EX-PAT FOOD: Pork-less Red beans and rice

Note from Catie: While I live in Turkey, I am a born and raised Southern American gal, and specifically to Louisiana! Which makes this blog post especially near and dear to my heart! I grew up on a good bowl of red beans and rice. And well, a good biscuit that melts in my mouth is always appreciated!

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This month, I’m creating another adaptation dish! Native to Louisianan cuisine, red beans and rice is a classic dish and a testament to the rich flavors and readily-available ingredients used in the cooking of the bayou. Cajun cuisine is an American mix of countryside French cuisine brought via Canada, African American, Spanish, and Native American influences using the ingredients native to the bayou.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, droves of people who were displaced from their homes in Louisiana settled in my hometown: the metro-Atlanta area. Thankfully, they brought their cooking with them. So, although Cajun cuisine isn’t native to my hometown or my parents’, it’s still a style of food that reminds me of childhood and the comfort of gathering with community. 

In this red beans and rice recipe, I incorporate ingredients found here in Izmir. Sucuk (pronounced soo-jook) is a Turkish sausage made from beef. Check out the blog post I wrote last month to learn more about the spices in sucuk, and for another recipe with this flavorful sausage! It makes a great substitute for the delicious andouille sausage usually used to make red beans and rice, and the flavors really complement the Cajun seasonings that go in this dish.

Sometimes, in Turkey it can be hard to find celery, one of the necessary “Holy Trinity” starters for Cajun stews. I have found, however, that if I’m willing to buy a few celery roots (which is the part of the celery sold in markets in Turkey), I can usually piece together enough of the thin stalks left on the root to make up enough to start off my stews. Additionally, depending on what is available, I sometimes use red beans (often called Mexican beans in Turkey) or kidney beans if red beans are unavailable. Both work well in the dish, and you can even mix the two if you’re feeling adventurous!  

I also include a bonus recipe for an adaptation of “done buttered biscuits” that are dangerously easy. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself making them for every meal of the day! I substitute the usual sour cream for yogurt, and add a cup of cheese to the usual recipe. 

The best thing about a hearty dish like this is that it is so simple to make and easy to double and share with a crowd! I doubled this recipe and it fed 8 adults and 6 kids! 

Pork-less Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 link of Sucuk, thinly sliced
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans red beans
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 Celery stalks
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp Parsley, fresh
  • 1/4 tsp Sage, ground
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 Tsp Oregano
  • 1 Tsp Cumin
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • 1 cup white rice

Directions:

  1. Prepare the rice as normal, with two cups water. Boil, cover, reduce heat to low and let cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, keeping rice covered as it’s set aside. 
  2. As rice is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in Dutch oven or large stockpot.
  3. Add in the sucuk until it starts to brown.
  4. Add in chopped onion, green bell pepper, and celery. Cook 5 minutes until they start to soften.
  5. Add in garlic and spices, stir and cook until fragrant. 
  6. Pour in chicken broth and red beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for 15 minutes. 
  7. Remove lid and let the stew reduce, mashing some of the beans to help thicken. Add tabasco sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve over rice with done buttered biscuit. Garnish with fresh parsley.
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BONUS: Cheesy, Done Buttered Biscuits

Ingredients: 

  • 113 grams butter, melted
  • 1 cup yogurt, plain
  • 2 cups Bisquick mix (recipe below)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I used kaşar)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease or line a muffin tin.
  2. Mix all ingredients until fully incorporated.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned.
Bisquick Mix Ingredients:
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • ½ cup butter, cold cut in cubes
Directions:
  1. Whisk together dry ingredients, then cut utter into flour mixture until the texture of course sand. 
  2. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four months. 
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Now tell me:

  • Have you ever updated a recipe you grew up with based on what’s available where you live now?
  • What’s a dish you grew up eating that didn’t originate in your hometown?
  • Have you tried this red beans and rice recipe?
  • How did it turn out for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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.

FOOD: Wintertime Cabbage, Sucuk, + Potato Fry

Note from Catie: I recently tried out this recipe and loved it! Hardy but also light! We only had sweet potatoes on hand (which we pay crazy extra for in Turkey) and the recipe was just at delicious! You can always add your own extra toppings or maybe even some sesame seeds like we did! Awesome job Nia on another great recipe!

