I’ve been sitting here thinking about Turkey and Greece; trying to figure out where to start by looking through photos and old blog posts. Naturally I begin basking in my trip down memory lane, so much so that I’m actually having trouble focusing on exactly what I want to write. This trip was spectacularly epic. I think, in part because it’s been so long since I’ve been somewhere so out of my element and so completely, well, foreign. Not that the entire trip was out of my element, but the majority of the last 10 years has been spent traveling around America and Australia–so it was exhilarating and revitalizing getting to visit a place where I could sit and relax and be completely immersed in anonymity and not understand one single solitary word being spoken.
I realize that probably sounds outlandishly bizarre, as most people I know would be slightly panicked at the thought of being in a place where communication wasn’t guaranteed. It was also very evident that April and I were, in fact, not Turkish. Not that we really felt out of place–on the contrary, both countries were so warm and welcoming–but well, people kept stopping us to ask. We also realized that Turkey doesn’t get many American visitors, or perhaps if they do, they don’t hang out where we hung out. Everyone we met were generally amazed that we were Americans. English, Australian, German, Dutch, Kiwi, South African, Swiss, and Canadian were all guesses, but never American. In fact, our second afternoon in Istanbul we exited the Egyptian Bazaar (aka Spice Market, which has THE BEST TURKISH DELIGHT ON THE PLANET!) to a very busy plaza area. As we head down amongst the throng of people undoubtedly on their way home from work, I felt someone poking my arm. I turned to see this 90 year old woman sitting on the ledge, glaring and shaking her finger towards my face and she asked “Armenian?” I was in such a state of shock that she had taken the time and effort to poke me to confirm my Armenian heritage, all I could do was shake my head and yell “American!” She responded with an equally confused look and finally there was a shoulder shrug followed by a “HUH!” and then went about her day.
So what was the equalizer? The one thing everyone spoke was coffee. You know…that stuff I affectionately refer to as nectar of the gods! If you enjoy a robust cup of coffee, then let me tell you that Turkish and Hellenic coffees are amazing! They are very similar–in case you’re wondering–although Hellenic coffee is usually a bit bigger than Turkish coffee. The first time I had Turkish coffee in Turkey (and yes, it was something pre-trip I was soooo excited about experiencing) I felt fireworks in my head! I feel quite certain my eyes rolled back and I asked April to give me a moment with my little demitasse cup!! I also learned that it’s traditionally served with sugar. My first few coffees I ordered without sugar and I would get stares by everyone, which I thought were because this crazy American is actually drinking proper Turkish coffee. However a few days into our trip, a waiter informed me that Turkish coffee is usually served with sugar, which is how I had it from then on (but I still got a lot of stares, so I’m still going with my crazy American theory!) For Turkish coffee, I will happily deal with the stares. It’s breathtaking. Like a great shot of espresso, but with a lingering sweetness that caps any meal perfectly.
It is usually prepared in an ibrik (a tiny pot with a long handle–ibriks are usually just big enough for 1-2 servings) by adding cold water, finely ground coffee (hello, Turkish grind! 1-2 heaping teaspoons), and sugar (usually 1 heaping teaspoon). NO STIRRING until the sugar starts to melt and the coffee starts to settle. You then give it a quick stir or two and allow the coffee to come to a boil, pull it off the heat, then repeat the boiling and pulling off the heat at least two more times (depending on the site, they suggest reboiling anywhere from 3-4 times). Afterward it is poured into a demitasse cup and voila! a bit of sunshine for your day!