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TRAVEL: Your 4 Day Travel Guide to Romania

Quick Note: This article was first featured first in the Lale Magazine – Reminiscing Romantic Romania (pg.46-49) – Direct Link You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.

Bucharest, once known as the little Paris of Romania, set an example for its outlying villages, like Braşov. Following suit, they look like small Parisian villages with their crepe stands and cafes making a boulevard down main street. Often overlooked on the regular European tourist trail, Romania remains an eminently worthy travel destination in its own right. Romania is a great country for those who’ve seen all the major European cities and want to get away from the overcrowded tourists hot spots. I found that Romania offers plenty of tourist attractions without the craziness of tourist groups, lines, and prices.

My husband and I met up with some of our expat friends in Romania for a 5-day reunion. Our traveling group consisted of 4 adults and 2 babies. Our friends, coming from Dubai, wanted to escape the boiling, brown desert for cooler green, lush forests. We just wanted to enjoy some European foods not readily available in Izmir and more reasonably priced than Paris or London, for example. And we both hoped to escape our towering apartments for a few hours via a road trip through the mountainous central area of Romania.

Romania’s 20 million people are spread over 240,000 square kilometers, perfect for a road trip meets city type adventure. After meeting our friends at Bucharest international airport, we picked up our rental car, purchased sim cards with 3G data for 40 lei (€8.5), and headed north on the 2.5-hour drive to Braşov.  The Romanian roads are easy to navigate and having a sim card helped with GPS directions and finding restaurants.

Lying in the center of the renowned Carpathian Mountains of Dracula fame, Brașov is a city in Romania’s Transylvania region. Established by the Teutonic Knights in 1211, and later occupied by the Saxons, Brasov was a walled citadel during the medieval times, for protection against invaders. Today the city is still surrounded by those medieval Saxon stone walls.

For centuries, the city’s central location has given it a strong political influence in the region, especially during the Ottoman Empire dynasty, while also providing a trading doorway into western Europe. Brasov’s German and Latin names mean “Crown City”. Its coat of arms bears a crown with oak roots, and can be seen on walls and buildings throughout the city.

Romania Travel Guide

The city center is lined with romantic cobblestone roads. The inelegant looking, yet stunning, Gothic-style Black Church (named for the fire that turned its walls black) peeks from behind colorful baroque houses that shield the Council Square of Piaţa Sfatului, and the former town hall, Casa Sfatului. 

Just beyond the city, towering mountains clad with thick forests cover the countryside. One of our favorite tourist activities in Brasov was riding the gondola to the top of Mount Tampa. For 17 lei a person (€3.7), you can purchase a roundtrip ticket, and it’s a great way to see panoramic views of the city. Or if you like hiking, and the weather permits, 10 lei (€2) will get you a one way ticket either direction.

For the history lovers, the free Braşov walking tour is ideal. This interesting two-hour tour covers 800 years of the city’s history. You’ll hear stories about the citadel and Dracula while walking through one of the narrowest streets in Eastern Europe. The tours covers the history of the Black Church, the Council Square, Rope Street, St. Nicholas Church, the Citadel’s Walls, the Schei Quarter and Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate. The tour runs daily at 18:00 in all weather (sun, rain or snow!). It meets at the Piata Sfatului (the Town Hall Square next to the fountains). While the tour is ‘free’, the guides work from tips. We suggest tipping at least €5 per person, and we felt it was well worth it.

Braşov is a unique location. Even with its small-town, quiet feel in the middle of the mountains, restaurants and activities remains plentiful. Braşov offers much to explore within, and around, the city. The nearby city of Bran is home to Bran Castle, a.k.a. the famous Dracula’s Castle! A quick 30-minute drive from Braşov, the castle is easy enough to find.  

Romania Travel Guide Dracula's Castle Bran Castle

Castle tickets are 30 lei (€8) per adult. The uphill walk to the castle takes 10 minutes. While the attraction is kid-friendly, the castle itself with its many stairs and turns is not stroller friendly. The village of Bran offers tempting strolls along the streets, lined with local shopping goods and souvenirs, and plenty of places to eat along the way.  Other surrounding villages offer the same atmosphere usually with fortified churches or castles. 

