“Soğuk” stories VI: “Urfalı” for a day


And here’s the prove that I was an Urfalı kız (girl from Urfa) for a day 🙂 Girls love dress-up games 😛



“Soğuk” stories V: One night in Urfa

Thank you Nicéphore Niépce for inventing photography! When memories start to fade away in our overloaded “hard disk” pictures work like a “Refresh” button!

I sat cross-legged like a Turk and smiled to the camera as I knew that one day this picture will steal a smile and give me back my memories.


And it did. It took me back to the summer of 2012. To my first traditional Turkish evening. In Şanlıurfa. And I decided to take you with me. I won’t hold your hand… but hopefully I’ll hold your imagination. Ready? Imagine yourself entering a 450 year old konuk evi (guest house) in Şanlıurfa. The perfect place for tarihi kokusunu arayanlar (those who are seeking the scent of history) as stated on the Harran guest house’s website. And I was one of them, proud and somehow overwhelmed to be in the place where diverse people, histories and identities meet, in Mesopotamia, the so-called cradle of civilizations… A strange, nameless feeling embraced me and made me realize that we don’t have enough words, and sometimes living our dreams simply paralyzes our thoughts. My introspection was interrupted by the tempting flavors. I must say that South-Eastern Turkey’s history smells delicious. And spoils your tastebuds with its domatesli ve patlıcanlı kebap (tomatoe and eggplant kebab), bostana (Turkish gaspacho), salata (salad), lebeni çorbası (youghurt soup).

dscn0857After dinner I found out that preparing  çiğ köfte (raw meatballs, yes the meat is actually RAW, is not cooked) requires artistic skills. It is believed that çiğ köfte was invented in Urfa in the time of Abraham. Nimrod (the king of those times) wanted to execute Abraham by setting him on fire and ordered to collect all firewood in Urfa for this purpose. As a result people didn’t have firewood to cook and ate raw food. One day somebody found a way to make meat tastier by adding bulgur, herbs, spices and kneading the mixture. I mentioned above that making çiğ köfte is not an easy task. See the aşçı (cook) in action:

dscn0863The best çiğ köfte is made by dancing on the rhythms of the davul (drum) or on the davul 🙂 .

dscn0871And here’s the result:

dscn0874Well, çiğ köfte is not my favourite, and not because is raw meat, at the time I didn’t even know what I was eating! Actually it doesn’t even taste like meat… It’s like a strange combination of herbs and spices worth to try at least once!

The hallucinating combination of flavours, the rhythm of the drum and the traditional Turkish music made the evening unforgettable.

img_2951And prepared us for the next level: Halay (Anatolian folk dance) which is quite simple:  people form a circle by holding each others little finger and the leading dancer waves a handkerchief.

img_2961Dancing requires energy, and the best ‘fuel’ to boost your energy are taltılar (sweets), elbette (of course)!


1. “Soğuk” stories from “sıcak” Turkey: First steps on Turkish land

Bir varmış, bir yokmuş…  when the world was literally full of Lokum… just as sıcak as today but more acı, there were 5 Romanian girls discovering the East at 45 degrees… tasting its kırmızı biberli dishes, drinking its sıcak çay, cooling down with limonlu ve vişneli dondurma on the crowded streets… learning to complain “Çok sıçak!” and to ask “Bir soğuk su şişesi!”, instead of çay… Lately, Romania has been almost as “sıcak” as Elazığ two years ago, bringing the already “soğuk” memories to my mind. I decided to melt them into my blog  before they become as cold as ice. Therefore from now on I’ll be writing my late diary, some of my “soğuk” stories from “sıcak” Turkey.

