“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” ~Aldous Huxley.
To travel is also to discover what no guidebooks, travelogues, documentaries, or photographs can tell us.
While travelling in Turkey, I got the chance to interact with Turkish people in small towns, despite the lack of a common language, and make observations that Google couldn’t tip me about. Here’s a collection of the quirkiest ones:
1. Vintage cars are the in thing.
Two hours out of Istanbul, and all you can spot along most highways, streets and by-lanes of northern Turkey are vintage cars. In each of the small towns I travelled to, classic American cars seemed to complement the Ottoman architecture in age. This, given that Turkey is one of the largest car producers in the world. I haven’t yet found out why, not online and not offline, but this Flickr page does confirm the Turkish fascination for old cars. Seems like it’s just the more stylish and cost effective way to drive!
2. Something’s up with the jet.
I contemplated much about reporting this observation, but decided that as fellow travellers, you deserve to know. So this is a reference to the jet (or rocket as some call it) that you would use to clean your bum if you ditch toilet paper. For some reason, everywhere I stayed, from pansiyons (guest houses) to hotels, the level of the jet was abnormally and inconveniently low! No, I didn’t attempt to dig out why.
3. Fishing is a national past time.
You needn’t go far from Istanbul to establish this. Take a walk along the Bosphorus strait, and there, precariously perched on the rocky shores and bending over the pavements, you’ll find boys and men of all ages engrossed with their fishing rods, having the time of their lives. Jars and make-shift bottles filled with small fish dot every stretch of any land in close proximity to the sea; beaches, rocks, pedestrian walkways, small islands, jetties, you name it. Despite the obsession with fishing, meat beats fish hands down in Turkish menus.
4. The watermelons are giant in size!
Perhaps an insignificant observation, but the watermelons on sale in street markets all over Turkey never ceased to amaze me. We’ve got to learn the secret of how to grow them that well; they’d kick Indian watermelons’ ass any day.
5. Men tend to hang out with other men.
For a country as liberal as Turkey, it is surprising to see clusters of men wherever you go – in a cafe, in restaurants, by the beach, walking on the road. Perhaps it’s to do with how the Turkish society has evolved; Turkish baths for instance, were started as a means of after-work socializing for me, and only gradually trickled down as a tradition for women. The hamams have since been replaces with more modern ways of socializing, but the men-with-men, women-with-women-and-kids clusters seem to have continued.
6. The expression means ‘excellent’.
The same expression that means wtf in Italian, and gestures eating in India. I was flashed the expression many times, especially in the street markets and while talking about food, and assumed it to have a European connotation until it didn’t make it any sense. Finally I gathered, and had it verified, that it is used in to say ‘great’ or ‘wow’ or ‘excellent’ here in Turkey.
7. Cake is called Pasta.
And Pasta is called Manti, Peruhi, Eriste and several other names, varying by region & the type of pasta. So yes, I did have pasta for main course and pasta for dessert many a times!
What is the quirkiest thing you’ve discovered about a country on your travels?
Read more about my adventures in Turkey.
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Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
For me the quirkiest thing would have to be the fact that everyone in Egypt pronounces ‘P’ as ‘B’, so the good old Pyramids are Byramids if you listen to an Egyptian, Liverpool is Liverbool, and so on
Didn’t know that! Hope to see the Byramids some day then 😉
Interesting to hear that everybody loves fishing. In India not many people drive their antique cars. So surprised to hear about the oppositie in Turkey.
Yeap, was surprising to see so many of them in Turkey. They really do add a unique charm to the place 🙂
It’s nice how different people notice different things when traveling, I too had noticed men hang out with men, I did see many couples, but very rarely mixed groups of men and women.
Agreed. Yes exactly, baffled me a bit but the locals seemed to think that’s just how it is 🙂 Sometimes you have to be an outsider to notice how a society is different from others!
It is strange how an outsider can actually see point out strange things in culture which the people have been living with since ages.
Absolutely, a new pair of eyes / lens can see a lot more than we think =)
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Vwgetarian manti..that’s great. I heard mantoi’s always stuffed with meat. Looks like its worth asking for a vegetarian version.
A lot of people in the US also love their vintage cars except the price tag is possibly the opposite. VIntage anything in the US seems to be the trend and people hike up the prices like nothing! Pasta for main and dessert – that’s pretty funny! The one thing that definitely took me by a “strong” surprise was the Turkish coffee. I knew it was going to be strong, I didn’t know the severity of its strength until I had one, coughed for many hours after, and was wired awake for 12 hours on an overnight bus ride to Cappadocia.
Love the bit about fishing! I spent 3 months in Turkey, and one of my favorite things to do was cycle along the waterfront in Caddebostan on the Asian side. Another thing that I found quirky about Turkey was how people were always up at all hours of the night! It seemed everyone slept in late and partied all night long, even the Muslims who don’t drink alcohol!
Good observation; I remember people being up pretty late too, even in the sleepy towns and villages along the Black Sea Coast! Cycling in Istanbul sounds like fun, shall try it the next time too 🙂
Two areas of Istanbul on each side of strait are so different. Both of them has its own charm. I was there for few days during fasting days and I enjoyed merging with locals in garden- talking to them, sharing food and culture. Amazing place and good people
This was a fun read Shivya. Turkey has been on my list for a long time. Will get there someday and will try on my part to discover some quirks too 🙂
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Turkey is one of the places I want to visit abroad. Lets see when it happens