Friday, December 16, 2011

Ahhhh, this is where I want to be today.......oh, wait a minute......

Patara, Turkey

Gocek, Turkey

Kale, Turkey

Orhaniye, Turkey

Gumusluk, Turkey
Oh wait.....

Weather for Gümüşlük, Turkey

45°F | °C
ThunderstormsMostly SunnyChance of RainChance of Rain
Partly Cloudy

Wind: N at 2 mph

Humidity: 100%66°54°64°57°64°55°66°55°

Monday, December 12, 2011

Turkish Baths....I'm not sure if I'm game.....

As a huge fan of spas when I'm on vacation to Vegas, I felt I must check out what a Turkish bath is like....I'm intrigued, yet slightly frightened (especially from watching the Michael Palin movie linked at the end of the post). 

Jean Jacques Francoise Lebarrier's A Female Turkish Hammam

Turkish baths (hammams) stem from Greek and Roman bath traditions, however they have largely gone out of fashion in recent years,  although many historic hammams continue to operate today. Baths used to be places that people mingled, socialized and gossiped while fulfilling the Islamic precept of cleanliness. During the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan's harem (consisting of his wives, mother, offspring and other female relatives) would proceed to the hamam with great ceremony, accompanied by servants bearing delicacies to help the women pass several hours lounging in the steam. The women often brought along delicately embroidered towels and slippers inlaid with ivory. Hammams have consistently been exclusive to either men or women, and not mixed. 

Bathing was part of social life, and amongst women many important occasions were celebrated at the bath, including festivities the day before weddings, "tear-drying baths" in which all the female relatives and friends of the deceased would mark the twentieth day after the death of a love one, and holiday baths on the eve of holy days. 

Traditionally, bathers wrap themselves in a pestamal, a colorful, checked cloth. Although decorative clogs with tinkling bells were historically used, many wear flip flops in hammams today.  

Bridal bath set with clogs

When entering historic hamams, one typically first step into the camekan, a square court with a fountain lined with small, private changing cubicles. Bathers spend a good chunk of their time in the hararet, a hot and steamy area with a raised marble platform (goebektas) in the center.  The goebekta is positioned above the wood or coal furnace,  and under the domed ceiling with bottle glass windows. Bathers often have a vigorous massage while lying on the warm platform.  After treatments, which also typically include scrubs, bathers often have a cold drink and stretch out on reclining couches.  

Check out this Michael Palin clip from his "Pole to Pole" series and see what you think of the Turkish bath experience. I'm a little freaked out.....I heard some of the five star hotels have a more "westernized" version that might be more up my alley....more like Ceasars Spa in Vegas!  

Monday, December 5, 2011

What the heck is Turkish Delight?

When I first heard of Turkish Delight in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," I thought it was some made up confection that the White Witch offered to unsuspecting children. It was only years later that I actually saw a dusty box of Turkish Delight in an ethnic food mart...but, as it didn't involve chocolate, I wasn't too interested, I must admit!

However, I'm intrigued as to what Turkish Delight actually is....candy? gummy? super sweet? nutty? fruity? gelatinous? What the heck is it?

Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight dates back to the Ottoman Empire (I'll definitely be talking about them in a future post) and is also known by it's Turkish name - "lokum". Supposedly a sultan in the 1700s was tired of hard candies and demanded a new dessert alternative. A man named Bekir Effendi, who moved to Istanbul from the coast of the Black Sea, took up the challenge and used honey and molasses as sweetners, water and flour as thickener, and rosewater for flavor. He mixed the ingredients together, heated them up, and then poured the concoction in a pan slicked with almond oil to cool. He sprinkled it with powdered sugar, cut it into bite-sized morsels, and began a Turkish sensation!

Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir Confectioners shop

Bekir opened a shop has been in continuous operation in the Old City district of Istanbul for over 200 years. They have expanded to include several additional storefronts where they serve numerous Turkish sweets, as well as Turkish Delight in a variety of flavors: plain, rose, pistachio, hazelnut, walnut, almond, coconut and almond, cream, cream with cinnamon, mastic, mint, sourcherry, lemon, strawberry, orange, apricot, date, ginger, clove and coffee.

Turks are notorious for having a sweet tooth, and this is an incredibly popular treat. The confection is made of starch and sugar and is often flavored with rosewater, mastic (tree resin with a bitter/piney flavor), and lemon.  The consistency is somewhat jelly like, and can be sticky at times. The candy is cut into cubes which are dusted with icing sugar or copra (coconut) and sometimes contain pieces of nuts like walnut, pistachio and hazelnut.

I just tried to find some Turkish restaurants in San Diego to no avail, but I did find a few Mediterranean shops and restaurants that have fresh made Turkish Delight and Turkish coffee on the menu - I'll check them out and update you all soon!

apologies for November - off and running for December!

Apologies for my hiatus in November!  I can't say anything in particular caused it - I think I just needed a little travel break and to focus on the homefront a bit more.