It all started in July 2012. Location: Elazığ havaalanı. Main characters: 5 Romanian curious girls determined to “conquer” Eastern Turkey: Bibi, Giorgi, Cristina, Flavia and me. Or according to our welcoming committee, who misspelled my name and Flavia’s second name turning them into something funnier: Lulia instead of Iulia and Mandalina istead of Mădălina:

575743_10151013657384630_1874982178_n                      (photo: ESN Fırat)

In the case of Mădălina the explanation is simple: Mandalina means mandarin in Turkish. As for the misspelling of my name, it probably occurred because of the differences between English, Romanian on the one hand and Turkish on the other hand. While in the case of English and Latin languages the capital “i” is dotless and written like “I” in Turkish is written with a dot above as “İ” given that the dotless “I” is another letter (Check my lesson about Alphabet and Pronunciation). Therefore, as ıulia (with dotless i) is very hard to pronounce, they thought my name should be Lulia. While in Romania I was used to be called Lulia only by babies who couldn’t pronounce my name (The first syllable of my name, “iu”, is pronounced like the English pronoun “you”), in Turkey I was Lulia for almost everyone! And Lulia is still hunting me… If Turkish people had problems to pronounce our Romanian names we were not better at pronouncing our destination’s name: Elazığ. I still remember the confusion on the face of an airport employee in Istanbul when asking about our flight to ElaZİG.

When we finally arrived we were all tired, given that we travelled almost 20 hours by car and plane, including the never-ending waiting in the airports (around 3 h in Bucharest and 7 h in Istanbul).

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASleepy girls at Atatürk Airport, Istanbul

But we were too excited and too hungry. So we decided to discover the city together with the students who had waited for us in the airport. We were informed that it was not safe to walk in the city on our own after dark without being accompanied by a male. So we were really grateful to have our “welcoming committee”. We took the city bus, a memorable experience as the şoför was driving like a crazy, balancing the bus on the rhythms of Turkish music. We went to a lokanta and ate more than we could for only 7 TL per person (around 2,5 Euro). The low cost of living in Eastern Turkey was a nice surprise. Our scholarship was 500 Euro per month and it was more than enough. We even travelled and had some serious shopping sessions with that money. Back to our story, I had my first ayran, real Turkish kebab and çorba (which I have to confess is not my favourite) that night falling in love with Turkish cuisine.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAOur first dinner in Elazığ

The garson was very excited to serve us when he found out that we are yabancılar, as the city is not really a touristic destination, even though it has a rich history and culture. I’ll write more about in my following posts until then let’s learn some Turkish words!

Bir varmış, bir yokmuş-Once upon a time

Lokum-Turkish Delight

sıcak- hot (weather)

acı- hot (taste)

kırmızı biberli- chilli pepper

sıcak çay- hot tea

limonlu ve vişneli dondurma- lemon and sour cherry ice-cream

Çok sıçak!”- Very hot!

“Bir şişe soğuk su!”- A bottle of cold water (We used it incorrectly as Soğuk su şişesi or cold water bottle)

Havaalanı– airport

şoför– driver

lokanta– restaurant

garson– waiter

yabancılar– foreigners

Hit the road, Iulia!

e50bb0597a5b9ae903c1b00180a49f93Road take me as I am… Follow my dreams’ map, teach me your secrets and never ever let me stop before I’ve reached my destiny… Hot sunny day, baby kittens playing in the garden, familiar faces, smiles, a quiet village, Romania. The same place where twenty years ago a little girl was playing a strange “travelling” game, which seemed so true to her: visiting her friends who lived on the same street, but  “in an other country”, according to her.  The little girl unwittingly got her great-grandmother in “trouble”, causing worries because of her restlessness. Smiling and continuing her game even when the old women shouted at her in a funny way “Iulia ho!” (Iulia stop!). The same little girl who tricked her friend into walking eight km to her grandparents’ village, telling her that is close. She was only 5 years old and her friend 7 at the time. It was a ordinary day. the girls were playing with a puppy in front of her house. but… the little girl wanted to travel and they suddenly disappeared, without announcing their parents or other adults. And to make their search harder, and their journey more adventurous, they didn’t follow the road, but walked on the surrounding hills and near the brook. When they finally reached the destination the little girl’s  grandparents didn’t  even believe her story…

