A Travellerspoint blog



Mercimek çorbası (lentil soup)

Lentil Soup is a staple here in Turkey. Being a vegetarian, this is often my go-to dish because most restaurants, even with meat-heavy menus, are sure to have a nice bowl of Mericmek çorbası to fall back on. You can make it with either red or green lentils but this recipe calls for red. As they say in Turkish, Afiyet olsun! or "Bon appetit".

1 cup red lentils
6 cups water
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp red pepper paste (or tomato paste if you can't find pepper)
1 finely chopped onion
1 grated carrot
2 tbsp olive oil or slighty less butter (olive oil is always a healthier alternative)

Melt olive oil or butter in a pan and saute the onion. Add flour and pepper paste and saute another 2 minutes. Add the carrot, lentils and water and cover. When it starts to boil, mix and cook until lentils get softer (about 20-25 minutes). Put soup in a blender or food processor to blend until smooth.

Posted by jhl5006 09:54 Archived in Turkey Tagged soup Comments (0)



The beautiful sunset in Izmir!

Last week I visited Izmir, which is the third largest city in Turkey. It's near the Aegean Sea and it has a backdrop of mountains and a long promenade by the water with plenty of nice cafes to hang out at. It was a treat to get picked up at the airport and have a car to travel to nearby Cesme, a popular summer spot with beautiful beaches. One day went to the beach near the Sheraton hotel. The sea was a much different color than the Jersey shore and was infinitely shallow. We walked out super far and the water was still up to our calves.



At the coffee house outside one of the bazaars in town.


Posted by jhl5006 01:52 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Iyi Bayramlar

(kind of like 'happy holidays...)

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Şeker Bayramı, basically "sugar festival", which marks the end of the holy month of Ramazan in Turkey, started on Wednesday. This was evident by the amount of people, especially those in head scarves and conservative Muslim dress, shoving down balık ekmek, or fish bread down by the port. They all seemed relieved the fasting is over. It's an official holiday here in Turkey so of course I got to enjoy a few days off :)

As you would imagine during a holiday named after sugar, there's an abundance of sweets floating around. Small children, dressed in new outfits, knock on their neighbors' doors to get some candy. Reminiscent of my trick or treating days, I loved seeing groups of them coming to my apartment building.

Since moving here a little over two weeks ago, I haven't visited any of the historical sights or typical stops on a tourist's agenda. I was busy adjusting myself, looking for an apartment, starting work, etc. And history there is plenty in Istanbul! There are endless things to keep you busy. So this was the perfect time to start exploring. I started off a great few days with a boat tour of the Bosphorous. The Bosphorous strait, which is called Boğaz, or throat or strait in Turkish, connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea and essentially divides Istanbul into Europe and Asia. So on the boat, we were smack in the middle of two continents!


After we had an overview of all the sights from the water, we went to Aya Sofya, one of the most famous monuments in Istanbul. It was built as a church when Istanbul (then Constantinople) was part of the Byzantine Empire. Aya Sofya was finished in the year 537. It's highly impressive to imagine that it could survive this long. In 1453, when Mehmet the Conqueror came to Istanbul to start the reign of the Ottoman Empire, Aya Sofya was converted into a mosque. The faces on the mosaics and other artwork were covered during this time, but since Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey) proclaimed Aya Sofya as a museum in 1935, the mosaics were excavated and restored. Now there's a harmony between Christianity with all the artwork depicting Jesus, Mary, the saints and angels, and the influence of Islam, with some Arabic writing inside and minarets outside.

We didn't get too many photos of the artwork inside so I uploaded some from online, and then included some pictures of us.






Sultanahmet Camii, or as foreigners call it "Blue Mosque" because of the prominent blue tiles inside the mosque, is right around the corner and was in fact built as competition to the Aya Sofya. It allows visitors of course but is still a working mosque. Women are asked to cover up if they are not wearing pants or a long enough skirt. It's also suggested to wear a head scarf. We thought about decking me out in one and sending a picture back home to my father for shock value, but decided against it. Sorry Dad :)

The next day we visited Dolmabahçe Palace which was used by the Ottoman sultans from around 1856 until 1922 (the end of Ottoman reign in Turkey) To me it looked like a European palace, much like ones I've seen in Germany, France or Spain. An interesting tid-bit about this one was that Ataturk died here in 1938. We were able to see the actual bed he died in, adorned with a Turkish flag. All the clocks in Dolmabahçe palace are set at 9:05, the time of Ataturk's death.



