A Decade In Turkey – And A Decade To Come

And that was that. The end of a decade. We’re out of the teens and into the ’20s. Coincidentally, it’s also the end of a decade for our blog, too. We’ve headed into a new decade of blogging and we can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Can you believe that we’ve been writing and photographing and videoing aspects of our life in Turkey for just over ten years?

Such a long time – but yet it doesn’t seem like such a long time.

Our Decade In Turkey

We’ve seen a lot of comings and goings over those last ten years: People moving to Fethiye from other countries to start a new adventure. People leaving Fethiye for pastures new. Fethiye has changed a lot, too, of course. We’ve travelled when time, money and circumstances have allowed. And we’ve eaten – lots!

Let’s have a whirlwind trip through some of the highlights of the last decade and dip our toes into the decade now upon us.

A Decade Of Travel – Some Highlights

Choosing travel highlights is a difficult task, really. We’re grateful for any opportunity to go anywhere and we always make the most of our time whenever we’re anywhere new. Each place is special for its own reasons. But if we do need to narrow things down, let’s see…

East Turkey

First and foremost, East Turkey. Our tripping around various parts of Eastern Turkey will forever be a highlight. How we got to East Turkey is part of those highlights, too.

Ankara Train To Erzurum

The Doğu Express stretching out ahead of us

These days, the Doğu Express train is hugely famous and bookings need to be made well in advance to try and grab yourself a cabin that will offer stupendous views of the Anatolian landscape.

At the time we used the train, we were in Ankara and simply turned up to the train station and booked our cabin for the following day. The Doğu Express was in danger of being taken out of service altogether due to lack of passengers. A sure example of how fortunes can change in the pace of a few years.

Long live rail travel, we say. More rail links are being built in Turkey and for those of us who try to avoid flying as much as possible, this is good news!

Ishak Paşa Sarayı, Ağrı, Turkey

İshak Paşa Sarayı has stupendous views

As an armchair traveller, I’d always lingered over photos of wild and lonely scenes in Eastern Turkey.

Palaces, churches, mosques, castles occupying distant hilltops, mountainsides and vast plains. So to finally be there, up close and personal with iconic İshak Paşa Sarayı, wandering the ruins of lonely Ani, sailing along Lake Van to the island of Akdamar – memories (and photos) that will be with us always.

Closer To Home

Such is the size of Turkey, we have a plethora of fantastic places to travel to on a slightly more local basis.

Road trips have taken us along mountain roads and to Turkey’s Lake District. Touring the area with Eğirdir as a base is a definite highlight.  Reacquainting ourselves with the oh so famous sights of Pamukkale, Hierapolis and Ephesus was also a necessity – and a highlight – for this decade.

Fora Apart Hotel Sea View

Datça is a local favourite

Over the last three years or so, pretty Datça has become a bit of a bolthole for us. A little escape. But the town is also home to the Run Datça event, too. These days, our travels are, more often than not, dictated by running events we’re taking part in. Any excuse for a little weekend (or longer) away.

Ephesus Great Theatre

Ephesus is always worth a revisit

And, of course, our little corner of Turkey is a hub for those looking to experience the bliss of a gület cruise. Sailing from Kemer to the Kekova area and spending time on land at places like Olympos, Simena, Kekova and Myra and the Church of St. Nicholas – how can that not be a highlight?

As is always the case with Turkey and tourism, nothing is predictable. In the last decade, tourism took a huge hit – protests, terrorist attacks, an attempted coup – understandably scared people away. We’ve seen and experienced some really dark times.

But, as is also always the case with Turkey, the country and the people continue to bounce back. The resilience of Turkish people never fails to amaze me. For the final year of the decade – 2019 – tourist numbers rebounded and we’re (cautiously) hopeful for the successful 2020s for the country we call home!

The World Of Food

For the year of 2020, the Turkish Ministry of Culture & Tourism have declared it the Year of Turkish Cuisine. Great stuff!

