Kurban Bayrami or Eid al-Ahda

This holiday is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice. This is a very important Islamic holiday which celebrates willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son Ishmael. The sacrifice was not completed as God intervened and had Abraham sacrifice a ram instead. To celebrate people usually a set of new clothes, dress up and visit family and friends and sacrifice an animal.

The animal depends on the weath of the family. Most often it is a goat, sheep or cow. The family keeps a third of the meat, gives a third to family and friends and gives a third the poor. In the country people may do it themselves their yards, but the government sets up sites of trained butchers in many neighborhoods.


On their way to the feast...

This year we celebrated more traditionally than we have for several years. Normally since it’s a long weekend Bülent and I usually travel. This year it was 6 days. We did go to Marmaris, but so did most of the family. So while we enjoyed the sunshine and nature we also celebrated Bayram. In the U.S. often there are celebratory dinners, but here it is ususlly brunches and lunches.


The family got together several times, aunts, uncles and cousins for brunches and luncheons.  It was a nice and casual way to visit.  Since it was happening often I was able to excuse myself when the level of Turkish became too high, rather to sit there bored.  Also the older generation entertained each other. This allowed Bülent and I to have more private time than we might have if we just went down with his parents. 


We had a lovely time and are our way back to Ankara today.  To the real world for a couple of days!

Road Trip: The Big One

After our vacation, Bülent and I decided to buy a car in Texas, where the cars have less rust damage from salt and snow.  We would then drive out to New Hampshire in time for Bülent to start his teaching job at the university.  Our plan was to drive from Leave Texas, stop overnight in Memphis, Louisville, northern West Virginia, somewhere in Jersey and end up in New Hampshire.  ScreenHunter_04 Aug. 21 15.32

However, right from the beginning we had some scheduling issues.  Bülent found the car he wanted to buy the night before we leaving for the trip, but it was too late to buy it and take it to get checked out. So early in the morning he went to the dealership, bought the car and took it to the garage.  However, the work it needed, brakes tuned and new tires, took longer than expected.  Instead of getting on the road by 12 and getting to Memphis by 8ish that night, we couldn’t leave until 4.   We were tired, so we stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas around 10 p.m.   We figured we would stop in Memphis to and have an early lunch and visit with my friend from college (hence required stop in Memphis), and have an early lunch.

And that is the day Arkansas became dead to me.  If we had time I would have like to look around the city and check out some Civil Rights museums, but we wanted to get on the road right away.  Bad decision.  The trip to Memphis is normally only 2 and a haf hours, but once we got on the road, we stayed on the road. And stayed on the road.  And stayed. on. the. road.

There had been a traffic accident that morning at 4 a.m. and the eastbound and westbound lanes of the highway were blocked all day. (I can complain about because no one was hurt.)  After several hours f being parked on the highway, we were detoured onto a two lane country highway.  It took eight hours to drive to Memphis.  By the time we got there, we were ready to tear our hair out.  We were trapped all day, had lost an entire day of travel and messed up our schedule.  We decided rather than try to make up time and drive to Nashville, we would stay with our friends in Memphis.   Honestly the thought of getting back into the car made us nauseous.

Good Decision.  We ended up having a great time.  We had a great Tennessee BBQ, and then hung out by the lake with the dogs.  The three dogs, that all have first, middle and last names.  Hee Hee.  It is so funny when my friend Katie calls out their full names with when the puppies are being rowdy.  I would post some adorable photos, but there were some technological issues and our camera ate the pictures.  The next day we woke, rested, with the goal of getting to Louisville for a late lunch and then continuing on to make up lost time.   We had to be in NH by a certain date so Bülent could start teaching his classes.    Next Installment: Day 3 of the Road Trip.  The road to awesomeness…I mean Louisville.

Back to US Road Trip Adventures!

In the beginning of the summer we did a road trip.  We started off in Texas with a visit with Bülent’s BFF Shawn.  I was able to visit with Shawn again and meet his wife Larinda.  They were great hosts, I had never been to Texas before and they had planned an awesome trip.  We visited in Fort Worth, near their home, then hopped in the truck and started the first leg of the road trip.  We drove to Austin, took a look around and then headed to the Salt Lick BBQ, a little bit out of town.  There was meat, meat and more meat!  It was amazing!

From there we drove to Fredericksburg where we hit up a few wineries and then stayed in an adorable cottage right off the main street.  A former German settlement, the buildings and cuisine have an authentic German flair.  I went running each morning we were there (Not optional: The food was amazing.  Example: Duck Hash with Eggs.  *Duck* Hash!)  It was fun, because running along there was so much to look at and enjoy.  The town had lots of great local wine, since it was close to the wineries.  It also had some really fun kitschy shops where you could buy useless but amusing things.

