Turkey…day in and day out!

Turkey day by day

Here I am trying to figure out this Turkish Culture and I have a lot of questions…I’m stumped. Now my friends and long time acquaintances are rolling their eyes and saying to themselves, so what’s new.  But there are other readers out there who are probably saying…how can it be that this brilliant, witty, well traveled blogger is stumped. How can this keen observer of the human condition with his razor sharp intellect…oh well, never mind.  There are probably too few of you who are thinking along those line to make it worth while continuing, but to those charitable few I say “Bless You”. OK, back to my conundrum of understanding Turks and Turkey.

Turkey...day in and day out!

Men always have time for tea, cigarettes and backgammon.

Here are some of the things I don’t understand. First and foremost is how Turkish men can sit in cafes all day drinking tea, smoking cigarettes and playing cards or backgammon with out the women coming into town and beating them half to death with a broom handle. Women are tending the garden, raising a gaggle of kids, washing the clothes, cleaning the house, cooking the meals and going to market.  They never have time to sit in a cafe and sip tea and play backgammon. There are exceptions because you do see younger, non traditional women hanging in the cafes, smoking cigarettes and working their smart phones too death but in Turkey, as I expect in most Muslim country’s, women are the human representation of a “beast of burden”. So why do they allow it to continue in this fashion?

Turkey...day in and day out!

In 90º weather woman in modest dress while man is in shorts

Second, I wonder why they continue to have these guys sitting in their pointy little towers squawking out some barely intelligible ramblings 6 times a day.  They start the first call to prayer at 3:38 AM and end at 10:08 PM and it is working on my last nerve. As far as I can see, no one is paying any attention. I have yet to see anyone roll out a rug and drop down for a prayer. One could, I suppose, say the same thing about America where there is a church on every corner and  more than half the churches are almost empty on the Sabbath. It also seems to me that hardly any one is putting into practice the teachings of the New Testament.  The good word seems to have fallen by the wayside.  Here too in Turkey where 99.8% of the population is Muslim (almost all are Sunni) the mosques are not very full and the crowd is almost always 100% male. So why does religion continue to hold so much power in a country where Ataturk made sure to separate church and state? And why do they keep screaming at me out of those pointy towers?

Turkey...day in and day out!

Minaret in Edirne, Turkey

Thirdly, why do they bother to have a “soup of the day”. Yes, your’e right, this is not a very profound question but it is one of those things that does not make any sense in Turkey. The only soup that is ever on the menu in any restaurant in Turkey is…Lentil. I ask what is the soup of the day and the answer is always Lentil.  Why bother to put “soup of the day” on the menu. The markets are full of beautiful veggies just waiting to be turned into tasty soup…cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, peas, onions, artichokes, mushrooms. Forget about your cream of celery, as I told you last week there is nary a stalk to be found. But with this abundance of produce one is forced to ask…why is lentil soup the only soup on a menu in Turkey?

Turkey...day in and day out!

Only place in Fethiye I have found chicken soup on the menu.

Along the same lines, Fourthly, why is every menu item the same in every restaurant. Perhaps one leaves off a pasta and one adds a chicken sandwich but you can count on finding the very same thing on every restaurant menu. You see doner kebab…the meat sliced off the big piles of roasting meat turning in the windows which is placed in a flat bread with a salad thrown on and some pickles, Kofte which is ground meat formed in to balls flattened and grilled…usually served with tomatoes and perhaps a grilled green pepper (no sauce, no veggies). Grilled fish and Kabobs served with rice and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.  You are getting a picture I assume…once again where are the vegetables.  Aside from serving tomatoes and cucumber with everything any veggies are minced up and put with ground meats so you never know what is going on. Just about every dish is also served with chips (french fries)…never boiled, roasted, mashed…always fried. It is a very limited diet with little variety which become one of the complaints from people who stay here for any length of time. The question is then…why, when your country is one of the biggest tourist destination in the world and 14% of your GDP derived from tourism, do you not change up the cuisine and add some seasonings, vegetables and a bit of variety. Just a thought.

Turkey...day in and day out!

Vegetables waiting to be made into any kind of soup except lentil.

Lastly, Turkish women who are traditional wear the Hijab or the head scarf. But they also wear, in Turkey a buttoned up coat and long pants so that everything is covered. This scarf covers the head and is wrapped around the neck tightly and tied so not one hair shows.Then they wear a very close fitting trench coat that is buttoned up and belted. I am asking how they do this and why they do this? It is 90º (32ºc) every day now and sometimes hotter… how the hell can they stand it. The men are in shorts, t-shirts and sandals while the women are wrapped up…why do the women not say…it’s too damn hot and I am not going to play this game. One reason could be that the government pays women to wear the scarf I am told.