Three days are sufficient to explore all that Braşov has to offer, but if you want to see more of Transylvania, you can easily add a few more nights! On our return from Braşov to Bucharest, we found the well-maintained Peles Castle, and the nearby city Sinaia, provided a cozy half-way stop. 

Bucharest

Bucharest started from a humble beginning; founded by a shepherd in the Transylvania area named Bucur, or joy. The area was name after the shepherd and the river named after his wife, Dambovita. 

From these humble beginnings grew a thriving city. Ironically enough, the Ottomans officially wrote about Bucharest when their dynasty was under occupation by Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Dracula, of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire novel. Bucharest, by now the nation’s capital city, was an important stop along the Silk Road. Living in Turkey gives me an instant connection to Romania’s long forgotten history.

In the 1900s, Bucharest earned the name of “Little Paris” for its European architecture and tree-lined boulevards. But since then, World War II, earthquakes, and 45 years of communist rule, have taken their toll on the city’s former majestic beauty. 

However, today you can still find plenty of these majestic buildings and architecture like major boulevards, the Palace of the Parliament, and the Transfagarasan, considered by many to be the most beautiful road in Europe.

Nowadays, 25 years after the Romanian revolution against the Communism, Bucharest is once again starting to resemble its former title of “Little Paris” as an urban location, full of culture and life.

A visit to Bucharest will never leave you bored. It offers more than 50 museums, 12 theaters, 29 sites, and one Arc de Triumph. While I can’t vouch for any of the museums, I can tell you that the walking only area around Old Town provides plenty of walking-only historical sites, lined with international food options. 

The same company, Bucharest Walkabout Tours, offers free Bucharest walking tour of the Old Town. The two-hour tour covers a 500-year span of history, with stories about the life and times of Vlad the Impaler through to the 1989 Revolution, and how that has affected modern-day Romania. 

You’ll also hear about Romania under the “Golden Era” of communism. This tour runs daily at 10:30 am and 18:00 pm, in all weather (sun, rain or snow!). It meets at the Unirii Square Park in front of the Clock (next to the fountains). While the tour is ‘free’, these guides also work from tips. 

Since 1692, Calea Victoriei has been one of Bucharest’s most famous streets. Lined with fine houses, palaces, churches, and hotels, you’ll also find upmarket shops and museums along its length. 

From the Brancovenesque houses at the northern end to the art-deco, 1920s apartment blocks further south, the vast number of architectural styles is an impressive sight. Several major attractions are found on Calea Victoriei including the monument to the revolution called Piata Revolutiei, the eloquent French architecture of the Atheneum and Athenee Palace Hilton hotel, and the National Museum of Art (once the Former Royal Palace). The Former Central Committee Building and the Revolution Memorial—which locals call ‘an olive on a stick’—are also found along the Calea Victoriei. If you start your walking tour at the northern end, and explore the full length of the street, you can then end up relaxing in one of the cafes of Old Town. 

Our days were filled with strolling past buildings of Belarus architecture, and resting on benches along shaded tree-lined boulevards lined with fountains. Bucharest’s mammoth Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world. Once a symbol of Ceauceșcu’s utilitarian rule, the building is today a testament to Romanian history, and the country’s recovery from his iron rule.

Romania Travel Guide Bucharest

The Palace of the Parliament, known by the locals as ‘Ceauceșcu’s Palace’, with 1,100 rooms and 12 stories, can be seen from space. Its  construction took 13 years to finish! Depending on what you want to see, tickets can be purchased to see a certain number of chambers, the basement, and the main balcony. Ticket prices range between 25-45 lei (€5-10). For children and students (with student ID card) entrance is free.

If you want to see more than the Old Town and the Palace of Parliament, the popular Hop-On-Hop-Off  bus tour sells 24-hour tickets and covers a 10-mile route. This bus also takes you past the 27meter high Arc de Triumph and the 462-acre Herăstrău Park, built around a natural lake.  

Be sure to visit the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, Bucharest’s largest, open-air museum which showcases the diversity and charm of Romanian traditional village architecture. It boasts 300 houses, farms, windmills, and churches imported from all regions of Romania. Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tickets for adults are 25 lei (€5), children (age 7-14) are 10 lei (€2) and children under 7 travel free.

