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Posts Tagged ‘Baklava’

The flavors of Greece

Feta, olive oil, pita bread. Need I say more? Greek food is some of the tastiest in the world. As a peninsula with a warm Mediterranean climate, the Greeks’ access to fresh and healthy ingredients allows them to create the classic Greek fare prized by diners worldwide.

Greeks are fanatics about fresh-grown organic vegetables and herbs. They pluck their fish directly from the sea. They raise meats, including lamb and goat, on nearby fields to move meat quickly from farm to table. Then there’s the olive oil and the wine.

Greek olive oil is among the most pure, and believed to be the magic ingredient in the Mediterranean diet — the food regime shown to promote heart health and longevity. But I suspect the wines also have something to do with it. After all, what could better promote long life than drinking wine fermented from the fruit of hundred-year-old grape vines?

If that description doesn’t get you hopping on the next flight to Greece or, at the very least, running to your local Greek taverna, then my list of top Greek dishes surely will:

1. Moussaka (pronounced Moo-sa-KAH)

Moussaka is one of Greece’s most famous and traditional entrées. The dish begins with a layer of meaty eggplant, and is topped with a mixture of sautéed beef, tomatoes, and spices. Finally, the casserole is crowned with a thick layer of creamy béchamel sauce and baked until golden brown.

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Getaway Dossier: What to know before you go to Turkey

When we introduced our new Taste of Turkey tour last week, there were a lot of things I wanted to tell travelers about Turkey in our press release. Things like, what types of foods are served there? How should you dress? What should you pack? What’s the climate like?

But there’s only so much you can fit into a press announcement.

So I decided to start a series on the blog called Getaway Dossier. Here, I’ll share the information I’ve learned over the years so you can get to know Friendly Planet’s fascinating destinations before you go.

I’ll cover the great places to eat, landmarks to visit, and all the essentials you shouldn’t forget to take with you.

Since Turkey is top of mind, I’ll start there. Here we go!

Weather: Know the seasons. Turkey has the most temperate weather in the spring (April and May) and the fall (September and October). These months are also the busiest tourist seasons. Spring and fall have the least amount of rain and the most comfortable temperatures. In the winter, travelers can take their pick of numerous winter resorts. This is also when you typically find the best travel deals. The country can be quite warm in the summer and travelers should prepare accordingly with sunblock and sunscreen. Overall, it’s a great destination to travel to year round.

Food: Order a cabbage dolma and a doner kebab. A can’t miss Turkish dish is cabbage dolma. It’s a combination of sauteed rice, pine-nuts, currants, spices, and herbs, all tightly wrapped in translucent cabbage leaves. There’s also baklava and many “muhallebis” (pudding shops) with dozens of different types of milk puddings. But my favorite Turkish dish is doner kebabs. They’re made from rotisserie grilled and sliced lamb meat cooked on vertical spits. The edges are shaved off, and the meat is served on a bed of bread, salad, or pilav rice. When you’re in Turkey, you can’t miss these kebabs. They’re a common meal here, and it’s easy to find them in any metropolitan area.


Currency: Lira or euros? The primary currency is the lira, but many stores will post prices in both lira and euros. As with many countries in Europe, Turkey sometimes includes tip on restaurant bills and other services, so check before tipping extra. However, in upscale restaurants, a good practice is to tip 10 percent additional, even if the tip has already been included on the bill. And speaking of tipping, tip porters three million lira and tip tour guides around five to 10 U.S.D.

Landmarks: It’s a grand time at the Grand Bazaar. One of my favorite places in Turkey is the Grand Bazaar. It has over 4,000 shops on 58 covered streets. Any shopper would get lost in the sea of jewelry, rugs, leather goods, tiles, pipes, painted ceramics, and antiques available here, many of which are handmade. Bartering is customary and a good rule of thumb is to initially offer 25 percent of the price you are willing to pay. Most shop keepers are hardworking, honest people but if you do buy an antique, be sure to obtain an official permit to export it.

Don’t forget: Sneaks and sunscreen. Turkey is rich in history and archaeological sites and much of its ancient architecture and cobblestone streets still stand today. While beautiful to experience, this means some walkways can be tricky to navigate. A good pair of walking sneakers or sandals is important for a pleasant sight-seeing experience. Sunscreen and a hat are also great items to bring along, as you will probably spend a decent amount of your time out and about enjoying the history and culture of the country. These are general guidelines for any destination, but are especially important when visiting a country as full of archaeological history as Turkey.

Culture: Modesty is important. Like many European countries, it’s considered respectful to dress modestly when entering a place of religious worship. Women should cover their shoulders and wear modest-length shorts, and everyone should remove their hats and sunglasses inside. In case you’re wearing summer clothes and decide to visit a place of worship while on the go, most will provide a shawl to cover exposed shoulders and legs.

Turkey is a destination for every lover of architecture and history. The country finds its roots in Greek, Roman, and early Christian history. It’s even the site of an epic WWI battle, the Gallipoli Campaign. You’ll notice how it’s Eastern and Western influences mingle in everything you see. Turkey’s language is based in Latin, so English-speakers will have a general understanding of some street signs. However, the tiles of the buildings have a distinguished Eastern influence.

Our Taste of Turkey tour has seven departures leaving from November until March 2012, so there are a lot of opportunities in the future to see what this historic country has to offer. You can visit our website for the full itinerary. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team if you have any questions about booking a trip to Turkey.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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