Turkey...day in and day out!

Young girl in a hijab on a hot day.

I realize this is all fluff and perhaps I should be talking about the political situation or the economic situation or the terrorist threat, or the Syrian refugees or or or…the list goes on. I will tell you that what is happening in Turkey is a case of “the perfect storm”…regional conflicts foments terrorist acts like car bombs,  political repression also result in bombings, bombings result in economic pain because the tourist flee. I would also tell you that Turkey is hurting and we are just seeing the beginning, I fear, of a long and difficult cycle.  Tourism is way down…tourist arrivals are down 47% for the first six months of 2016 and, if the numbers are to be believed, tourist dollars are down 36% from 2015.  I personally believe the numbers are worse than that because the streets, restaurants, hotel and tourist sites are empty. This ripples through an economy when 14% of the GDP is derived from tourism. Hotels close and the villagers who come down to work cleaning, cooking or waiting tables are without work and the much needed money to carry them through the winter. farmers who grow meat and produce for the restaurants and hotels find their orders cut, shop owners have no customers and no cash flow.

When the Russian plane was shot down President Putin blocked all imports from Turkey…produce, cheese, meat which added extra stress to a country where 25% of the people are employed in agriculture. At the same time he blocked travel and it is estimated that Turkey lost $840 million the first half of this year. It is a case of politicians acting and the average person bearing the burden of those actions.  I feel sorry for the average Turk because these are difficult times with no end in site.  As Jon Snow said “Winter is coming”

I guess I could ask one last question: Why is it so damn hot here…yikes!

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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6 Responses to Turkey…day in and day out!

  1. Claudia Hammer says:

    The first 2/3’s of your blog reeks of American thinking. Yikes. No wonder they hate us. However in the last paragraph you sum up what is going on there. I feel for those people too.

  2. LindaRose says:

    Well, here´s my 2 centavos worth…..the Soup Nazi is Turkish……I also saw a Kitchen Nightmare show with Gordon Ramsey. As he ordered the Soup of the Day, he asked the owner, ‘what will it be tomorrow?’ She responded, ‘well, it´s the Soup of the Day and EVERYDAY it´s the same, what are you talking about?’ She, literally did not know that she should change the Soup of the Day….so, I´d get Gordon Ramsey over there to do a show……he sure would make use of those veggies, too!
    I, too, am curious about the women´s fashion, what are they thinking? Altho, here in Southern Mexico, it´s in the 90s as well, and you see the locals with sweaters on! Quien sabes??

  3. Nicholas P. LiVolsi says:

    Always a pleasure receiving your blog. Keep on traveling and showing us today’s world.

  4. David Donaldson says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you comment about food and restaurants, however, it underscores the differences between you’re unique residential experience, and the “typical” tourist experience. We have to stay in hotels and rely on restaurants for meals, while you can actually go to the market, learn a bit of the language while shopping, and purchase some of those marvelous greens and vegetables. You have a temporary home or apartment with its own kitchen where you can prepare a meal “your way.” Even better, you can invite new friends and local acquaintances for a home cooked meal. They can even show you how to prepare traditional Turkish cuisine (or whatever country you happen to be living in.) I used to envy tourists who could afford expensive hotels, but when it comes down to “trying out” a location, spending several weeks or several months in a temporary home with a kitchen and the opportunity to shop and cook for yourself, is such a great way to do it. I rented a house for two months in Itacare, a small fishing village in Brazil, and not only did my Portuguese improve, but I learned how to use spices that I’d never even heard of. So, yes… you do know the right way to “travel.” And from what I can read in your blog, the best way to “travel” is to stay put in one location for an extended period of time.

  5. Stef says:

    Larry, I think you’ve hit on the real reason they don’t want our “western ways.” The men are afraid they’d actually have to get off their lazy butts and do some work once their women see how most of us here won’t put up with that crap, :)

    Food situation was the same in Greece. Exact same menu everywhere. I loved the call to prayer in Indonesia and Malaysia except those annoying ones before dawn. But if it wasn’t that, there was always a rooster to fill the void.

    Cute post. Sounds like it’s getting time to move on…

  6. Ron S. says:

    Larry,
    From what I understand the military in Turkey has pushed back against the government four or five times in the last century when it was going too far towards Islam or dictatorship. They then turned the reins back over to the government when reforms were instituted. it seems that the military tried to do that again recently but was defeated in their attempts to take over and institute reforms. Apparently Erdogan(sp?) has purged the military of the rebels and has also purged any competitors in politics and is pushing the country ever closer to a religious dictatorship.Stay alert and be careful my friend.

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