Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Turkey for Christmas in Turkey

     First of all a language lesson; the animal we eat in North America is called “hindi” in Turkey. 

     Three years ago today, Christmas Eve – day, we were in Kesan at the Kipa shopping for our Christmas meal.  There at the meat counter, between the lamb and the stew beef we found fresh turkey. Since then we’ve never seen fresh whole turkey at Kipa or any other grocery store in our area and we’ve looked.  We did see a pen of live turkeys in a residential area of Istanbul a couple of weeks ago.  Turks sometimes eat hindi at New Years.

     Yesterday, we visted grocery stores:  Kipa (Gelibolu, Sarkoy and Kesan),  Ozmar (Gelibou), Onur Market (Sarkoy), Migros (Kesan) and four or five independent butchers in Gelibolu and Sarkoy.  Cam also called our “pork supplier” in Tekirdag and asked him to check out the Carrefour and then he called a colleague who agreed to “ask around”.

     A couple of years ago we ordered a fresh turkey from an independent butcher in a little town near our home.  One of Cam’s colleagues ordered it on our behalf.  We would have, could have gone back to this butcher shop, but one of Cam’s employer’s former suppliers left the region two years ago owing money to a lot of local businesses. The butcher associates Cam with this company.   So every time we darken the door, he asks Cam for the money.  The butcher’s been told that Cam works for a different company and we always pay cash. (Sadly there are a few places we don’t shop for this reason.)

     Leg of lamb (We call it LEGO lamb.) has been our special occasion meal the last few years.  We usually eat it at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It makes a festive meal, but this year, this year I really wanted turkey and Cam has done everything he could to make that wish a reality. (He really is the best!)

     Our “pork supplier” called back to say that the Carrefour in Tekirdag doesn’t have any turkey. However, when Cam’s colleague called back yesterday, he had a question; “Do you want it cooked, ready to cook or alive?” 
     So it’s Christmas Eve – day and I don’t know whether we’ll be eating the chicken that’s still in my freezer or a turkey we don’t own yet. In the end it won’t really matter, Christmas isn’t about what’s on the table as much as who’s around it as we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  
     We hope that you will experience peace and joy in this season and perhaps a slice of turkey with people who love you.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mall of Istanbul vs The Grand Bazaar

Every trip to the airport, and there have been quite a few this year, has taken us past the Mall of Istanbul which opened for business at the end of May. Malls are a relatively new thing in Turkey. There is some concern that malls will eventually mean the loss of local markets.  Based on our experience over the past weekend, I doubt that will be the case any time soon.

We spent Saturday at the "Grand Bazaar".  This Istanbul institution was going strong, crowded with tourists, shoppers and even a few folks like us who arrived with a list of things to buy. We watched a couple of Estonian men, with the help of a local guide, buy diamond/gold rings which cost in the thousands of Euros. We were served tea, but the vendor brought out a bottle of Raki and paper cups from under the counter for these fellows.

As usual we stayed near the airport and took taxis to the Grand Bazaar.  Depending on your airport hotel the fare to the Sultanahmet is about C$25-40 one way and can take 20 - 40 minutes depending on traffic. Parking in the old city is impossible and means you must walk back to your car when you are finished, if you can find it!  Hotels near the old city have limited parking.

We spent Friday afternoon at the Mall of Istanbul finishing our Christmas shopping and returned on Sunday to enjoy some family friendly activities.  None of the Turkish movies interested us, but we did enjoy 10 pin bowling, air hockey and the MOIPark amusement park.  There are rides for small children and a whole floor of rides more suited to teens and adults.  The rides are well staffed, and clean. The staff don't speak much English but even so, a couple of them convinced Nicole and I to go on a ride which swung us up into the air and tumbled us upside down.  We lived and we laughed, but it was the scariest ride there. Even when it was crowded the line ups were short. We rode all the rides we wanted (about 22 total) and spent about C$100.00.  There are lots of access points for MOIPark throughout the mall.  In addition to rides there are arcade games and a small stage for little children to dance on.

Sam and Nicole!

By four o'clock Sunday afternoon the mall was a mad house.  It was noisy and crowded. I spent about 90 minutes finishing my shopping. My patience by the time we met for supper was worn thin.  The food fare was bedlam.  There are a few restaurants in the food fare where you are treated to table service.  We had supper at one and headed back to the hotel.
Cam, Nicole and Johanna.

