For Kurban Bayrami, the biggest Muslim holiday of the year (kind of like Christmas for Christians), 5 friends (Hanane form Norway, Yao Sheng and Ee Lin from Singapore, Rumeysa from Holland, and Kiran from the US) and I are traveling around the Southern Aegean and Western Mediterranean region of Turkey.  We started with bus tickets to our first destination and plane tickets home from our final destination, but with no real plan for in between.  This is a lot different than my normal habits of planning everything.  We also booked a hostel for the first two nights of our trip in Selçuk.  Selçuk is located just 10 minutes away from Ephesus, one of the best ruins in Turkey.

We started our trip by taking an overnight bus to Izmir, the third largest town in Turkey. After some miscommunications with part of our group that traveled on a bus that left one hour earlier, we met at the Otogar and ate menemen for breakfast. This is becoming my favorite breakfast dish.  It is egg cooked with chopped tomatoes and peppers. Kind of like a watery omelet. You eat it with fresh bread which is always delicious.  After a relaxing breakfast, we took a dolmuş to Selçuk where we found our hostel.  This place was recommended ın our Lonely Planet guıdebook and was defınıtely worth the small price we paid. My only complaint was that breakfast wasn’t included with our rooms. My throat and allergies acted up a bit because of the dust, but I had to keep reminding myself that we only paid about $13 per night.  Other members of our group weren’t as happy with the accommodations because the room was quite chilly when we arrived, but I kept reminding them that at least we had our own bathroom and weren’t staying in the dorm style rooms that the hostel offered. 


Hanane, Kiran, Ee Lin, Yao Sheng, and Rumeysa


Our four person room.


The hostel where we stayed. There were many hotels and hostels around the area that had Australian and New Zealand names. Not sure why.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the sites in Selçuk and saw St. John’s Basilica where he is buried, a really old mosque, the remains of the Byzantine aqueduct, an old cistern, the Efes (Ephesus in English) museum. We also ate some some really great food because meals are always the highlight of our day with my friends and me. We went to lunch at a place recommended by our hostel where we met the really nice owner named Mehmet. He ended up helping us figure out the bus and train schedules so that we didn’t get ripped off at either place as well. Hanane and I shared gözleme which is called a Turkish pancake. It’s actually nothing like a pancake, but is more similar to a thin large quesadilla and is really delicious. It is filled with cheese (either white or yellow cheese) and sometimes potato and spinach. Ours was all three and it was DELICIOUS! Tavuk şış (Chicken shish kebab) is also quite popular with our group.


Our lunch group. Two girls staying at the hostel joined us for the day.


Some of the ruins at St. John’s Basilica. The guidebook said that most of the ruins here are reconstructed, but I still thought they were awesome.


For dinner we went to a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. Everyone except Yao Sheng ordered tavuk şış which was good, but the mezes that we ordered were fantastic! Mezes are like appetizers, but are much smaller than their US counterparts. Some are hot and some are cold, and they include many very traditional Turkish items. We had haydari(thick yogurt with garlic and roasted eggplant), dolma peppers (stuffed peppers), cheese filled mushrooms, sigara böreği (fried dough with cheese in the middle in a cigar shape) and normal dolma (stuffed grape leaves). I especially liked the mushrooms and garlicy yogurt. After dinner we found a Turkish delight store that was much more reasonable than places in Istanbul and bought some lokum to take back to the hostel with us.


The stuffed mushrooms Smile


Sigara böreği, haydari, and dolma beber(pepper).


Really good lokum from the store. It had nutella inside Smile

The next day we headed to Ephesus with help from Mehmet. His brother owned a big van and agreed to take all 8 (including the girls from the hostel) of us to the Virgin Mary’s House and Ephesus for 5TL per person. Considering that we would have had to take 2 taksis (taxis) for 50TL each to get to the Virgin Mary’s house, this was a superb deal. We got to see the house site, and the chapel at the Virgin Mary’s house site and then went to Ephesus.


The house site


Outside the chapel.


Candles outside the church and the prayer wall. People write prayers on tissues handkerchiefs and pieces of paper and tie them on the wall.


After seeing Mary’s house we were taken to Ephesus. I didn’t really know what to expect, except that some of my other friends from the exchange said it was pretty cool. We were dropped off at one end and were told to call our driver when we finished at the other end several hours later. This was a great option because we weren’t rushed and took a TON of pictures through the whole site. Here are some of the best pics of the day:


As you walk in it doesn’t look that impressive, but as you keep going, it is AMAZING!