My favorite part about Romania is that neither Bucharest nor Braşov made us feel rushed. Instead, our first visit to Romania made us feel like we lived there like the locals, and not like tourists. Travel should always feel like that.

The rich history and sights in Romania’s capital city of Bucharest and the soon-to-be major tourist destination of Braşov in the Transylvania region made for a perfect week-long getaway.

Romania Travel Guide Peles Castle

SIDE BAR: 

From Bucharest to Brasov, we stopped about 1 hour outside of Brasov in a little railroad town of Posada for supper and let the children take a break from the car seats. Enjoy a traditional Romanian dish such as cabbage rolls or smoked sausages with a side of corn meal with salty cheese and sour cream at the restaurant called Cernica.

HOW TO GET THERE:

From Istanbul, Pegasus Airlines has direct flights to Bucharest via the Sabiha Gokcen Airport at around $150 roundtrip. As we live in Izmir, we has a short 1.5 hour layover between our Izmir to Istanbul then Istanbul to Bucharest airports. Turkish Airlines has a few more locations available besides Bucharest in Romania via Cluj-Napoca and Constanta.

IN COUNTRY TRANSPORTATION:

Because we wanted flexibility in our travels, our group decided to rent a car via the Pegasus’s car rental section of their website. The free shuttle provided by the car rental company took us from the airport to their company only 5 minutes away.  If driving in another country is not your cup of tea, taxis, buses, and even trains between cities are easy to use and inexpensive as well.

WHERE TO STAY:

Because our group was 6 people (4 adults and 2 kids) we opted for a more family-style lodging and stayed in Airbnb apartment-style housing. Before deciding to go the Airbnb route, below are a couple of hotels we had looked at booking:

  • Hotel Coroana  in Braşov
  • Chic Apartments  in nearby Sibiu
  • Sarah & David Studios  in Bucharest

WHERE TO EAT:

Braşov

  • La Republique – Laidback breakfast crepes in the town center
  • Trattoria Pocol – Stylish pizzeria but still kid-friendly
  • La Vatra Ardealului – Bakery near the Black Church

Posada

  • Cernica – Dinner stop on our way up to Braşov

Bucharest

  • Caru’ Cu Bere – Romanian food for lunch in Old Town
  • Emilia Cremeria – Personal favorite ice cream shop in Old Town
  • Chinese Garden – Chinese Food
  • El Toritos -Mexican food  we ordered online and they delivered!

WHAT TO DO:

Now to you!

  • Have you been to Romania???
  • What did you love about it?
  • What else should we see next time we go?

Turkey Kalkan Roads

EXPAT KID: Help your expat kid in a Global Pandemic!

Your Road Map to Working through Culture Stress with Your New TCK (aka- Third Culture Kid)

September is well underway, which means that a new school year is upon us. This year in particular, school may look very different from years prior. You may find that your kids tire quickly, are more easily frustrated, and gravitate towards their comfort items more.

*[Ahem… You may notice that you do as well!]

One of the reasons for this is with so much changing in the day to day ways we interact with our world (geez, thanks COVID-19) that our brains no longer work on “auto-pilot” and now have to spend more energy to make decisions. 

The same is true for those entering a new culture, which is why this blog post is helpful for not only ex-pats raising TCKs (Third Culture Kids), but also all parents during the coronavirus pandemic.

This concept is explored more in this article shared about how the stress of living through the COVID-19 pandemic is comparable to culture shock.  Also, I recently read Lauren Wells’ book “Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids” and I highly recommend it for any parent of a TCK.

In this post, I want to share a guide for working through culture stress with TCKs that I learned from this book and from my research and observations of TCKs in general.

Read on for your 3 tips to work through culture stress with your TCK.

Turkey Kalkan Roads

What’s the destination for TCK? What is the goal of working through culture stress?

The first step to reaching any destination is knowing where we are going. The goal of working through culture stress with our children is that in the end, our children are integrated aTCKs who love diversity, are highly adaptable, resilient, and emotionally healthy

Let me break down what I mean by that a bit.

