Sunday, 26 June 2011

The land of poppies, turtles and kebabs...well that's not all, folks!

One of the reason I have been less present on the blog is that I've been on holidays in a magic, amazingly beautiful and contradictory country: Turkey.

Turkey is full of stunning ancient sites such as Ephesus, Priene and Bergama where Romans and Greeks have battled and mixed. Culture and traditions are the result of a mix of extreme Europe and Minor Asia and a rural structure. Beaches are long and used by sea turtles to nestle at night. The sea is turquoise. On the other side I have to say that the country is full of crazy drivers and disgusting massive buildings destroying the natural beauty of part of the coast. Talking about food I have to say against the common thoughts that Turkish food is not only Kebap (this is actually the right spelling...I guess the final B is the result of a translation).
Honestly Turkey is not really a grand gourmet country. Most of the restaurants offer simple food and a friendly and relaxed service and you will find a lot of places where the waiters have the very annoying custom of calling passing customers from the street to invite them in. But the ingredients are normally so tasty and genuine that even the simplest dish will warm you heart.
A couple of places more than others really impressed me, not only for the food that was great but for location and staff. The first was a small fish restaurant in the Dilek Peninsula, close to Doganbey (unfortunately I am not sure about the name, but it could be Karina) with tables straight on the beach. Just few meter from the police station where the park becomes a military zone, this cosy place offers the freshest fish for the best price I ever had. The grilled sea bream I had was the best of my life.It was succulent and perfectly cooked, and the meze we had as starters were perfectly matching the stunning landscape.
Another restaurant that we really enjoyed was inland, at our first stop on the mountains beyond Bursa. It is just on the way to the Uludag Milli Park (and once again I am not sure about the name, but should be something like Villa...). We had lot of fun there! No one was speaking in English, but we managed to order and also to spot and explain a little mistake on our bill. They brought us fresh meat and a little BBQ and asked (gesticulating) if we would have preferred to cook the meat by ourselves.

And this is what we did....and everything was extraordinarily tasty an fresh. The lamb was just melting in the mouth and the tomatoes were incredibly juicy. The location was also great on a terrace overlooking Bursa at night.Romantic and beautiful but in a very simple way.

The last restaurant I'll be telling you about was my favourite of the entire trip. Sarnic is located in Kayakoy the Ottoman ghost town few kilometers far from Oludeniz, a very atmospheric and fascinating place. The restaurant is  a little gem unfortunately not that easy to find being on a secondary road.We went there twice and both times had a wonderful time. The restaurant was actually empty, but it didn't feel bad at all (at least not for us!). It was actually extremely romantic to have a place for ourselves in that beautiful courtyard of a restored 400 years old Ottoman house decorated with flowers and candles. And not only the location and ambience were great. The service was sharp but extremely friendly (we really enjoyed a lovely conversation with the brothers owning the premises) and the food was delicious without being pretentious. They even grow their vegs in their own garden that is certainly a plus! Also I had the chance to taste a good Turkish red wine from Kappadokia (Kalecik Karasi) extremely interesting and wonderfully pairing our lamb slow cooked with herbs.
If you are travelling  around the Aegean Coast of Turkey make sure you are not going to miss it!!!