Showing some Phi Rho Love in Ephesus 🙂


The columns


We experimented a lot with the pictures 🙂


The smaller of the two theaters


Kiran with Hanane, Yao Sheng and Ee Lin in the background.


I like arches and ceilings, and theaters…. and architecture in general.




Me with another arch


One of the smaller theaters that we’ve seen in Turkey.


Pretty columns


Some of the arches and columns have been reinforced so they are more impressive and safe. No problem for me. They still look amazingly cool.


Hanane didn’t wear good walking shoes and her feet hurt a lot after our long day at Ephesus. Again and again I am reminded that I am a true Oregonian when I bring my rain jacket with me even when it doesn’t look like it will rain and when I bring running shoes as my one pair for the trip. 


There were a lot of people at Ephesus, though it wasn’t even the busiest time of year. I’m glad we came when we did because there was beautiful weather and less people.


Just pretend that they are in the right order Smile


The Celcius library. SO COOL


This was the giant theater towards the end of Ephesus. My camera decided to die after just a few pictures here. Oh well, I can steal from everyone else.


Last picture and…. dead.


After Ephesus that day we went to Pamucak Beach to watch the sunset. We were practically the only ones there so we decided to do some jumping shots 🙂 Oh so cool….haha


After getting our train tickets to Izmir the next day, we walked around Selçuk. This is the aqueduct lit at night.


The next day (the first day of Kurban Bayrami) we took the train to Izmir (9TL round trip!!!!!). It takes about an hour and a half to get there each way. Many things were closed because of the holiday, but we still had a good time walking around.

Sidenote: Kurban Bayrami is a holdiay centered around sacrificing a lamb or cow to share with your family and the poor who can’t afford one themselves. Since Muslims only eat halal food, the animal prayed over and then the throat is slit to let the blood run out. Blood is considered unclean in Islam so the blood should all be removed from the animal before it is eaten.  In the morning of Kurban Bayrami, the men slaughter the animal and prepare for it to be shared among the family and poor.  As we were riding on the train through the country side, I saw many circles of men standing around animals.  Though I don’t think I could handle watching the animal die, it was cool hearing about the traditions for the holiday from the three Muslims in our traveling group. The holiday lasts three days, but the first day is the most important so most shops and restaurants are closed so people can celebrate with their families.

Pics from the day:


The view from the Kordon, the main walkway along the sea side.


There were a lot of bikes in Izmir as well. Much safer to ride one here than in Istanbul.


A very Turkish dress we saw in a shop window. Maybe for Miss Turkey???


This picture has a long story that goes with it. This man came up to our lunch table with a baby bunny. We didn’t want to pet it (who knows what a rabbit in Turkey is carrying), but thought it was quite cute. He then proceeded to have the grown rabbit “pick our fortunes” from little slips of paper.  He didn’t speak any English, so Rumeysa asked what they were for. He said they were a Bayram gift (normally gifts are free). Rumeysa translated them all for us since they were in Turkish, but the man was still standing there. We asked what he wanted and he said that we had to pay him 2.25TL per fortune! We didn’t want to pay since we didn’t ask for the fortunes in the first place. Rumeysa tried to negotiate with him, but he got rather angry. We ended up paying 1TL per person and trying to ignore him. He started cursing at us in Turkish (which doesn’t really do much good, since Rumeysa is the only one who can understand) and storming away. He then proceeded to walk by our table and point and complain about us to other people. Rumeysa talked to our waiter, and he told the man to leave the restaurant area. After asking Rumeysa what the bunny man said, she told us that they were really bad things and that he wished we wouldn’t make very much money since we didn’t pay for the fortunes (which he took back when we paid the partial amount). Oh well. It makes for a good story at least.


Turkish tea is delicious. It’s supposedly just black tea, but it tastes better than what I normally drink. It’s served in a tulip shaped glass with two or three sugar cubes and a small spoon on the side.


We’re a little bad at timing the jumping pictures.


We also did some perspective pictures Smile


Yao Sheng is good at jumping. He is also really patient with all of us girls. Props to him for putting up with us for more than a week.


A bit late…


The Kordon


One of the many Ataturk houses in Turkey.


Guess what? More dessert! This one had lots of pistachios. Yum


We found a carnival in the giant park in Izmir. So much like the county fair. Except that it was the place to be for people under 16. The girls were all dressed up in high heels and nice clothes and the boys stood around in groups really awkwardly. So funny 🙂 We were definitely the only tourists there.


The prizes for the games were packages of cigarettes. Weird.