  • Integrated: our kids are a part of the community in which we live, they have a place and feel a sense of belonging and capability in their environment.
  • Love of diversity: one day our children will be adults who either fear or are excited by diversity. In working through culture stress with our TCKs, we are teaching them to become people who see the beauty and effectiveness of diversity, and who cultivate diversity in the spaces they occupy. 
  • Highly adaptable: by teaching our kids how to adapt to their new culture, we are giving them tools to adapt to any culture and any circumstance that life may throw their way.
  • Resilient: children are not naturally resilient in the way we often assume. They have to be taught resilience, and that’s where parents, caregivers, teachers, and mentors come in! We can teach our kids how to handle difficult situations.
  • Emotionally healthy: Children who can name and regulate their emotions will become adults who are not ruled by their emotions.

Now, how do we get there? 

A destination is a good place to start, but without a plan, it’s very hard to arrive where we want to go. So what is the “roadmap” to reach the goal stated above?

Below I walk you through 3 tools that will enable you to reach that goal.

1. Prevention: 

“An ounce is better than a pound of cure,” the saying goes. And it’s true!

Having a car that has been maintained properly makes getting to your destination SO much easier, and prevents innumerable disasters that could come up along the way. 

But what does prevention look like for culture stress?

The most important thing is to have systems in place to talk about feelings without invalidating those feelings, but teaching kids to work through emotions in a healthy way.

What does that look like?

  • Make space for kids to voice their needs and listen to what they’re really saying.
  • Have a time during the day when you check in with each of your kids; what are they experiencing, and how do they feel about it?
  • Practice asking good questions of your kids and really listening to their answers.
  • Maybe every night at dinner, everyone in the family shares the high and low points of their day.

Another prevention tool is helping your kids set expectations. Verbally prepare your children when you are going into a new situation, and give them ways to appropriately communicate their feelings to you.

  • Maybe your self-conscious child gets stared at for their different skin or eye color when you walk to school with her, or even has her skin or hair touched by strangers.
  • Maybe your sensitive child gets overwhelmed by the all the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the market.

As much as possible, give them a way to know what to expect and how to communicate what they are feeling in those moments with you. Of course, since you are also still learning what to expect in your host country, it is important to do the work of learning together.

TasteslikeTurkey.NiaMcRay.Izmir.Turkey.TCK.culturestressroadmap.2.JPG

2. Partnership:  

When I’m taking a road trip, I always prefer having someone with me, experiencing things alongside me, helping me navigate my way to the next pit stop, and just for the company on what could otherwise be a lonely ride. 

The same is true of entering a new culture.

We can do the work of being a student of our host culture together, alongside our children, rather than excluding them.  Talk about your observations of the culture with your kids, being careful not to pass ethnocentric judgment. “What is something you’ve noticed today that happened differently than you expected?”

We can learn together how to navigate this new way of life, and present it as an exciting opportunity for our children.  You may be surprised…kids are incredibly observant! Two (or three or five) heads are better than one. Your kids can be great assents to your own culture-learning process, and you to theirs, if you partner together in this opportunity. 

Also, help build a community for your kids with local friends who can help you and your kids learn more about the culture you’re adjusting to. Making friends with families with kids similar ages as your own can be helpful in allowing the whole family to enjoy time together in your host language and culture, making your kids feel more at home in their new culture.

Basically, the more you can do together, the better!

TasteslikeTurkey.NiaMcRay.Izmir.Turkey.TCK.culturestressroadmap.4.JPG

3. Parroting: 

Teaching by modeling to your kids is like giving them a clear map with a highlighted route, or clear road signs that show our kids what to expect ahead. 

When it comes to parenting, you already know: much more is caught than taught.

With regard to cultural learning, it is especially important to remember this. Your response to culture stress informs the way your children will respond to culture stress in a greater way than the way you tell them to respond to culture stress.

In other words, kids are much more likely to “parrot” your responses to the culture, whether they are positive or negative. When you are frustrated with the stress of the overwhelming feeling of just wanting one thing in your life to feel normal again, remember to be careful with how you respond. 

Be honest with your kids about your feelings: “Mom is feeling frustrated right now because I’m still learning to navigate the systems in this culture. But I’m going to take a few deep breaths and try again tomorrow.” Narrate your own feelings as well as your child’s, and remind them (and yourself) that emotions in themselves are not bad, but are indicators to us, like road signs.

Just because we are frustrated with the way our host culture does something, doesn’t mean that your feelings or the culture are wrong. The more we can identify our emotions without attributing blame to our host cultures, the more healthily we can interact (and model interactions for our kids) with our host culture.

