Travelogue “CROATIA IN TURKEY”: Kebab is Zeus of Turkish food Olympus (part 2)

Tamara Hodak

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First part of travelogue you can read here.

Movie night was organized. We took blankets from our rooms and all together watched a movie on the floor of a hotel conference room. Great idea. Andreea, one of the participants, had a birthday. After the movie finished, she was surprised with a cake. As always, we were sitting in the hall of the hotel floor. After everybody got their peace of cake, Mario got an idea.

  • Tamara, I have never been punched in a face with cake.

It took me exactly a second to think. Nevertheless, I tried the cake and it was delicious. Thanks, Andreea.

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In the middle of euphoria, Mario got a message on the phone, Alan got an e-mail. So, it is Friday night and on the Saturday afternoon we had a flight from Ankara to Istanbul and right away from Istanbul to Zagreb. Due to weather conditions, our flight had been canceled. Everybody was shearing the same thoughts: We are staying one day longer, we will see Istanbul! Screaming again. Concerned by the fact I got no information about canceling and we were on the same plane, we decided to call Turkish airways to see what is going on. Screaming! Instead of offered flight on Sunday morning, we were given a choice to choose any flight until the end of the next week. I cannot remember when was the last time I was that happy.

Turkish food deserves a special part here. Kebab is Zeus of Turkish food Olympus. We were eating in restaurants and every restaurant has different choice of food. If is says kebab, it is unique because each restaurant has their recipe. We tried all types of food: soups, meat, vegetables, cereals, specialties, undefined food… And everything was delicious! Only thing that disappointed us a little bit was breakfast. Boiled eggs, butter, jam, olives, cheese and bread. Now try to feed Balkan people who eat sarma for breakfast. Alan`s pršut, which was supposed to be used for representing Croatian food during our intercultural night, was more important for us during breakfast. I do not want to know what was going around heads of kitchen staff every time we entered the hotel restaurant. It is also important to mention that we had a few dinners at antiterrorist institution next to our hotel. Why? I do not know. It was nearby and they had a kitchen, we did not ask too much. There was a police officer with a machine gun in front of the building which was confusing enough.turkey

It is all great. But mum`s sarma is mum`s sarma.

Everybody is drinking tea (čaj). They call it čaj like Croatians do. Not a mint tea, rose hip tea, chamomile tea, grass this and that… Just tea. We were standing in the street, waiting for someone. Photographer from near by studio approached us and offered tea. You will be offered with a tea in the store. In the restaurant as well. At university we were drinking tea. Tea everywhere! It is bitter, nothing we were used to. But if you are termites like we are, it will be great to drink.

Bad part of traveling was the fact we arrived first and left the last. Therefore, we had to watch everybody leaving. Goodbyes at the end of projects are full of emotions. A few people were crying while others were trying to comfort themselves with a hope of seeing each other again. Lithuanians left first (video), Turkish and Estonians afterwards. Everybody else left hotel next morning.

Shocks started early. Bus, which was produced during World war 1, was our ride to bus station from were we took off to Ankara. After more than half of us, with all of our baggage entered the bus, a problem occurred. There was no room for everyone. Looking around, we realized that there actually was enough place, but I suppose that weight of cargo was the problem because of doubtful driving condition of the vehicle. No problem, next bus is coming soon. We did not know who took tickets, who took whose bag, backpack, nothing. Drivers at the station did not want to wait for the rest of our crew. Croatians were missing half of the team, Bulgarians did not have all the tickets, someone was missing baggage. Collegiality in action, together we are stronger. We refused to enter the bus until everyone arrived. Visibly concerned, we were looking at the road and expecting to see everyone we left behind every second. They arrived 20 minutes after us. We were late in the start, but our hearts were on the right place. Lets continue. Plans to sleep were canceled due to spending time and talking to Bulgarians and Romanians who were leaving as soon as we got to Ankara.