My favorite, caramel Smile

Keep checking for the other days of our trip coming soon!


The Princes’ Islands and Model

The same weekend I went to the Spice and Grand bazaars I also went to The Princes’ Islands. A large group of us arranged a shuttle from Koç (A) to the ferry dock at Kabataş. If you have over 17 people going to a certain place, you can arrange a shuttle to take you there and back. Everyone pays a flat rate (much cheaper than public transportation with all the transfers) and you get where you are going much faster. The ferry ride was about an hour and a half long and stopped at multiple islands in the archipelago.  Our group went to Büyükada (Large Island)(B), the largest island. This is a major tourist attraction and the ferry was packed.  The islands are named the Princes’ islands because during the Byzantine period, princes were exiled here. The Ottomans also sent their exiled sultans to the islands.  During the nineteenth century the islands were a popular destination for Istanbul’s well to do. There are still many well preserved Victorian era houses today.  Leon Trotsky also spent a good amount of time there when he was exiled from the Soviet Union. image

Büyükada is known as a tourist destination because there are many beach resorts and nice restaurants. When the weather is clear, you can see the southern Asian Istanbul coastline. There are no cars on the island (except for emergency vehicles) but you can take a horse drawn carriage almost anywhere. You can also rent bikes from about 100 different rental shops for 10TL ($5.50) for the whole day. This was my third day of sightseeing this weekend so I was pretty wiped out by the time we got to the islands. I have decided that I need a rest day during each weekend so I don’t go crazy and get super exhausted.

Hanane, Eelin, Jenn and I broke off from the large group and headed into the middle of town to look around. One major thing I noticed was that the horses were not the healthy strong ones of Oregon, but skinny, boney unhealthy looking ones that made me sad. We decided to not take a carriage ride because of that.

Here are some pics of the day:


A traditional Turkish breakfast includes: beyaz peynir (white cheese-kinda like feta), kaşar peyniri (melty cheese), cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, salam (kinda like bologna or salami), a bell pepper slice, honey, butter and lots of bread. I am hooked and am really going to miss this when I get back to the US.


Jenn at breakfast


Hanane and Eelin at breakfast.


The main street on Büyükada


The rear view of the carriages. I didn’t take a picture of the horses because they were too sad.


This was a really nice neighborhood. Very fancy houses with great views!


I have no idea what this building is.


Just like campus and Istanbul there were cats everywhere.


It was a bit overcast so the view wasn’t the best, but still pretty great!


The shore near the restaurants. I didn’t see the beach resorts, but I think they were on the other side of the island.


And of course we had dessert! This was kadayıf with pistachios. Yummy! The ice cream here is almost chewy in texture, but is very delicious.


I also found loukoumades which are actually Greek! I get them every year at the Greek Food fest in Portland, so I had to get some here as well!


My new bag that is helping to dress up my wardrobe. It’s real leather and a fake Mulberry (which I have been told is really expensive).


This is my roommate Nalan. She is a 4th year Industrial Engr. major. We get along really well Smile

Model Concert

I decided to include the concert at Koç in this post because there were only a couple pictures of it. Koç held a welcome party for the school to start off the semester. They were going to have a bar at the event (normally alcohol is illegal on campus and in the dorms) but something happened and they didn’t have one. There were two performances: Model, a really popular Turkish band came and then a DJ. Model was really good, but I didn’t enjoy it a whole lot because I couldn’t understand any of the lyrics. I am still learning about Turkish music Smile Some of the girls wanted to dance once the DJ came on, but the music was super mixed and even the good songs were hard to dance to. DJs play a lot of American pop music at clubs and at concerts.


Koç only has about 4,000 students, so this was a huge gathering!


Me, Aida (Bosnia), Hanane (Norway), Wing (Hong Kong), Stephanie (Hong Kong), and Rumeysa (Holland).


These giant stairs provide a semi amphitheater experience. Though there is also an amphitheater on campus as well.


People started lighting off fireworks, no biggie…


Three of us shared a waffle which is a fairly common street dessert. The waffle is a lot more sugary than the ones we make for breakfast and has ice cream and other toppings on it.

I’m getting closer to being caught up on posts! I should be almost done with catch-up by the end of the weekend. Smile

Spice Bazaar and The Grand Bazaar

Things have been so hectic here that I haven’t had time to blog in the past two weeks. I already broke my promise of a post per week. DARN!