But, I'm back and ready to explore...Turkey! I don't know if it's all the talk of thanksgiving Turkey or what, but I'm inspired:)  Here's what I know about Turkey to start with: kinda like Greece, used to be part of the Byzantine Empire, home to the Hagia Sophia - a beautiful church turned mosque, land of Turkish Delight. That's pretty much it:) I have a lot to learn!

Here's some pix to get you excited:

Turkish Marina

Chora Museum

Turkish fisherman's wife knitting by the ocean

Greek ruins in Priene

Turkish Baths

Kaputas Cove and Beach

Lamb Kebob stall

Turkish rug-maker in the Grand Bazaar

Sheep grazing near Lake Van

Sulemaniye Mosque

Temple of Hadrian

Tombs of Amyntas

Turkish Delight

Waterfront Cafe at Kumbahce Bay

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Knud Rasmussen and life in Greenland in the early 1900s

Knud Rasmussen

Knud Johan Victor Rasmussen, "father of Eskimology" was a polar explorer who lived from 1879 - 1933.  Rasmussen was born in Greenland and is of Inuit and Danish descent, but as Greenland had been colonized by Denmark, he is considered a Danish explorer.   Although Rasmussen was eventually educated in Denmark, he spent much of his early life in Greenland, living among the Inuit, learning the essentials of living in harsh terrain of Greenland. Rasmussen knew the Inuit language and was familiar with hunting, kayaking, and driving dog sleds. Rasmussen was the first European to cross the Northwest Passage via dog sled.  Rasmussen is quoted as saying "My playmates were native Greenlanders; from the earliest boyhood I played and worked with the hunters, so even the hardships of the most strenuous sledge-trips became pleasant routine for me." 

Knud Rasmussen's house near Copenhagen

Before becoming a polar explorer, Rasmussen unsuccessfully pursued a career as an actor and opera singer, however he quickly moved on to begin numerous expeditions, examining Inuit culture, establishing trading bases, mapping little known areas, and collecting ethnographic data.  Rasmussen made detailed notes and sketches during his travels, collecting artifacts, legends and songs from varied Inuit cultures. He spoke of the Inuit peoples saying "Their culture is a witness in itself to the strength and endurance and wild beauty of human life." Rasmussen would return to a house only a few hundred meters from the ocean, near Copenhagen, where he would work and write in between expeditions. Rasmussen eventually contracted pneumonia after an episode of food poisoning and died in Copenhagen at the age of 54. 

Statue of Knud Rasmussen in Strandvejen, Denmark

There is a statue of Knud Rasmussen in Strandvejen, near Copenhagen, overlooking the sea, in an area with very clear water, perfect for diving and fishing. My dad alerted me to some controversy surrounding the statue - it currently memorializes Rasmussen looking out to sea toward Sweden and some are calling for it to be turned so his effigy would look out toward his native Greenland. Here's a link to a video featuring some nice footage of the sculpture and details of the movement to reposition the monument. 

I stumbled across this archival footage of life in Northwest Greenland that shows some of what Rasmussen probably encountered in his travels. Man....I could not handle this way of life.....


Monday, October 31, 2011

Interview with Lene!

My Danish friend, Lene, who is getting her associate degree in Graphic Design at the school I teach at, agreed to do an interview with my blog, and I'm excited to share her love of her country!

So, just how cold does it get in Denmark, and does the weather change dramatically throughout the year? Well, it can get pretty cold in the winter months - January and February can get very icy, which is not popular among the bicyclists in Denmark :)  In the summer, however, it can be just like in San Diego - nice and warm.  The only thing about the summer is, that you never know....You must come prepared, even though the weather channel promised a sunny and clear sky :) 

I've noticed there are a lot of amusement parks in Denmark - is there a particular reason why? Is there one you visited the most while growing up?
Hmmmmm, that's a good question.  My guess is that Tivoli has inspired many, as it is the oldest (1843) and one of the most popular amusement parks in Europe.  Personally, Tivoli is also my favorite - there's just something about it - It has a soul.  Just walking around in there is a great way to spend time - you don't even have to spend money on rides. 
What is your favorite Danish holiday?
 Christmas - no doubt about it!  My family has so many traditions and it's very important for us to stick with them.  The day before christmas eve (Dec. 23) my mom prepares "ris a l'amande" (the dessert for christmas eve - and no, it's not french.  They don't even know about this dish in France :))  This night we are mostly all gathered, waiting for the day to arrive.  On the 24., it's all about the family - I go visit my closest family in the afternoon (where "the kids" always watch Disney's Christmas Show on TV), we eat homemade marcipan confections, and smell the duck or goose getting ready in the oven.  And then, at six, we gather around the table, say a little thank-you-prayer (even though we're not particularly Christian), and then we eat (goose, cooked red cabbage, cooked white cabbage, tiny sugared potatoes, and of course, gravy).  We eat the dessert.  And then just sit and talk across the lit candles.  THEN we gather around the tree to dance and sing.  We typically sing 4-5 different christmas carols before we start distributing the presents underneath the tree.  Around midnight, we go to midnight mass.  Two days after christmas, the entire family gather for a big christmas lunch (julefrokost) with schnapps, pickled herring, rye bread, and much much more.  Love it! :)
Could you tell me about your favorite Danish meal? 
Hmm...that's a hard one  :)  One of them is my grand mothers "frikadeller" with her homemade creamy cooked white cabbage.  Not healthy, but SO good!  My other favorite is seedy, chewy rye bread with toppings ( what we call Smørrebrød) - my favorite topping being cooked potatoes with mayo, chives and salt and pepper, OR smoked salmon OR "leverpostej" (a kind of paté) with cucumber OR fish fillets with "remoulade" (don't know how to explain the last one, haha)
Danish Danishes
Are the American pastries, Danishes, actually anything like authentic Danish pastries? 
I'd say they are similar :)  I'm no big pastry eater, but even I must admit that there's something about Danish pastries from the local bakery.  Can't really explain what it is - you'll have to go and give it a taste :) 

