August 27 - Turkish Currency and Turkish Cuisine

The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira. The Lira has been one of my favorite currencies because of how different it is from any other currency in Europe. The conversion rate is 1,384,705.47 Lira = $ 1.00!!! It is also quite amusing to look at this rate backwards. One Lira = $ 0.000000722175!! We have seen bills that range from 250,000 lira to 20,000,000 lira, although there might be bills of greater value. There are also three coins ranging in value from 50,000 lira to 250,000 lira. I especially like collecting the coins from each country we visit. I like big, heavy and unique coins. The 50,000 lira coin is my favorite because of its size and appearance. It is a golden and copper coin with a big number 50 and the Turkish symbol (a crescent moon next to a star) on the front. On the back there is an engraving of Ataturk, a man who formed the Republic. We found this currency extremely perplexing and confusing. We were all in a state of shock when we saw that our plane tickets to Athens would cost two billion lira. We had never paid two billion for something in our whole lives! We were told that many shopkeepers will rip you off by giving you 500,000 lira as change instead of a 5,000,000 lira. It's very hard to recognize the value of a bill without counting the zeros or memorizing the colors of each bill. Turkey is working on meeting the requirements to join the European Union. If they are admitted, the Euro will slowly become the new currency of Turkey. Many countries that have taken on the Euro have claimed that the prices have increased by 30% and many citizens regret voting to be a part of the EU.

Turkish cuisine has been by far the best we have had on the trip so far (I'm counting on the Italian food being twice as good!). Breakfast is eaten at seven o'clock and usually consists of bread, butter, white cheese, honey, juice or tea, small amounts of meat, vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes, and my favorite fresh black and green olives. Lunch is usually eaten around midday, and is very light. Most people buy snacks on the streets instead of a sit-down meal. You can find nuts, baked potatoes, pretzels, thick and creamy ice cream, and corn on the cob all over the streets. The main and most important meal of the day is dinner, which is eaten at 7:00. Meat is a very important part of dinner in Turkey. Lamb, beef, chicken and turkey are common grilled meats. According to their faith, Muslims are not allowed to eat pork, so it is seldom seen in the city. Meat is usually served in the form of a kabob, marinated from one to two hours! The marinades give the meat such a powerful flavor and juiciness, that it seems as if it melts in your mouth. My favorite Turkish dish is a mixture of kabobs, such as beef, lamb, and chicken, Turkish pizza, rice pilaf, grilled tomatoes, hot peppers, bread with melted cheese, and meatballs. This is served on a huge dish, which everyone shares. My family and I have enjoyed this meal so much, that we have already been to the same restaurant three times in two days! Soup and fish are also commonly found in Turkey and are important parts of people's diets. Tea in Turkey is very favorable, served in small glasses. You can get very strong apple, orange, or plain tea. Tea is so important, that we often see men wearing traditional clothing with a large golden pot on their back filled with tea. They serve the tea on small silver platters. Another common drink is "Ayran." I found it disgusting, salty, and sour. It is made with yogurt and water. The desserts are very sweet, usually made with honey. A common dessert is baklava, a syrup dipped pastry. Trying different food from around the world has been an adventure in and of itsself!