Day 1: The Spice Bazaar

Anyway, two weekends ago I went to the Spice Bazaar with my friends Hanane (from Norway, but her family is Moroccan), Aida (from Bosnia), Muhammed (from Pakistan) and Omer (also from Pakistan). On Friday morning we all went to Karaköy to get our student travel cards. These cards are just like the metro/bus/tram/funicular cards that anyone can get, but give you a discounted fare each time you ride. The first trip is 1TL (about 50cents), the second is 45 kuruş and the third (if you need that many transfers) is 30 kuruş. Kuruş are like cents. I believe normal fare is about 2TL per ride without a discount. The line to get a travel card was extremely long, but Hanane and Aida grabbed me a number early because they went two hours before my group left. This was SUPER nice because I only had to wait about an hour rather than 3 hrs. After getting our cards, the group of us decided to walk across the Galata Bridge to Eminönü where the Spice Bazaar is located. Since there were several practicing Muslims in the group, our first mission was to find a mosque for prayer. The mosques here are beautiful and most allow tourists to visit if they cover their heads, shoulders and legs. After prayer time, we were hungry and decided to ask around to see if any of the restaurants served mantı (the turkish raviloli that I had the week before). People kept referring us to a specific restaurant, but the street signs are so bad that we had a lot of trouble finding it. We wandered around the shops outside the spice bazaar and asked various people for directions. Aida has taken Turkish language class for 2 years so she can carry a conversation very well and help translate for us. After finding the restaurant, we learned that mantı is only served on a certain day of the week. Oh well. The food was delicious like always and very reasonable.

After lunch we headed toward the main building of the Spice Bazaar. This was my favorite part of the day by far! The inside of the bazaar has stall after stall of spices, Turkish delight and other sweets. The spices are mainly labeled in Turkish, but many of the shopkeepers speak English since it is a super touristy destination. You can always ask to smell what you are interested in to make sure you are getting the correct spice. Prices for most spices are between 20 and 40 TL per kilogram (2.2 lbs). Since all spices are lightweight this is really cheap. I paid 4TL for cinnamon, cumin, and red pepper. Before I return home, I plan on visiting the bazaar again to pick up some spices to use in my cooking at home. After a fun day of shopping we decided to find dinner and then head back to school so the Pakistanis could go to the International Student Society Beach Party. (Since I am a big partier, *insert laugh here*,  I skipped the party and went to bed Smile  SLEEP >>PARTY


The inside garden of a mosque where we waited while Hanane prayed.


The view across the Golden Horn from near the Galata Bridge.


Hanane, Aida, me, Muhammed, and Omer


The northern side of the Golden Horn.


A really beautiful mosque in Eminönü


Another group picture.


The area outside and around the Spice Bazaar is filled with seed shops. They have huge bags of seeds for sale by the kilo.


Since seeds and bulbs don’t really smell, you need to have a really good dictionary or speak Turkish to know what you’re getting here.


You can also buy leeches for whatever your pleasure is.


My second Turkish coffee of the trip. It is served with water because it is so strong and unfiltered. It’s delicious with a medium amount of sugar added. When you order you have to specify how much sugar you want because it is added part way through the brewing process.


More spices, and dried fruit outside the Spice bazaar. The brown things hanging from the roof are dried hollow eggplants used to make dolma.


Some type of dessert. I haven’t tried this one yet, but knowing my sweet tooth, I know that I would like it : )


How spices are displayed at the Spice Bazaar. It smells fantastic as soon as you walk in!


Beautiful pottery at the spice bazaar. This style can be found in any touristy place. I am creating a set, but slowly buying pieces of the same turquoise color.

Day 2: The Grand Bazaar!

On Saturday we set out early from campus and headed back to Eminönü/Sultanahmet.  The Grand Bazaar is very touristy, but is really fun to go to because of the range of goods sold there. My goal was to upgrade my “hippy purse” to a nicer leather one that better matches the culture at Koç. (Though I love my green Mexico purse, I stand out like a sore thumb even more than normal when I carry it)  I also wanted to look for some small gifts that I could give to people back in Oregon. Hanane and Aida told me to chill out as soon as I asked if they knew what they wanted to get. Apparently, my American engineer-to-be traits of time management and efficiency also stand out a little too much here 🙂  The bazaar is amazing and you can easily get lost if you’re not careful. The many gates are numbered and there are signs in case you get lost. I have a great sense of direction so I was in charge of getting us out of the bazaar at the end of the day, while Hanane helped everyone bargain and Aida translated if necessary. We make a good team Smile  Here are some pictures of our day


Chocolate pudding at lunch.


Pistachio baklava at lunch. Pistachios are one of the most common nut in Turkey.


