Top 10 Things I’ll Miss about Living in Turkey

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.

Fruit seller at the local market, Antalya

At the Friday Pazar

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.

umbrella street

Umbrella Street (not its real name), where I go for Kofte Piyaz.

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.


A winter view of Karaalioglu Park.

The view from the Tomer language school cafe was incredible:

View of Taurus Mountains from Tomer, Antalya

View of Taurus Mountains from Tomer, Antalya

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.

antalya balcony view

The view from my balcony

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.

Just another Saturday night

Just another Saturday night

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.

Konyaalti Baki beach.jpg

Baki Beach, a short walk from my apartment.

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.


I miss them already: Atilgan and Yusuf

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.

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31 thoughts on “Top 10 Things I’ll Miss about Living in Turkey

  1. Well, dear Ellen! Now I am in Osmanli Kahvecisi and drinking Menengic kahvesi! I read your sensitive post and yes I am missing u too!

  2. Ellen,

    Your blog is the only one I follow. Will miss it.

    BTW – There is night-flowering jasmin in San Diego as well. I grew up in Coronado, and whenever I pass night-flowering jasmin in Antalya I think of summer nights barefoot on the sidewalk in Coronado.

    There are farmers markets in San Diego as well, but you are right – nothing like the Friday street market in Antalya.

    If you want some expat company in San Diego, let me know. I live in Paris, but get back to San Diego to visit my parents for a month or two each year. (and know a couple of good places for Turkish coffee)


    • Wow, thank you for that wonderful compliment! I’ve never thought of my blog as being in the same league with the travel blogs most people read, so it’s a real vote of confidence that you find it worthy of your time.

      I would love to meet in San Diego when you are here! It would be great to talk to someone besides my parents and their friends. In the meantime, I will continue to write about Turkey until I run out of things to say, so don’t leave yet!

  3. Ellen,

    My son, Christian, loves Turkey and visits frequently. His elderly mother, me, lives in San Diego. We will both miss you…unless you write about seniors in San Diego.


    • Haha! Linda, I very likely will write about seniors in San Diego eventually, since that is my life here! I hope you are enjoying your life here.

  4. I need to go back and reread your blog posts as I somehow missed that you were moving back to the U.S. I’m sure your parents are enjoying having you near. Do you feel any culture shock being back in the states? Take care and I look forward to reading more.

    • No, Patti, you didn’t miss anything. I didn’t mention my future plans in previous posts. As for culture shock, with what I had to do to get my internet set up in San Diego (AT&T service is worse than Turkcell) I’ve been feeling right at home!

  5. I know exactly how you feel. I left Turkey in 2000 after 19 years and spent 12 years in the UK. I’m now back in Turkey and enjoying all the things I missed.

    • I think I’ll be back as well. Although I’m keeping an eye on the political situation. I don’t want to end up in prison for “insulting Turkishness” or something.

  6. Oh Ellen, so sorry to hear about your parents, but I also totally understand too. My dad is ailing quickly and not doing well. At least, my mother’s health is still good so she can take care of him at home for now.

    As for Turkey, I could relate to all your reasons (minus the men or my husband would be angry). :-) This holiday season wasn’t the same without our friends in Istanbul. We had such an eclectic group of friends from all over the world and it was such fun to share in the holidays together – Christian, Muslim or Hindu – it didn’t matter.

    Hope you adjust well back to the US! 8 months later and I’m still adjusting to our new life in Poland.

    • Hi Joy,
      I can only imagine the variety of people you met in Istanbul. There are people from all parts in Antalya, but it is of course nowhere near the international hub that Istanbul is. I imagine Poland must be something of an adjustment. And I’m guessing it’s cold there. I’m looking forward to your Polish recipes!

  7. ‘Burası Türkiye!’ . . in the nicest possible way, of course. You’ll be back!

  8. I will miss your posts about living in Turkey! all the best to you and kin in your new location.

  9. Ellen have followed your lovely blog over the last couple of years. Have visited Antalaya as much as poss over the last five years after falling in love with the beauty of the place. Always hoped to meet up with you and the social group one night in kaleici but never worked out. Your lovely photos and stories about your life in Turkey have kept me going in grey and rainy England! Best wishes for new year and all you get up to in USA. Alison xx

    • Thank you, Alison. I love England, but I’ve always had amazing luck with the weather. I think it would be difficult for me to live someplace where I didn’t see the sun regularly. At least I can’t complain about the San Diego weather. It’s sunnier in Winter (Antalya’s rainy season) and cooler in the summer.

      Maybe we will meet in Kaleici some time in the future. Who knows?

  10. Dear Ellen, I just got the specs from my Drawing On Istanbul Blogsite and you are listed as a prime source of referral. Thank you! As to your move, my heart is with you. I grew up in Los Angeles to the smell of night-blooming jasmine, so go buy yourself a pot and put it out there. I will re-read your blog the next time I start feeling like I should move back. My parents were long gone when I moved here; there’s nothing save lifelong friendships to bring me back, but I started the blog for them and will continue living it as long as I can. Thanks for your support, and please keep in touch.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I love your blog and wish I were talented enough to make mine unique as well, but unless I add a sound track I can’t really do that! (And I wonder if night-blooming Jasmine would grow on my shady balcony…?)

  11. I lived in antalya for about ten months and returned to the states in July, and dear goodness, I do miss almost all of this. the beach and fresh, cheap produce I miss especially – I live in michigan and it is damn cold now.
    your blog is wonderful; it reminds me of all my good times. it sounds like you’ve got plenty ahead of you, so, as the turks would say, kolay gelsin!

    • Thank you, Emily! I feel for you being in Michigan right now. At least in San Diego I don’t have to deal with the terrible cold weather this winter. In that sense, it was an easy transition moving here from Antalya.

  12. Great post. We are US sailors, and living now in Finike, near Antalya.

    All of the things you mentioned would apply to me too, except that there is no way I can ever except grounds in my coffee. That’s one thing I think we do better….

    • Haha! Yes,I too prefer my coffee “grounds-free”. Still, I’ll take Turkish coffee over Nescafe any day!

  13. How polite, to call it “cultural differences” rather than “the usual American selfishness” … (my opinion, anyway)

    And, no need to get real settled into the apartment. I bet you can find one with sunshine and a view, and it would be so much nicer. Don’t give up.

    Good wishes.

    • Thank you for your support. I agree with you, it would be selfish to ignore my parents’ situation after everything they’ve done for me. I will only be here a fration of the time they devoted to my well-being. And I’m getting used to my apartment. I miss my sunny Antalyan view, but I do have a heated swimming pool here which is open all year, so I’m taking advantage of that. And it’s very sunny by the pool!

  14. Sounds really good! We went to Antalya last year and loved it so much we’re planning to go again this year. The people were amazing and we made so many friends. Must book it :)

    • Antalya is wonderful. I envy you Brits who can get there in a few hours! From the States I can’t imagine going all the way there unless I had a long time to stay.

  15. Just found your blog and see that you have moved back to America. I enjoyed this post and will have to go back and read the previous ones. I lived in Istanbul for about 7 years and loved it. I have been thinking of moving to Antalya recently. Considering we have had two snow “storms” here in Alabama (we hardly ever get snow), Antalya is looking better and better.

  16. Hi Ellen,

    Hope you’re enjoying San Diego. The summer weather there is definitely better than here. I was happy to see health care on this list. That’s an issue I hate to think about if I have to go back to the US. I went to an ear doctor this morning for the first time in Antalya — quick, easy, good care, and cheap. :))


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