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Some Busy Streets
This area has very, very busy streets. It's not touristy, on the way to my in-laws house, so you probably won't see it if you go to Adana. But I think it is one of the most interesting places. There wasn't much traffic when I took this photo, normally there is much more. I think this was a Sunday. Just imagine at least 5 times more traffic (or more) and a lot more people, bicycles weaving in and out of traffic, scooters and motorcycles, the occasional pushcart being pushed down the street in traffic or crossing the road and the odd horsecart. It's horrible to drive through if you don't know what you are doing, but as the passenger, there is always so much to see. Lots of shops - including pickle shops, with so many types to choose from, lokantas (small restaurants) with doner on spits, and fruit, nuts and salgam sold on carts beside the road. The horsecarts are interesting, sometimes they are carrying fruit for sale, other times the cart is like a mobile household goods shop absolutely crammed with all sorts of things, from mops and brooms to plastic buckets and huge tubs and chairs. The people are great to watch too, all sorts. The Kurdish ladies I find especially interesting, they are ususally pretty covered up, but they always look so long and elegant with form-fitting clothes, long slim skirts and they usually have a bit of "bling" about them, whether it be pretty bobbing gold earrings or sequins on their scarf edging.
Besides the famous Adana Kebab, Adana is famous for its traditional salgam drink (pronounced "shal-gam") that is often had with kebab meals. It is a fermented drink, bright, dark reddish-pink in color, made from water, violet carrots, turnips, salt, and pounded wheat or bulgur flour. It is traditionally served cold with a few pickled carrot slices in it. It's sort of like a pickle juice and you can buy it spicy or not. It is supposed to be very healthy. Most foreigners find it disgusting. I thought too at first, but it does grown on you and now after living 8 years in Turkey, I love it! It is very salty though, so I can never drink as much as I would like. You'll probably see this drink if you visit Adana, it's in all the kebab houses and you can buy large quantities of it from street vendors. It is also for sale in supermarkets, but is very inferior to the real, fresh thing. Interestingly, "salgam" is the Hindi word for turnip.
Blowing Your Nose in Public - Don't Do It!
In Turkey, blowing your nose in public - especially loudly - is considered disgusting and rude (hygeine and cleanliness are very important to Turks). Sudden sneezes are ok but if you have to blow your nose, it is best to go to the toilet and do it there. If you do it in a restuarant you may get dirty looks or even told off by another customer, because you'll really be disturbing them.
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Meal at a Turkish Friend's House
If you have the opportunity to eat at a Turkish friend's house, do go! Different families have different eating styles that you might encounter. For example, some families eat on the floor, gathered around a thin blanket or sheet with the food in the middle. Some have a low table on the floor, covered with a sheet and the food on top of that. You sit around it with the edge of the sheet over your lap to catch crumbs. Don't worry, if you have leg or hip problems or whatever they won't make you sit on the ground. Many families eat at tables. My in-laws usually eat at the table, but if we have a big family group then once-in-a-while we'll eat on the carpet in the living room, on a sheet. Of course, if you are there for a summer BBQ, you'll probably eat outside. Turks adore BBQs, summer or winter. Often dishes such as salads and pickles are served communally, everyone eats out of the same dish, instead of putting a little on your plate. Bring your appetite - you are going to eat a lot!
Leave Your Shoes At The Door
Turks generally keep their homes spotlessly clean inside, so everybody removes their street shoes at the door and leaves them there (you'll often see a pile of them there) or puts them in a shoe cabinet just inside the door. Don't worry, you'll be given slippers or slip-on sandals meant only for use in the house. Sometimes out of politeness and hospitality Turks will tell you to leave your shoes on (they know that foreigners often do this at their own homes), but it is polite to take them off like everybody else.
In Adana you will see fruit being sold everywhere, often by the side of the road, sometimes on a pushcart or sometimes melons will be trotting down the street on a horsecart. Since Adana is an argricultural place (it especially has many citrus groves), fruit is abundant, something is always in season and always cheap. For example, the delicious cherries in my picture are only 97 U.S. cents per kilo. People in Adana eat a lot of fruit.
A cultural shock on Islam
Coming from such a free and moderate Islamic country like Malaysia, we were surprised and shocked at the even greater degree of freedom in which the Turkish people practice their religion.
In Adana at least, within a few hundred kilometres of the border with "hardline" Syria, you couldn't tell if this was an Islamic country or not.
Most families that we met owned one or more dogs and very few women wore the traditional head scarf.
During the fasting month of Ramadan (Ramazan) hardly anyone seemed to be fasting.
All day and all night, beer and wine as well as the infamous raki, were flowing freely.
This is the only Islamic country that i have visited where i was not asked "are you a Muslim".
The people that we met were very comfortable discussing the topic of religion when we carefully and diplomatically raised our inquisitiveness.
Their reply was always the same - "it comes from the heart, not the Imam. If you want to take the stricter route, that's up to you. If you don't want to, that's up to you as well."
We think Turkey will fit well into the European community.
At the same time however, the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer from the minarets of every little mosque, still wails out at the normal times.
A fascinating comparison and one that makes a non-Muslim feel even more comfortable than in my new adopted country..Related to:
- Religious Travel
"A kiss is just a kiss"
In Holland, a man will kiss another man and his wife, if he thinks you are friends.
You get 3 for the price of one in Holland. Usually starting with a dry one on the left cheek, you get 2 more on alternate cheeks.
The Turks are more refined.
You get 2 kisses but with your wife, only if he is really impressed at your attempts to speak Turkish or if you've grown good friends in a short time.
Normally the kiss is restricted between same sexes.
You will begin with a not-too-firm handshake and if you get a kiss too, you've made it in the social scale.
It's an extremely sincere way of showing respect.
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