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WHAT TO SEE, EAT AND BUY IN KUSADASI TURKEY

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Atatürk statue above Kusadasi sign
Atatürk statue above Kusadasi sign
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

It's impossible to miss Kuşadasi (pronounced koosh-ada-suh). A giant hillside sign spells out the city's name in large white letters. It reminded us of the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.

A bronze statue overlooks the sign and colorful buildings of this city of 100,000 people on Turkey's west coast. "It's a statue of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk," said our guide Dilek. "He was the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Atatürk is our national hero, just like George Washington is to the United States."

His surname means "father of Turkey" according to Dilek. "Thanks to him, women like me can work. During the Ottoman days [14th to early 20th century] no one had a family name. Atatürk gave people the right to have last names. He also changed the script that we use from Arabic to Latin."

Güvercinada (Bird Island)
Güvercinada (Bird Island)
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Bird island

The panoramic view from Atatürk Hill encompasses the city, its port, the peacock-blue Aegean Sea and the island of Güvercinada, joined to the city center by a causeway.

"Kusadasi's name comes from this island," said Dilek. From the Aegean, it looks like a bird's head. The Turkish word kus means "bird" and the word ada means "island." Some people call it Pigeon Island.

An old Byzantine castle dominates Güvercinada. Visitors can explore the museum inside the castle and enjoy splendid views of Kuşadasi.

Mild winter weather

Dilek explained that Turkey is like a peninsula with seas on three sides — the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Sea. Kuşadasi has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters (an average high of 13.5 degrees C. in January).

Green apple tea
Green apple tea
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Its long, hot summers account for the popularity of the resort's many beaches.

Day trips

Dilek suggested that we visit some of the beaches in Kuşadasi and a short distance outside the city. "Downtown Beach and Ladies Beach are nearby, but you can take a dolmus (mini-bus) to better beaches on the outskirts of town, such as Long Beach and Kustur Beach."

On other day trips, we visited a carpet factory and the ancient city of Ephesus, a short drive north of the city.

Raki (lion's milk)
Raki (lion's milk)
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Turkish drinks

We tried some of the local foods and drinks. "Turkish people love to drink black tea," said Dilek, "but they don't understand why anyone would put milk in it." We noted that green apple tea was very popular, served hot or cold in glasses.

Efes (the Turkish name for Ephesus) is a popular beer. Raki is the national alcoholic drink.

"It's like ouzo in Greece, but a bit stronger," explained Dilek. "We prefer to call it lion's milk." (Raki turns a milky colour when it's traditionally mixed with water.)

Syrup-soaked pastry

Dilek explained that Turkish food is like Greek cuisine. Turkish and Greek coffee are the same. Delicious syrup-soaked pastries, such as baklava, are also similar.

Syrup-soaked pastries and baklava
Syrup-soaked pastries and baklava
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"When I was a child, my parents taught us that Turkey was one of the more self-sufficient countries in the world for fruits and vegetables. We don't have tropical fruits such as pineapples and mangoes, but we grow bananas along the Mediterranean coast," she said.

Shish-kebabs and kebabs
Shish-kebabs and kebabs
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Fast-food restaurants

Kuşadasi has all the major fast food chains, including KFC, Domino's Pizza and Starbucks. We skipped them, as well as the international restaurants, pubs and sushi bars, and dined in a Turkish restaurant instead.

Shish-kebabs and kebabs (meatballs made from a mixture of ground beef, lamb and chicken) are popular menu items. They're often served with thick yogurt, seasoned with mint and red pepper.

Eggplant dishes

Every Turkish cook knows at least a dozen ways to prepare eggplant. Bulgur (cracked wheat that's cooked like rice) is a common side dish.

Smoked eggplant sautéed in olive oil with red peppers, hot chili peppers, sumac and parsley
Smoked eggplant sautéed in olive oil with red peppers, hot chili peppers, sumac and parsley
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

We especially enjoyed the cubes of smoked eggplant sautéed in olive oil with red peppers and spiced with hot chili peppers, sumac and parsley.

HazerBaba Turkish Delight

When we shopped for culinary souvenirs to bring home, the decision was easy. Several stores sell delicious HazerBaba Turkish Delight candies.

Our favourite flavors were the double-roasted mixed nuts Turkish Delight, the nut-rich whipped creamy Sultan variety and the pistachio, almond and hazelnut flavor.

"Northern Turkey produces 85% of the world's hazelnuts," said Dilek. "Many of them are made into Nutella."

"Product of Turkey" appears on labels of nearly every package of dried figs. Turkey exports 80% of the world's figs. Millions of fig trees grow within a half-hour drive of Kuşadasi.

Without realizing it, we were buying Turkish hazelnuts and figs when we shopped for groceries at home.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Turkish Office of Culture & Tourism in Canada: www.turkeytourism.ca

Turkish Airlines flies to Izmir via Istanbul. Visit www.turkishairlines.com for details. You can rent a car in Izmir and drive south for 1.5 hours to Kuşadasi or take one of the coaches that travel several times daily between the two cities.

More things to see & do in Turkey:

Christmas in Bodrum Turkey

Shopping for Turkish Carpets in Selcuk Rug Factory