This also works with narrating your kids’ emotions. “It seems to me that you are disappointed right now. Would you like to talk about what you were expecting and what happened instead?” Keeping the door open for communication is key to parenting, and especially when navigating a new culture. 

Let’s sum it up!

The more we learn to read the road signs, the more aware we become of our subconscious beliefs and motivations. Using these three tools of Prevention, Partnership, and Parroting will ultimately, enable your TCK (AND you too) to become the most emotionally healthy TCK they can be!

Your Turn!

  • Do you have TCKs?
  • What do you find is most helpful when working through culture stress with them?
  • What books have you read on the topic?
  • What from this blogpost have you found most helpful?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.

Baristas Best Travel Guides

Why Baristas Make the Best Travel Guides

NOTE FROM CATIE: Michael is a long time friend! It is crazy to think we met one another over 10 years ago now! He is also the one who encouraged me to give up my heavily flavored cream (with a bit of coffee) and to ‘just drink it black.’ It took me a few years longer than he probably would have liked, but now I am a very proud black coffee drinker! Now on to the article

The best-informed travel guide just might be the person making your coffee. The role of barista has long gone beyond the role of “bartender” like the original Italian might suggest. Baristas are cultural critics, political wonks, and amateur music historians. They know where the best Banh Mi is (which by the way, Catie cutting in here, is a Vietnamese sandwich). They’re probably eating it on their lunch break. 

Your barista very likely has a liberal arts degree if not an MFA. Their band has appeared on public radio and opened for some nationally known acts.  But more importantly for you, they’ve learned how to craft a perfect cappuccino, and that attention to detail has attracted the city’s top chefs, museum curators, and journalists to their café.

In short, they know people. 

Baristas Best Travel Guides

(Of course, this is contingent on being in a good, independent coffee shop. I cofounded thecoffeecompass.com to help people find the best cafés around the world.) 

Barista knows where the hidden gems are.

They know which sights are overrated, which restaurants are past their prime, and where the queue is too long to make it worthwhile. They’ve already been to the up-and-coming place no one has written about yet. 

Lucky for you, your barista will more than likely share a few tips with you— provided you’re a friendly customer and they’re not slammed making drinks.* (Do not— I  repeat—  do not ask for a travel recommendation in the middle of the morning rush!)

Baristas Best Travel Guides

The technique here is very simple. 

1. Order a coffee. If appropriate in local culture, leave a tip.

2. Drink said coffee. 

3. After you finish your coffee, thank the barista. 

4. Mention you are visiting from out of town, and ask if there are any restaurants/bars/museums/ etc you should see while you’re in town. 

Mosts of baristas love their cities, and can’t resist showing it off to out-of-towners. More than once, a barista recommendation has had a waiter or bartended asking me, “How did you find us? We don’t get many tourists here.” 

In short, your barista can curate an unforgettable travel experience

Just make sure you leave a tip.  

*Do not try this in Manhattan. Those baristas are battle-weary and interact with far too many tourists to care whether you find the best natural wine bar (it’s the Ten Bells, btw). 

Baristas Best Travel Guides

Michael Butterworth is the cofounder of thecoffeecompass.com. (Instagram)

He lives in Istanbul with his family. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

FOOD: Let’s ‘Do’ Turkish Breakfast [Kahvaltı]

Note: I, Catie, am so excited that Nia’s amazing article will be partnered with a video coming Friday via FollowingTheFunks YouTube! Stay tuned!!! But until then you can get a quick peek at another Turkish Breakfast we had in Kalkan too here.

A Turkish friend asked me one day if Americans really wake up at 6:00 am to an alarm clock, have cornflakes and coffee for breakfast, and then head off to work like they do in the movies. A laugh erupted from my lips. Compared to the sprawling table of a traditional Turkish breakfast, a bowl of cornflakes must have seemed insufficient to count as a meal.  