It’s March; daffodils pop up persistently through the cold earth to remind us, despite the chilly winds, that spring will return, that it’s just around the corner. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, maybe, like me, you’re tired of the cold weather, tired of the process of bundling up every time you go out the door, and maybe even tired of the same soups and stews you’ve been making through the winter.  When I still want something hearty and warm on a blustery March evening, this fry is an easy and filling meal I can whip up on a weeknight and is surprisingly good reheated. It’s adapted from an Irish dish, so it’s a great option for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner on the 17th

The biggest difference in this recipe from the Irish version is the replacement of “bangers” with sucuk (“soo-jook”), a fermented Turkish sausage made from beef that is full of flavor. You will find sucuk at any butcher’s shop in Turkey with it’s delicious mix of cayenne pepper, garlic, sumac, cumin, and, of course, plenty of salt, along with a host of other spices. It is commonly cooked with fried eggs for kahvalti (Turkish breakfast) or as a topping on pide (Turkish pizza). You can also easily find it at a grill-out on a hot Izmir summer afternoon.  Sucuk is high in fat and sodium, so my recipe doesn’t add salt or much other fat to the dish. However, if you’re opting for a healthier sausage, like a chicken or reduced sodium sausage, you may want some more salt and/or fat to your fry. 

To get your potatoes and cabbage (which is in season right now in Turkey!) to soak that delicious sucuk flavor in, you want to make sure you fry your sucuk first (and remove them from the pan so they don’t burn) add in a little olive oil, and fry your potato cubes in the remaining fat. The hot fat will not only fry your potatoes beautifully, but also add some rich flavor to them. If you are using a non-sucuk sausage, be sure to add garlic to your fry, as well as red pepper flakes if you like a little heat. 

I also add a little vinegar to introduce some acid and brighten the dish. Alternatively, you could add some citrus juice to cut the heaviness of this fry. If you’re using a chicken or pork sausage, you could also experiment by substituting apple cider vinegar for red wine vinegar. Don’t forget to let me know how your fry turned out in the comments below!

Sucuk Potato Cabbage Fry

  • 2 links sucuk, sliced (Or chicken or pork sausage)
  • 1 lb potatoes peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes
  • ½ cabbage head, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt, Pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to taste
  1. In a large skillet or dutch oven, fry the sliced sucuk until lightly browned and released fat. Remove sucuk to a plate.
  2. Add enough olive oil to bring total fat to ¼ inch. Mix and allow to heat up. Add potatoes, stirring occasionally to brown all sides of the potatoes.
  3. Once potatoes are mostly soft, add in the cabbage and return the sucuk to the pan. Stir and allow the cabbage to begin to soften. (If adding garlic, add now)
  4. Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan, scratching up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. 
  5. Add paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Afiyet Olsun!

Now tell me:

  • What about you?
  • What’s your favorite type of sausage?
  • Can you find sucuk where you live?
  • Have you tried this fry? How did it turn out for you?
  • What would you change?

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.

Turkey Turkish Asure Noah's Pudding

FOOD: Aşure, a beautiful community tradition

Perhaps you’ve heard the story before: a great evil, a divinely sent flood, and a man with a zoo on a boat. 

It’s one of the oldest stories told, a story that takes many different forms, but what makes it unique is its ubiquity. In every inhabited continent, there is a myth of a great flood: from the Inca’s tale of Pachakuti, to the Mesopotamian story of Gilgamesh, from the strikingly similar stories of Nu’u in Hawaiian mythology, Noah in the Torah, Tumbainot of the Maasai, and Nuh in the Qur’an, to the starkly different stories from the Egyptians, Chinese, Finnish, and Ojibwe

Stories are one of the beautiful things that connects us all as people.

Despite the variety of ways our different cultures play out in the way we tell stories, or even the focus of our stories, this diversity can lead us to see the unifying artistic and creative elements of story-telling. Stories can help us understand one another.  The more we look at the stories we all tell, the more we can see the similarities we share in our experiences and histories. The dish I want to introduce you to today has a similar unifying quality. 

Aşure [pronounced “ah-shoor-eh”] is a Turkish dessert that has its roots in this story of the flood as found in the Qur’an. It is said that when the passengers of the ark were on the brink of starving, Nuh (Noah) mixed together all the leftover grains, nuts, beans and fruit to make what would be dubbed “the oldest dessert.” Together he and the other passengers ate, celebrating the end of the flood, and the next day Allah (God) made the waters of the flood recede.  

Today, while this day is celebrated differently by different sects of Islam, Turks generally share this dessert with neighbors, family, and friends in goodwill and kindness in the Islamic month of Muharram, especially on the 10th day of Muharram [Ashura]. This year, that landed on August 29th. Some Islamic traditions hold that a variety of miracles and divine interactions happened on this day throughout history, including the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. 

Aşure, like the flood narrative itself, is a picture of unity and diversity.

