory middlemen in transporting, roasting and getting it to market. Without fair trade agreements, those farmers often cannot grow at a profit, and lose their farms. Frequently their villages are without running water and electricity, needing the boost of the fairly traded income to add even the basics to their lives. We watched coffee pickers lug their heavy bags on their backs up the narrow tracks in the hills to be weighed.
Some of the Rize area çay fields on steep slopes have teleferikler (funiculars) to haul the tied tarps of picked leaves up to the street where they are loaded onto wagons or trucks to go to the weighing station. It looks like the çay industry in Turkey generally provides a comfortable, modern existence to the farmers. At times the growing fields surround the farm homes, with families simply stepping outside to harvest their crop. Farms are close to modern cities and towns and crop collection depots are near the fields.
Most Turkish çay is consumed in Turkey. It is drunk sade (black, actually red), or with sugar. Turks do not add milk. Since the focus of our trip was to photograph çay-may, we were offered and drank many glasses a day. I reached a saturation point around lunchtime of the second day, when I switched to Türk kahvesi…accepting, though, every glass of çay offered me in hospitality. Each tea glass photographed becomes a portrait of the person who offered it.
Depending on the vista, the Rize area reminded me variously of the Mediterranean coast of Italy, Vermont hills with minarets in place of church steeples, the Truckee River in Lake Tahoe along Highway 89, Upper Lake on Clear Lake in northern California, and scruffy ski towns in summer.
Jim and I have become regular tea drinkers here. The ritual of being offered and drinking tea is a part of the daily rhythm. It is ubiquitous in the workplace. Ҫay-runners bring glasses on trays from central kitchens in the bazaars and through the streets to shopkeepers. When shooting, Linda stops for frequent tea breaks, and naturally in meetings and after being guided in the factories, tea breaks were de rigueur.
When brewed properly, Turkish tea is smooth, fresh and fragrant, not harsh, bitter nor astringent. Its color is reddish brown. Turks use a çaydanlik to brew tea for a few people. It works the same way a samovar does for a larger group of people. Tea leaves go in the top pot with hot water, which sits on a hot water reservoir below. The tea is very strong, and one pours an amount in the glass and then fills with hot water to achieve the desired strength.
A Turkish friend asked me how I liked Turkish tea, did I prefer more exotic varieties from elsewhere? Turkish tea is cut, not hand-picked, which bruises the leaves. Tea connoisseurs feel that hurts the flavor. But, because of the friendly hospitality each glass brings, I love the Turkish tea the best.
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A quick look at Facebook this morning has me expecting to find the rainbow ruled against the law, any day now.
From Kartal to Kiziltoprak an outbreak of colored stairs occurred this weekend, in response to municipal erasure of such a spot in Beyoğlu.
I have borrowed these photos from online. They show the cat and mouse game being played by the government and those who disagree with it. Very quickly, every iteration of protest becomes illegal in an overnight law. So, the 9 pm pot and pan symphonies have stilled, with neighbors urged to report on each other.
This one is signed by Beşiktaş Çarşi, the support club for the Beşiktaş futbol (soccer) team. They are particularly naughty çapulçular (marauders), so named by the Man. Their paint job is lovely, isn’t it?
Actually, Turkey has a ways to go to match colorful staircases. See these in Lebanon.
Hilly Istanbul has many staircases…imagine the potential for creativity. I’m afraid, however, more gray paint is on order. Here’s why:
Barış (peace) I say.
In this land spice traders have moved goods by ship, camel, and foot for centuries. I simply take an easy 15 minute downhill seaside walk, turn my face to the breeze on a 20 minute ferry ride and saunter from the quay for 10 minutes into the 17th Century Mısır Çarşısı (known as Egyptian Bazaar and Spice Bazaar), where I’m transported into a modern day spice souk. Arriving at Number 51, Ucuzcular Baharat (Ucuzcular Spices) I am happy to hear myself described as yabancı değil (not a stranger)…therefore, with a momentary lull in customer traffic, they quickly mop the floor.
Bilge Kadıoğlu’s heartfelt professional dream is that her customers feel eksik–an absence and wanting–without her spices. She’s achieved that with us. When we run out of her custom Janissary blend, we are right back on the ferry to see her. When our dinner guests ask what we put on our lamb, we send them to #51. I visit her shop about once a month, and each time I stock up on my staples of nar (pomegranate) sour sauce; dried blueberries, mangoes and keten tohumu (flaxseed) for my morning oatmeal; whatever other spices we need; and a box each of Jim’s and my favorite Turkish Delight made with honey.