When you talk about eating a meal in Turkish, you use the verb yemek for “to eat.” However, when you talk about breakfast, you use the verb yapmak for “to do/make.” It has a similar feeling to the phrase “let’s do brunch.” And in fact, Turkish breakfast can be much more of an event than a simple meal.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Of course, on a workday, one may grab a simit (bagel-like bread covered in sesame seeds) or a breakfast sandwich on the way to the office, and there are even pre-packaged breakfasts with the essentials, or single person plates at restaurants. But, the true kahvaltı experience, like much else in Turkey, is shared. Late on Saturday or Sunday mornings, one can easily find a family of several generations gathered around a great spread of foods in the center of the table feasting together. 

What makes a Turkish breakfast so delicious is the freshness of all the ingredients.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

From the fruits and veggies to cheeses and honey, a good breakfast is a smorgasbord of incredibly fresh homemade ingredients… this is perhaps why people in the city will travel to surrounding villages for a village breakfast in a garden surrounded by the plants from which their breakfast has come.  It can be a treat for kids to be greeted by the chickens and goats from which their eggs and cheeses came.

I mean, you can certainly settle for the café in an airport or bus station to get a decent breakfast, but if you’re visiting Turkey, you MUST find your way out to one of these village breakfasts to get the best and freshest kahvaltı available.

If you haven’t ‘done’ Turkish breakfast before, let me take you on a tour of the kahvaltı table.   

Kahvaltı is the word we use for breakfast in Turkish, but it literally means “under coffee” or “before coffee.” It’s the meal you eat before you drink your first cup of Turkish coffee.  Like me, some Americans can’t imagine breakfast without coffee, and may wonder what people drink in Turkey to wake up. This brings us to the first essential part of Turkish breakfast: çay. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

The Essentials

Çay

Usually, a çay damlik (the double kettle that Turkish tea is brewed in) is left at the table so everyone can have countless refills of çay as they slowly graze on their breakfast. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Bread 

Bread is the vehicle of Turkish breakfast and the highlight. Turks have perfected the art of bread making, and kahvaltı can be a show of some of the best breads and pastries. The range is from simple white bread slices, to soft rolls, whole wheat, sourdough, village bread, pita bread. I’ve even had French toast with kahvaltı! Pastries vary just as much, ranging from fluffy and light pastries stuffed with ground beef, cheeses, spinach, potatoes, or eggplant to heavier lasagna-like pastries, from the bagel-like sesame-covered gevrek (also known as simit in the rest of Turkey) to the light and fluffy pişi (fried dough pictured above) which is my personal favorite. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Pişi: Fried Bread
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Gevrek/Simit
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Sigara Boreği: Fried Roll with Cheese in the middle

Raw Veggies 

Tomatoes and cucumbers are traditional, and are often accompanied by fresh greens like arugula. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Eggs 

There are a plethora of ways eggs are prepared for breakfast in Turkey. Boiled eggs are popular, as are fried eggs, which can come plain or include sucuk [pronounced “soo-jook”] (Turkish sausage made from beef with a good helping of garlic) or other cuts of meat. Other options include: scrambled eggs, omelets, and the lovely menemen (a mix of eggs, tomatoes, peppers, salça and spices, pictured above).

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Olives

Usually both green and black olives are available at kahvaltı. As someone who never ate olives in the States, the olives here have slowly begun to grow on me. One place I’ve been for kahvaltı even had pink olives!

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Cheeses

Cheeses range widely in hardness, saltiness, and sharpness. Sometimes, you can even find fried cheese, or a melty cheese and cornmeal dish muhlama to dip your bread in. There are usually at least a few types of cheeses when you go out to a restaurant for kahvaltı, but in someone’s home, there may be fewer options. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Savory Items

Salça 

A flavorful tomato and/or pepper paste that can range from mild to spicy. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Fresh Butter

Sometimes the best toppings are the simplest.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Olive oil + Breakfast Spices 

The combination of fresh olive oil and this mix of spices is not something you’ll find at every kahvaltı place, but it is certainly one of my new favorites.

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Zahter Spice: You dip your bread in the olive oil then into this spice.

Yogurt

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Cooked Veggies 

Potatoes may take the form of French fries, roasted potatoes, or even boiled potatoes with herbs.  I also particularly enjoy when roasted eggplant and peppers are a part of the spread. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Sweet Spreads

Honey + Kaymak (clotted cream)

Tastes like decadence first thing in the morning. 

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Jams

Whatever is in stock or in season. Strawberry, cherry, fig, apricot, blackberry, mulberry… the possibilities are nearly endless!

