Cuisine and Culture: A Culinary Journey Through Turkey

Take a culinary journey through Turkey, and you’ll discover a richness in culture that spills over into the food. With a history that is centuries old, Turkish cuisine has absorbed different cultures, and its distinct flavors have been shaped by geography, climate, and proximity to the sea. From hearty stews to decadent desserts, Turkish cuisine is a feast for the senses.

Why is Turkey a Foodie’s Destination?

Turkey, a land where history and flavors harmonize in a magical way, invites us to discover its culinary treasures. From the bustling streets of Istanbul to the tranquil shores of the Mediterranean and the heartland of Anatolia, Turkey’s diverse regions offer an array of dishes that are as varied as its landscapes.

Let’s Get to Know Turkish Cuisine

Delicious Dishes

A Turkish culinary journey often begins with kebabs. These tender, grilled morsels of meat or vegetables, seasoned with a symphony of spices, are an iconic Turkish dish. Whether you’re savoring a juicy Adana kebab or a fragrant chicken shish kebab, you’re in for a treat.

But Turkey doesn’t stop at savory dishes. Enter Baklava, a sweet pastry that oozes with honey and crushed nuts. Each bite is like a sweet symphony, a perfect balance of crisp layers and gooey sweetness.

And don’t forget Turkish delight, those chewy, colorful confections that come in various flavors like rose, pistachio, and pomegranate. They are not just candies but a glimpse into the country’s sweet traditions.

Ingredients

The secret to any cuisine’s deliciousness lies in its ingredients. Turkish chefs generously employ a variety of spices, such as cumin, paprika, and sumac, to create vibrant and flavorful dishes. Herbs like mint, parsley, and dill also add a refreshing touch to many recipes.

Meats, such as lamb and beef, are often used in Turkish cooking, and they’re prepared with precision and care to ensure tenderness and taste. Vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes play a crucial role, especially in Mediterranean cuisine.

Culture and Food

Eating Habits

Turkish food isn’t just about what’s on your plate; it’s also about how you enjoy it. Turkish meals are a communal affair, where family and friends gather around a table to share food, stories, and laughter. It’s a celebration of togetherness.

One cannot talk about Turkish food without mentioning tea. Turkish tea culture is a cherished tradition. Sipping strong black tea from tiny glasses, often accompanied by a sugar cube, is a ritual deeply ingrained in Turkish people’s daily lives.

Food Traditions

Turkey’s rich cultural heritage is intertwined with its food traditions. During the fasting season, or the Holy Month of Ramadan, the streets come alive with the aromas of mouthwatering dishes being prepared for the evening ‘Iftar’ meal. It’s a time of reflection, gratitude, and breaking fast together with loved ones.

And then there’s Turkish coffee, a strong, aromatic brew that’s not just a beverage but also a symbol of hospitality. The ritual of brewing and serving Turkish coffee is a gesture of warmth and welcome.

Hospitality is at the core of Turkish culture. When you visit a Turkish home, you’re likely to be greeted with a warm smile and a generous spread of food. The concept of ‘Meyhane,’ a traditional Turkish tavern, epitomizes this spirit of hospitality. Here, friends gather, share stories, and enjoy a variety of mezes (appetizers) alongside Raki, the national anise-flavored spirit.

Regional Flavors

Turkey’s vast expanse boasts a diverse culinary landscape, with each region offering a unique palette of flavors and specialties that reflect its geographical and cultural influences. As we traverse the country, we encounter distinct regional tastes that captivate our senses.

Istanbul: Where East Meets West

Istanbul is the cultural bridge between East and West. Tourists may sample local specialties at one of the many bustling marketplaces, like the Grand Bazaar. Here, the streets are alive with the enticing aromas of spices, sweets, and street food. You can savor a medley of dishes influenced by Ottoman and Mediterranean cuisines, making Istanbul a gastronomic melting pot.

Enjoy a worry-free food trip to Turkey in 2023 with the help of Exoticca. This trusted travel company presents an array of enticing vacation packages to the “Land of the Crescent Moon,” with delightful stops in Istanbul. Go on an epic gastronomic adventure without the hassle of handling typical tourist logistics like flights and accommodations. Your only concern? Deciding what delectable dish to savor next and whether there’s room for another bite.

Mediterranean Coast: A Seafood Paradise

Heading south to the Mediterranean coast, you’ll find a seafood lover’s haven. The crystal-clear waters provide a bountiful harvest of fish and seafood, which form the basis of many coastal dishes. Grilled octopus, stuffed mussels, and succulent sea bass are just a few of the coastal treasures. The liberal use of olive oil, fragrant herbs, and fresh vegetables creates a symphony of flavors that perfectly complements the sea’s bounty.

