Archive for the ‘Life in Turkey’ Category

10:19 pm


I’ve been seeing these temporary lokma stands here and there around Kuşadası for more than a year now, most often on Fridays and frequently near mosques, but until yesterday, I had never stopped.

It is apparently traditional to sponsor such a stand and provide free lokma to any and all to mark the anniversary of a death or to celebrate a recent birth or to give thanks for a wish come true. This one fell in the first category:

"Ruhuna Fatiha" is roughly equivalent to "Rest in peace": it’s what you see on tombstones as well.

As near as I can make out, "Ruhuna Fatiha" means "spirit of Al-Fatiha", Al-Fatiha in turn being the opening sura of the Qur’an:

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy. Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, Master of the Day of Judgement. It is You we worship, it is You we ask for help. Guide us to the Straight path: the path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and who have not gone astray.

At any rate, this is the first time I decided to take a turn in line. I watched the lokma being made:

After being fried, these doughnut-like pastries get a quick bath in syrup and are served up in little plastic trays. My own little tray of the finished product:

The verdict? Leaving aside the universal appeal of free food, I was not terribly impressed. In particular, I found them rather bland. Of course, my basic attitude towards sweets is that if there’s no chocolate involved, then what’s the point? (I ran across one forum posting that suggested that lokma are particularly good with ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce – a sort of deconstructed profiterole.)

This recipe looks to be pretty representative if you want to try them yourself.

1:05 pm

Turkish Night at the Kervansaray

One of the things that invariably appears on lists of things you must do in Kuşadası is attend a Turkish night at the Kervansaray. Lots of hotels and restaurants offer Turkish nights, but the Kervansaray’s is held to be the best. Most of the references I’ve seen have described the Turkish nights as taking place Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. This season, though, they were scheduled for Tuesday and Friday nights. This week marks the ends of the season (at least as far as the Kervansaray is concerned), so Tuesday night I went to their Turkish night.

The Kervansaray is an Ottoman castle, originally built in 1618. As the name suggests, it provided shelter for caravans. These days, it has been repurposed as a hotel. It is built around an courtyard, and this courtyard is the setting for the Turkish night.

You have the option of coming for dinner, at 8 PM, or for the show alone, at 9 PM; the show goes until about 11:30. I chose to come for dinner and arrived shortly after 8 PM. When I entered the courtyard, I saw that it was full of (empty) tables. It startled me to see so many tables set up this late in the season. But then the buses started to arrive. Most of the big hotels up and down the coast offer a visit to Turkish night to their guests and it looks as though a lot of them take advantage of the offer. I didn’t realize that there were still that many tourists in and around Kuşadas&#305! By the time the show started, not quite all the tables were full; but about 60% of the seats were taken. I imagine that at the height of the season, it’s packed.

The show started with a violinist playing a selection of such Turkish classics as "If I Were a Rich Man". I’ve never thought of the violin as being a particularly Turkish instrument, but maybe I’m wrong. Next, we had a group of dancers.
Turkish night at the Kervansaray - dancers
Then a man playing wooden spoons. The obligatory belly dancers were the next to appear.

Switching to a more meditative mode, we next had a pair of whirling dervishes.
Turkish night at the Kervansaray - dervishes
I was startled to see that one of the dervishes was a woman (the figure on the left, with the scarf covering her hat and hair): I wouldn’t have thought that was allowed. Her posture was also a little off: her right hand was supposed to be raised heavenward, with the left pointing toward the earth, but instead her arms were more or less straight out. I don’t know if she was simply unclear on what she was doing, or if women have a different posture.

After the dervishes, we had another belly dancer: this one introduced an audience participation section. She brought some of the men in the audience onstage (and a couple of guys volunteered) and coaxed them through trying to imitate her moves. Hokey, but entertaining. She was followed by a parade of baked Alaska, which was served for dessert.

More dancers, all men this time. Then another group of dancers, men and women. They were followed by a singer and dancer; next a sole singer.

There was no program, which I would have liked. While costumes, dances and music changed, I had no idea what I was looking at.