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We were the last one to stay. Muhammed and Merve were our tour guides. After great time spent together and goodbyes, we went to Kocatepe (video), one of the biggest mosques in Ankara. It is beautiful. Covering head and taking off shoes is must do. We decided to wait for prayer to see what it looks like when Muslims turn to Allah. Did you remember tip from the beginning of article? Concerning the fact we had half an hour until the prayer begin, night without sleep left some consequences so guys fell asleep on the mosque floor. People were passing by, but nobody was looking at them strange way. Merve tried to explain to me why is that normal, but I understood only the part that had something to do with meditation. I could not hold laughter but at least now I know that I will not sleep at cold airport. I will look for a near by mosque instead.

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We had a dinner in the Muhammed`s sister and her husbands apartment. Extremely nice family. We made a combination of Croatian and Turkish specialties together. It was great. Turkish people usually eat on the floor. Short, round table is set on the floor and people sit around the table. There was 11 of us, imagine how it was crowded. But those things are the reason why we wanted to travel, to get to know the culture of other countries. Food was nice, people even better and that is why the night is a nice memory.

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After the night spent in Muhammed`s apartment, we went to Istanbul. The saddest part was to say goodbye to Merve and Muhammed. They were great hosts and tried very hard to insure us a great stay in Kirsehir and Ankara. Muhammed is the king. Where ever we went, he knew someone. He is a person you want to know when you go to Turkey. Mervushka is the cutest girl we have ever met. She is extremely nice and ready to help whenever. This was her first project which she hosted and she did a good job. Those 10 days we spent together were only beginning of a friendship and it is only a matter of time when we will see each other again. This year, definitely!

We flew to Istanbul in much bigger plane. Exhaustion chased away panic and fear of flying. Alan`s snoring as well.

Stjepan and Valentino had to leave us due to university obligations. We were sorry we could not continue our trip together but studying could not be postponed.

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Mario, Alan and I were drinking tea, of course, during the search for hostel. We went to look for it and easily got to the location. Tired, but happy with how the situation was going on for the last two days, hostel was a reason to cry of happiness. Hostel receptionist spoke English so he explained to us everything we asked. The thing we did not know was that there was breakfast included in prize of the room. And the biggest shock. Hostel, in the center of Istanbul was located between Blue mosque, Bosporus and Marmara sea. It cost us 10 €!!! No, that is no all. Receptionist told us there is a teracce on the roof. Sprint to the top. So, screaming! There was mosque on one side, Bosporus on the other, Marmara sea on third and the rest of Istanbul on forth. We forgot how tired we were and took a walk around the city although it was late at night because the city looks different at night then the day. There was not enough time, yet a lot to see. We got out of the hostel and a Serbian lady stopped me in the middle of the street. She said she overheard our conversation and realized that we have just arrived. She gave me her metro card because there was 11 lira left. Her family is leaving the next day so it will be helpful for us. Just when you think it cannot get any better, better happens.

We tried to get up at 05:30 am so we could see sunrise but I decided that it was too cloudy to see anything. More luck tomorrow. After boiled eggs and, you will not believe, Nutela, for breakfast, we got to the roof again. Of course, screaming. Everything we saw last night, but during the day (video). People, you do not know what are you missing. We came up with a plan and went to the city.

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There are mosques at every corner. Imagine Mosque battle when all of them start to invite people to pray at the same time. We saw a lot of them. They are beautiful. Everything is beautiful. There was something interesting to see in every part of Istanbul. If nothing else, the view was impressive. Concerning the fact the city is not on a flat ground, there was something to see where ever you climb. Even the view at the simple market or the street was an experience.

