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.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

CULTURE: Tea Time in Turkey

When I lean out on my balcony and listen to the sounds of Izmir, they are abundant.

I hear the stray dogs in the park outside my apartment barking, chasing cars. I hear the call to prayer, echoing across the valley, the melodies bouncing between the mountains. I hear the breeze off the sea, rustling leaves. I hear the sound of children playing, of car horns, of stray cats screeching.

Above it all, a light tinkling sound, like a windchime. Like the uncontrollable laughter of fairies, or the ringing of a distant silver bell comes the sound I’ve come to love the most: the sound of çay [pronounced the same as “chai”] spoons clinking against the glass as people stir the sugar into their tea. It is the school bell for life lessons, the gong for heated debates, the signal that work has paused, and the doorbell for the gateway to new relationships to be opened.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

Çay and Hospitality Culture in Turkey

Hoş geldiniz! In Turkish, that’s “You have arrived pleasantly” or simply, “Welcome!” As a westerner living in Turkey, the most impactful difference in culture for me has been the idea of hospitality, which can start with this simple phrase. In the States, someone is hospitable if they invite you over and offer you something to eat or drink, or if they bring you a meal when you are going through a rough time.

The idea of hospitality runs much deeper in Turkey. It is an attitude about time that is driven from a heart bent toward hospitality. Hospitality doesn’t have to be something meticulously planned out (although it certainly can be!). Rather, a posture of hospitality is one open to connecting with people in meaningful ways, allowing one’s schedule to be interrupted for the sake of the person in front of you.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

Few things exemplify this as much as çay zamanı, or tea time, in Turkey.

Tea is quite possibly the easiest thing to find in Turkey. Here in Izmir, as you walk along the seaside, tea sellers call out loudly, letting you know you can stop them and get a hot cup. Every restaurant, every café has it. It is a must-have when picnicking or grilling out with friends and family. Everyone drinks a few glasses at breakfast, and it’s almost as important as a smoke break during work. It is a staple in the home. In fact, Turks drink more tea per capita than any other country in the world. Yes, an average Turk drinks more tea than the Chinese, British, or Irish by far.

On average one person will drink the tea from nearly 7 pounds of tea leaves each year! I have heard from several people here: “Oh, yes. I drink up to 20 cups of çay each day.” Of course, not everyone drinks twenty glasses each day, but it is such a plentiful drink here, it is easy to see how one could easily do so.

Çay is one of the drinks of hospitality in Turkey. If you are invited to someone’s home, expect to be offered çay. If you finish your meal at a restaurant, a complimentary glass of çay will be brought to everyone at your table so that your conversation can continue.  If you stop by a shop and start up a conversation with the shopkeeper, he will offer you to sit wherever may be possible in the cramped space, and bring you an hourglass-shaped cup of çay on an ornate saucer with a tiny spoon and one or two sugar cubes alongside it. In fact, I haven’t entered a rug shop where I was not offered a glass of the deep red drink as the owner pulled out rug after rug of various designs, reading my eyes to narrow down his display to designs I gravitated towards.

This is how Turkish society runs: fueled by tea. Even though it is highly caffeinated, the calming effects of tea make this drink, and the culture it inhabits, a “slow down, have a sip, stay a while” atmosphere. When you are offered a cup of çay, you are invited to slow your busyness and truly be with those around you.

Over a strong and flavorful glassful, you may find yourself sharing stories from your childhood before you’ve exchanged names with your fellow drinker. There is something beautiful and deeply human about sharing a moment in which a stranger becomes an acquaintance – or even a friend. Most of the experiences I’ve had like that in Turkey have been over a glass of çay. It’s actually the most-drunk beverage in the country, besides water. And though this is a common experience today, this wasn’t always the case.

History of Tea in Turkey

Of course, as Turkey has been the connector between east and west for most of history, located in the most crucial area of the silk road, tea has been moving through Turkey for over two millennia. Surprisingly, however, tea did not become a part of everyday Turkish life until the early twentieth century when the government made efforts to grow the crop in northern Turkey where tea production now booms.

Rize, one of the three major tea-producing cities of Turkey that borders the Black Sea, is home to 60% of tea production in the country, which supplies about 260,000 tons of that lovely leaf per year. Due to the demand for tea domestically, very little is exported, despite Turkey being the fifth largest producer of tea world-wide. So, if you are looking for some of that famous Rize çay, it may be hard to find outside of the country.

If you do find some, however, you’ll want to brew it right.