Anatolia: Heartland of Hearty Dishes

Venturing into the heartland of Anatolia, we uncover a treasure trove of hearty dishes that have sustained generations. One such delight is Borek, a flaky pastry filled with an assortment of ingredients, ranging from cheese and spinach to minced meat. Its versatility and comforting flavors make it a beloved staple across Anatolian kitchens.

In the city of Bursa, we encounter the mouthwatering Iskender kebab, a local specialty that has gained nationwide acclaim. Thinly sliced doner meat, tender and flavorful, is generously laid over pieces of pita bread, then lavishly adorned with a sumptuous blend of tomato sauce and yogurt. Bursa’s Iskender kebab is a testament to the city’s culinary prowess.

Gaziantep: Baklava Capital

Gaziantep, a city located in southeastern Turkey near the border with Syria, is revered as the baklava capital of Turkey, and for good reason. Here, Baklava is elevated to an art form. The meticulous preparation, using premium ingredients, particularly prized pistachios, results in a baklava that is unparalleled in its flavor and texture. Gaziantep Baklava is a sweet masterpiece that tempts dessert connoisseurs from far and wide.

Turkish Cuisine: A Celebration of Life

A culinary journey through Turkey will take you on a rollercoaster of flavors and cultural revelations. From the irresistible kebabs of Istanbul to the sweet delights of Gaziantep, Turkish cuisine is something your taste buds and hearts will never forget.

But it’s not just about the food; the people, the traditions, and the warmth also make dining in Turkey an unforgettable experience. The act of breaking bread together transcends borders and languages, and in Turkey, it’s a true celebration of life.

So, the next time you find yourself in Turkey, remember to savour not just the dishes but also the culture, the hospitality, and the joy of sharing a meal with newfound friends. Because in Turkey, every meal is a journey, and every bite is a story waiting to be told.

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Gunung Bromo, Indonesia

Mount Bromo, Gunung Bromo in Indonesian, arguably one of the most spectacular active volcanoes on our planet, is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, in South East of the island of Java, Indonesia.

Bromo is not the tallest of the group (which is Mount Semeru, Java’s highest peak and one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia ), but the most famous, due to its active cone and religious significance: the name comes from Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. The summit is a pilgrimage site for the worshippers who reach the crater rim bringing offers to the gods.

What is impressive about this area, is the majestic Tengger caldera, from which rise the three peaks Bromo (2.392 m), Kursi (2.581 m) and Batok (2.581 m), composing a lunar landscape, with eerie mount Semeru in the background (3.676 m).

The best view is at sunrise from King Kong Hill on Mount Penanjakan (2.770 m), where most of the guided tours will bring you (the road is only accessible by tour agencies with 4WDs jeeps; alternatively, you can reach the viewpoint by walk, in around two hours from Cemoro Lawang).

Gunung Bromo
Gunung Bromo view from King Kong Hill © mytouristmaps

The classic tours also include, after the sunrise viewpoint, the descent by jeep on the base of Gunung Bromo, the Sea of Sand (Laotian Pasir), and the hike to the top of Bromo’s crater (an easy 40 minutes hike, but if you want you can shorten it by riding a horse or motorbike to the bottom of the 253 steps staircase that brings you on the edge of the crater).

Visiting Mount Bromo during high season (mid-late June for local visitors and July-August for international tourism) could be crowded, with hundreds of jeeps bringing people to the viewpoints, so be aware that you might spend extra time in the traffic and be sure to get to the viewpoint on time to choose the perfect spot.

Gunung Bromo
Pura Luhur Poten Temple view from Gunung Bromo © mytouristmaps

Our recommended agency to visit Mount Bromo is Bali Java Holidays Tour & Adventure.

Best Places to see Gorillas in Africa

Arguably one of the most fascinating species on the planet, gorillas are amongst the closest living relatives to humans due to their DNA, around 98% similar to humankind.
They have feet and hands like humans with big toes, opposable thumbs, and individual fingerprints.
Another important feature in common with humans is their intelligence: they can grieve and laugh, they are able to use tools, and according to some research they might have even spiritual and religious feelings.

