Turkey day in Turkey

I’ve been sharing a lot of fun and quirky articles this past week about Turkey in Turkey. If you missed them, check out Why Americans Call Turkey ‘Turkey‘ and What’s the Word for Turkey in Turkish. Instead of heading out to one of the city’s swanky hotels for Thanksgiving, we decided to pull together a potluck Thanksgiving dinner with American colleagues from work. After several trips to Macro Center for supplies and a few nights in the kitchen, I finally pulled off the two dishes I was responsible for – deviled eggs and green bean casserole (next year, I want to make this cranberry sauce with figs). I substituted Ayşe Kadın beans for İzmir fasulyesi, the type most similar to American string beans, since the haricot vert style were nowhere to be found in my neighborhood. The turkey was prepared by Macro Center; they had accidentally given away the turkey my colleague had reserved and in order to make up for it, they cooked and delivered a turkey just in time for dinner.

If you are heading out for turkey in Turkey, be wary of the hotels’ Thanksgiving dinners. Last year, the same group of colleagues and I went to the Renaissance and many of the dishes looked like traditional Thanksgiving dishes and that’s where the resemblance stopped. The cranberry sauce? Yeah, they were sour cherries and the stuffing nothing more than spiced couscous; they also served the turkey with the neck still on! The Conrad, however, comes highly recommended  by a very reliable source so if I head out to a hotel again for Thanksgiving, that’s where you’ll find me.

Our Thanksgiving view, overlooking Istanbul:

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Istanbul cityscape

My family’s Thanksgiving view:

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A wintry Wisconsin wonderland

A great contrast, don’t you think?

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Easter celebrations in Istanbul

After my roommates surprised me with a birthday cake at my favorite cafe in Istanbul, my roommate Nazli and I were off to meet up with her Greek friends who were in town. Although we found ourselves in Asmalimescit post-dinner, we made a point to make it to church to take part in the Easter celebrations. First, we stopped in at Saint Antoine‘s Catholic church, Istiklal’s most famous church, and found it was extremely busy. Plenty of people were attending the service and others like ourselves were stopping by to see what was going on.

Around 11:15 p.m. we decided it was time to head over to the Beyoğlu Panagia Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi, a Greek Orthodox church nestled behind J’adore, a little cafe famous for its hot chocolate. I had always wanted to visit this church but had never seen the gates open, and as many Istanbulites know, it’s hard to get into religious institutions in Turkey if you aren’t a member of the congregation. Earlier this year, I had attended a wedding at the Neve Shalom synagogue in Galata. Security had shut down the entire street and wedding guests had to show a special invitation card to the guards in order to enter. A couple of American tourists had sauntered down the street, and when they were unable to speak in Hebrew, they weren’t allowed inside. At the time, I didn’t know that this particular synagogue had been the target of terrorist attacks so I had found the heightened security excessive, but plaques inside detailed the synagogue’s unfortunate history. In 2010, I attended a concert to commemorate Gomidas, his life and music, at the Armenian church tucked away in the fish bazaar right off of Istiklal. People packed in to see the rendition of Gomidas’ liturgical music, and the concert had been such a milestone for the community that more than a few looked on through tears.

This Easter eve, the Greek Orthodox Church had its gates open and by the time we got there, it was nearly full although not as packed as Saint Antoine’s. The church was breathtakingly beautiful and ornate, and the crowd was fairly diverse with Greeks, Russians, and Georgians among others. Lucky for Nazli and I, we had her Greek friends to show us the ropes. We picked up some candles at the door and found some seats close to where the hymns were being read. Once the reading was done, the lights were turned off and everyone went to the front of the church to light their candle from the priest’s flame. Then everyone followed the priest into the courtyard to commemorate the moment of resurrection. The church bells rung loud and people enjoying their drinks up and down Istiklal were probably wondering what was going on at the church at midnight. Many people returned for the the rest of the service, but we were tired and headed home so we could get up to dye Easter eggs the following morning. Nazli and I also said a silent hallelujah that this Easter service was much more pleasant and welcoming than our last one together at the local Protestant Church in Bursa, a story for another time.

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Lighting candles from the priest’s flame

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In the courtyard for the moment of resurrection

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Celebrating Easter at the Panagia Greek Orthodox Church