As for dinner, there is a truly impressive buffet of meze, most of which I couldn’t identify. I took little dabs of things that looked appealing – salads and other vegetable dishes, börek, soft cheese and dips. I sampled maybe a third of the dishes offered. I had been warned about the main course, so I filled up on the meze, which was not hard to do. The main course was indeed seriously bland (though not actively bad), served after the show began. According to the ticket the main course was supposed to be a chicken kebap, but in fact it was more of a dry stew of chicken and cubed bread. It was somewhat similar to a chicken iskender, except the chicken wasn’t sauced nor was it served with yogurt. Dessert described itself as "baked Alaska". All I can say is that Turks are unclear on the concept of baked Alaska.

Price? The show, including unlimited beer, wine, soft drinks, and water, is 60 Turkish lira (a little over $40 or about 30€). Popcorn also appears on the tables for those who come for the show only. With dinner, it’s 80 Turkish lira (about $55 or 40€).

Overall, as events of this kind go, it was neither terribly overpriced nor inauthentic, and yes, it’s probably worth doing once if you’re in Kuşadası. On the other hand, once is certainly enough.

11:02 am

New Blog Name

Well, I’ve been in Turkey for ten months now, so it’s well past time to rename the blog accordingly. I’m still "Living Abroad", but now I’m doing it in Turkish.

9:17 am

Sunday Mass at the House of the Virgin Mary

As far as I know, there is no Catholic Church in Kuşadası. The nearest place to attend Mass is the House of the Virgin Mary, above Ephesus, where Mass is said Sunday mornings at 10:30.

There is no direct dolmuş (dolmuşes are the little minivans that serve as buses here) service between Kuşadası and the House, so at a little after 9, I was at the corner to catch the dolmuş to Selçuk, from where I would need to take a taxi. As it happened, there was another passenger heading to Mass, a friendly Irish woman named Liz. We discussed our destination with the dolmuş driver who, in the end, ferried us all the way to the House, waited for us during Mass, and got us back down to the bus station to get a dolmuş back to Kuşadası.

There is a chapel at the site where Mass is held. This is a fairly recent addition, having just been consecrated last year. Apparently, Mass had been said in the House itself, but was constantly being disturbed by tourists.

I was a little surprised that Mass was in English: I had been expecting Turkish, or even, given the need to cater to multilingual pilgrim visitors, Latin. I’m not sure if the English reflects the fact that the core parish community seems to be made up of Anglophone expats or that English is the de facto international language of tourism (if not the Church). At any rate, it made me much more comfortable about the prospect of coming here regularly. Even better was the discovery that in fact some of the local Catholic expats have their own informal minibus service.

There is a spring beneath the House, and its waters are said to have miraculous powers. Adjacent to the faucets for the spring water, there is a prayer wall:

I was more focused on Mass than pictures, but I’ll take more pictures next week. In the meantime, this site has more pictures and information.

8:11 am

Visiting Ephesus

On Friday the 8th, I visited Ephesus, which contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Basilica of Mary, Mother of God, was the site of an ecumenical council in the 4th century. Its existence supports the claim that Mary lived near Ephesus toward the end of her life (since in the early days of the Church, churches were dedicated only to those who had lived nearby).

There’s the remains of a necropolis, littered with sarcophogi:

The great amphitheater is the site of the riot described in Chapter 19 of the Acts of the Apostles:

It was still being used as a theater into this century, and Pavarotti and Elton John appeared there, but I’m told that such use is now forbidden.

The Library of Celsus is my favorite structure in Ephesus, and looks to be the best restored:

The Temple of Hadrian:

Looking up Curetes Street:

And looking down Curetes Street, back toward the Library of Celsus:

I don’t know who or what this frieze represents, but I liked it:

This theater was next to what had been roughly the equivalent of the Ephesus City Hall. It was a covered theater, and apparently used both as the seat of the city Parliament and for indoor concerts:

The day I was visiting, there was a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship in port and so there were seemingly dozens of groups of tourists visiting Ephesus. In "honor" of their visit, there was a rather hokey "Live Interactive Show":

There were dancing girls:

There was a juggler (off to the left there):

A pair of gladiators held a mock battle:

And they all processed off grandly at the end of their little five-minute show, to return about five minutes later and do it all again:

By the time I was leaving, all the cruise line buses had left, and they were closing up shop:

Last but not least, we have kittens of the ruins:

Grotto of the Seven Sleepers

On my way out, I detoured by the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers, which I found rather disappointing. Everything was fenced away and locked up and I couldn’t tell what I was looking at.

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