Hünkar Beğendi

Hünkar Begendi is an Ottoman classic

Well, we are dealing with a cuisine that is ranked amongst the world’s top 3. And yet, so few people – for a whole host of reasons – have a real awareness or knowledge of the sophistication and depth of this cuisine.

Not for one minute are we painting ourselves as experts on Turkish cuisine. We are happy, eager students on a continuous path of learning where food history and cooking is concerned.

In our ten years of blogging, we’ve done our best to promote Turkish food and its ingredients.

Bulgur Pilaf Serving

A posh serving of Turkish bulgur pilaf for our updated recipe

From the classic staples such as traditional rice pilaf and bulgur wheat pilaf to Ottoman dishes such as Hünkar Beğendi, we have gradually built up a collection of Turkish recipes which continues to grow. These are all dishes we cook regularly at home, too.

We have always advocated (and will continue to do so) supporting local markets for food shopping and we also love to encourage people to delve into trying different Turkish foods.

People who have never been to Turkey before are often surprised by the sheer number of choices before them. It’s not all about the döner kebab – although we do love a good döner!

Regional Foodie Explorations

Again, it’s travels around Turkey where we get to experience different Turkish foods. Our travels to the East gave us the opportunity to have our fill of regional treats on a regular basis.

Doğubeyazıt Köftesi

Traditionally served Doğubeyazıt Köftesi

The town of Doğubeyazıt lies at the foot of the hill which is home to İshak Paşa Sarayı. That’s where we got to experience Doğubeyazıt Köftesi…under the watchful eye of the chef who encouraged us to report back to him once we’d eaten. Fortunately, we didn’t need to be polite and lie about enjoying the dish! It was fabulous.

From the east and over to the west, the region around Izmir is famous for various street foods. We went there armed with a list of foods that had been written for us by a Turkish friend. Of course, we were going to do our best to work our way through every single one of them!

Turkish Street Food - Izmir Söğüş

Izmir söğüş will always be memorable

Izmir söğüş is memorable because it was both tasty and – at least for me – a bit of a challenge. A mix of lamb’s tongue, cheek and brain, you can order your söğüş with some or all of the fillings. We went for all of them while it was a first experience. Might skip the brain next time!

Foods Of Fethiye

As for Fethiye, again, over the decade, we have built up a collection of places where we like to eat and drink around the Fethiye area.

We’ve got lots to add to that list and we’re loving what’s happening with the food scene in Fethiye at the moment.

When we first started this blog, ten years ago, a lot of the more traditional foods like gözleme and kokoreç were being shunned by our Turkish friends. Burgers and pizzas were taking precedent.

Bülent'in Yeri Gözleme

Mid hike fuel at Bülent’in Yeri

Now though, all of that has matured. And compared to lots of other places we’ve visited around Turkey, Fethiye seems to have made room – comfortably – for both tradition and innovation.

Bülent’in Yeri in Kayaköy still packs the customers in – especially on Sundays – for gözleme and Turkish breakfasts. As do places like the Tuesday market, the Friday village market and the Çalış Sunday market, of course.

We can still get a fish sandwich at places like Kırçiçeği Cafe or a tost at Iksirci Tezcan.

Lunchtime At Seçkin Restaurant In Fethiye

Meat is expensive in Turkey so we fill up on meat dishes in lokantas

For traditional home kitchen cooking, the lokantas are still holding their own. Places like Seçkin opposite the otogar and Yeşil Asma Yaprağı still attract their regular customers taking their lunch break or fuelling before a long journey.

Modern Traditional

And then there are the business owners who are really harnessing Turkish traditional snacks and dishes and taking us right into the next decade.

Yes, the international fast food chains have arrived in Fethiye and are very popular. But it’s not all about burgers and pizzas.

Lokum Kokoreç Half Bread

We love the Lokum Kokoreç half breads

Turkish companies such as Lokum Kokoreç and Bazlama Istasyonu – to name just a couple – are bringing a contemporary twist to traditional classics, making them fashionable again and, therefore, keeping them on the (fast) foodie map.