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey
Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Nutella

Because who doesn’t want to start their day with a little chocolate?

Turkish Breakfast Kahvaltı Turkey

Tahin & Pekmez

Often times the tahini and grape molasses are poured into the same bowl and need to be stirred to get the right combination of sweet and nutty. 

Ok, we have to hear from you!!!

  • If you have had Turkish breakfast, what else have you had that I didn’t write about?
  • If you haven’t had Turkish breakfast, what is something you haven’t tried for breakfast before that you might try after seeing Turkish breakfast?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.

Karniyarik Eggplant Patlıcan Izmir Turkey

FOOD: Learning to Love Eggplant [Karnıyarık]

Before I moved to Turkey, I never bought an eggplant at the grocery store.

I loved to cook meals with lots of fresh vegetables, but I had NO IDEA what to do with this weird, rubbery purple thing. I’d had eggplant parmesan before, and it was tasty enough. But, to be honest, I’d prefer the chicken version. With the amount of imported produce available in the States, there was always such a variety of veggies that I never felt the need to attempt to do anything with eggplant.

I wrote it off as a food I didn’t like. 

Within a month of arriving in Turkey, my eyes were opened. A friend ordered a patlıcan (pronounced pot-luh-john) pizza and let me try a slice. The eggplant I ate didn’t squeak between my teeth like I expected. In fact, it almost melted in my mouth.

Was this even the same vegetable I thought I didn’t like? 

Several months later, my language tutor agreed to give me a cooking lesson for my birthday. I asked to her to teach me whatever she wanted to cook. She quickly decided on Karnıyarık, a stuffed eggplant dish. I was excited to learn how to make eggplant in a way that I would actually eat it. As a girl born and raised into a Southern American cuisine tradition, I should not have been surprised that the secret was in frying it. 

If you’re interested in falling in love with eggplant, grab a kilogram of eggplant, some ground beef, and try out the recipe below.

Karniyarik Eggplant Patlıcan Izmir Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (about 2 lb.) eggplant
  • Sunflower (or other light) oil for frying
  • 3 liters cold water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 500g (1 lb) ground beef
  • 1 large white onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 ½ Tbsp + 1 tsp tomato paste
  • ½ bunch of fresh parsley, minced
  • Boiling water
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
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Instructions:

  1. Wash eggplants and chop off stems. If eggplants are a larger variety, cut in half so they are about 15 cm (6 inches) in length. Peel four long stripes off each eggplant. Soak the eggplant in a brine consisting of 3 liters of cold water, and two tablespoons salt for 20-30 minutes. Then squeeze the excess water from them. 
  2. As you squeeze the excess water from your eggplant, heat up enough oil to deep fry your eggplant on medium to medium high heat. Fry each eggplant until it has a brown exterior and a soft interior. Set on paper towels to drain.
  3. In a frying pan, over low heat, brown 500 grams (1 lb.) of ground beef and one large diced onion in a tablespoon of olive oil for 20 minutes. 
  4. Turn off the heat, and add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste, ½ bunch of minced parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cover.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Place your eggplant in a large oven-safe pan, spacing them 2 cm (about an inch) apart. Slice open the middles of each eggplant, leaving 2 cm (an inch) on each end. Fill each eggplant with beef, using a spoon. 
  6. To create the sauce, add boiling water, little by little to 1-1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste. Stir as you add each bit of water, smoothing out any grainy feeling in the tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  7. Grate 4 cloves of garlic. Place them in between the eggplant in the pan. According to my tutor, this is the most important step to getting delicious eggplant. Then, carefully pour the sauce between the egpplants until it comes 2/3 to the top of the stuffed eggplants. 
  8. Cut a tomato in half, top to bottom, then cut thin slices. Place a half-moon shaped slice on the top of each stuffed eggplant to keep the moisture in. Top each eggplant with a little sauce. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. 
  9. Serve with red pepper flakes, rice pilaf and cacık. Afiyet olsun!
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What about you?

If you like eggplant, what is your favorite way to cook it?

Leave a comment below!

(Also, if you need a good dessert, make sure to check out Nia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies and/or Easy Peanut Butter Cookies recipes to top off your meal!))

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.