Also on our itinerary was the Basilica Cistern, built in 532 and used to store water for the palaces and other buildings. Its "cavernous depths" were a nice place to escape the heat above ground. My favorite was the Medusa head made into a column.



At the Military Museum, I got a good review of Turkish history, starting from the migration of people from Central Asia, to the Seljuk Turks, Ottomans, and finally World War I, the War of Independence and Gallipoli. We got there an hour before it closed so I'll have to go back when I have more time.


It's a rainy day today so a perfect time to study some Turkish. I started lessons last week with a private tutor so hopefully he can help me with my struggle against Turkish vowels :)

Posted by jhl5006 02:49 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Evet or Hayir?

Yes or No?

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Since deciding to come to Turkey, I've been interested in the current events and politics of the country. It's actually quite a pivotal time for Turkish peoples' future. There is a referendum that people are voting on today that was proposed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, whose AKP (Justice and Development Party) has been in power for about 8 years.

The referendum proposes some changes to the constitution including "amendments to the country's judicial system, curbs on the power of military courts and an article abolishing the immunity currently enjoyed by the leaders of the 1980 (military) coup. Other measures would guarantee gender equality and put in place measures to protect children, the elderly and the disabled."

Throughout the city these past couple weeks I've seen loads of political banners, rallies and protests. Those in favor shouting "EVET", with pictures of Erdogan as a backdrop, and "HAYIR", for those opposed. It's a complex issue but from what I've gathered talking to people is that those voting no to passing the referendum are afraid of losing the secular principles that modern Turkey was founded on. The changes to the constitution would give the AKP party, widely known as being more Islamic, what some believe as unchecked power. Here are some articles about it if you're interested in reading about the referendum:



Whatever the turnout, I'm sure there will be a lot of activity on Istiklal Street and Taksim Square, some of the main meeting areas in the city, and right down the street from me.

Posted by jhl5006 02:39 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)


my first week in Istanbul

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The jet lag has faded, I think I've got the time straight and the currency no longer feels like Monopoly money. It actually feels real that here I am in Istanbul. I started work this week...after my arrival on Tuesday I had a couple days to feel like a normal human being again until I was brought into the office to do my residence permit paperwork, contract and all those logistics. Over the weekend I started classes. The way the classes work is that they are in 120 hour blocks. To start off my classes look like this:

Saturday, Sunday 3:00-7:00 (Intermediate)

Monday Tuesday Wednesday 7:00 pm-10:00 pm (Advanced)

I'll probably have more classes starting up soon but I don't mind being eased in. Especially because I'm looking to move apartments ASAP.

Their ages range anywhere from 18-60. Which makes for an interesting dynamic in class.
I've found so far that Turkish students aren't shy. One of the first few questions I always get is "Are you married?"

My favorite quote of the week came from one of my intermediate students. When asked to give an example of a present future sentence she responded with :

The U.S.A. will have destroyed the world in the future.

Gotta laugh it off. I've had some intense politial discussions going on in class as well. Some students got in a heated argument about the Turkish/Kurdish issues. At least it was all in English but I had to cut it off before it got too out of control. It's quite a change from China where I was forbidden to discuss anything slightly controversial.

Most of my students have been extremely welcoming. I've been asked to a fish dinner by the Bosphorous with a group of ladies, offered a tour guide, and even had some marriage proposals :)

I arrived in the middle of Ramazan (Ramadan), a Muslim holy month. Those that observe it fast for the entire month from sunrise to sunset. That means they cannot eat, drink, chew gum, smoke...nothing passes their lips not even water. Naturally, the students who are fasting in my evening classes are pretty wiped out so as soon as we hear the muezzin, or call to prayer we break for iftar, the breaking of the fast. Actually there's a mosque right by the school so we can't possibly miss it.

The call to prayer is something I'll have to get used to. It's 5 times a day and since there are many mosques in the city it's a very significant sound. I think it's a beautiful sound and it reminds me how different this place is from home.

At the end of Ramazan there is a holiday called Seker Bayram (Sugar Festival). It's a national religious holiday so our schools are closed. I'll get a chance to be a tourist in the city and see all the historical sights.

First, I need to move out of the lojman. I won't feel completely settled until I get an apartment, unpack and start feeling like I'm actually living somewhere. It might be as soon as tomorrow, we'll see!

Posted by jhl5006 03:27 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

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