A dessert meant to be shared with neighbors, coworkers, friends and family, aşure is one unified dish made up of surprisingly varied ingredients (like fruit, grains and beans!). Likewise, despite the vast differences in the details of the flood narratives around the world, they all hold a unified history, and are shared from generation to generation. Each tells of a great being acting in response to some provocation to flood the world, leaving a few survivors. While the details of who that great being was, what provoked the flood, who survived, and how they survived differ greatly, those same differences helped create the variety of cultures we see in the world today. 

As easily identifiable markers of culture, food and story-telling have always had this unifying effect. What culturally significant moments do you participate in that involve food and/or story-telling? Is there a holiday that your family celebrates with specific food? Is there a time when neighbors, friends or family gather and share stories of religious, familial, or national significance? Aşure is a religiously significant dish shared with neighbors and friends regardless of their religious background. What’s one way you can invite someone new into your traditions this year?

What’s in Aşure?

Turkey Turkish Asure Noah's Pudding

Aşure is a porridge with a lovely fall taste (similar to cinnamon oatmeal), and a wide variety of textures. if you are an expat in Turkey, you may find yourself easily overwhelmed by the sheer amount you receive from your neighbors. But since it is full of whole grains, beans, and fruit, you can eat this dessert with less guilt than my previous cookie recipes!

The very nature of aşure is that it doesn’t have one specific recipe. Everyone’s aşure is slightly different based on personal taste and what’s on hand. Here are the general categories of the ingredients of aşure, and some options of what you can put in yours. Mix and match! Try some different combinations and let me know in the comments what your favorite is!

  • Grains: Barley, Wheat, bulgur, and/or rice
  • Beans: White beans and/or chickpeas
  • Dried Fruit: Dates, dried figs, dried apricots, dried cranberries, raisins, and/or other dried fruits
  • Seeds + Spices + Seasonings: Anise seed, sesame seeds, black cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, rose water, and/or orange blossom water + a sweetener like honey (one could also use maple syrup, sugar, turbinado, or a sugar substitute like stevia)
  • Nuts: Pine nuts, walnuts, almonds and/or pistachios
  • Fresh Fruit: Pomegranate kernels, orange (or orange peel), lemon (or lemon peel)

Start with soaking the beans, raisins and grain separately overnight. Then cook the beans on the stovetop in water, add the grains, and let it thicken. Then add fruit, spices, and nuts until the porridge comes together. Here are links to some more specific recipes if you struggle not having a specific recipe to work from. 

All Recipes Asure

TurkishFoodie Recipe

Personally, I really enjoy the flavor of aşure. The first few spoonfuls are fascinating as I work my way through the high complexity of textures. But, I can quickly become overwhelmed by the complexity, so I tend to only eat a little at a time. Try making aşure yourself, and tell me what you think! Do you enjoy the complexity of flavors and textures? Which ingredients do you use? 

I hope you make some aşure this fall and winter, and share it with a good story, unifying the people around you.

Now tell me:

What are some ways you bring unity to your community through food and story-telling?

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.

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.

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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!

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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.

Trabzon Turkey

TURKEY: Your Travel Guide to Trabzon, Turkey

NOTE from Catie: I am so happy to have Kelsey guest post about Trabzon, Turkey! I met Kelsey when she was living in Izmir and immediately loved her! She has so much good information about Turkey since she lived here for 5 years! And Trabzon… it’s one of my favorite places! It’s perfect that this lovely gal is writing about a favorite place!

The Black Sea region in Turkey is home to some of the most beautiful coastline and mountains in the country. The Black Sea region of Turkey is home to the Turkish dish pide and Turkish dessert sütlaç. Along this coastline is the city of Trabzon, which both borders the coast and spans deep into the mountains. This article will serve as your ultimate travel guide to Trabzon, Turkey, covering topics such as:

  • Culture & Geography
  • Transportation
  • Seasons/Weather (i.e. Best time to visit)
  • Things to Do in Trabzon
  • Brief Review of our Hotel
  • Specialty Foods & Desserts 

Trabzon Culture and Geography

Trabzon is located in northeastern Turkey along the Black Sea. Black Sea in Turkish means Karadeniz, and Trabzon really has its own cultureThe Turks from this region have their own accent, dress and lifestyle. Across the sea from Trabzon are the countries Georgia and Russia. 

The culture in the Black Sea region is a conservative one. Turkey is over 99% Muslim and most of the women are covered. Trabzon has seen a rise in Arab tourists lately, so it is common to see women wearing a black burqa with only their eyes or face exposed. However, I did see one lady at the airport wearing flip-flop shoes with her burqa! The Turkish women in Trabzon are covered with a hijab, or a head scarf, but still dress with a variety of color and style. I find the varying degrees of Islamic fashion pretty intriguing.

