Category Archives: turkey

Film Review: Hidden Turkey

Film Review: Hidden Turkey

Click to buy on Amazon

I recently watched the PBS Documentary, Hidden Turkey.  Hosted by food historian Bruce Kraig, this hour-long program was a fun, informative introduction to Turkey that featured outstanding scenery, off-the-beaten-path exploration and an all-around entertaining hour of programming.

A country with such a rich of history, vast geography and vibrant culture can hardly be summarized in an hour long program, and thankfully, the producers did not attempt to be comprehensive.  Rather they took the time to explore a few aspects of the culture that might not be experienced by the casual traveler.  The film takes viewers to the Black Sea region and spends time exploring the Tea industry and the classic foods of the region, then visits central Anatolia and focuses not so much on the classic touristic spots in Cappidocia, but rather on the food traditions of lifestyles of the people still living in this historic region.   It wraps up by delving  briefly into the religious tapestry that makes up the history of this ancient land.

I learned some interesting facts about Turkey in the film.  Among those are the history of calling the bird that Americans eat on Thanksgiving “Turkey”, the fact that grain was first cultivated in Turkey and the theory that all stuffed pastries and pastas of both Eastern and Western cuisines originate with Turkish dishes made with Yufka.

Whether you’re an established traveler in Turkey, or someone planning a trip to Turkey, I think you’ll find Hidden Turkey to be a fun and informative way to spend an hour.

What came first: The Turkey or Turkey?

What came first, The Turkey or Turkey?

I recently watched the PBS documentary “Hidden Turkey”, and learned that there is actually a connection between the country Turkey, and the bird that we call by the same name.

As the story goes, The French word for Turkey is “dinde“ which means “From India.”

Turks also believed that Turkeys came from India, and thus named the bird “Hindi” (Hindistan is Turkish for = India)

The English believed that Turkeys must have come from Turkey, because they arrived on ships that had been trading with Turkey

All of them were wrong however as Turkeys were first domesticated in Mexico and brought to Europe in the 16th century.

Although Turkey isn’t all that popular of a meat these days in Turkey, they are still raised and eaten throughout modern Turkey, apparently however have a lively history in this land.

Apparel in Turkey – Why Context matters

How to Dress in Turkey – Why Context matters

I want to share a quick story before sharing my suggestions for how to dress for travel in Turkey.

On June 17, my wife, kids and I relocated to the summer beach town of Arsuz.  On that day the high temperature in Adana and Arsuz was around 32⁰C/88⁰F. I took the day off of work, and on our way out of town, we stopped off at McDonalds.  My wife, Rana was wearing shorts and a modest tank-top, ready for Arsuz.  We ate our lunch outside at McDonalds while the kids played on the play area.  It was HOT and the play area was packed.

Rana at McDonalds

Rana observed that of all the families with kids eating at Mcdonalds watching their kids play, Rana was the ONLY woman wearing shorts.  In fact, she felt like people were staring at her to the point that she felt uncomfortable.

When we arrived at Arsuz 2 hours later, we were greeted by the same temperatures, but a totally different social climate.  Everyone wearing shorts, from the elderly to the laborer.  Streets filled with men in T-shirts and shorts, ladies of all ages in tank tops, many less modest than the one Rana was wearing.  Rana fit in perfectly.

arsuz beach

Everything is different when you're at the beach town

What changed? We were only 100 KM away, the temperatures were the same, and we were still in Turkey.  The big difference was that we were in a vacation town.  We’d just come from a city center on a week day.

Let’s come back to the idea of going unnoticed when traveling in Turkey.  What can we learn about this?  One might jump to this conclusion after the trip to McDonalds: “Women shouldn’t wear shorts or tank tops in Turkey”, I’ve even seen travel advice for Turkey that states exactly that, but that’s really not true.  The important thing is the context.  Rana was wearing an outfit that was appropriate for the weekend or a vacation town, but it was a weekday and we were in the heart of Adana.  It didn’t fit the flow of what was going on, and she stuck out.  As a foreigner who wants to blend in, the lesson here is that you can’t have hard fast rules in your mind like “Turks don’t wear shorts” or “Turks dress more formally” or “Turks dress more modestly than Americans”.  Those stereotypes don’t hold much water.  The key is to observe what others around you are doing and go with the flow.

How to Blend in when traveling in Turkey

How to Blend in when traveling in Turkey

A good friend of mine is moving to the Adana area to teach at Cag University in the fall.  In thinking about his arrival, I thought it might be good to write an open letter to travelers in Turkey about how to dress in Turkey.  I come into this topic knowing that many will disagree with me, some vigorously.  I just wanted to get my thoughts on this sensitive topic out online and hear what others think.

