I recently moved from Antalya to San Diego to be near my elderly parents. Interestingly, when I told my Turkish friends why I was moving they uniformly responded, “of course you have to go”. My American friends’ reaction was more like “are you sure you want to do that?” Just another example of cultural difference. I still have a lot to write about, including travel I did in Turkey before I left. But the first post I wanted to write now that I’m settled in my new apartment and have a computer, is about all the things in Turkey I’m going to miss.
10. The fresh food
Although I’m enjoying the greater variety of ethnic foods and the convenience of frozen foods here in San Diego, I do miss a few things about eating in Turkey. The Friday pazar had the most amazing fresh produce, at a fraction of the price I pay for less tasty fruits and vegetables here.
I also loved the fresh pomegranate juice that was prepared and sold on almost every corner downtown. The pomegranate juice I bought at supermarkets was also quite good at a reasonable price. Dining out in Antalya is usually presented in guidebooks as elaborate mezes followed by grilled fish with a view of the harbor. Those upscale meals are certainly enjoyable, but the dining experience I’ll miss most is the kofte-piyaz dinner at Rama, on the street with the hanging umbrellas. The kofte are moist, perfectly cooked meatballs, and the piyaz is a refreshingly light mix of white beans, boiled eggs, chopped onions, fresh tomatoes and parsley in an olive oil/lemon/tahini sauce. All for about 6 dollars.
9. Medical care and prescription drugs
Americans might be surprised at my praise of the Turkish medical system, but there’s something to be said for being able to see the kind of doctor you need without jumping through all the insurance and referral hoops of the U.S. system. And I loved being able to simply buy the medicine I’ve been taking for years which in the U.S. requires a doctor’s visit for a prescription. What’s the point of all this prescription control? I could understand if I wanted Vicodin, but I don’t think anyone’s ever overdosed on thyroid medicine.
8. The smell of night-blooming jasmine
Whenever I came home at night this scent put me in a good mood. There were several other flowers that also smelled good. In San Diego there are plenty of flowers, but for some reason the ones in my neighborhood have no scent.
7. The Antalya Symphony Orchestra
Sure, there are concerts in San Diego, but in Antalya the Symphony played every week, I could get there in fifteen minutes and the tickets cost about 5 dollars. Also, the repertoire of standard Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky pieces paired with works by Turkish composers made for very satisfying programs.
6. The views
Antalya is particularly beautiful in the winter. On clear days there are magnificent views of snow-capped mountains in the background, with palm trees and the Mediterranean in the foreground. You can also take a drive up the mountains to Saklikent and see only snow.
The view from the Tomer language school cafe was incredible:
But the view I’ll miss most is the one from my sunny and quiet balcony, where I used to do yoga. I have a yoga-sized balcony in my San Diego apartment, but it doesn’t get any sun and the nearby street is never quiet.
5. Turkish coffee
At first I was annoyed by the grounds in my coffee, but once people began reading them for me I realized it just wouldn’t be Turkish coffee without that sludge on the bottom. I loved meeting my couchsurfing friends every Tuesday at the Osmanli cafe, where Turkish coffee was done right – served with pieced of Turkish Delight. Even better, you also got chocolate-covered coffee beans with your order! The waiters there knew my order – Menengic kahvesi, az olsun. Menengic is translated as wild pistachio, but you can’t eat it like a nut. It’s a hard round thing that looks like a peppercorn, but it gives the coffee a delicious nutty flavor. I order mine “az”, or lightly sweetened. I drink regular coffee without sugar, but I find just a bit of sweetness brings out the menengic flavor.
I’ve always been a tea drinker and was always disappointed that in even the best restaurants in the U.S. a request for tea resulted in a tea bag. Here, even the most humble establishments have brewed tea. And of course, tea isn’t just about the beverage; it’s about the hospitality. I loved that I’d be offered tea at a drug store while waiting for my order to be filled.
3. Expat social life
Whether it was one of those crazy “theme parties” or just a Saturday night in Kaleici, it was nice to know there was a group where I was always welcome. Antalya isn’t exactly a small town (almost 2 million people), but Kaleici is small enough that there are only a couple of places where I can be sure to run into someone I know. I never had that experience in New York or Los Angeles.
2. Swimming in the Mediterranean
Being able to walk to the beach and swim in the sea from May through November was one of the big draws of moving here, and I was not disappointed. Okay, maybe I was a bit disappointed that the beach had stones rather than sand. But the water? Heavenly.
1. My friends
It will come as a surprise to nobody that I will miss the friends I made in Antalya most of all. I met so many wonderful people: Yusuf, who started the Tuesday coffeehouse meetings; Deniz, the German/Turkish artist who could see beauty in construction sites; Atilgan, my student who turned every writing assignment into a plea for world justice; Billy, my erstwhile boyfriend and forever friend; Banu and Rob (and their golden retrievers), who created the Antalya Expat Social group, and the list could go on and on.
If it looks like I spent most of my time with attractive young men, well, I guess that’s just one more thing about living in Turkey I’m going to miss.Google+