How time flies! And apparently everything is different… but nothing has changed. She still has that strong desire to travel. She still has moments when she needs to escape, to disconnect from her daily routine, to change something in her life. To start something new. To renew, improve herself. She hates monotony… While other people are afraid of changes, she breathes changes. She needs them in order to survive. And when nothing changes she becomes dreamy, planning her next steps or slightly depressed, in search of an escape.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has these feelings. We all had at least one moment in our lives when we wanted to run away and start again. From zero. Even though this scenario happens never or very rarely in true life, we like to believe escaping is possible, simple and it has the power to heal us… We all imagine a place or already know the destination for our sweet escape. Usually we prefer nature, a quiet place where nobody can disturb us, where we can conciliate our souls with our minds, where we can be ourselves and leave behind all the rush, stress, technology and influences. Usually we choose the mountains, a small village or a desert island. I’m in the last category, I would prefer to escape to a tropical island. I would be the happiest human being if I could do that! I’ve already imagined myself on a white sandy beach, kissed by the breeze. Being waken up in my cozy bungalow by the morning’s light, swimming in the turquoise see, eating only pineapples, coconuts and fresh fish, reading my favourite books in my hammock, enjoying never-ending sunshine. But… if I slice and dice the option of living my whole life on a desert island, my enthusiasm is exposed to serious decline… Precisely because of the reasons behind my escape: routine. Spending some time, up to a month,  on a desert island is divine, but living there, boring. What kind of dreams could I have there? Of course, there are many things to do, but I would exhaust all those activities in, let’s say, 5 years. Moreover, living Robin Hood alike it’s not the happiest scenario for me. I need people. I need to share my happiness with others. So… no thanks!

A while ago I wrote about the reasons why I love Turkey and one of them was my perception of Turkey as an escape destination. Maybe because I stayed there only 3 months and I had too little time to get bored and too many things to discover. And I still have. Turkey surprises me day after day. It has some kind of “sweet chaos”, very different from the usual chaos I’m experiencing at the moment. Although noisy and brightly coloured, if we think about its bazaars and big cities, it can be also quiet and peaceful, if we consider its picturesque villages, hidden beaches and silent mountains. A place where you can learn many things about history, about people, culture and about yourself. A place where you can make everyday a holiday. For me Turkey is like a bazaar where you can find whatever you are looking for… and even things you haven’t known that you need. We resemble each other very much. Me and Turkey. Chaotic and organized, calm and restless… I just want to hit the road to Turkey again, to have the opportunity to debunk my Turkish escape myth. Until I’ll want to escape from it…


Why Turkey?

Elif Karagoz

This question is haunting me… ever since I’ve started my Ph.D… Initially it was asked only by others, but lately I have been the one to ask myself: Why? Why Turkey? Of course, I had my answers prepared long time ago and served to the curious ones. The logical answers, starting with the motivation and purpose of my Ph.D. thesis about Turkish identity… and continuing with my attraction to everything “oriental”: landscapes, architecture, ezan, perfumes, olive threes, belly dance, music, turquoise, lokum and I can continue the list for 1001 nights… But I’ve always felt that my answer is incomplete, and maybe too logical to catch the essence buried deep inside me… There must be more, much more, and more to discover. And it is. I know it. Even though I’m not sure if I’m prepared to answer, to express myself, to find a way out from my inner labyrinth. It’s complicated! Really it is…

Today I had a “half” revelation. I missed Turkey, and somehow I knew why. I had a “so and so” day, balanced more in the direction of “not so good”, quite unusual for an innate optimist… I instantly knew what I need, a sweet escape… and my sweet escape is Turkey. The real Turkey or my imagined Turkey? I don’t really know and I don’t care! I’m aware about the fact that I might have created my own version of Turkey, a flawless Turkey, just like young lovers do closing their eyes to mistakes and imperfection. So what?  As far as I  enjoy this “image” or “improved” memory and find in it an oasis of relaxation, escape and dream sparkles it doesn’t matter whether it fits 100% to the reality or not…

So why I love Turkey? Besides delighting my eyes and my taste buds, Turkey works  for my soul as some kind of medicine. For me Turkey is synonymous with happy, friendly, welcoming and relaxed people, with contagious good mood, with never-ending holidays and strong human relationships. No rush, no stress, just smiles! People know how to enjoy life and seem to have a balanced lifestyle. They are not control maniacs, and neither antisocial, solitary, overly preoccupied or depressed, a definition which fits more and more the modern man. When it happens, however, to feel in a bad mood, people express their sadness, anger and disappointment, getting rid quickly of negative emotions. And when they are happy they share their happiness with the whole world! No pretending, no hidding. Everything seems to be easier in Turkey, …that’s why Turkey!