Herbivorous, they are the world’s largest primates reaching up to 270 kg weight and 180 cm height, with an average lifespan between 30 and 40 years, although some zoo gorillas have registered a maximum age of more than 50 years (the longest living gorilla was the 61 years old Ozoum “Ozzie”, died the 25th of January 2022 at Zoo Atlanta, United States).

Adult male gorillas, after reaching the age of around 12 years, develop some characteristic grey/silver hair on the back, hence the nickname “silverbacks”.
The dominant silverback is the undisputed leader and makes all the most important decisions of the troop, choosing the movements, the feeding sites, and protecting the whole group.

There are around 5,300 gorillas in the wild and all their species and subspecies are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

Mountain Gorilla © Maciej / Flickr



Thanks to the brilliant primatologist Dian Fossey, who studied gorillas in Rwanda from 1966 to 1985, gorillas are no more depicted as violent and aggressive against humankind. Some of Fossey’s young gorillas became famous after they had been filmed playing with David Attenborough in 1979 for the tv series Life on Earth.
However, gorillas, if threatened, can be extremely dangerous and aggressive, but usually, most of the violence is directed towards other gorillas.

There are two species and four subspecies of gorillas:

  • Western Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla), divided in Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla) and Cross River gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Diehli),
  • Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla Beringei), divided in Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Beringei) and Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Graueri).

Best places to see gorillas in the wild

Gorillas live in only Central Africa, more precisely in Cameroon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola (Cabinda area), Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Rwanda and Uganda.

Gorilla distribution map

Angola
You can find Western Lowland gorillas only in the Cabinda region, but there are few tourist infrastructures. You can see gorillas in the Maiombe Forest Reserve.

Cameroon
Cameroon is home to both Cross River gorillas (West, border with Nigeria) and Western Lowland Gorillas (South).
Cross River gorillas are quite difficult to be seen, due to their small number and the lack of tourism infrastructures.
There are great chances to see Western Lowlands gorillas at Ndzanga Sangha National Park and Lobéké National Park,
At Limbe Wildlife Centre and Mefou National Park, you can find rescued gorillas in rehabilitation.

Central African Republic
The Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve is one of the best places to meet Western Lowland gorillas in Africa. WWF started a project in habituating two groups of this species.

Republic of Congo
The Republic of Congo is home to more than 120,000 Western Lowland gorillas. The best areas to meet them are the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, in the northwest of the country, and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park around Mbeli Bai. In the Léfini Reserve you can meet rescued gorilla rehabilitation.
The best time to go is during the dry seasons, from June to September and from December to February.

Democratic Republic of Congo
Three out of four subspecies of gorillas live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but check the security situation of the country before planning your trip.
Eastern Lowlands gorillas can be found in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, one of the best gorilla-viewing experiences.
Great chances to see Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest national park in Africa.
You can see some Western Lowland gorillas west of the country in the Madiakoko Mountains, Bas-Congo.

Equatorial Guinea
There are no groups of habituated gorillas and tourist infrastructures in Equatorial Guinea, but you can avail of local tourist guides to bring you across the Monte Alen National Park to meet some Western Lowland gorillas.

Gabon
Gabon is one of the best areas to see Western Lowland gorillas: in the Lopé National Park visitors can see them on generic safaris, and the Moukalaba-Doudou National Park is one of the places with the highest density of gorillas in Africa.
The best choice for gorillas sightseeing is the Loango National Park, home of the only group of habituated gorillas in Gabon.

Nigeria
Although Nigeria has lately invested in tourism infrastructures, the chances to meet Cross River gorillas in the Cross River National Park are still low, due to their small number and given that they are not habituated.

Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is one of the best places (and one of the most famous, thanks to Dian Fossey’s research) to see Mountain gorillas in the wild. Rwanda is home to around 30% of the overall population of Mountain gorillas.

Uganda
About half of the remaining population of Mountain gorillas live in Uganda.
Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park have a considerable number of habituated gorillas and excellent probability of sightseeing.

Where to see Gorillas
Chances to see gorillas in the wild

WHEN TO GO
Dry seasons (December to February and June to September) are the best periods, but guided tours are available all year round, and in the low seasons, permits might be discounted.

PERMITS
Gorilla safari permits might be very expensive, the cost is around 400$ per person in Congo, 600$ in Uganda and 1500$ in Rwanda.
The reason for these prices is the high demand and the limited availability, but mostly due to the need for found to protect the primates: 75% of the amount is to conserve the gorilla surviving population, 15% goes to the governments and the 10% goes to the local communities.