Cam drove to the mall both times we went.  Parking is free and underground, and it was easy to find a spot near the escalators. Like other underground parking garages we've used in Turkey, the underside of the car was inspected with a mirror and the guard opened the back hatch.  Not sure what possible use this inspection was since it was hardly thorough but perhaps it serves as a deterrent.

The purple/blue track is for the roller coaster which I went on TWICE!
(I was afraid both times.)
In celebration of the new year, many malls are decorated with lights, tinsel and even "Christmas" trees, but the Mall of Istanbul had no decorations.  Never the less, lots of the shops were selling lights, tinsel, Christmas trees, ornaments, door wreaths and Santas.  Perhaps Christianity will come (back) to Turkey the way it has arrived in other cultures, piggybacked on other festivals.

Turks certainly seem to share the North American passion for shopping. Our weekend in Turkey was a great change from our everyday existence.  Sam said on the way home "I forgot I was in Turkey".

Monday, December 8, 2014

Happy Birthday Johanna!

Cam, Sam and I were on the road to Corlu by 7:30 a.m. on Johanna's birthday.  Cam had a service appointment booked for the car and Sam decided it was a great day to spend at the mall Christmas shopping. Cam dropped us at the mall shortly after 9 a.m so we waited inside the entrance until the mall officially opened at 10 a.m. We managed to walk the mall by the time Cam came to pick us up about noon, but didn't buy much.  We had lunch in Tekirdag on the way home.  When we got home, Johanna got to open her presents and we enjoyed supper together and the Oreo Cheesecake birthday cake Nicole made at Johanna's request.

Nicole's Yummy Oreo Cheesecake

250  grams  Oreos
75  grams  soft  unsalted butter
1 x  400  grams  jar  Nutella  (at room temperature)
100  grams  chopped toasted  hazelnuts
500  grams  cream cheese  (at room temperature)
60  grams  icing sugar  (sifted)

Separate the Oreos into cookies and filling.
Break the cookies into the bowl of a processor, add the butter and a 15ml tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump. Add 25g/3 tablespoons of the hazelnuts and continue to pulse until you have a damp, sandy mixture.
Tip into a 23cm/9inch round springform and press into the base either using your hands or the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill.
Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth and then add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined. Nicole adds the Oreo filling to this mixture. (The first time Nicole made this she decreased the icing sugar because she added the filling and the second time she didn't add any sugar at all.  Both times it was yummy!)
Take the springform out of the fridge and carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top to cover and place the tin in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results. (Our springform pan is at home in Canada, so Nicole put it in one of the multipurpose round pans we own.)
Additional information - for vegetarians make sure the cream cheese does not contain rennet.

Monday, November 24, 2014

When the Computer Dies or Why I Can't Blog

For most of the last year, I've been taking a computer repair course from the lovely people at the "Internet". More than once the refurbished Dell computer I bought from eBay in 2011 crashed and I was able to figure out how to get it restarted. I also learned to clean the fan, and install new memory cards. Thank you Google search and YouTube.

The computer finally died for good in late September.  I'd anticipated this and brought a new HP laptop back from Canada in September.* It's got Windows 8 so I've spent all of the last couple of months trying to figure out how to deal with its eccentricities.

One of the more frustrating functions is that sites like Blogger now have "apps".  They're free from HP but they don't actually work. Doesn't matter how often you try to open the app the result is the same; it flashes like it might open and then abruptly returns you to the main screen. Thanks for nothing! Sometimes deleting and reloading the app helps, sometimes it doesn't.

Because the Dell is dead, Nicole, Sam and I are back to sharing a computer so about the time I think I have a few minutes to blog, I have to hunt up the laptop which migrates around the house depending on what it was used for last (school, watching movies, paying bills or photo downloading/uploading) and then hunt up my handy dandy Internet password notebook, because Nicole was signed in last and for the life of me I can't remember my Blogger password. Whew!

The other thing that happened was that our router died shortly before we left for Canada last spring.  The "new improved" router only sends Wifi signals to certain areas of the house.  Johanna's room has a couple of very specific sweet spots and Nicole's room has intermittent Wifi depending on time of day, and phase of the moon. My bedroom gets great Internet if you sit on the very end of the bed and lean towards the door. To print a document on the printer in Nicole's bedroom it's best to sit in front of the router, download and save the document, then walk the laptop upstairs to the printer, plug it in and press print.

