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A trip to the dentist and brekkie, Turkey-style

(written by Dave)

Our teeth are clean and thankfully no big issues.  If anyone is looking for a good dentist in Istanbul we’d recommend Dr Elif Gϋndϋz.  She is a fluent English speaker, trained in Vienna and has her own practice in the Nişantaşi neighborhood (easily reachable by dolmus from Sultanahmet).  She seems very skilled at what she does and has a great personality and small hands – all the things you wish for in a dentist!  She is an avid photographer as well – see her website (www.elifgunduz.com) and her blog (elif-gunduz-aktuel-ajanda.blogspot.com) for details .  There’s nothing like newly-cleaned teeth to brighten your mood.

The bikes will be clean shortly, hopefully no issues (well, as soon as it stops raining anyway).  So, with such an uneventful day, I thought it was time to finally review Turkish breakfast (brekkie as we say in Oz).  This really could be a short post as brekkie in Turkey is nearly universal in its sameness.  Some readers have asked for a post on “ordinary life” – well, travelers and people living here seem to eat the same thing for brekkie.  There are variations but they are few and subtle.  We’ve been here in Turkey now for almost 2 months and unless they do something different out in eastern Turkey, this is one post that we expect will generate few arguments.

Breakfasts can be served in a buffet style or already plated up, where they simply hand you a prepared plate of food once you sit down.  Not surprisingly we prefer the buffet style (as I expect most cyclists do) because you can eat much greater quantities of your favourite bits and leave your non-favourite bits for others to eat.  Most of the lower budget hotels go for the plated breakfasts, though not always.  The higher-end ones (not that we have stayed in too many of those!) almost always do buffet style and often have some hot dishes to go with the usual cold bits.  Buffet breakfasts often have extras like yogurt (generally very tasty), bowls of raisins and other dried fruits and nuts and sometimes even muesli or other breakfast cereals

I think our favourite breakfast so far might have been the one we got at a roadside eatery next to a petrol station about 50k west of Sivrihisar (with great bread, nice fried eggs, and a great cheese and honey mix), with the breakfast at the Hideaway Hotel in Kaş a close second (great variety of really fresh food, including some great cheese and walnut mix).  Sometimes you can negotiate a price without breakfast but it is generally not a big difference and you would often spend more than the difference getting something similar at a café.

So, based on our experience here are the ingredients of a typical Turkish breakfast:

Tea or Çay (pronounced “chai”), as they call Turkish tea – universal, every single day.  There is almost always a big urn that contains tea and hot water.  The trick is to mix them at 50/50 and you’ve got perfect tea.  Sugar, 1-2 cubes, your choice.  Milk, are you kidding – this is not England, we don’t put milk in tea in Turkey.

Coffee – at best you’ll get Nescafe instant, but mostly you’ll get, well, tea.  For brekkie, they drink tea, not coffee.  If there is coffee, it is almost always Nescafe brand instant and in fact you ask for coffee by saying Nescafe.  If you get Nescafe, then you’ll probably get Carnation instant creamer also.  If there is milk it will be longlife (or nuclear milk, as we fondly call it) and since they don’t put milk in tea, you rarely get milk for your coffee.

Bread and lots of it.  Almost all of the time this will be basic white French bread, hand sliced thick and in a giant basket.  If you want one more piece of bread to help finish off your jam, you will almost always get a refill on your entire basket.  Bread is the one thing they don’t skimp on even in the cheap places.  On rare occasions you’ll get sourdough or some type of brown bread but you are better of just liking white bread and leaving your hopes for great bread in the bedroom.

Butter – Most of the time you’ll get little packets of butter – at least we think that what the labels say.  The writing is small and it’s too early in the morning to get our eyes to focus -besides, it’s all in Turkish anyway and all we can do is go by the pictures.  And the packets here are notoriously hard to open – the little tab they put in the corner rarely peels back so we have resorted to just stabbing them with a fork.  When did we get so old that we can no longer peel the little foil lids off butter packets?  It seems like only yesterday that we were riding our tandem across the US on our honeymoon, laughing at the old folks in the dining room doing just what we are doing now.

