Suitcase and World: Saturday Market at Selçuk.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Market at Selçuk.

Bro in his element and doing what he loves to do.....buying fruit.  The luscious looking figs were calling out to him.

On my 2008 visit to Turkey, my friend Lei and I stayed in Selçuk for two days and two nights. One of those days just so happened to be a Saturday. We didn't know anything about the market in town - we just stumbled upon it, walking around town, after lunch. I remember how amazed I was at the size of the place, how crowded it was, the large variety of things that were for sale - everything from food to clothing to hardware.  I really enjoyed the experience and I wanted to share it with Bro. In planning this trip, I had allotted two and half days to Kusadasi with one of those to be spent at Efes and in Selçuk.  As luck would have it, our visit to Kusadasi also spanned a weekend so I picked Saturday as our day to visit Efes and Selçuk.  It all worked out so perfectly!

After we exited Efes, we were walking back towards the main road that we had arrived in from.  On the far end of the parking lot, we spotted a van.  Bro's a quick learner.  He figured it was a dolmuş.  As we neared the man standing by the door, we asked, "Selçuk?".  When he nodded, we continued our way to board.   While we waited for other potential riders to come along, Bro and I realized that the earlier dolmuş we had taken would have dropped us off at the Efes entrance had there been more people interested in going to the site but since we were the only two, he dropped us off by the side of the main road.   Ah....can't complain, it wasn't a bad walk and the important part was that we made it to Efes.

The ride to Selçuk cost 3 lira each and only took about 20 minutes.  We were deposited at what appeared to be the gathering spot for dolmuşes (plural for dolmuş?)  I asked the driver which way to the market and he pretty much pointed straight ahead.  As it turned out, we were barely a 50 foot walk away!  The large city square had been transformed into a market - large umbrellas shading the vendors.  Even though it was early afternoon, the place was still crowded with shoppers.  It was really nice to see everyone out and about.  Lots of happy sounds all around us!

We quickly walked past the houseware vendors to get to the produce section.  I'm telling you, the stuff they sell here is amazing in terms of quality and freshness.  It's also damn cheap.  Food should be damn cheap.  It's a basic necessity of life - everyone has to eat!

It's like a giant labyrinth of vendors.  I think we walked in a circle at least a couple of times.

The cabbages here are slightly flat but absolutely monstrous in size!

The variety of grapes you find here is astonishing.  More than just the usual, red and green, seeded and seedless.

It's grape season now.  There are so many different varieties and they are super sweet because they're picked ripe.

No Turkish market would  be complete without someone selling olives and pickled veggies.

Turks love radishes.  Look at the size and color of these.  2 lira for a kilo....that's all.

Bro's weakness is fruits.  He was determined to try out the figs which are one of his and mine, favorite fruits.

If he lived here, she would be his go to fruit vendor.  She was so nice and more importantly, had a great selection of produce.

Figs....larger than any we can get at home.  Much more flavorful but less sweet than what I can get at home.

It's melon season as well.  Those watermelons had my name written all over them!

Sweets galore!

Like many food cultures, the Turks have learned to dry food to preserve it.  Here, it's common to see dried vegetables for sale, especially dried eggplant and dried peppers.

Before drying, the flesh of the eggplant or pepper is removed, leaving just the skin.  To prepare for cooking the dried vegetable is first rehydrated and then stuffed with meat and rice.  The eggplant version is called kuru patlican domasi and the pepper version is called biber dolmasi.  For good Turkish recipes, check out Ozlem's Turkish Table.

You can see the dried eggplants and peppers hung up like necklaces.

Bro caught sight of a vendor selling sweet things from his car.  Bro could not resist.  The man had two types of cake for sale.  Though the sign had the price per kilo he was glad to sell us pieces.

We bought one of each type.

Verdict.  Cake on the right.  Sponge cake soaked in honey and topped with a bit of nut.  Cake on left. Same cake layered with a fruit spread of some sort (fig??), soaked in honey and topped with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar.  So sweet, it made my teeth hurt.  I really wanted a cup of Turkish tea to wash it all down with.....that's probably the way they were suppose to be eaten!