I want to start today however with a personal principle about traveling in Turkey: Remain Unnoticed.

my family in turkey

Nothing wrong with being a tourist once in a while (my family at a castle after my wedding)

At every stage of my travels in Turkey (10 day, 40 day, 1-year trips and long term residence,) I’ve thought of myself as something totally beyond “touristy”.  I think that many people traveling in Turkey also separate themselves in their mind from the average “Tourist” in some way, but we all start out as tourists, don’t we?  So here’s my question: How do you want to be perceived? My philosophy is that I usually don’t want to be noticed by anybody other than the person I’m interracting with.  I don’t want to stick out when I walk down the road, I don’t want people to observe me as a “tourist” when they see me walking down the street.    I want to remain unnoticed.

Four advantages to remaining unnoticed:

  1. You’re not immediately identified by the leeches of society who attempt to befriend foreigners for manipulative reasons (for more on this, see this great article about Carpet Salesmen in Turkey).
  2. Your presence doesn’t disrupt the activity that’s going on around you, thus allowing you to observe Turkish life as it really is.
  3. You can avoid getting unwanted help and advice from nosy people and being treated as stupid because you’re a naïve foreigner.  (Note that when you truly need help, Turks are incredibly helpful, but if know where you’re going and why, there’s nothing more annoying than having a local trying to convince you that you shouldn’t go there or do that.)
  4. You don’t single yourself out as a target for people how may want to do westerners harm.

I think one of the greatest keys to remaining unnoticed is our apparel, which will be covered in a future article.  Beyond dress, here are my four recommendations for remaining unnoticed.

  1. Speak Quietly- This is the big one.  I’ve observed that Americans are very loud in public when traveling in Turkey, and our voices really carry.  This is the big thing that makes Americans stick out.  I think it has to do with how the sound of our voices disrupts the normal daily white noise.
    The # 1 way to blend in is to speak quietly.  I am NOT a stickler about this.  When I’m moving about in my neighborhood, I don’t mind if I’m noticed. But when I’m in a new area or a place where I’m trying to blend in (downtown, a new city, a different neighborhood, a government office, etc), I speak rarely and in low tones.  I think for people new to the country, this should be practiced everywhere except for designated tourist areas.
  2.  Walk Purposefully – one thing that I’ve noticed is that newcomers walk differently.  They walk as someone in awe, slowly taking in the whole scene and gobbling up the moment.  There’s nothing wrong with that… unless your goal is to blend in.  Walking purposefully at the pace of others around will really help you to blend in.
  3. Think Twice about Big Accessories – If your goal is to blend in, then the baby backpack, the jogging stroller, the Indiana Jones hat, the CamelBak, or anything else that you don’t see people walking around with should be reconsidered.  These and similar contraptions identify you as something different.  If your goal is comfort, fine.  If your goal is to blend in, you need to think twice about big accessories.
log jam

Minnesota Log Jam

Go With the Flow – Think of Turkish society as a river filled with logs moving steadily, purposefully toward the mill.  As a foreigner, you’re a canoe in that river.  You’re not that different in size and shape from the logs in the river, and if you do things right, you get into the flow, enjoy the ride and get out when you need to.  The best way to do this is to just follow the cues to do what the people around you are doing.  Walk at the pace they walk, dress the way they dress, flow with what’s going on and enjoy the river.  When you don’t do this, you disrupt the flow and experience a version of Turkey that’s different from normal, you risk detours and even personal harm.  Try to fit in and go with the flow and I believe you’ll enjoy Turkey more.

Interviews on Charlie Rose about Turkey

Kamil Paşa a prolific Turkey Blogger recently featured in Foreign Policy magazine’s list of suggested Middle East bloggers tipped readers off to a series on the Charlie Rose Interview series featuring Turkey last week on PBS.

I’m excited to watch all of these interviews, and I thought you might be interested too.  A friend asked me recently what I think of the current government in Turkey and the upcoming elections.  I must confess that I’m terribly uninformed.  I know that after these interviews, I’ll have a little better idea of what makes the currently elected party tick. (click the pictures below to go to the interviews.)

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister was  interviewed on Wednesday May 11.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, was interviewed on May 12th.


And the Novel Prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk was interviewed on May 13th

A panel featuring Steven Cook, Andrew Finkel, Henri Barkley and Ian Bremmer discussed Turkey on May 12th (26 minutes)

These look like very smart interviews.  If you live in Adana, or in Turkey, you’ll certainly benefit from watching these, as I know I will.  If anyone would like to get together in Adana to discuss these videos, I’d love to do that after I’ve watched them.

