Our first stop in Turkey was the beach city of Antalya, in the south along the Mediterranean coast. Citizens of the U.S. need a Turkish Visa to enter the country, though this can be easily obtained via website or in-person at the airport upon arrival (we read). Phil completed the application online, paid $50 each, and we were able to print out the 90-day Visas, which we presented at the airport in Geneva prior to boarding our flight. Easy peasy.
We planned to stay in Turkey for a month, though that seemed too long to stay in Istanbul exclusively. After a friend of a friend in Spain mentioned she was going to school in a beach town in the south of Turkey, we started looking at our options. Antalya seemed like a great one, so we booked our flights. Antalya is a city and a region located on the Tourquoise Coast (the name tourqoise actually comes from the french “pierre turque” meaning Turkish stone) of the Mediterranean Sea. Antayla is in Asia and is a resort city popular with tourists and expats from all over the world. Neither of us had ever been anywhere in Asia previously, so that was cool.
Our hotel in Antalya was very on brand for our “nice hotel about 20 years past its prime” preference (that I mentioned in this post). A couple of nice bonuses were their pool and free breakfast. I’m not a big breakfast person (brunch is another story all together) and often opt to skip the meal all together. However, when it’s included, it not only helps us save money on our overall daily food expenses (if we have a big breakfast, we usually skip having either a full lunch or dinner and have a snack for one of the meals instead) but it also forces us to wake up by a certain time. With that being said, I like to sleep. Not having a job and having a lot of time in the day to do what we please, often leads to us sleeping in. There’s nothing wrong with sleeping in. Sleeping in is great but having a semi-routine is also valuable. For me, a routine helps to serve as an anchor (to the day, to time, to reality) during a time in which I have no other obligations. Plus, if I really want to sleep in, I still can. You’re not the boss of me, breakfast!
The hotel breakfast was good. Turks are actually quite known for their breakfasts and many restaurants offer traditional Turkish breakfasts. A typical Turkish breakfast consists of different types of bread, cheese, meat, honey, jam, olives, eggs, tomato, cucumber and sometimes potatoes and other vegetables or delicious fried cheese rolls (looks like a taquito but tastes like phyllo stuffed with cheese). Oh, and tea. Lots of tea. Turks love their tea, even more than they love their famous Turkish coffee. In fact, Turkey is the largest consumer of tea per person in the world. Kahvalti means breakfast in Turkish and literally translates to “before coffee,” so while Turks still love their coffee (just not quite as much as tea), they do not drink it with their breakfast, only after. I am not Turkish, so I had both coffee and tea with my breakfast.
Unlike the Brits, Scots, and Irish, the tea loving Turks do not add milk when they have a cuppa, though may choose to add sugar. The strong, black tea is poured into a traditional, small, tuplip shaped glass. One drinks it by grabbing the lip of the glass with the thumb and pointer finger to avoid burning themselves.
One of the things that has struck me since being here, starting with our first hotel breakfast, is how fresh the produce is and how abundant (agriculture is Turkey’s largest employer). Some form of vegetable comes with almost any meal you order here. This is a very good thing for us. We like vegetables and try to eat them as often as we can. When traveling, however, especially when being budget conscious, we don’t always have as many as we would like.
As long as we are talking about the food, let me tell you more about the food. It is amazing. I love Turkish food. It consists of a lot of meats including lamb, which I love, also a lot of bread, which I also love. Typically when I think of Turkish food, I think of flat breads but we have encountered all types of bread here from fluffy white to a tasty pretzle-type ring bread called simit that is covered with sesame seeds (a favorite of Phil’s). But it’s not all meat and bread. We have also had delicious seafood, rice, chickpeas, pickled vegtables, and a bounty of the aforementioned fresh vegetables including; tomato, cucumber, eggplant, peppers of all kinds, onion, garlic, and fresh herbs. We have had a lot of fresh parsley since being here and it makes me wonder why we don’t incorporate it into salads more in the U.S. We have yet to have a bad meal in Turkey. In fact, you can find a delicious, meal for two if you look a bit outside of major tourist areas, for around 200TL (Turkish Lira), which is roughly $12. Oh, the food!
Some of our favortie dishes in addition to döner kebab are stuffed grape leaves (they call then vine leaves in English here), içli köfte (a stuffed, fried meatball), lahmacun (often referred to as Turkish pizza) which is a crispy flat bread with spices and minced vegtables and/or meat, pide (which actually tasts more like pizza than lahmacun) that’s a flat bread (thicker than lahmacun), covered in meat, cheese, or a mix of the two. We also found some tasty treats at the nearby bakery in Antayla including a delicious beef and onion stuffed flaky pasty (see excited photo below). One of the most surprising dishes we had was what the waiter described as “Turkish macaroni”. It was not something I would typically order but he urged us to so we did. It tasted a lot like toasted ravioli (if you’re from or have been to St. Louis, Missouri, you are very familiar with this) which is essentially deep fried pasta, then covered in a tomato sauce and yogurt. It was pretty good.
One of my favorite meals in Antalya was a small restaurant where the couple working spoke very little English. The woman was able to convey that we needed to come inside and look at the dishes they had prepared, select what we wanted, and then they would bring them to us. This type of set up is fun but can be quite dangerous for someone who likes to try a lot of foods. I kept pointing and they kept loading up plates and bowls. I even let Phil get a few dishes. The other notable thing about the restaurant were all of the jars of pickled vegtables they had stacked up. The dishes we had, usurprisingly, had a lot of pickled veg incorporated. It was all so delicious. We were way too full for dessert yet somehow ordered it anyway. It consisted of a Turkish flan-like dish and a crumbly cake with honey and cinnamon.
Antalya has way more to offer visitors than just delicious food, although that would be enough for me. For what we did (besides eat), stay tuned for more about our adventures in Antalya!