How Turkish Tea is Brewed:

One of the most unique things about Turkish tea compared to its counterpart in other countries is the way it is brewed. Firstly, it is brewed in a double-boiler kettle called a çaydamlık. The bottom kettle is filled with water, and the smaller, top kettle is filled with the dry black tea leaves. As the water in the bottom kettle boils, it slowly roasts the tea leaves, and you can smell the rich flavor. Once the water has boiled, water from the bottom kettle is added to the tea leaves to steep while the bottom kettle continues to boil. This creates a dark tea concentrate in the top kettle.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

When my Turkish tutor taught me how to correctly brew tea, I got the sense that she deemed this one of the more important cultural lessons she would give me. Indeed, it has become a useful skill to have. I have found that there is never a wrong time or season to make a çaydamlık full of çay and be ready to invite someone to have several glasses with you.

The çay is then served in an hourglass-shaped cup that is reminiscent of the Ottoman tulip. Traditionally the çay concentrate is poured to the top of the “hips” of the glass, or even to the middle of the “waist” of the glass (depending on how strong you want your tea). The rest of the glass is filled with boiling water. Even diluted by the water, the tea is pretty strong. As these traditional glasses have no handle, one of the skills that must be acquired quickly by the Westerner in Turkey is the ability to hold a hot glass filled with freshly steeped tea by the rim and sip from it.

TasteslikeTurkey NiaMcRay Izmir Turkey Çay Tea Time

There is a variety of ways to take one’s çay: light-colored, medium, or very dark (also called rabbit’s blood for the dark red color), with or without sugar (stirred into your tea with those dainty spoons, or, like some older folks like to do, stuck between your front teeth or in your cheek), even sometimes with lemon, but never with milk.

However you take your çay, remember to take the moment to slow down, enjoy someone else’s company, and have a few glasses. For, as the Turkish adage goes, “conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon.”

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: Aşure – Noah’s Ark Pudding

Cheers to the first post about FOOD. Cheers to not just any food, but TURKISH food!

And yes, you read that right! We are here to chat about Aşure. So how do you say it properly? The ‘a’ is an ‘aah’ sound while the ‘new-to-you’ letter ‘ş’ is pronounced like the English ‘sh’ sound. The ş with the ‘ur’ is similar to ‘shur’. Finish it off by saying the ‘e’ like the letter ‘A’ and you basically speak Turkish now.

Ok, not really. But you at least learned a new Turkish word: ‘Aah-shOOr-EY’

First off, aşure is not just a Turkish dish. Other cultures throughout central Asia and the middle east share a similar type of dish. This dish is special to Turkey because the actual site of the historical Noah’s ark is said to be in eastern Turkey. Hence, aşure is also known as Noah’s Ark pudding. Originally a Jewish celebration, this dessert also marks the rescue of Moses from Pharaoh during which the Hebrews fasted. Sunni Muslims also connect this period during the year with the deliverance of Moses. Aşure is traditionally served on the 10th day of the Muslim month Muharrem, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

But before Moses and the deliverance of the Jews, the dessert come from the story of Noah and the great flood. When the waters receded after the great flood, Noah took whatever he had left from their food storage and toss it into one pot. As you will see below, there are quite the diversity of ingredients (some I would not normally put together!).  This large pot of food kept everyone well and alive until the waters finished receding. For this reason, aşure is usually made in large quantities and is shared with neighbors and friends standing as a symbol of friendship, diversity, and unity.

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What’s in it? Quite the assortment of grains, nuts, fruits, and sugar. It may contain but isn’t limited to: walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, apricots, raisins, currants, figs, chickpeas and navy beans. Depending on the family and region, ingredients like chestnuts, lima beans, bulgur wheat and pieces of fresh coconut will also be added. Spices like cinnamon, cloves, and another lesser known spice to westerners, cardamon, can be a main contributor to the sweet taste. So basically, anything goes.

FunkTravels Asure

The great plus about living in Turkey full-time is getting a home-cooked, traditional dish of aşure hand delivered by a neighbor. Just this last week, our 3rd-floor neighbors shared this sweet gift with us.  While I enjoyed it warm and cold, Jason wasn’t a big of a fan of it either way. The taste is a little … unique, but well worth the trying!

For recipes on how to make it yourself at home, click on some of the links below:

Ozlem’s Turkish Table Recipe

Turkish Food Recipe

All About Turkey Recipe

Video of the recipe

Questions for you:

Have you tried this before? Did you like it?

What do you think? Would you try this recipe at home?

If you do, let me know how it went and what you thought about it. You can always follow us through our move from the USA to Turkey via our 50 episodes of the FunkTravels Podcast.

See you next time!