Going Out and Eating in Turkish
Trip Start Jan 06, 2006
118Trip End Sep 02, 2008
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These first few come to mind:
Efendim? Merhaba, Yeni Otogar, Bir Tani, Tamam. Tuvalet Varma? Teshekoor edrine. Iay Akshamlar.
Hello on a telephone (archaic: Mylord)? Hello (in person), New Bus Station, One Thing, Okay. Any Toilet? Thank you. Good evening.
These ones I use on a regular basis. If I add a few other useful words that have facilitated communication recently:
Ad, Liman, Ayni, bir, iki, uç, dürt, besh, om, ombesh, Yirmi, Oz, Deniz, Kapi, Kale, Kürt, Dolmush, Sehir Merkezi.
Name, Harbour, Same, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Ten, Fifteen, Twenty, Pure, Sea, Gate, Castle, Wolf, Minibus (you knew this one would be on the list!), City Centre.
Then there are basic words on signs that I know when I see them:
Cadesi, Indi, Bindi, Asik, Satik, Kemer, -ler, Evit, Hair, Çiris, Giris, Saat, Dakka, Bay, Bayan, Dikkat!
Street, Get on, Get off, Buy, Sell, Belt, -s (as in plural), Yes, No, Entrance, Exit, Hour, Minute, Men's (toilet), Woman's (toilet) Warning!
Perhaps you can imagine how some situations would be considerably more confusing without the knowledge of these basic words. Well, been there, done that. And soon I'll do it again when I get to the Arabic speaking world. But, for example, knowing numbers makes buying and bargaining a lot easier, knowing city landmarks makes nagivating less confusing, knowing which door to go into helps avoid embarrasment, and knowing how soon the bus leaves - be it iki dakka, besh dakka or yirmi dakka - sure makes me feel less nervous about missing it if I need to make a quick dash to the "Bay."
And then there are yet others that are related to dining. It's good to know what's on the menu sometimes - there are certain dishes that one may want to avoid - lamb's foot, tripe kebap, and brain soup are a few examples. But usually the waiters make sure you don't order this stuff by accident. Sometimes I order "adana" kebap (spicy) but they give me "urfa" kebap (not spicy) instead because they worry I can't take it (I assume). But also the waiters are generally impatient all over the country, and they don't give a patron enough time to browse all the way to the end of the menu where the tripe things are.
Nevertheless, the eating is very good. Believe it or not. Let me tell you about what I am eating these days.
Let me start with my favourite drink here, Ayran. No, it's not Raki - an ouzo like liqueur. I've been avoiding the drink here. It slows me down in the mornings, if you know what I mean! There was that time in Kushadasi, for example... but that was Efes (local beer, taxed a whopping 85%). And then water, that would be Su, but I only drink that out of a bottle, nevermind that's not much fun at restaurants when it costs as much as cola. Righto, back to Ayran: a milk-like liquid, but it tastes more like a yoghurt with a hint of salt (I know that doesn't sound enticing but after a few tries it gets good).
Ayran goes well with just about everything: A few examples; pide (turkish pizza - toppings (cheese vegies and meat) on fresh dough and popped in a wood stove) or with Adana kebap (a fire roasted skewer of meat served with salad and bread) or even a dürüm döner (shaved lamb, chicken or beef that is wrapped in a pita). It also goes well with Tavuk Çorba (chicken soup - unrelated tangent: I saw a copy of chicken soup for the soul in Turkish), lamaçun (another pizza-like item) or beyti kebap (a skewer of pita wrapped lamb).
But I don't drink Ayran with Börek (pastry) because, for me at least, I only eat börek while I am out walking and there's no where to set the aluminum topped cup down when I peel the paper off of the pastry as I eat my way down (Börek is often wrapped like a Taco to go). I don't have Ayran with Baklava either. It's a dessert, so with it, I usually drink çay (tea). But I drink the orignial variety, not the apple tea which was created specifically for tourists' tastebuds!
I am enjoying the food. A bit of variety in dish and from restaurant to restaurant keeps my tastebuds sane, and I always wait until I find an establishment which locals frequent before I sit down to eat. Sometimes finding a good restaurant requires a bit of a hike away from the tourist traps, but it ensures I get good local food (sometimes tourists are served lousy stuff without flavour) and it also means I get decent value (not having prices quoted in Euros or offering absurdly priced entrees).
So with all these words it would look like I can get around enough in Turkey. But there are a few things I have not mastered: the complicated way of asking the price of something (I gesticulate and ask in English or German). Or else I say "Lira" and the merchant gets the idea!
However, I mentioned quite a ways above that I spent a day with Mike, a fluent speaker of Turkish (even if he doesn't agree) and it was interesting to see what I was missing out on. First off, I am in a few of my pictures! Okay, that's not much of a benefit considering the dirty, unkempt state I am in. Beyond being good company, Mike was able to fill me in on some of the conversations (or arguments) around us. Turns out that the Turks argue about the same things as everyone else: How much such and such should cost, bus schedules, and the like. Perhaps the main difference was that everytime I got on a bus with Mike, I knew exaclty where I was going.
That peace of mind is invaluable, when you're like me and sometimes getting on the right bus requires a lot of faith in a stranger who just took your money and whom you will never see again. And sometimes the bus doesn't take you exactly where you want to go, and that's frustrating. Nevertheless, don't acquire the impression that the Turks can't be trusted: The very lack of horror stories on this blog should infer that they as a group (must be cultural) ensure (indeed they go out of their way) to get me where I am going. It's just up to me to tell them where that is!
Sometimes I bugger it up though.
Today in the Antalya Otogar (bus station) I had an altercation with a shopkeeper.
He didn't understand what I thought I clearly said in Turkish. Mike had explained that the Turks are sometimes unable to understand foreigners who don't perfectly pronounce vowels. On those occasions, in his experience, they freeze up and instead of comprehending, go about their business without letting on that they didn't understand a single word. I asked for some Börek, but only one lira's worth, and ended up being asked for uç (3) lira. Sometimes I have been able to get that amount for 20 Kurush (cents). What approximately happened was that I said I wouldn't pay three for such a piddly amount of Börek and I walked away. He shouted something at me as I left. Clearly, if you noticed that my vocabulary doesn't precisely encompass some of the words I used in this paragraph's narration, you will realise that I probably was somewhat at fault in the incident.
I should have spoken to the vendor in German. Everyone speaks that here. Last night, for instance, Mike and I were in a funny three way converstation with the pleasant Maitre d' at the restaurant by Hadrian's gate where we supped. Mike spoke to the fellow in Turkish. I spoke to Mike in English. Then it became clear that the Maitre d' spoke German, so he and I began to converse in German as well. This went on for perhaps ten minutes as we talked. Only while travelling.
One thing we did discuss was a the effect of some Danish cartoons. Perhaps you have heard of some Islamically blasphemous cartoons printed in newspapers there and elsewhere in Europe. If not, go read about it on the BBC. The Turks are unimpressed by the cartoons, but not rioting. We were mainly discussing it because I am planning to go to Syria in a few days. Unlike the Turks, some Syrians are rioting, and they have burned down the Danish embassy. I have been trying to decide if I should still go because of safety concerns. Interestingly enough, this moring I met a Danish girl who just left Syria after two weeks there. She had a great time but left only because she goes back to University in a couple of days. People have also posted on internet forums that Syria is actually pretty okay at the moment, despite a few embassy burnings here and there. In any case, I will make up my mind in a few days.