7 Stunning destinations with lower costs in the springtime

Spring is a fantastic period for traveling. It offers pleasant weather in many places with scorching summers, as well as in most of South America and other Southern Hemisphere destinations. Another advantage is that spring is typically considered a ‘shoulder season’ period in terms of hotel rates. This means you can find great deals almost everywhere due to smaller crowds.

Interestingly, spring happens to be the hottest month of the year in most of Southeast Asia, including Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. It might be better to avoid these famous backpacker zones until autumn or at least until the rains start in June to cool things off a bit more.

Man holding globe
Porapak Apichodilok/Pexels

Best Places To Go On Spring Break

1 Cancún, Mexico

Cancún is renowned globally as a top spring break destination. This planned resort offers 21 kilometers of pristine white-sand beaches and a wide range of family-friendly resorts. Visitors can indulge in a multitude of inexpensive activities, including sunbathing, people-watching, and snorkeling the expansive barrier reef protecting the island. The evenings in Cancún are filled with a myriad of options, from live music to year-round events.

If you are looking for affordable spring break trips, you can choose from a list of countries with a low cost of living. However, you can also save money when traveling to any country.
To do this you need to use VPN to change location. If you set a new location on Android, you’ll be able to see local hotel prices rather than inflated tourist prices. Plus, you won’t even find many hotels if you search for them from a foreign IP address. Want another reason to know how to change IP address on Android? This is anonymity and the ability to use the dynamic pricing system to your advantage. For example, you can install VeePN to hide your travel interests from airlines and airline booking sites. By switching between different countries and regions you can get better prices.

2 Dublin, Ireland

Our Spring Break suggestion? Dublin! This city has it all – the classic Irish vibe with pubs, buskers, and friendly locals. Feel the energy and enjoy the lively nightlife, but also take time to relax in green spaces like Phoenix Park and Iveagh Gardens. From Temple Bar to Portobello, there’s a pub or club for everyone. Dublin is the kind of city you’ll want to visit again and again. Although it may not be one of the “avoid-the-crowds” destinations we listed, it’s a timeless classic.

3 Budapest, Hungary

Where better to sweat out the last vestiges of winter than a city with more than a hundred spas? Each spa has its own particular style. The best one is Rudas, a sixteenth-century Ottoman-style spa. It features a beautiful octagonal pool under a glass dome. While you are there, don’t forget to visit the rooftop heated pool. You will enjoy a wonderful view of the Danube. However, a visit to Budapest would not be complete without stopping at Széchenyi, the largest of the city’s spas. It has a neo-baroque style. Locals combine a hot bath with a game of chess there. A ticket can cost as little as €10. Additionally, a 20-minute massage will only cost around €15. After a steamy soak, you can cool down by sampling one of the many delicious craft beers available. In the capital, this will only set you back around €1.50.

4 Cagliari, Italy

We’re heading to Cagliari, an Italian city situated outside of the mainland. It serves as the capital of Sardinia, and when Sardinia was an independent nation, Cagliari reigned as its powerhouse. Even today, it’s evident that this was a significant place, as its 13th-century walled city, the Castello, proudly stands atop a hill, overseeing its maritime dominion.
After you’ve explored the narrow streets that cascade down to the seafront, you’ll soon realize that all roads lead not to Rome but to Poetto Beach—a haven for relaxation by day and revelry by night. Quite the perfect combination, don’t you think?

5 South Padre Island, Texas

This barrier island, nestled in the Gulf of Mexico just south of Corpus Christi, Texas, is a tropical gem. South Padre Island is the ultimate destination for spring break trips, diverse enough to cater to both families and college students. It boasts an array of outdoor activities and entertainment that comes at little to no cost.

When it comes to beach activities, spring breakers are spoilt for choice. From swimming, sunbathing, and dolphin watching to flying kites high in the sky, the options are endless.
As the day winds down, beachgoers can unwind and revel in the public performances or enjoy live music at the local restaurants. For those seeking a playful escape, sandcastle-building classes are readily available, allowing them to embrace their inner child.

Colorful buildings
Adrian Frentescu/Pexels

6 Timişoara, Romania

Timişoara in Romania holds a significant place in history. It was here that the 1989 revolution began, topping Nicolae Ceauşescu and his totalitarian regime. But if you picture it as a city of bleak concrete, think again!

Timişoara, also known as the “Little Vienna,” is a captivating destination that offers a delightful mix of charm, affordability, and culture. With its captivating architecture, bustling squares, and flourishing arts scene, this city is a true gem. If I were you, I would install an iOS VPN before visiting Romania to avoid having your bank account blocked or becoming a victim of hackers. And here’s another little secret – it’s one of the most budget-friendly places to visit in the spring!