Kunefe= the best dessert I have ever had. It has crunchy pastry noodles on the outside with warm stringy cheese filling. It is soaked in butter and sugar syrup and served straight from the oven. DELICIOUS!


Aida and Hanane at lunch 🙂


The jewelry aisle in the bazaar. The most common line from the shopkeepers is, “Hello beautiful! Where are you from?” As an American I am really good at walking away, but European culture is different and Hanane and Aida always start a conversation. After finding out where I am from, they want to know if I live in L.A. or New York, the only two cities in America. haha no.


More pottery at the bazaar. Everything is really colorful.


Leather jackets are seen everywhere in Turkey as well. I plan on buying one, just so I have one for special occasions. It’s very European chic, you know 🙂


The look of a common shop.


Hanane wanted to go to the mall as well, so we found this one. It’s the 2nd biggest mall in Europe and makes Clackamas Town Center look like our local grocery store. I wanted to go to H & M, but they didn’t have it, so I will have to go to Taksim another time.


They did have Starbucks though!


And I got my usual drink (cough cough, Lizzy Baker) a caramel machiato Smile so yummy.  And this is how my name turned out when I told the barista. haha


Here is my new bag!! A fake Mulberry bag from the bazaar! Woohoo Smile I also got a matching teal wallet.


My roommate, Nalan, modeling my bag as well. We are getting along great!

I love questions and comments, so ask away! I miss you all 🙂

Countdown Mode

It is now time for the Facebook/public countdown to begin. I have 6 more days until I leave. And in that time we have a dahlia show, we’re going camping and I get to see several more friends. I’ve sorta packed, but not really. It’s mostly a box of stuff in my room that I might take with me. My suitcases are looking really small for 4 months. My Oregonian pride is showing through with all the postcards, magnets and stickers from Oregon. The Turks won’t know what hit them : )

Yesterday I took one of the best friends, Lizzy to the airport. This is our last picture until January!


One of my other favorite bloggers, Gretchen @ honeyIshrunkthegretchen is doing a giveaway from her blog merchandise store. Check it out: HERE

Blueberry Kuchen

So after the adventures of the lost spring form pan last night, we were finally able to make the blueberry kuchen (Q-ken). The blueberries were a week old but still delicious. We started a little late in the evening, but it was well worth the wait once the kuchen came out of the oven.


Lizzy and Linda watched and helped me make it 😀


The ingredients all laid out. This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve made recently. Just seven ingredients (the butter was already in the dough).


After putting the flour/sugar/cinnamon mixture on top, the kuchen was ready to go in the oven.


The sugar/flour/cinnamon mixture sinks down and mixes with the blueberry juices. After it comes out of the oven, the remaining 2 cups of blueberries are spread on the top, producing a very nice fresh looking finished top. YUM!


We put it in the freezer to make it cool down faster so we could eat it, and as soon as the crust was cool we ate small slices! So worth the wait.


Lizzy and Linda enjoyed trying it and I bet that they make it again soon since Linda has a spring form pan now 🙂


Here is the recipe, and for those who can’t read it, I will write it out below. Enjoy!



  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, slightly softened
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 5 cups blueberries, divided (3 cups for the inside, 2 cups for the top)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (a little extra is good too!)


  1. Mix the 1 cup flour, the salt, and 2 Tbs sugar. Cut in butter until the particles resemble coarse crumbs. (At this point I refrigerated the dough for two hours while I went to the movies and it actually helped me press it into the pan when I got back.)
  2. Sprinkle with vinegar and shape into dough with fingers. Press into loose bottom (spring form pan) 9-inch layer cake pan (I used an 8-in and it was fine) about 1/4 inch thick on the bottom, less thick and 1 inch high around sides.
  3. Add three cups blueberries (These can be the still good, but not as pretty berries).
  4. Mix remaining 2 Tbs flour with 2/3 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle over blueberries (Make sure this is even. We were left with some white powder on top of ours).
  5. Bake on lowest rack in preheated 400 degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until crust is well browned and filling bubbles. 
  6. Remove from oven to rack. Sprinkle with remaining 2 cups blueberries. Cool (We did this in the freezer since we wanted to eat it quickly).
  7. Remove rim of pan before cutting.


  • 8 servings
  • 354 cal per serving
  • 4g protein
  • 59 g carbohydrates
  • 12 g fat
  • 36mg cholestorol with butter (0mg if margarine used)

Please let me know if this was something fun to read and if I should continue doing the food posts while I am in Turkey.