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Homer, the acclaimed author of Greek legends Iliad and Odyssey once said ‘the luckiest men and women live under the Ionian sky’. Izmir, my beautiful hometown, happens to be in the geographic heart of the ancient Ionia. The region is still homeland to good quality wine and olive oil, as it was 2500 years ago. One of Turkey’s primary agricultural areas, the hinterland offers luscious fruits and vegetables. Its coastal location has allowed the flourishing of great synthesis of cuisines with seafood, fish and a great variety of vegetables. But the city has received a major influx of migration from eastern parts of Turkey. Hence the other essential element of the culinary synthesis here: kebabs and Middle-eastern flavours. So, here lies a city and geography that offers a tempting fusion of ancient to modern cuisines inspired by Turkish, Greek, Armenian, and Jewish cultures.
The city has a charming quaint old bazaar area in the labyrinth where you can find anything from the rarest food items to woven baskets, streets of jewellers to shoemakers – unless you get lost in it, of course!
On this street adventure, we will walk through the exotic back streets of Izmir’s bazaar and take a close look and talk about the food cooked and prepared in most modest ‘hole in the wall’ joints, hear their stories that often go back to history immemorial. We will chat with the shop-keepers, who are always more than eager to offer a cup of Turkish tea for it is the outright token of hospitality here, even in the streets. Depending on what’s in season, i will share with you the story of Doner (Turkish version of Gyros) wrapped in flatbread , then we will continue to a specialty shop selling the most crisp pickled vegetables in glass cups, for drinking the juice afterwards is part of the ceremony. They pickle anything from garlic to eggpant here. During certain times in the year we will walk into a halva shop and will discover egzotic flavours while I am describing to you how this delicious sweet is made from crushed sesame seeds and sugar with sometimes Cocoa and sometimes Pistachios. We will definitely run into a street vendor with his decorated tray filled with mussels stuffed with the yummiest spicy rice. We will watch him hand-feed clients after splitting the shells and squeezing a few drops of lemon onto it. You may or not like coffee, but refusing a frothy cup of Turkish coffee, when offered, is considered a grave crime here! So we will need to end our tour in a traditional street full of coffee shops where we will be watching how this coffee is made on hot fine sand!
So let’s discover Turkey’s back streets. So come walk with me!
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