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For your information the glassware, jam jars with stems, was billed as “Texas Crystal Wine Glasses.”  Clearly all about the class.    There were also quite a few fudge shops.  This is pretty typical in tourist towns, apparently people walking the streets for souvenirs love to court diabetes and heart disease and pack away that delicious mixture of sugar and butter.  There were also some novelty treats.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

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Chocolate Covered Jalapeños

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Chocolate Covered Pickles

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I talked with the teenagers selling the atrocities, and and they insisted people actually bought the “treats” and that they were pretty good.  I pressed them, Really?  They are actually tasty?  The boys said they liked the bacon and jalapeños.  But they remained suspiciously quiet regarding the deliciousness of the chocolate covered pickles.

From there we went to a small winery near Luckenbach, named Sister Creek.

June 2012 116It was a small place and informal.  When we said yes, we would like to see the winery, we we told to just on on through and come back to taste when we were ready.   We had run of the place.  It was like a dream!

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Generally I prefer dry wines, Sister Creek had a lovely Muscat Canneli  that was fairly sweet, almost effervescent and delicious!  We bought a bottle to bring back to NH and another for a hostess gift on the return leg of our road trip.

From there we went down to San Antonio.  We spent a night enjoying the River Walk, and in the morning went to the Alamo.   Then we drove back on up to Fort Worth.   I had never been to Texas before, and Shawn and Larinda went to great lengths to plan a lovely vacation and show us around the state.  From pit BBQ to wineries to Chocolate covered bacon, we had a blast!

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Where Everything is Bigger

Texas.  Even the meat is bigger. BBQ…what were YOU thinking?

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Last week we had the good fortune to visit some good friends of ours.  Bülent flew from Turkey to Dallas and I met him there.

When Bülent  first moved to the U.S., Shawn was his landlord.  He became much more than that though, he and and wife, became very good friends with Bülent.   He even was the one to give Bülent his precious Butterfinger.   So last week we flew to Texas, from our own respective airports.  Our hosts gave us an amazing tour of Texas.  One of the first experiences we were introduced to was “Texas Barbeque.”  From Dallas we drove to Austin, where outside of the city we went to Salt Lick BBQ.   It was BYOB, and we could smell the meat from miles away.

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On the menu was summer sausage, brisket, pork ribs, smoked turkey, chicken and beef ribs.  Below you see sausage, brisket and pork ribs being prepared.

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I couldn’t decide between brisket and pork ribs, so I had both!  They were served with a side of beans, potato salad and coleslaw.  Everything was fabulous, but I was surprised by the coleslaw.  It was surprisingly light, more of a vinaigrette than a mayonnaise laden dressing.  Wicked tasty!

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More on Texas and the food soon!

The Road Trip Begins

Last Friday Bülent and I  flew to Dallas from our respective cities.  We have had a blast visiting with friends in Texas, and made a mini road trip from Dallas, to Austin to San Antonio and back.  There will be lots coming on our time in Texas but it needs its own post.  Our plan was to fly down, hang out, buy a car and drive back to NH.  And today it commences.   Bülent is picking up the car this morning and from there we will be hitting up cities willy-nilly in a northerly direction.  YAY!  It should be blast, and give me lots to post about.  I may be trying to post from my phone, so bear with me.

Romantic Getaway: Bolu

One of the romantic weekends Bülent and I planned was to Bolu.  We had an amazing time, but it wasn’t actually in Bolu.  We had planned to stay in the Bolu city area and take day trips to Abant Gölü and Yedigöller, however the place we stayed was actually two hours from both, in Bolu province.  In the end it all worked out, and we had a wonderful time.   The drive there was very pretty.  There was still snow on the hills lining the freeway!


We arrived at Hindiba Pansiyon, an ecofriendly resort with small bungalows.  It was really lovely.  The bungalows and outdoor tables straddled a clearing in the woods which a creek ran through.  There was a full service restaurant, and breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the bungalow.  The eals were great, produced with locally available foods.


There were two types of bungalows, stone and wood. I would recommended the stone. The wood bungalow was very cozy, with not much floor space, but since we were on a romantic weekend, the size of the bungalow didn’t really matter.


We relaxed, read, rested and took walks.  The best part of walking was that immediately after leaving the pension we were deep in the country.


We did take a day trip to Gölcük, a small lake up in the mountains of Bolu.  The drive was gorgeous, and once we got there—there was water!  That is always a focus for people who live in Ankara.  Water, since our city is sort of arid, we all prefer vacationing in areas that are lush and green, preferably with a body of water nearby.  In this respect Hindiba was perfect for our needs.

Even though it was not what we were expecting, we had a great time.  The focus was on time together anyway.  It wouldn’t have mattered if it was a dive motel—but that is a post for next time…

Romantic Getaway: Safranbolu

I have been in the U.S for the last three months, so when I flew back to Turkey for a few weeks, Bülent and I decided to plan some romantic weekends away.  So far we have been having a great time.  We decided to head to Safranbolu.  It is an easy three hour drive from Ankara.  After getting there we grabbed some lunch at Hanim Sofrasi.  I am a sucker for women-run establishments in Turkey.  This was pretty typical.  An older woman was supervising while her daughters, and maybe sisters or sisters-in-law (not sure which) cooked the food.  What was unusual was that while the matriarch sat outside smoking and chatting with tourists, her husband was the waiter, taking orders and running food out.  He only joined  his wife for a cigarette after all his work had been finished!