I love to hang out in the back corner in the shop and watch the world pass through sampling spice blends. Pressed into family service six years ago to manage the shop after her father’s death she was 25, and overwhelmed. Spice bazaar merchants have their way of doing things…which pre-Bilge (“Beel-guh”) did not include working and competing with a Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology-educated young woman. I know what she means. As a young ambitious female with work to do, I also needed to be taken seriously to accomplish it. In different countries and eras, both Bilge and I were, at best, patronized, and at worst, ignored. Bilge says suppliers would walk into the shop and not speak to her.
Cash flow required Bilge to buy just-in-time inventory. There were two benefits to this. Ucuzcular ground all their spices fresh every week – a habit they continue. With today’s volume, sometimes spices are ground every day. Also, unlike the rest of the bazaar, where retailers bought on consignment, paying their suppliers once they sold the goods, Bilge paid on delivery, in cash. That talked. Today, they don’t look past or ignore her any longer.
Bilge, an industrial designer, didn’t dream of being a “real Spice Girl”, but when the fifth generation needed to step up, she did, all the way. Understanding the concept of differentiation, Bilge discovered her grandfather’s recipe book of 500-year-old Ottoman recipes. Agreeing with the Ottoman belief that all meals were a feast, and it is important to cook well, she and her mother proceeded to develop a group of traditionally inspired proprietary spice mixes. Our Janissary favorite is one of these. (A Janissary was a soldier in an elite Ottoman corps.)
Obviously, “proprietary” is hard to control in the Spice Market, but Bilge and her younger brother Ahmet who has joined her since he returned with his MBA from Ohio State, source carefully and Turkish. Ahmet is a good balance to Bilge and equally passionate about their mission. You will meet him in a later post. They grow special peppers for their blends, carefully cut their spices to preserve aroma, and use more costly ingredients than many of their neighbors. In spite of the shop name, they aim not to be the cheapest, but offer the highest value. As a team, Ahmet is high tech, Bilge high touch.
I like to sit in the corner and watch Bilge or Ahmet pull on a plastic glove, hand a coffee stirrer to each guest and proceed to scoop a smidgen of spice mix onto the tip for each person to taste. Spice tastings! Genius. Besides Janissary, they’ve got blends for salads, fish, traditional Turkish köfte (meatballs), chips (French fries), and eggs and so on. If you feel lazy and don’t want to deal with fresh garlic, use Anatolia Spice. If you need to “save” a dish you screwed up, add Smoke Spice–guaranteed to make a bad dish good. Imagine your head spinning with these exotic flavors, and how to keep track of it all? Don’t worry, you are provided a scorecard. We keep ours in the spice cabinet, to remember why we bought each blend.
Ucuzcular means “the guys who sell cheaply” — wholesalers. While trading as a family business goes way back, the genesis of the current store flows from Bilge and Ahmet’s grandfather, Dursun Ucuzcu and his business in Malatya, about 2/3 of the way across Turkey to the east.
In Malatya, Dursun Bey (Mr. Dursun), ran a shop equivalent to a contemporary supermarket named Ucuzcu. Needing to communicate a move to a new location, he stepped in a bucket of blue paint and walked between the old and new stores. Bilge has her grandfather’s flair for PR, which landed her on Refika’s TV show. Refika is a Turkish Rachel Ray with a cookbook called Refika’nin Mutfagı, Cooking New Istanbul Style (Refika’s kitchen). Bilge said, “I feel a little bit famous now”.
Ucuzcular is not limited to gastronomy. In Turkey, spices are used in the Eastern manner as health agents. Saffron tea and rose water are good for the mood. Bilge is certified in aromatherapy and Ucuzcular has a whole colorful wall of essential oils, which may be used to improve one’s body, home or soul. I have a recipe for homemade mosquito repellent that includes lavender oil. Bilge and Ahmet have given many of the nontraditional oils fun names…the one I bought for my home is called Amor. They don’t mess with the traditional names, the glass vials or the boxes they insert it them in…Türks are particular about their traditions and aren’t keen on “improvements”.
Getting to know people like Bilge and Ahmet is the Turkey I am most interested in. They are smart, educated and creatively applying their talents to advance the challenging business they inherited. I feel privileged to hide out in the corner and watch their shop hum.
PS. To my non-native English speaking friends, the title of this post does not mean Ucuzcular is full of flies, rather,it is an American phrase which means ‘invisible observer’.