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New version of turkey served this year

December 6, 2018

Two daughters and I recently visited Istanbul, Turkey, to visit a third daughter who is teaching English there.

Here are impressions from Turkey at Thanksgiving:

1. There are 16 million people in Turkey and very few speak any English. We downloaded an app that we could type English phrases into that would convert it into Turkish. It was pretty cool as you could put your phone camera over a menu and it would also translate it. Sometimes the translations were a little off — like the “sensitive meat balls” — but it gave us a good idea of what to order.

2. We walked up and down cobbled streets in Istanbul so steep we would have lost our rolling suitcases if we let go of them. The square grey bricks were laid over 600 years in circular patterns on streets narrow enough to often allow only one car on a time. Drivers skim by each other at intersections with inches to spare. It’s best at times to look at the buildings and not the traffic when you’re in a taxi or Uber car.

3. Speaking of taxis and Ubers, even though none of them could speak English, we could speak to them in the language of Apple maps. We tried to take Ubers when we could. The taxi drivers would just pull over and ask taxi drivers or pedestrians where to go until they finally got to our destination.

Natalie, our Turkey resident, would show her phone with the route and we would make signals to the driver indicating which way to go. Taxi drivers are adept at making extra money from foreigners by taking the long route.

4. I’ve never seen a mosque before, and in Istanbul there is a mosque every couple blocks. Most had minarets and beautiful domes. We had to wear head scarves for a tour of one mosque. It was built around 500 AD as a Christian church but was converted into a mosque when the Ottomans took over Istanbul in 1453. It was a beautiful building.

5. Turkish coffee served in small decorative cups is very popular. You sip the strong half cup of liquid in the top of the cup and leave the two tablespoons of sludge at the bottom. Although very strong, it wasn’t bitter but we cut back after we’d lie awake until 3 a.m. due to jet lag and caffeine. We drank Nescafe and lots of hot tea, but not much water. I came home and drank water like a camel.

6. The older students at the school where Natalie teaches put on a surprise program for us. Even though they weren’t sure what they were saying, they sang Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” for us. It was quite the nice welcome. Afterwards we ate a banquet of great Turkish food made by parents. It was one of the best potlucks I’ve ever eaten at, although I couldn’t identify what exactly we were eating.

We came home with a couple Turkish rugs and mugs and a lot of memories. Turkey next Thanksgiving probably will be more of the food type than the country.

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