Go to Ataturk Parkı

Go to Ataturk Park

This post is a part of my “Things to Do in Adana” series.  You can purchase my book 27 Things to do in Adana and see a list of all the posts in this series at

Ataturk Park is a beautifully landscaped park in the center of Adana’s Gazipaşa district.  This is a wonderful place to take a walk, find a bench and read a book, or even bring the kids for a simple picnic or takeout lunch.  In a city like Adana, it’s rare to find a place where you can be in the shade of large trees, but this is one of the best spots. There are also a lot of great fountains and nice children’s park across the street.

Click the map to find Ataturk on Google Maps

I took the kids to Ataturk Parkı last week for a picnic, hear are a couple of my favorite pictures


 Note to Parents: If you bring kids to Ataturk Park, I recommend starting out in the main park and walking around, experiencing the green and the fountains and then AFTER the kids get bored, cross Ziya Paşa Boulevard (on the west side of the park) to the big children’s play area (Çocuk Parkı).

According to Wikipedia:  Atatürk Park is a 4.7-hectare city park built during the first years of Republic. It is centrally located at the commercial district. The park holds a statue of Atatürk and hosts Public Ceremonies.

Figs in Turkey

Figs in Turkey

What do you know about Figs?  Growing up in the Midwest United States, I don’t ever remember seeing a fig before coming to Turkey.  I still remember the first time I ate a fig.  A friend had offered to take me and my American buddies to his home town of Gaziantep, a city about 3 hours to the East of Adana.  As we were taking the scenic route out to Antep, we had pulled off to the side of the road to take pictures and we noticed a man selling some soft green fruit on the side of the road.  Somehow we identified them as figs and decided to try them.  I’d never tasted anything like it before.  This soft fruit was so juicy and thick on the inside.  It tasted outstanding, but I’m not sure if I liked it or not.  If I recall, it was just too foreign to me.  It was like a fruit filled with honey.  They reminded me nothing of Fig Newton cookies that I’d had occasionally growing up.  I’ve come to love this Mediterranean fruit especially dried, which we’re able to eat year round here in Adana.

I was excited to learn a lot about figs from Jason Akers of The Self-Sufficient Gardener podcast.  He had a great episode about growing figs at home which was very informative. I really encourage you to check out his podcast about figs.  In this podcast, he provided a ton of great info about the history of the fig tree.  One thing I learned is that the fig tree plays a significant role in every world religion, and even big tree that was the religious center in the movie Avatar was modeled after a fig tree.  Obviously in the Bible, we learn that fig leaves are large enough to cover our private parts when shame first entered the world through the sin of Adam and Eve.

My Failing Fig Tree

Jason’s podcast contains many other great facts and antidotes about figs along with instruction in how to care for fig trees.  I was interested to learn the even in a climate like Minnesota, it’d be possible to grow Fig trees by simple pruning them and protecting the plants from the cold over the winter.

I’ve tried growing figs on my balcony, but haven’t had any success with my fig tree.  It just grows a few bunches of leaves and one fig.  Then the leaves get brown and the birds eat the fig before it ripens.  Booo..

Figs from Tulumba

If you haven’t tried figs, I encourage you to get out and try some dried figs, and if you happen to see them fresh at a farmer’s market or grocery store this summer, do try them out.  They’re like nothing you’ve ever eaten before.  For readers in the United States, you can find a great deal on dried figs at

This is how we enjoy them most here in Adana.

Dried Figs, Walnuts and Tahini pictured with my lame Fig tree

Heat up the dried figs (both sides) on a hot frying pan.  Just warm them up, don’t cook them, then dip them in tahini (Sesame butter) and eat it with walnuts.  It’s a great and healthy snack… it only ceases to be healthy when you can’t stop eating them.


Take a walk along Adnan Menderes Boulevard

Take a walk along Adnan Menderes Boulevard

This post is a part of my “Things to Do in Adana” series.  You can purchase my book 27 Things to do in Adana and see a list of all the posts in this series at

If you ask foreigners living in Adana to describe their city, I think you’d hear some common words; crowded, polluted, lots of tall buildings and bad traffic would sadly be among the descriptors.  Many of the 52 Things to do in Adana focus on little ways that one can get a break from these downsides of big city life.  This week’s Adana outing is one of those.

Ducks on the lake at Adnan Menderes Bulvar Walking Trail

Adnan Menderes Boulevard is a nice road that travels along the lake north of the big dam by the university.  It’s not only a good place to go for a drive; it’s also good place for a walk, especially in the spring when it’s not too hot and not too cold.  Adnan Menderes Boulevard is one of the best spots in Adana to take a long brisk walk or run for exercise (there are over two miles or 5 km of paved trails), or to take a leisurely stroll with kids.