Photo taken by Elif Karagoz @Flickr

Wandering through my inner bazaar


Time after time I’m getting lost in the bazaar, searching for something that I cannot describe… going a long way towards the great Unknown… enjoying the journey, without knowing the destination… I’m just like a bazaar, which insted of people and products is crowded with thoughts, questions and possible answers.

I’m a kind of “deep” thinker, having diverse existential problems. Sometimes getting dangerously close to the definition of a “philosopher” (my mother used to call me this way), trying to find “solutions” for the major problems of the humankind, falling into utopian projections, willing to do something with high impact and to save all those in need, feeling disappointed by the selfishness and indifference of people in generally, but in the same time confident that things will change bringing peace and happiness to the whole world….and therefore approaching the definition of whom some may call naive. Yes, sometimes I can be very naive, and meantime, paradoxically, suspicious. Suspecting and interpreting words and events in my own way, finding the hidden meaning of “coincidences”.

My mind is like a playful and restless child, drawing several unrealistic and even non-sense scenarios, explaining a wide range of phenomenons, events, facts in a more or less logical way or  imagining myself and others in different kinds of situations. Like how can some people feel bored when there are so many things to discover and do, how can one decide what is beautiful or ugly, what are other people thinking about, how would my life have been if I had lived in another place or time…or if I had  chosen another path, how can one hurt deliberately another person or animal, what is my “mission”, and the list goes on. Just like a chaotic and surprising bazaar, with many labyrinths and unexpected products, unknown and incredible ways out. Order in disorder. Disorder in order.

My neurons are throwing a party every time I’m traveling by bus or plane, every time I’m alone and having time to waste, every night before falling asleep. And I love to be in this “meditation” mood. That’s why, even though I’m a sociable and friendly person, who hates to eat alone (this occurs only when traveling alone), I really need some time for myself, some “lonely” moments to reflect on my life and on all those odd and unimportant things that come to my mind. I prefer to solve my own problems and questions in my bazaar, without being influenced by others, even though finally I will consult their opinion as well to draw a comparison. I cannot live without introspection, without wandering in my inner bazaar. Regularly.

Image source [1]

July. My lazy, marvellous July…

I’m in one of those lazy (tembel) days when I have a lot of work to do but too little motivation (motivasyon)… being surrounded by gentle sun rays (güneş ışını) and thousands shades of green (yeşil), distracting my attention from my duties and directing it towards the beauty (güzellik) of simple things. It’s a wonderful day of July (Temmuz).

And if yesterday after a hard working day, I served you my favourite Turkish dishes, today I will celebrate with you the summer (yaz). With the promise that after publishing this post I will return to my work and won’t feel guilty of time wasting (zaman israfı), as usually… Cross my heart! (Valla billa doğru söylüyorum!) Because we all have not just the right, but also the obligation to enjoy the magic (büyü) of life (hayat), to dream (hayal kurmak) with our eyes open, to admire nature (doğa) and fall in love (aşık olmak) with moments (anlar), tastes (tatlar), colours (renkler), scents (kokular)… And that’s what I’ve done today… I realized how lucky (şanslı) I am for being alive, for living my dream, doing what I like… how fortunate I am to hear the bees’ (arılar) and bugs’ (böcekler) buzzing, to be hugged by the sun, to feel the touch of the refreshing breeze (meltem), to dance in the rain (yağmur), to admire the unique and wonderful painting of the universe (evren), drawn in billions of colours…. To inhale the perfume of flowers (çiçekler), to be spoiled by mellow fruits (meyveler), … Because of you, July. My lazy, marvellous July. (Temmuz. Benim tembel, fevkalade Temmuzum)