We never saw the meat market but there were a few butcher shops.  Off to one side, we came across a small building that housed a few seafood vendors.  Considering there is so much seashore surrounding Turkey, the people here don't eat as much seafood as you would expect....they're more meat eaters.

The fish market was remarkably clean the selection was decent.  Nothing like what we saw in Athens though.

We were so enjoying our walk about the market that it hadn't dawned on us that we hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and it was already early afternoon.  We stumbled upon a place....well, actually, the rotisserie chickens caught our eye and their meaty, roasty scent had us drooling.  It was a small, unassuming restaurant and we were the only two patrons, probably because it was much too late for lunch and much too early for dinner.  It looked lip smacking good so we decided to share one serving of the meat and a freshly squeezed orange juice.  The juice came first.  It was sooooo delicious.  I am usually not a fan of orange juice but the one exception is freshly squeezed and even then, I only do it overseas.  Freshly squeezed orange juice in the US cannot hold a candle to what I've had in places like Turkey, Morocco and Israel.  Don't know why they can't grow tasty/sweet oranges in the US.

For all of 10 lira, we got 1/2 a chicken, rice, some sliced tomatoes, and bread.  The chicken was as tasty as it smelled but what was even better was the rice.  Oh my God!  That rice.. it was garlicky and so full of chicken flavor that it had to have been cooked with the fat from the roasted bird. We ate every grain and if not for the fact that we were really trying not to be greedy, we refrained from ordering more.....I was so tempted though!

After lunch, we walked around the market a bit more and then found a bench to sit down and rest a bit.  It was mid afternoon and call to prayer sounded out to reminder worshippers to head to the nearest mosque.  It didn't look like anyone in the area of the market we were in was paying any attention.  In fact, the men we walk past looked so absorbed in their table game (which looked like a version of mahjong) that I don't think they even heard the call.

On our way out of the market, we came upon a vendor selling melons.  All of a sudden, Bro got excited because he spotted a particular type of melon, piel de sapo which translates from Spanish as "skin of the frog" but which is also known in English as a Santa Claus melon.  Got all that?  In any case, it's a very special melon.  Apparently, very flavorful and sweet and in California, very expensive.  The vendor spotted us eyeing them and offered one to us.  I told Bro it was his call.  I know he will eat it.  When we asked the price, we were both flabbergasted at the response.  1 lira.  Yep, that exchanges to be about 44 cents.  For the whole melon!  I can't even pay 44 cents for a slice of melon!  Of course, Bro had to buy it so we walked off, one piel de sapo richer :-)

Melon with no knife can't be eaten so next stop was to the houseware vendors, which were on our way out anyways.  You can imagine that Bro has a collection of knives from every place we've been.  This was his Turkey knife.  2 lira.  88 cents.  Melon + knife was less than $1.50.  Can't even get a cup of coffee from Starbucks for that price!

Happily getting his knife, the piel de sapo safely tucked away in the plastic bag.

By late afternoon, we were really ready to call it a day.  Back to the bus lot to catch the dolmuş back to Kuşadası.

It took about half hour or so to get back to Kuşadası - there were quite a few passengers to drop off along the way.  We were deposited back in Kuşadası exactly where we had picked up the dolmuş in the morning. From there, it was about a 10 minute walk back to the hotel.

We weren't in our room for long.  Actually, just long enough to pull down our laundry from the line and for Bro to lay out all the fruit he had bought - he doesn't like to leave the fruit piled up inside a bag; bruises them and makes them rot faster.  I just let him do what he has to do.

We decided to go back out before sun set.   We wanted to check out the dock where we have to go to get the ferry tomorrow to Samos.

Following our map, we took some neighborhood sidestreets.  We're really on a hilly part of town.  And it's a part of town where housing is very modest.....this is most certainly not the wealthy neighborhood that we're in but it most certainly an interesting one.

It's amazing how the world can change in just a few short blocks.  Here the shops catered to the locals - not a souveniir for sale anywhere and no waiters, with menus in hand, trolling for potential diners.  Instead, you have see men gathered about and chatting; children running about and a playing and the hard working mother toting bags of this, that and the other.  Yes, women do the work here....