7 Canggu, Indonesia

In Asia, there are countless beaches and affordable places to stay for an amazing Spring Break experience. However, let’s focus on just one place. This Balinese town offers a green and lush seafront setting with a wide range of accommodations available.
You can choose from luxury villas to budget-friendly hostel rooms that cost as little as $6. The local cuisine and beverages are also reasonably priced. Moreover, you’ll have the option to either enjoy vibrant beach parties or simply relax in the evening sun. This destination offers a variety of activities such as surfing, swimming, exploring local restaurants, lounging by the pool, and visiting nearby temples to experience the local culture.


Final Thoughts

Finding budget-friendly spring break trips is not difficult for college students and families, provided you know where to look.
From March through early April, the southern United States, the Caribbean, and Central America offer ideal travel opportunities. Some options are more exotic or remote, so you are not limited in choice. Affordable options abound for those seeking beautiful beaches and a seaside atmosphere, even in some of the most popular traditional spring break destinations.

Kondyor Massif, Siberia

Kondyor Massif

The Kondyor Massif is a unique circular igneous intrusion massif with a diameter of around 10 km and about 600 meters high, formed one billion years ago after erosion shaped the molten magma crystallized under the earth’s surface.

Located in Eastern Siberia, Russia, the massif is surprisingly rich in rare and precious minerals such as gold, silver, platinum, plutonium, uranium, and it has even its own mineral, the Konderite, a mixture of platinum, iridium, rhodium, copper, lead and sulfur.

Formerly named “Urgula” by the indigenous population, as they believed the mountain to be sacred, it is more than a thousand km far from the nearest city, Khabarovsk, and definitely not a handy place to be visited. There are no tourist infrastructure and visitors need a special permit to access the surrounding area.

Image © NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Initiation Well, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is a land located in Sintra, a small village nearby Lisbon, Portugal. Designed by the Italian architect Luigi Manini and built in the late 1800s by the rich owner Carvalho Monteiro (also known as Monteiro the Millionaire, Brazilian-Portuguese businessman, entomologist and freemason), the estate includes Medieval, Classic, Manueline and Renaissance styles buildings.

Among palaces, gardens, caves and lakes, the Initiation Well is arguably the most picturesque construction: an inverted 27-meter tower shape well with a staircase that was actually never used as a proper well. It is believed that it was used for ceremonial purposes linked to Tarot mysticism and Masonic principles

The number of landings and steps could be also associated to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and may represent the nine skies of paradise, the nine sections of purgatory or the nine circles of hell.

photo © mytouristmaps

Kilmainham Gaol, Ireland

Kilmainham Gaol

In the early 1800s, thousands of ordinary people were imprisoned at Kilmainham Gaol not only for serious crimes such as murder or rape, but even for cattle stealing and other minor crimes: a fourteen-year-old boy was convicted for seven days for stealing two loaves of bread.

This jail (now a museum), located in Dublin, is famous because of its link with the history of Irish nationalism: the majority of the Irish leaders in the rebellions from 1798 to 1916, prisoners during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921), and anti-treaty forces during the civil war were detained there.

In May 1916, during the Easter Rising, fourteen men were sentenced to death and shot by firing squads in the Stonebreakers’ Yard of Kilmainham Gaol. Seven of them had been the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic that was posted on Easter Monday on the walls around Dublin and read on Sackville Street (now known as O’Connell Street, renamed in honor of the nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell ) by Patrick Pearse. These were Thomas Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett (the man who married Grace Gifford in the Gaol chapel the night before he was shot).

Kilmainham Gaol

The firing squads in charge of the executions at Kilmainham Gaol, composed of six kneeled and other six standing soldiers were provided with just one real bullet and the rest blank, so that they wouldn’t know who shot the killing one.

After the harsh treatment of those leaders of the Easter Rising, Irish citizens began to empathize with the Rising’s cause and later, in the general United Kingdom election in 1918, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin received huge support among voters in Ireland. They refused to take their seats in the U.K. parliament, founded a separate parliament in Dublin and declared Irish independence, ratifying the Easter Rising Proclamation of the Irish Republic, leading subsequently to the War of Independence in 1921.

The official closing order of the Kilmainham Gaol was issued by the Minister for Justice of the Irish Free State in 1929.

For information about the museum and bookings visit the official website https://kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie/

photo © mytouristmaps