The good news in all of this is that I had a recent back up of the Dell's files which I was able to use Cam's old XP to open so I could retrieve document and photo files.  I saved the files to an external hard drive, since the XP has no usable memory, but getting them open means taking them back to the XP and re saving them, then transferring them to the HP to print.  Sometimes it's just easier to recreate the document.

Oh and we had company for a week, and we spent a week in Germany.

So those are my excuses for the state of the blog this fall.  I'll try to do better.

*As a side note it is certainly possible to buy a computer in Turkey.  They are generally more expensive than Canada, have a Turkish keyboard and are wired with a Turkish power supply.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Germany November 2014 Part 2

November 14 Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber to Heidelberg

Walking to the train station dragging our stuff.  I like the clearly marked lanes for bicycles and people.

We saw lots of bikes on the train. This one is properly stowed but on lots of trains there wasn't room to park them because people were sitting.The owners stood with their bikes near the doors and moved them out of the way as people entered and exited. Very civilized!

The trains are well used!  I was grateful more than once that our Frankfurt hotel kept Johanna's 120 lb. suitcase for the week.  It would have killed us to drag it around and have to carry it up and down stairs at the train stations that didn't have escalators.

November 15 Heidelberg Castle, Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg to Speyer by train

This tram took us up the hill to Heidelberg Castle, I was hoping for an antique train chugging up the hillside,complete with beautiful views of the valley and the rattle and sway of a real train ride.  Instead this was more like an elevator for 80 people: fast, efficient and quiet.

Inside the castle walls if you need something to eat or drink.

One of the kings commissioned this arch and had it erected overnight to surprise his wife on the morning of her birthday.

At one time the moat had bears in it, but they were eventually replaced with deer.

Little houses on the slope near the castle's walls.

A view from the castle.  We visted the church on the right.  Johanna and Nicole climbed to the top of the tower and Sam climbed most of the way.

The castle is immense!

A model of the castle we saw on the tour we took.

Follow the tour guide!

Really really big wine barrel.

And then there is one even bigger!

Really, really big knife.

Church of the Holy Spirit.  Free admission, but it costs to climb to the top of the tower.I paid
for the kids to go up. 
People in Heidelberg are under the impression this is what a horse looks like.

Bicycle parking at the train station. It's blurry but in my defence I was trying to avoid being run down by 3 under - 8 year old cyclists.

November 16 Speyer, Technik Museum, Basilica and DBahn from Speyer to Frankfurt

Everywhere we go, we go to the local "Science and Technology" Museum (London, Thessoloniki, Ankara, Istanbul) and I never want to go and I ALWAYS love it!  So many extraordinary things to see.  This museum was no exception.  I loved their Space building and also the building with all the models.  Sam and I were travelling buddies this day, so he's in most of my photos. The girls walked on the wing of a Lufthansa jumbo jet.  Thankfully, I wasn't around to see it!

Cam looking at the displays inside one of the buildings.

Sam having a look inside a helicopter.

Sometimes really big planes also have double decker crew areas.

Plane for transporting really big cargo! (Antonov 22)

The Speyer Basilica in the background. Amazing to have these two sights within walking distance of one another.

Sam and a Submarine.

Johanna on the catwalk after standing in the space shuttle.

Moon Rock

Russian Space Shuttle! 
Sam in front of a section of the Berlin Wall
After the morning at the Technik Museum, we stopped for lunch at a Chinese Buffet, where of course the owner spoke, German, Mandarin/Cantonese (sorry I don't know the difference) and English.  We had a good meal, something to drink and most importantly about an hour off our feet.  When the time came to leave, Sam and Cam headed for the hotel and the girls and I walked to The Speyer Cathedral, also known as the Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St. Stephen. 

The church opened in 1106.

There are paintings over the arches.  Nicole's grade 10 Social Studies came in handy. She was able to tell us about one of the scenes which was unfamiliar.

In the crypt are burials German kings and Holy Roman Emperors.

Johanna in the depths.

One of a two altars in the crypt.

The very impressive front door.

The ceiling in the entry way, with a glass portal which shows off the interior beyond.

The huge front door in this photo is dwarfed by the exterior of the church.

At my feet was a shell in the pavement, identifying this church as part of  the "The Way", a Christian pilgrimage route in Europe.

November 17 Frankfurt to Istanbul to Saros

It wasn't much of a holiday.  We barely had time each day to catch our breath, but we saw a lot of different things. Everyone came home exhausted and footsore.  It was a nice way to reconnect with Johanna, though and we've got some lovely memories.