Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mesopotamian Food

(My cleaning lady did not come today and I have guests for dinner tomorrow. I have to clean, shop and cook. So excuse me for posting an old article I wrote 3 years ago after a month old trip to Syria and Eastern part of Turkey..)
It is not wrong to say that appetizers or starters are rather the main dishes in Syria. They are serving so many different varieties at the beginning; the main courses are becoming less enjoyable afterwards. Rice with saffron or pounded and smoked wheat called frik served with chicken or beef and a kind of yogurt soup made with small wheat balls called Lebeniye were the ones remained in my mind as main dishes.
Kebabs were average except one. If you happen to be traveling on the Damascus – Aleppo motorway one day, don’t forget to stop at the Tower Restaurant, which you could easily identify with the huge Eiffel Tower standing at the front. Its specialty is flat meat balls cooked with tomatoes and served in a shallow cooking pan. It was just delicious. Another good address for starters in Syria is the Beit Sitti House in Damascus.( )

But I think the primary taste in Syria is the sweets. There are so many shops selling various types of sweets in both Damascus and Aleppo that even a simple window-shopping is an experience itself. The practice of using less sugar and syrup compare to the ones in Turkey greatly increased my capacity to consume. A dangerous feature :) Of course there is also the kunefe; you should definitely taste this warm sweet served with melted cheese inside. You could fulfill all you sweet desires with a single kunefe served at an average price of 40 cents.

Good kebabs are definitely on the Turkish side of the border. Although the previous visitors told that the quality was not as it was before, I still ate the best kebabs in Gaziantep at İmam Cagdas. The kebab with vegetables was just great. Also the sweets made with pistachio should make a visit to your stomach.
Also take a note to drink a zahter tea (a type of thyme) at Tahmis Coffee House that was built in the year 1640 which is located at the end of the Elmacılar Bazaar in Gaziantep. Tahmis is also a nice stopping point for narghile lovers.

In Diyarbakir Aslan Lokantası located at the entrance of Aslan Hotel is a nice restaurant where you good taste good food and kebabs but try to avoid the time during the lunch break as you have a good chance of waiting in queue to eat. Another thing to taste and buy in Diyarbakir is the almond paste of Atlas. This small store located at Ekinciler Cd. No15/C and the quality of its product could easily compete with the famous Bebek Almond Paste in İstanbul and the prices are much much cheaper.

Antakya is another heaven for meze-starters. We ate the best ones in the Kervan restaurant in Harbiye region of the city that is famous with its water falls. Anadolu restaurant at the center of the city was said to be good with its foods and kebabs but I happily settled with delicious grilled calamari in the two nights we ate there.

I don’t particularly like drinking coffee but largely enjoy the smell and the rituals. Although I don’t like the taste of cardamom they are adding into the coffee in Syria, Urfa and Mardin regions I strongly advise the bitter and dark coffee- mirra- served around Urfa and Mardin. It was obtained by boiling the coffee in 3-4 hours in dim fire and served in small cups that you have to drink in one sip. Its dark, its bitter and leaves a kind of sour taste in your mouth afterwards. I tasted the best mirra in a small coffee shop in the Urfa Bazaar and the trick of its good taste was a bit of Nescafe they added when boiling the coffee.

Sweet Shop in Aleppo
Sweets from Gaziantep and Syria
Mirra coffee in Urfa

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sunday Flowers

I love fresh flowers..However when the season is not right or my budget is tight, I usually go for the mini options.. Here are some flowers for your eyes. We collected them yesterday with Hera on our morning walk at the park. First ones were spotted by Hera on the grass. Surprising to find them on a cool morning.When we came home, I put them to tiny glasses to enjoy then took some photographs. This morning I spotted some red things inside the poop of Hera. Alarmed at first, but realized afterwards that she climbed to the couch on the balcony and ate the berries, spitted the leaves and drank the water as a small night snack. Well, we enjoy things different. I, visiually.. Hera, deliciously..

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Naked Ladies

Now tell me is this blog getting more nasty or not ??? Couple weeks ago I had posted some giant penises from Bhutan, and today here are some naked ladies from Sri Lanka.