Key Attractions:

  • Picnic areas on side of the street opposite the lake
  • 5km of paved trails
  • A nice peninsula that goes out into the middle of the lake with picnic areas, cafes and play areas for kids.
  • Great views of the lake and surrounding mountains when the air is clear
  • Countless cafes to sit by the lake and drink tea, smoke nargile or have bicibici
  • Nice pine forests along the roadside.
  • Escape from the city without leaving.
  • Lake breeze in the summer can make it cooler in the super hot summer weather.
  • Opportunity to see some wildlife (ducks)


  • Can be very crowded on Sundays
  • Avoid sketchy looking young people and street dogs
  • Close to a fairly busy boulevard. (traffic noise)
  • A bit littered and unkempt

Getting there: To get there, you just have to find access to the river or lake and travel north until you find a good place north of the dam by the university to park.  Click on the map below to find your way there using Google Maps.

The Play Area was nothing special, but the kids like it all the same

Walking Trail Adana

A Great place for walking with strollers

Visit Optimum Outlet Adana

Visit Optimum Outlet Adana

This post is a part of my “Things to Do in Adana” series.  You can purchase my book 27 Things to do in Adana and see a list of all the posts in this series at

We’re drawn to the newest and the latest, and in Adana nothing is newer than Adana Optimum Outlet.  This huge new shopping center opened yesterday, and although the “Grand Opening” was less than “grand,” (less than half the stores were ready to open, and certain areas seemed like a construction site,) we enjoyed the little preview of Optimum AVM ** and look forward to more and more as more stores open.

Adana Optimum Outlet

Optimum Adana is located right in the center of Adana and cannot be missed.  It is right across the road from Hilton, and across the river from the Big Sabanci Central Mosque.  Construction on the main highway going through Adana (known as E5 or E90) is finally complete, so access is great from all directions.  If you know how to find the big mosque, you can find Optimum Outlet.

Click here to view a map to Optimum Outlet Adana on google.

Map to Optimum Outlet Adana

Here are some of the selling points:

  • 175 stores
  • 1500 car underground parking lot. This is a huge benefit over M1 Real where parking is a huge problem. Once you do find a parking spot, you often have to walk 5 minutes under the Adana sun just to get to the door.
  • Huge food court with natural lighting (they have great skylights with beautiful murals on the ceiling), an open air terrace, and children’s play area.
  • Ice Skating Rink
  • Cinema*
  • Laser Tag*
  • Bowling*
  • Laser Ball*
  • Children’s Playland*

Of course they have all of the standard Turkish stores; namely a ton of men’s and women’s clothing stores.  Some of the stores that are new to Adana include the following:

  • 5M Migros – this basically means a HUGE Migros, similar to the Real or Carrefour Hyper-Markets. *
  • Koçtaş – This is like a Home Depot or Lowes (or Pratikcar) *
  • Rossmann – A European pharmacy store like CVS or Wallgreens
  • A huge Media Markt (not new to Adana, but this is one of the cornerstone stores and worthy of note)

We didn’t see any nice sit down restaurants, although there may places that will open up soon.  Here are some of the fast food options that are new to Adana.

  • KFC
  • Arbys *
  • Pizza Hut (we had the buffet, it was great)
  • Of course they have the old standards; McDonalds, BK, Popeyes, etc. Notably, no Starbucks or Gloria Jeans.

*Items with a star* were not yet open as of April 8, 2011

Overall Optimum Outlet Adana is a nice new mall for Adana.  There’s not much new when compared to M1 Real, but it’s good to have something new, the fact that it’s on 3 floors, makes it lot more enjoyable for walking around, and the parking is a huge improvement for Adana.  Next time it’s a rainy day, get out to Optimum Outlet Adana.

**Note: Do you know what AVM stands for?  You see that quite often.  It stands for Alış Veriş Merkezi which means Shopping Center.

52 Things to do in Adana is a weekly collection of experiences you can have to experience Adana to its fullest. Read more articles in this series here.

Cornflakes as Health Food

Pop Quiz: which looks healthier.  Fresh fruits, cheeses, honey, hard-boiled eggs,  homemade jams, artisan olives, tomatoes and cucumbers. or Cornflakes?

Our good friend Wendi, who we traveled to Cappidocia with, has a great post at her blog about a conversation Rana had with the waitress at our hotel about why she’s going to start eating corn flakes and coco-puffs for breakfast to help her lose weight.  You’ve got to read the whole story here.  It’s priceless.

As a side note; whenever I get a craving for boxed cereal, I try to remember the words of Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions (a book that’s had a big influence on us in the past year):

“Boxed Breakfast cereals are made by the extrusion process, in which little flakes and shapes are formed at high temperatures and pressures.  Extrusion processing destroys many valuable nutrients in grains, causes fragile oils to become rancid and renders certain proteins toxic.  For a new generation of hardy children, we must return to the breakfast cereals of our ancestors — soaked gruels and porridges.”  — Yuck.  I’ll stick to Turkish breakfast Thank you very much.