Koula… sunken cities and magical mosaics

Koula, 94.7 presenter and F&HE blogger, is loving all things food-related in her travels through Turkey, Greece, Italy and Israel…

Thursday 23 August

This has been one of my favourite days in Turkey so far! Another early departure from our hotel, this time to a town called Halfeti to see the sunken city. Potentially the same fate awaits Hasenkeyf, as we’d seen last week… The ‘sunken city’ was full of life up until a few years ago, when residents were relocated so that the area could be flooded for hydropower purposes.
Another mad hot day, we jumped into a small boat once we’d arrived in Halfeti, and cruised along the Euphrates River, enjoying the ever-so-slight breeze, and marvelling at yet more caves in the surrounding mountain sides. It was fascinating seeing the roof of a primary school not too far below us through the clear water and the minaret from a former mosque sticking out in the water. We had lunch at a restaurant on the riverside – fresh fish from the water below us. I’m loving how the Turks flavour their food – lovely green salads come standard with meals, beautifully enhanced with fresh flat-leaf parsley, dill and pomegranate molasses. Roast chilies come standard too – and they’re gigantic in this country!
From Halfeti we drove to Gaziantep (our bus is definitely clocking up a few kilometres!) to visit Zeugma, the newly built mosaic museum. Beautiful mosaic portraits that used to adorn the floors of the houses of high society about 2 000 years ago have found a new home here. Many of them wholly intact, the detail on such large sized portraits was incredible!
What I saw next amazed me in a totally different way! Just a few minutes from the museum, we stopped at a restaurant called Imam Cagdas. Although they serve a variety of food, they are famous for their baklava. The most incredible shapes, sizes and varieties of sweet stickiness I’ve ever seen! Some covered in pistachio, others cut in huge triangular chunks… People were queuing up for takeaway baklava! Large pizza-sized boxes were being filled up and carried out of the store faster than my mind could fathom. During the hour we were sitting at our table snacking, the pace for takeaways didn’t wane once!
Another surprise awaited us at Gazientep’s oldest and most famous coffee house: the only place you can get the region’s famous Tahmus Menengic coffee. I had to ask the waiter if they’d added milk to my coffee (it’s not customary to do so in Turkey) because I was expecting the usual thick strong taste and this coffee was creamy and slightly sweet. Turns out the mystery ingredient was not milk but chickpeas, which is unique to this kind of coffee! Best coffee I’ve ever tasted! Still amazed.
At least it gave me something to think about on our long drive to Antioch. Arrived here at 11pm and the hotel had a three-course meal waiting for us. I need to go for a run. Soon! So far this shoot schedule hasn’t given us any spare time. Will worry about that tomorrow…

 

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By Serdar Yilgoren

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