Some new ventures have gone all out to capture both local and tourist interest by celebrating Turkish cuisine without watering the menu down in the hope of pulling in just about any passerby. Brave in a tourist resort but a move that we’ve always hoped for. It seems to be paying off for ventures like Babzen Kebab and Motif Restaurant.

Lamb Mutancana At Motif Restaurant

Supremely tender lamb in the lamb mutancana at Motif

As for the restaurants along Fethiye waterfront, we have a plethora of specialist restaurants that have appeared over the last decade.

Seafood restaurants galore where no menu is necessary. Choose with your eyes and have small plates of meze delivered to your table throughout the evening.

If you fancy a steak, ten years ago, finding a top quality one, cooked to your liking, was no easy task. Well, a fillet steak is just not traditional Turkish cuisine. Now, however, specialist steakhouses will serve up various cuts.

Çarıklı Et Restaurant Birthday

Çarıklı Et does a mean steak and meze selection

We’ll single Çarıklı Et Restaurant out, here, just because we know they raise their own animals locally. Again, mixing the traditional with the contemporary, Çarıklı is not just a master of steak. You can order various traditional Turkish dishes, too, such as tripe, brain, tongue. As we said in our article about Çarıklı – it serves up everything except the moo and the baa.

Of course, any area where tourism is significant will also result in restaurants serving up international dishes, too. Fethiye now boasts eateries where you can dine on British, Chinese, Italian, Indian (and more) dishes.

Cafe Park Teras Burger

A Cafe Park Teras burger – of the Texas variety

And if you do just want a burger or a pizza – well, take your pick. Burgers and pizzas are big business in the Fethiye area these days. Many places are serving up a decent pizza or top quality meat in a bun with toppings of your choice!

So, at least for now, there’s room for a bit of everything in Fethiye where food is concerned and – more importantly – it seems we all have an appetite for that bit of everything. We even have friends in Istanbul who love the foodie scene in Fethiye for its variety.

Predictions for the upcoming decade – Chinese tourist numbers will continue to grow. That could mean more eateries serving up quality dishes from the various regions of China as knowledge of the cuisine grows. We do already have Chinese restaurants in the area – we’re just predicting a few more.

And, let’s throw this one in there – can’t help but think we’re not too far away from a specialist vegan restaurant trend…

A Decade In The Life Of Fethiye

As with just about anywhere else in Turkey, nothing sits around still for too long in Fethiye. In the last decade, however, it seems the engines were revved a bit more and significant changes have been made, especially around the centre.

A Harbour

We’ve watched the growth of the new harbour. From the construction of the new town square, Beşkaza Meydanı, right along the waterfront to Şehit Fethiye Bey Parkı and Duck Island.

New Marina Fethiye

A lot of changes along Fethiye harbour

No small task as you can see from the photo above, but it has certainly changed the face of Fethiye. A raft of new recreational areas, kiosk eateries, large restaurants such as Denizatı, Mancero and the aforementioned Çarıklı.

Waterways At Şehit Fethi Bey Parkı

Şehit Fethi Bey Parkı opened in July 2018

As for Şehit Fethiye Bey Parkı, wander through there on a sunny winter’s Sunday afternoon, or any summer’s evening, and see how much appreciated it is by kids and adults alike.

Some Neighbourhoods

The previous decade saw the revamp of Dispanser – the area behind the town square. Terrible drainage and leaning buildings have given way to luxury apartments, hotels, shops, bars and restaurants – and it’s all pedestrianised, too.

We also have Yerguzlar Caddesi. When our friends opened a business there over ten years ago, they were going to name it ‘Middle Of Nowhere.’ That would have seemed an odd choice to today’s wanderer.

Gustorante Cafe And More, Çalış

The very smart Gustorante is on Yerguzlar Caddesi

Supermarkets (of which there are too many); bars; restaurants like Gustorante; bakery/cafes like Baba Fırın; coffee bar, burger bar, hairdressers; pharmacies; vets; fishmonger; butcher; specialist cheese, meat and spice stores.

And still Yerguzlar Caddesi continues to grow and evolve. It’s all part of the growth of Fethiye where small satellite areas will support the local community outside of the town centre.