We had “Safranbolu Manti” or “Peruhi.” Instead of your typical meat filled bites, they were more like triangular ravioli, very thin pasta filled with a white cheese or maybe yogurt.  However, while eating them I detected a floral note, I am not sure, it could have been a hint of saffron or maybe a spice.  Either way, it was a little different and delicious.


After our lunch we walked around and stopped at Cinci Han, it is a old Caravanserai stop on the Silk Road.  Built in the 17th century it is now a hotel and a café.  You can still see the old iron rings where they used to tie the camels.


There is a tower, which they allow you to climb with refreshingly few safety precautions.


Safranbolu is a fairly small town, with quite a few pazars, however the really lovely part is just outside of the main square.  There are many old Ottoman houses, many of which are charming private residences rather than just hotels.  Safranbolu also has many streams and rivers which run through it and have carved canyons and ravines.  This particular camii (mosque) was built over a small river.  As a place of worship, one that spans running water and you can listen to the gurgle of it over stones while you pray—seems like a great idea—not that I would know much about prayer or worship.


Along the same stream were many little gardens squeezed between the retaining walls and the water.


During our walk we saw some local children  climbing a beautiful grassy hill.  So like any well adjusted adults, we were jealous and climbed it too.  We had a blast, and the kids thought we were pretty funny too.

Mini-Moon: Fethiye

On the way to Fethiye!  We decided to drive down through the mountains.  It was an amazing trip though the Taurus Mountain range.   They were steep and craggy, though thankfully there was no snow on the roads.  It was Kurban Bayram, so there were sheep hanging upside down occasionally outside of houses as we drove through villages. 

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Handsome man and a beautiful view!

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Ok, so today is less of a blog post and more of Fethiye Photo Porn.  We stayed at a boutique hotel right on the water.  It was great, and the views were awesome.  Off season all those swank hotels are very reasonable.  We had a blast! The night before we walked along the water, had dinner at a fish restaurant and took a taxi back because I was too cold to take one more step

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The bay was full of boats of all sizes.   In the morning we had breakfast overlooking the water and then had a walk along the marina. 

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After, we hopped in the car, and headed down the coast to Kalkan…

Adventures in Akçakoca

Last month Bülent’s parents invited us up to Akçakoca for the weekend.  One of their friends lent them their restored village home for the weekend.  Akçakoca is only about a four hour drive from Ankara.  It really is a nice drive, after about two hours the dry Anatolian plains give way to pine covered mountains and then the green coastal area.  After we got there we stopped for some tasty köfte.  It was an absolute hole in the wall, and was so good! 

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The mosque in the center of Akçakoca has fairly unusual architecture and is very attractive. 

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The house itself was lovely, an old restored village house.  It was on a hill, surrounded by a hazelnut orchard, and mountains, with a view of the town center.

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There was an vegetable garden and a myriad of fruits trees; apple, pear, quince and pomegranates.  The sun warmed grapes were so delicious.  They tasted exactly like the Concord grapes that grew wild in New Hampshire.

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Akçakoca is a working fishing town.  Being right on the Black Sea affords the town beautiful views and fresh fish.

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When we woke up the morning we left, the weather was rainy and cloudy, but still lovely.  We decided to take a walk while it was merely misting rather than pouring

This area of the Black Sea is known for its hazelnut orchards.  As far as the eye could see, the hazelnut trees covered the hills and mountains, only the flat plains were used for other agricultural cultivation, usually corn, a special type of cabbage (Laz Lahanasi) and other types of typical produce.

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Bülent was a trouper when I dragged him along on our walk.  He would have happily slept a little longer until breakfast, but was amenable for the pre-breakfast walk I prodded him into.

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While it was grey and rainy, it was still green and gorgeous. When you live in Ankara, any chance for proximity to greenery excites you.

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It was a beautiful weekend.  We had a lovely visit with his parents, and a great time in the village.  Sometimes living in a city is difficult for me.  Growing up on a dirt road in the woods in New Hampshire is a far cry from the grey concrete and brown arid lands of middle Anatolia.  So visiting this haven of hazelnuts, driving on narrow dirt roads, smelling the moist perfumed air really reminded me of home—which really was lovely. 


In Turkey brown road signs signify historical sites.  Bulent and I have a dream where one day we can take a road trip and follow every brown historical road sign that tickles our fancy.  Well, when we were in Marmaris we were able to do just that, which lead us to the Ancient city of Amos, situated on Asarcık hill, above Kumlubük bay, near the town of Turunç.

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To reach the ancient city, walk through the fragrant olive trees…

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Climb up to the top of Asarcık hill…

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To where the city overlooks the sea on three sides, built on top of a spit of land protruding into the bay…

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There are several sections of ruins of up the hill, including some residential areas, an amphitheater, and the walls of the ancient citadel.

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We had a great time following the brown historical road sign, and hope that there are many more in the future.

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