Trabzon Turkey Location Map

Transportation in Trabzon

Transportation in Trabzon is relatively easy, as long as you have access to your own vehicle. Flying into Trabzon’s airport, known in Turkish as the Trabzon Havalimanı, is a sight to behold. The runway is parallel to the Black Sea, so you get an amazing view of the city and the sea as you arrive. If you are already in Turkey, you could consider driving but if you are coming from abroad, flying in is the way to go. You will get to road-trip plenty once you arrive, since most of the activities are very spread out from each other!

The airport is located right next to the sea, but most of the things to do in Trabzon are located about 30 kilometers inland. The best option for transportation in Trabzon is to rent a car from the airport. As a foreigner, you can utilize websites like economycarrentals.com or rentalcars.com to book in advance.

Seasons/Weather in Trabzon

The weather in Trabzon varies as the seasons change. The best time to visit is during the spring and fall to avoid the summertime humidity and wintertime cold. Realistically, to be able to see and do everything fully, any season other than winter is a good option. It just depends on your preference for temperature and weather conditions.

  • Summer (June-August) is humid and warm with temperatures around 26° C. You can definitely explore outdoors during this season.
  • Fall (September-November) sees a lot more rain and the temperature ranges from 10-20° C. Depending on rainfall, some activities might be less accessible, but it is still a beautiful time of year to go. We went in early October for our anniversary and were very happy with our trip.
  • Winter (December-February) are cold and wet with a good amount of snowfall. The snow may make some of the roads more difficult to drive on, but it will look like a winter wonderland. Temperatures can drop below 0° C, but average around 5° C during the day.
  • Spring (March-May) This season fluctuates a bit as winter transitions to summer but you can expect temperatures of 14-19° C and the highest number of clear days. 

So, When is the Best Time to Go to Trabzon?

Verdict: For good weather conditions and freedom to explore all that Trabzon has to offer, May is the best month to visit Trabzon. 

Things to do in Trabzon

Hagia Sophia Mosque

Visiting the Hagia Sophia Mosque is one of the quickest and best things you can do in Trabzon, because it is an amazing piece of history and has an incredible view. It is easy to get to and doesn’t take more than thirty minutes to explore. The Hagia Sophia Mosque (Camii) is west from the airport and located next to the Black Sea. It was initially built as a church in the 13th century but once the Ottoman Empire was established in the region, this structure was converted into a mosque. It is still open as a mosque today. 

Trabzon Turkey Hagia Sophia Mosque
Hagia Sophia Mosque in Trabzon

Like many Byzantine structures, it has a high dome in the center and is shaped like a cross if you looked at it aerially. There are many frescoes still visible on the ceiling of the Hagia Sophia Mosque depicting stories from the bible. In order to enter the mosque, out of respect, women should cover their hair using one of the complimentary scarves found for guests at the entrance.

There is a small garden behind the mosque which has an incredible panoramic view of the Black Sea. It is a peaceful place to sit and walk around, with a café located nearby to enjoy a glass of Turkish tea. 

Sumela Monastery

You cannot have a list of things to do in Trabzon without including Sumela Monastery. Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox Monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is one of the most iconic tourist attractions of the region. Sumela Monastery is located in the Macka district of Trabzon and is about an hour drive from the airport. The drive is lovely as you watch lush green mountain after mountain, eventually seeing rivers and streams as you get closer to Macka. 

The day we went to see the monastery was a very misty and cloudy one. We got to the entrance of the national park, which has an 11 TL entrance fee, and made it up the mountain to the entrance of the monastery. There was so much mist that it was not visible! We were a bit bummed, as this was our only opportunity on our trip to see the monastery, but we still enjoyed the national park and thought the mist was cool to see as it sat on top of the mountains.

There is a rest facility and bungalows within the national park at the foot of the mountain where the monastery is located, so there is the option to stay overnight. There is a photo studio that will take your picture in traditional Ottoman garments. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity and for 20 Turkish Liras purchased this photograph.

If you come anytime between May-September, it is likely the monastery will be visible. Since we came in October, there was a good amount of rainfall already and the precipitation was very high. We are excited to return again one day to see Sumela Monastery on a clearer, sunnier day!

Ataturk Köşkü (Ataturk’s Pavilion)

The Ataturk Köşkü, also known as the Ataturk Pavilion, is probably one of the most beautiful museums in Trabzon. We did not have enough time to visit this location, but if we had more time this was next on our list. I want to add it to the list of things to do in Trabzon, because it is a beautiful structure and for a time belonged to the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. 