Tourism In Fethiye

As for the tourist visiting the Fethiye area, all the old favourite must sees and dos are there to be experienced.

In the coming decade, the telerifik system to the summit of Babadağ will (hopefully) be completed, adding to the draw of year round tourism.

Paspatur, Fethiye

Always lovely to wander around Paspatur

Along the Karagözler, smart city hotels have joined boutique hotels like Unique and Yacht Classic and smaller pensions. Lots of options for the independent traveller. Paspatur now also has hostels and hotels along with its shops, bars and eateries.

There are now also lots of local beaches around Fethiye for people to enjoy both public and private.

Help Beach From Fethiye Peninsula

Look down over Help Beach from the peninsula

Add this to all the day trips on offer, boat trips, ancient rock tombs and historical sites, lush green scenery, adventure sports, walks and hikes, everything mentioned above…bring on the 2020s!

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Comments

  1. Valerie Evans says

    Visited Turkey for 8 consecutive years in and around Fethiye. Loved my times there. Would love to do more.

  2. Dr. Jake Henderson says

    You have OUT DONE yourself with this wonderful blog. I’ll read it again when I’m finished praising your efforts.
    I look forward to every adventure with you guys since I’m too old to go alone.

  3. Paul Cartledge says

    Always look forward to the latest edition of Turkey’s For Life and finding places to attempt to visit on my next visit.

  4. Judy Kellett says

    As far as I can tell, we found your blog after coming back from a month in Turkey in 2013- I was looking for recipes! so THANK YOU for the recipes, and all the other stuff. I had planned the Turkish trip, so I had to kick myself for some of the things I’d missed.
    I did get some things right about holidaying in Turkey. I wanted to avoid the “blur” experience- going to so many places that you see amazing sights but can’t sort out the memories to make a cohesive story!
    We started in Goreme: had booked 3 days but extended it to 5, then amazing bus trip to 3 days in Konya. From Konya to Antalya: another astonishing bus trip , this time across the Taurus mountains which made the trip a great experience in itself, then 3 days in the Camel Pansiyon in the Old Town. We loved the Archaeological Museum: I’ve had a fascination with the ancient world since I was about 10 and Turkey is everything I’ve ever wanted to see at first hand! More Roman stuff than remains in Italy, more Greek sites than anyone else, PLUS Catalhoyuk, which is just amazing- the reason for 3 days in Konya. Antalya also had kilims, and my favourite handbag was made from one there. After that came Selcuk: a lovely central location for historical places. Finally after Selcuk we spent our last week in Istanbul; basically across the road from the Gulhane Gardens, just down the street from Aya Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome remains, and the Grand Bazaar. We looked at this sort of thing almost every day, with a few quiet “bad leg” days spent at Pierre Loti, and riding the ferries on the Bosphorus on the slow days. It was a great month we had, BUT we got to see the sea only once, in Antalya, and went nowhere near Izmir or Fethiye. We missed out on Pamukkale and Troy , so we still have a lot of Turkey to visit.
    Your blog has filled us with wistful longings, as well as given us recipes for a heap of marvellous meals, and stirred me into finding a rich variety of Turkish cookbooks that have been very inspirational. Please keep up the great work!

    • Wow, and thank you for sharing your story with us, too, Judy. sounds like you had an amazing time. Bizarrely, we are yet to visit Konya. Strage where travels take you – we thought Konya would be a place we’d head for in the early days and we’ve still not got there. 🙂
      Still lots of Turkey to discover for us and lots more foodie experiences, too! We’ve got lots of recipes that we’re still to write up for the blog so keep an eye out for those.
      We’re sure there’ll be lots of tales to tell over the coming year and beyond. Happy new year. 🙂

  5. Hello Julia & Barry,
    I stumbled across your blog a week back when I was researching Fethiye for my summer trip. Your website is simply amazing and opens up the readers to so many unknown and beautiful places in and around Fethiye. And yes, your love for Fethiye shows in your blogs. Keep up the great work…
    I am now catching up on your Istanbul trip blogs…

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