At one point, we passed a small flatbed truck filled with oranges.  A man and a woman were unloading the fruit.  The woman caught me glancing at them and as I passed her, she handed an orange to me.  She then saw my brother and insisted on giving me two more!  I was so pleasantly surprised by her kind gesture.  Luckily, I know the words for "thank you" in Turkish and even though my accent is horrible, I smiled and said "teşekkürler" which simply means "thanks".  It really is important to know some basic words of whatever language is of the place you're traveling in.  She might have understood "thank you" but I was certain she understood what I said.

When we reached the bottom of the hill, we were a short walk from the ferry building.  When we approached the building, we were greeted by guards and a security scanner.  What??  We asked the guard if this was the place where you come to for the ferry to Samos and he replied, "Yes".  We then asked if we could enter and for some reason, he had to confer with a colleague.  He waved us through.  On the other side, we were standing outside a very upscale mall of sorts.   Putting two and two together, we suspected the guards were here to protect the shops, not the ferry passengers.

We walked until we could go no further.  There was another guard at the endpoint and he again confirmed this was the place to board the ferry so we left knowing where we had to come tomorrow.

Located along the water was a small group of seafood restaurants.  I gave Bro the option to eat at any one of them but he didn't seem interested at all.  I couldn't lure him with the prospect of grilled fresh fish or shrimp or calamari.  Nothing.  So I gave up.  But we had to find dinner.

As we were leaving the mall, we crossed paths with a man on his way out as well.  He asked if we were lost and needed help.  Bro told him that we were trying to figure out where to pick up the ferry to Samos and so the man asked the same guards, that were standing by the security scanner, the same question that we had asked them except he spoke Turkish.  Sigh.....Bro is never convinced.   As expected, we got the same response back....Yes, this is where you come to board the ferry.

Anyway, we ended up chatting with him for a few minutes.  Carpet salesman.  I suspect he works in one of the shops.  Perfect English.  Probably picked up from years of dealing with tourists.  We asked him for a suggestion on where to go eat.  He had one. Didn't know the name or address.  Hmmm.....But he had directions.  Up this street, turn left, down one block, turn right....or something like that.  Sufficiently vague that I knew we wouldn't find the place.  So, we thanked him and said we would find a place to eat on our own.  But apparently, he wasn't ready to give up on us. He offered to take us on his scooter.  Yes, both of us on his scooter.  Hmmm.....we'll walk, we said.  He said to follow him.  We decided not to so we let him drive off in to the distance before we made our way to the seaside promenade. 

Friendly Turk trying to help Bro find a place for us to eat dinner.  Never got his name.

We had spent so much time at the ferry dock that by the time we made it to the promenade, the sun had already dipped over the horizon.  Night was falling fast.

We didn't spend much time on the promenade. Truthfully, there's not a whole lot to see or do here.  So, we decided to just go ahead and plunge ourselves back in to the pedestrian only shopping area.  No doubt, there would be plenty of food options there.  I was insistent that we not eat in any place that had a trolling waiter.  Somehow those places seem so much more touristy to me.  So, we found a small place, down a very quiet street.  We got a table and young man handed us a menu.  He never came back.  In fact, no one came to check on us.  I guess we could have gone and looked for someone but I wasn't feeling it. If they take this long to even take your order, God only knows how long it might take to get the food to you!  So, off we went to look for another place.

As so often happens, it's my nose that leads me to a place.  In this case, it was the smell of grilling meat.  My carnivore instincts told me to stop here.  This was the place.  So we did.  A very modest eatery surrounded by shops.  No trolling waiter though one stood at the ready to seat us.  A few locals inside and a few outside.  We were the only non-Turks.  Perfect!

Bro ordered lamb chops and I had my standby favorite - adana kabab.  Simple dinner but very satisfying.

Ah....the atmosphere.  Nothing like a shoe shop to get your appetite going :-)

Your basic Turkish fast food place.  Reasonable prices for freshly cooked food.  Good sized portions.  Friendly staff.

After dinner, we walked about a bit more.....burn off a few calories.  Then it was back to the hotel and in to bed. We had another long day ahead of us tomorrow and we need our rest!

Goodnight from Kusadasi!