This mansion was gifted to Ataturk from the Trabzon Municipality in 1930, but then he donated it back to the Trabzon municipality seven years later, stating no man needed to have so many houses. After his death, it was opened as a museum and is still open to the public today. There are many pictures and belongings of Ataturk still there for tourists to observe. The building is reminiscent of French chateaus and has a beautiful garden around the premises.

Hamsiköy

Hamsiköy is a small village located in the Maçka district. It has beautiful scenery and is home to the traditional Turkish dessert sütlaç. You will really experience what life in a Turkish village looks like when you visit. Sütlaç is like a rice pudding that is often served with cinnamon or crushed hazelnuts on top. Do you know the Mexican dessert arroz con leche? It is essentially the same thing, so delicious. 

Where can you eat this delicious sütlaç in Hamsiköy? At Osman Usta’nın Yeri, who has been in business since 1972. The secret to this delicious sütlaç is that it is cooked for a long time and made from organic, fatty cow milk. Sadly, we did not make it to Hamsikoy, either, but we read such great things about it that we wanted to include it in our list.

Uzungöl

Uzungöl

Uzungöl rivals Sumela Monastery, as far as best things to do in Trabzon goes. Uzungöl means “long lake” in Turkish and it truly is a long beautiful lake wedged between tall mountains. It is about 1 kilometer long, with a circumference of about 7 kilometers. 

This is not located near the other places on the list of things to do in Trabzon. It is about an hour and a half drive, or 100 kilometers, from Trabzon’s city center. It is located in the Çaykara district.

We arrived at night, so we couldn’t see much of the lake, but it was an incredible view to wake up to in the morning. Uzungol has many Arab tourists, which is good to be aware of before arriving. A majority of the women will be modestly dressed. Their cultural norms are quite different than westerners, so behaving respectfully is important, as well. 

There are many things to do that revolve around the lake. Firstly, you can enjoy a walk around the lake. If you don’t prefer to walk, you can also rent bikes and bike around the lake. There are many shops, cafes and restaurants spread out around the lake which you can sit at to enjoy some coffee or tea. There is also paddle-boarding on the lake which would be a fun activity as a group or couple.

Hotels in Trabzon

Ilhan Kardesler Apart Otel

This small hotel in Trabzon is located just behind the mosque, which you see upon arriving to Uzungöl. It is quaint, the service is excellent, and the view of the lake from our balcony was lovely. We had a small kitchenette in our room, which was nice. The hotel was clean and had a modern interior design. The bed was very comfortable, which is so important! In the morning, we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast. Complimentary meals are always a great way to save on your food budget while travelling. We often try to book places where breakfast is included.

Specialty Foods & Desserts

Sütlaç 

We mentioned this delicious Turkish dessert already, as it popularly originates from Hamsiköy in the Trabzon region. Sütlaç is a baked rice pudding made mostly from cow’s milk, sugar, and cream, with just a few additional ingredients. This is a dessert you must try when you visit. You can find it anywhere in the Black Sea region.

Pide

Pide Turkish Food Trabzon Turkey

Pide is a traditional Turkish food that originates from the black sea region. The pide dough is hand-made, topped with butter, cheese and any variety of ingredients you want. I often just prefer cheese, while my husband enjoys ground beef, cheese, egg and onions on top of his. In the Black Sea region, they really loaded on the butter! 

I hope that this travel guide to Trabzon, Turkey inspires your next adventure! Like this post? Save it for later!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hi there! My name is Kelsey Cetin and I am an American girl from California. I live in Sacramento, CA with my husband, Oguzhan and our dog, Bambi. I was an expat in Izmir, Turkey for about 5 years, where I met and married my husband. We had a big Turkish wedding and my life forever changed once I became a gelin. Although we have relocated to California, Turkey still holds a very dear place in my heart. I love to travel to new places, but going to Turkey will always feel like going home to me.

My hobbies include photography, exercising, spending time with family, and of course, traveling! I love visiting new places, trying local cuisine, and making sweet memories. I recently earned my Masters degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and my “day job” is in Human Resources. I am passionate about creating healthy work environments through organizational development. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and have an intimate relationship with God. This is really the foundation for everything in my life.

I met Jason and Catie in Turkey and absolutely loved Catie’s mission with her blog, YouTube channel and podcast. It inspired me to start, too, and share all the wonder that Turkey has to offer with the world. It is an honor to be featured on her blog now!