My Anatolian Adventure
“Turkish Delight?” I said. “What’s that?’
I’d soon find out.
This was my first day in Istanbul. Arriving at my hotel in the
Sultanahmet district-- the old city--I found myself in what used to be
called Constantinople—the capitol of the Byzantine Empire.
I was anxious to get my first taste of the famed city, but Turkish Delight
was not on my agenda. It was on Vi’s. I had traveled twice
around the world with Vi, and this was to be our next adventure.
Exhausted from our all-night flight from Dulles to Istanbul but not wishing
to waste time, we
were ready to roll.
She was eager to scout out the best source of Turkish Delight in Istanbul. I
wanted to wander through the narrow passageways of the Kapali Carsi, the
notorious Grand Bazaar, or covered market. This would be my first chance to
check out my bargaining skills at a few of its 4,000 shops. This
bewildering array of tiny stalls jammed into a maze of 66 narrow passageways
stretches some five miles in length and pulls you into it like a magnet
attracted by shopping for the best bargains. Friends have told me
stories of wandering, lost and exhausted, for hours before they could find
their original entrance. I was counting on my so-called keen
sense of direction to save the day. (Ultimately, I failed!)
Piles of pashimi shawls, glittering gold and silver jewelry, elegant Turkish
kilim rugs, and heaps of tee shirts emblazoned with “Istanbul” beckoned.
But first we had to maneuver through a phalanx of insistent street vendors
outside the bazaar entrance. They spotted us, those potential “rich
American tourists,” and like bees to baklava buzzed around us, pushing
their wares as we headed toward the bazaar.
Vi quickly swung into action, bargaining for her prized Turkish Delight. I
tested a few free bites as I checked into the origins of this traditional
Ottoman candy confection called “lokum” in Turkish. It’s
prepared with fillings of walnuts, pistachios, almonds or orange flavoring,
and can be
found everywhere in Turkey. Most often, you can nibble a free sample
before you buy. And we did. Frequently.
History says that one Ali Muhiddin, its inventor, arrived in the Ottoman
capitol in the late 18th century and mixed up the first batch of “locum”
into a soft bite-size easy-to-chew sweet. The new tidbit was an
instant hit with the palace dignitaries of the day, and success on the
street wasn’t far
behind. Today, the ubiquitous Turkish Delight seems to be the national
candy of choice, the Turkish counterpart to the American M&M, Hershey
bar, and Orange Slice all wrapped up into one.
On my first day there, I didn’t know that --or much more-- about
Anatolia—as Turkey is called in the guidebooks. But that would
change before the month was over .
By the end of my journey, the term Turkish Delight meant more to me than
simply a bite-size candy to satisfy my sweet tooth. It conjured up
lingering memories of picnics in the shade of olive groves high in the
mountains, the sweet fragrance of fields of blood- red poppies that carpet
entire hillsides and pop up in unexpected places between marble steps of
ancient amphitheaters, the cascades of color and taste of huge mounds of
cherries, limes, eggplants, and tomatoes, and powerful aroma of fresh fish
piled high in neat mountains of silver in noisy village markets, and the
vibrant hues of aquamarine and periwinkle seas along the Aegean and
Mediterranean coasts. Above all, it conveys my sense of delight and
appreciation for the friendly greetings we received from children and
generous welcome from everyone else we encountered in our short visit.