Thru out all my travels I mostly see religious paintings in the caves and on the rocks, so these ladies were such a nice surprise to find on one of the most astonishing ancient sites in Sri Lanka.

However, to see these ladies is not so easy.You have to climb a big rock of 370 metres to see them. The place is called Sigiria - Lion's rock.

On top of this rock there are the ruins of palaces and gardens which used to be the hiding place of a king who was afraid of his brother. The brother was the rightful heir of the throne while our king was not. History is full of similar stories. The end of our king came at the inevitable battle with the brother. He committed suicide. The brother - the new king turned this palace to a monastry and wiped out most of the ladies not the disturb the meditation. So out of the 500, very few of them reached to our time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Places from Sri Lanka

The very first and shocking truth I learned about Sri Lanka was the fact that Colombo is not the capital of the country and I was already spending my 3rd day in Colombo when I learned it. If you ever wonder, capital of the country is Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. I have never been at the capital but Colombo is a lovely and thriving city..Its rich colonial history is everywhere..

Anurhapura was the very first capital of the country..There are many lovely ruins and stupas in the area but the most sacred place is the Sri Mahabodhiya. The Sacred Bodhi Tree in this temple is the direct descendant of the original one in India where Buddha achived enlightenment.. When I was in India years ago, I had collected a leaf from that tree but in Sri Lanka it is protected very well..

There are very big Buddha statues all over the island but my favorite was the one in Mihintale. The road to climb the temple and the statue was full of flowers..

Another ancient capital of the country was Polonnoruva. The ruins there were just magnificent as well as the other Buddha statues I saw while travelling around the country..After a 10 day tour in the island I ended up in the lovely Benteto Beach. A 5 star hotel comfort and an incredible beach was all a tired traveler needed..

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Faces from Sri Lanka

Whenever I am writing about a country, I like to make to consecuitive posts. Faces and Places. After talking about tea and Sri Lanka, here are some faces from that beautiful island...

and the last one belongs to a very happy tourist in Colombo...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Turkish Tea

On my last post, I mentioned about our rather different tea habits in Turkey. First we brew it differently. I dont think that I would be too pretentious if I say that, there is a kettle like that in every household here. This is a very pretty example but there could be all other shapes and sizes. The thing is it has to have two parts. The bottom and the big part is always made of metal and the small part can be made of metal or ceramic. First you have to fill the big kettle with water and place it at the stove. Then put the small kettle above the big kettle. At the small kettle put black tea leaves.While the water is boiling in the big kettle the second small kettle will also be warmed. At this stage there is no water at the small kettle.

When the water is boiled, you should put some of the hot water on the small kettle. Now you must wait 15 minutes more or less, so that the tea can cook. You will see that after 15 minutes the tea leaves stay at the bottom of the kettle, this means that the tea is ready to be served.

When you are serving, fill part of the glass with tea from the small kettle and then add hot water from the big one. How much tea you are going to put from the small kettle totally depends on your taste of how dark or light you like to take your tea.

We also drink our tea not in mugs but small glasses like this.

Firts photo is from here

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tea Time

Three small glasses of black tea at the breakfast and 5-6 cups of green tea during the day is my daily routine. Considering the fact that I hated drinking tea up to the age of 18, I think its a big improvement. In Turkey black tea for breakfast is a must, and we brew it differently and drink it with small glasses, but let me show them in another post.
Today while I am having my morning tea, I want to send a big 'HI' to the ladies who collected the tea leaves. I traveled to Sri Lanka two years ago and one of the highlights of my trip was to spent some time in the city of Nuwara Eliya.

Nicknamed as little England, Nuwara Eliya is located in the central highlands of the island and it is one of the most important areas for tea production.It was such a fun and rewarding experience to meet with some of the ladies who were collecting the leaves on an early morning. Although we do not have a common language to communicate, their big and warm smiles was such a nice welcome.I have learned that most of the tea plantation workers are the descendants of the Indian Tamils, brought over to Sri Lanka by the British in the 19th century.The last photo was the hotel I stayed there which was built in the 19th century as a tea factory by the British..

So next time while you are having your tea, why not check the producer.... If it is from Sri Lanka, some of these ladies could very well be responsible for the rich taste.


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