where do i even begin?
sad to say, it never occurred to me to travel to turkey. when someone mentioned the country, all i could think of was women with headscarves and kebab. of course now i am very ashamed since i found out that the food is not all meat and bread and the women are not all covered from head to toe. the big cities of istanbul and ankara were especially liberal. i even caught a glimpse of a girl's inner thigh as she was walking down the long pedestrian street. obviously, people looked but it was a far cry from being yelled at or beaten. why did i have so many misconceptions of this place? i blame american media and education, but i can't escape part of the blame myself.
despite aforementioned misconceptions the main dishes in turkey are, in fact, mostly meat and snacks are mainly bread. but vegetarians and the gluten-intolerant shouldn't be worried, as long as they know how to express to their needs. a lady in our group was carrying celiac cards with her in turkish, very smart! instead of being served bulgur or bread, she got the lovely rice that was cooked in butter, minus the şehriye (a type of pasta). as for myself, i was able to get some relief from the endless meaty meals through mezeler; side dishes or appetizers which were luckily mostly vegetarian. i must have eaten tomato and aubergine cooked in 10 different ways. all delicious!
if you weren't able to get enough of what you needed at the table, the markets offer naturally vegan and gluten-free snacks of olives, fruits both fresh and dried, nuts, halva, and lokum, which we know as 'turkish delight.' the flavours blew my mind. of course i have eaten an orange before! obviously i have tried turkish delight and halva! but here, it tastes different. even the texture is better in everything. and don't even get me started on the hand-squeezed juices...
people are proud of what they are selling in the markets. they are not trying to rip you off. as i walked down the aisles with my camera, most of the shopkeepers invited me to take a picture with them and photos of them with their wares. you are encouraged to bargain, this is what market life is about. if you don't want to barter, go to the supermarket or a department store. turkish people have pride, as they should! i only saw two beggars during the 2 weeks i was traveling around western turkey. one was a woman with no feet and another was a squeaky-clean, smiley little girl who seemed to be doing it just for fun. even the shopkeepers hissed at her and shooed her away from their stalls; they seemed to be ashamed of her. you might see old women selling small knitted socks or pocket tissues in istanbul, but they are not begging; they are merchants.