Since my sister and I didn’t prepare anything (though I’m tempted to say we were spontaneous, we were simply unprepared), when an old man who was waiting at the bus station of a town called Selcuk (10-12 hours away by bus towards South from Istanbul) told us he had a guest house, we happily followed him. It was quite common back then that small guest house owners would wait for their potential customers at the train or bus station, hoping to get backpackers like us when long distance bus or train arrived. After a long overnight bus ride, we were just ready to go anywhere if they had a room for us.
The town was very quiet and peaceful. The room was…so bare. Bed was very small and wobbly and the mattress so thin. There was a curtain instead of a door for the bathroom. We were about to feel a little bit sorry for ourselves, but then when we walked out of the house to look around the town, there was a sudden wave of fragrance. It was from jasmine flowers that were abundantly covering the gate arch. The smell was so divine, air so sweet, all of a sudden, it almost felt surreal. (There were a lot of surreal moments afterwards while traveling in Turkey.) And this was the moment the trip in Turkey really started becoming memorable.
Next morning, breakfast was set out in the garden. Our old host was very proud of the set up, and he had all the right to be. It was gracious. Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers were so fresh, white cheese was just rightly salty, soft bread with butter and jam melted in the mouth. Boiled eggs were delicious. On top of that, sweet jasmine fragrance and fresh air just made everything so heavenly. This was now so long ago, I don’t remember if we ate with the host’s family or if there were olives on the table (which feels to be the probability) or if we drank coffee or tea or both, but this sensation of eating such fresh breakfast out in the garden surrounded by flowers is forever ingrained in my brain as one of the perfect moments that I had in Turkey.
Fall 2002, My sister and I went traveling in Turkey, not quite having anything planned out. Only thing we reserved other than a plane ticket was the guest house which seemed to be the only guest house run by a Korean owner. There were many guest houses run by Koreans all over Europe, but at that time, Turkey wasn’t yet a popular destination for traveling for Koreans. We naively expected to get all the information needed to travel in Turkey in that guest house, which turned out to be just a plain house, that must have lived in, not really a lodging facility. It was a house with a room and a bathroom, in a total residential area, and the owner dropped us off there with a key and left. Though not dirty, we could tell the bedding hadn’t been changed or the room was cleaned since the last guests left (we knew this because the last guests hadn’t yet left).
After spending a nervous night in the so-called guest house, not having anyone around to ask about anything, we came out for breakfast in the morning. The house was located far from the downtown, but there was quite a busy street with stores. My sister and I walked into this small store that seemed to be a bakery. The store was very crowded and we figured the food there must have been good. But because it wasn’t located in the touristic area, the waiter spoke no English (needless to say we spoke no Turkish) and the menu was in Turkish without any pictures! So we just pointed any two dishes, not having a slightest clue of what they were.
When the food came out – it was DIVINE. So delicious. I wonder if the waiter had kindly brought out popular dishes, instead of what we actually ordered, since it was so obvious we had no idea what we were ordering. I believe what we ate at that time was peynirli börek (pastry consisting of several thin layers of dough with cheese filling) and kıymalı börek (same with minced meat filling). I only remembered the food itself, not the name (not that I actually knew the name), but based upon the Internet search from five minutes ago, these seem to be correct. Actually at that time, we were sad we wouldn’t be able to order this delicious food again since we didn’t even know the name of the food.
Anyway, this delicious mouthwatering breakfast certainly brightened our mood and cheered us up completely. It gave us a nice anticipation that wherever we would go, no matter how many obstacles we might face, there would be at least delicious food. And it was true.