We tried to avoid public transportation and the same pedestrian routes. Tip for traveling: You will experience the city more if you walk around and more details which you are not able to see from metro or tram. Asian and European part of Turkey are connected with a bridge which we crossed over a few times in a different part of the day. People are fishing from the bridge all the time – in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. Imagine the sight: the bridge is huge. Cars and trams are crossing over (and I told you already what the traffic over there looks like). People are fishing and pedestrians are walking around. There is a lot of boat traffic under the bridge as well. Add the sound from nearby mosques. I do not even want to talk about the wind. And there we are – 3 Croatians standing in the middle of the bridge with the biggest smile on the faces. Ever! We ignored bed fish smell, cold and crowd. We were simply happy just because we are there.

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Since we missed sunrise, we run to hostel to catch sunset. We were late. Nevertheless, the view was, acording to Mario`s words, like from James Bond movies. We walked to Asia in the evening again. Street performers are at the big streets and they are really worth listeing (video). Every group has their own style. Walking, we came across something we see every day – a church. Catholic church like every other, but full of tourists who find it an attraction. There was Christmas tree in front. After kebab for dinner and the view from the hostel roof for good night, we died.

Second day, we tried to get up to see sunrise again. But it was even more cloudy. We decided to buy all the souvenirs we wanted to bring home. To be honest, big market place in Ankara is far better then the one in Istanbul. Looking for everything we need, Mario got lost. Panic! Alan was cool, I started thinking about underground organ trafficking. After 15 minutes of yelling “Mario!” up and down the street, Alan found a Serbian guy from Kosovo in one of the stores. We had a boat ride around Bosporus later the day so the guy gave us his phone to tell Mario that we will meet at starting point. Heart came back to its place, we can continue.

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Approaching the starting point, Mario was waiting. Happiness up to the heaven and back! Sailing lasted for hour and half. An hour too much. We had photo session for the first half an hour. For the second half, we were freezing outside to enjoy the view. The last half we got into the boat and slept. Thanks to the loud music, nobody heard Alan snoring. We saw all the Bosporus and the city from different angle. While showing all the photos to my mum, she connected all the buildings and locations to Turkish soap operas she is watching every day. “That is where Gumuš was running away from Selin! That is where Emir looked for Feriha! Nazif lived in this villa! Ajsegul cried here because Ezel threw himself over the bridge…”- she said in her monologue.

We spent the last night at Merve`s friends place so we went to hostel to pick up our baggage and started looking for our new location. That is when we discovered the size of Istanbul. We were on the right way, but we did not realized it. Orientation in the city is not a problem, but due to us not knowing Turkish and the fact Turkish people did not spoke English, you just have to find your own way. We did. We spent some time looking at the map of the city and public transportation schedule. It resulted with getting on the first bus we thought will take us closer to the location where we are supposed to arrive. It turned out we did everything right.

“Tamara, wake up, it is 06:20 am. We are leaving in 20 minutes”. I like to roll around the bed for an hour after I wake up, so this was extremely stressful for me. And the fact we have to take a metro to get to an airport which exploded a day earlier. “Putin!” – I concluded. Panic was spread all over the media saying stuff about terrorist attack. Euphoric phone calls and messages from Croatia started incoming immediately. We were going home, which was not nice.

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We were sleeping during the flight back. While we were in Turkey, people were uploading photos on Facebook about the weather in Croatia. It was snowing! Photos everywhere, snowmans, snowplows, showels, no traffic, low temperatures, blizzard! Ready for the conditions, we got of the plane. It was sunny, people were wearing t-shirts. Just as it was when we left. Short goodbyes and everyone went in their direction. But only short term because we all stayed in touch and cannot wait to see each other again. Turkey is waiting for us!

Use the given chances. If not now, you do not know will you ever get the chance again. Therefore, you will be sorry. Do not look for excuses, find a solution. Do not wait for anyone, find a courage to do it yourself because you will meet people on your path. Let the experience teach you, not theory. Learn to make right decisions and how to choose right choices. Travel, meet places and people. There is so much to see, so much to try, so much to learn… Limit is where you set it. So, it does not exist! It will be how you make it. If you have will, you will have everything else.

If you are interested in any kind of cooperation or project, contact organization Perpetuum to get more details.

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