Welcome to the land of tulips, moussaka, and the home of Santa Claus! What am I talking about? Turkiye, of course! On your tour through the country, you will experience many exciting things. You can get a little taste in form of fun facts here.
When you think of tulips, you probably think of Holland. In fact, they were originally imported to Europe from Turkiye. The colorful flowers were already cultivated there more than 1,000 years ago. And it wasn’t until the 17th century that the bulbs made their way to Western Europe. Even today, the International Tulip Festival is celebrated in Istanbul at the beginning of spring.
While Santa Claus, with his reindeer and his elves, is perfectly at home in the cold of the Arctic Circle, St. Nicholas comes from the sunny south. He was a bishop in Myra, now Demre in Turkiye, and died there on December 6, the year 326, 345, 351 or 365.
Stirred and not layered
Now it’s getting culinary: while Greece is famous for its moussaka, the dish originated in Turkiye. Turkish moussaka is not layered, but prepared with eggplants, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and minced meat briefly fried in a pan. It’s served with rice and yogurt. You should definitely try it.
Chicken breast pudding or Tavuk Göğiü, a mixture of cooked chicken, milk and sugar dusted with cinnamon, is also popular. The meat is pounded to a fine powder and mixed with the other ingredients to make a thick pudding.
Rich in variety: the popular Turkish Delight candy. Photo: Freepik.
Oldest candy in the world
Also, don’t miss Turkish Delight, the oldest candy in the world. It is based on a gel of starch and sugar with chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts. The whole is then refined with flavors such as rosewater, mastic, bergamot-orange, lemon, cinnamon, or mint and topped with powdered sugar, copra or powdered tartar. The specialty was invented by Hacı Bekir, whose store you can still find in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.
It goes very well with a strong tea, as the locals love it. So much that everyone drinks at least one cup of it on average! No one wants to do without bread here either. Each person eats three times their own body weight of bread every year.
You can find almost anything in the unmanageable maze of the Grand Bazaar. Photo: Freepik.
By the way, the hazelnuts for Turkish Delight come directly from the country. No other country produces more of them. With their high content of magnesium, vitamin E, and healthy fats, they are also a great snack for your breaks on the road.
Olive oil is also healthy and an indispensable part of Turkish cuisine. It also plays a prominent role in the Turkish national sport of oil wrestling. Opponents smear themselves from head to toe with the vegetable oil before the match.
City on two continents
You’re in luck if you can stop off in Istanbul on your tour of Turkiye. Like Rome and Bamberg, this fascinating city on two continents is built on seven hills and impresses with its houses of worship and palaces. Here you will also find the Grand Bazaar with more than 3,000 stores in a maze of 61 extremely lively streets.
How old are you? 32? Older? Then you are almost old enough to end up on the scrap heap here in the unusually young Turkiye. The average age here is 31, and only nine percent are older than 60.
What did you do in Turkiye? Pick up a load of tulips? Tell us in a comment!