How do you feel about the recent Danish "Fat Tax"? 
I think it's a good idea, but I hope people will keep buying all the great Danish cheeses - we're pretty good with cheese in Denmark.  And many fear that artificial flavors will take over the food industry.  SO we'll see.   I just think it's too bad that it had to come to this.  I would've preferred that people could figure out how to enjoy saturated fat in moderation.  

 What kinds of pets do Danish people tend to have? Are Great Danes really Danish? 
I think the most popular dogs in Denmark are Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever - both great family dogs.  The Great Dane is supposedly Danish, some claim that it is German.  It's an old breed, so it's hard to say:)  But I love 'em! 
Danish monarchy
What is your view of the Danish monarchy?
Hmm, another hard one...  I like the Monarchy - without them Denmark wouldn't be Denmark anymore.  They have a lot of value for us.  However, I think they get a litle too much of our tax money.  I definitely want to support the restoration of our castles and such, but they seem to get way more than that.  But I'm no expert :) 
 Could you describe Copenhagen a bit?  
I love the fact, that if you have a bike, you can get everywhere downtown, and the public transportation is great.  The lakes in central Copenhaven are beautiful and kinda keeps the city in balance - just like the many green areas.  Strøget, which is the shopping street and its surrounding shopping streets make it easy to get to all the stores - you can walk from one end to another, to the third and fourth - way more charming than american malls, I must admit ;)

If you had to sum up the Danish people's outlook on life in just a few words, what would you say?
I can only speak for the people I know, of course, and generally their outlook is very positive - they work hard to balance work and family.  They love seeing the world and love being inspired, but at the same time they love even more to come home :)
Danish Rye Bread

What have you missed the most about Denmark while you've been in America?
My family!  Rye bread - real rye bread! ;)  Getting all over town by bike (it just doesn't feel very safe here.  I've also missed that you don't have to leave a tip everywhere you go - I never got used to that here in the US -  I never knew how much to leave.  In Denmark the price is higher, but it also includes tips, so you don't have to worry about that.  Oh, and I miss the free health care, haha.  
What will you miss most about America when you go back?
That it's so cheap to eat out (despite the tipping)!  Steelcut oatmeal (we don't seem to have that in Denmark).  All the organic stores! - Whole Foods, Trader Joe's.  We need stores like that in Denmark.  I'm gonna miss the people here too - they are all so open and welcoming.  It's so easy to get to know people here!  And of course, I am gonna miss the weather here in San Diego - it's SO NICE, and it's great to only need to buy for one wardrobe, haha.  I'm gonna miss fish tacos and fish burritos, and the America BBQs :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tivoli Gardens

In learning about Denmark, I've noticed that there are a ton of amusement parks there! I had heard of one before - Tivoli Gardens - because it was one of Walt Disney's inspirations in creating Disneyland, and one of my friends went there before and told me how much I'd love it...needless to say it is certainly on the top of my list if I ever make it to Denmark!

Tivoli is located in Copenhagen, and is actually the second oldest amusement park in the world, having opened in 1843.  The park boasts 4.5 million annual visitors, is the most visited theme park in Scandinavia, and the second most visited park in Europe behind Disneyland Paris.

aerial view of Tivoli from the 1920s
Tivoli has many attractions, including a merry-go-round, wooden roller coaster, scenic railway and more, along with historic themed structures and beautiful landscaping.

During World War II, Nazi sympathizers burnt down many of Tivoli's buildings, including their famous concert hall.  Undaunted, the Danes constructed temporary buildings in their place and had the park operational within a few weeks.

Moorish Palace
One of my favorite structures is the Moorish Palace, which was constructed in 1909 and now houses a 5 star boutique hotel and Michelin star awarded restaurant.  I looked up the price for a one-night stay in the middle of January and it was over $450 bucks! If I ever have crazy money I'm going to go!!

a room in the Hotel Nimb

Restaurant Herman

With my budget, however, it's more likely I'll be staying elsewhere and dining at one of the park's other fine restaurants like Grøften, which has been providing traditional Danish food to park guests since 1874, and is known for its welcoming atmosphere and great service.

One day, I will definitely visit Tivoli!!! I can't wait to see the park that inspired Walt Disney!