Condiments  – Most of the time you’ll get honey and jam in little packets. Occasionally you’ll get the same in a big bowls that you serve yourself.  The cheap places might only give you one packet of each, or worst case only one packet of either jam or honey, but most of the time, you’ll get as many of the little packets as you want.  Jam is often strawberry or sour cherry (famous in Turkey) and sometimes red fruit of unknown origin (see butter section for minor eyesight issues).

Hardboiled egg – The majority of the time you will get one hardboiled egg.  Sometimes when breakfast is served buffet style you can pinch a second one.  We have once or twice been offered eggs cooked to our preference as part of the standard breakfast, and a couple times an omelet for an extra 5 lira.  We never do the omelet as “brekkie is included” and shouldn’t cost 5 lira more.  Sometimes the boiled eggs are hot and you know that they were cooked that day.  Sometimes they are stone cold and you start to wonder when they may have been cooked and how old they are.  Sometimes you don’t like to think about these things and you just choke it down.  We rarely would have hard-boiled eggs before this trip, now we eat them almost every day.  I am not sure that is a tradition that will continue once we return home.

Olives – A small smattering (usually no more than 5) of olives, black, salty and with pits.  Nancy rarely eats hers on biking days which means I get 10 olives, almost too many but I eat them all the same. Sometimes we get green and/or brown ones, but even then, there are always some black ones.

Tomatoes – sliced, roughly one half per person.  We don’t share these as both of us like tomatoes.  They add a nice flair to the sliced hard-boiled eggs on buttered bread, though it does make it a bit slippery (it is not hard to tell where we were sitting in a breakfast room, just look for all of the crumbs and bits of egg on the table and the floor).

Cucumber – sliced, peeled, 3 or 4 pieces per person.  We don’t share these either.  We are getting our fair share of veggies here in Turkey.

Cheese – you get cheese 100% of the time but the quantity and quality make this the single most variable item in your brekkie.  The worst case scenario is a single foil covered triangle, best case is several flavours of tasty white cheese – feta, goats and beyaz peynir, a kind of salty white cheese made from unpasturised sheep’s milk.  At one hotel day we actually had some really tasty cheese mixed with honey and walnuts – but nothing has come close to this on subsequent days.

Borek or cold meats  – you get one of these extras occasionally so it is worth a mention.  Borek is a tasty fried pastry and a very welcome treat.  It is usually cheese (probably some kind of feta) rolled up in some kind of puff pastry so that it looks a bit like a cigar and then lightly fried.  It is great when it is freshly made but is not near as good when it has sat for a bit of time.  The cold meat is usually something like a bland bologna, though sometimes you get sucuk, a spicy Turkish sausage.  The bologna-type meat is a bit odd and Nancy never eats hers so I usually eat it in addition to mine.  Yesterday I saw a woman, clearly a tourist, feeding her bologna to a cat nursing a litter of kittens, so maybe that’s what you are supposed to do if they put this cold cut on the plate.  We will have to remember that trick.

I’ve not been highly prescriptive in taking brekkie photos but found that the ones I have are just about as identical as you would expect.  For those who watch the slide show, try figuring out where the cycle repeats – I had to look closely.  Anyway, that’s it for today.  We are heading out to dinner with my cousin tonight and will be back to tourist reporting tomorrow.  Nancy is angling for one more day here in Istanbul and she may be on to something.  We are barely scratched the surface of this magical city.  It has been half in Europe and half in Asia for thousands of years and the more you look, the more you want to keep looking.

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5 responses to “A trip to the dentist and brekkie, Turkey-style

  1. Cheers! I’ll finish my breakfast as I watch the slide show!

  2. I also finished me breakfast and chai with milk while watching the slide show.

  3. Hi Dave & Nancy,
    We are still in Thailand, After we meet in Bangkok, we went Laos and Cambodia. Now I understand, i really miss our breakfast whit bread, cheese, olive whit tea (çay). I hope you also liked it.

    Evrim & Elif Yiğit (two Turkish Cyclist)

    • Hey guys, nice to hear from you.  We’ve been watching your blog, hopping that you would return to Turkey before we made it all the way through.  Looks like we’ll just miss you.  Not to worry though, your countrymen were wonderful.  We loved Turkey, best part was the people.  But the scenery was not too bad as well, especially the Mediterranean coast.  Enjoy the rest of your trip.  

      ________________________________

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