Experience one of the world's most historic destinations through film, books and traditional flavours, and also take the online opportunity to virtually explore Turkey's world-leading museums.
Where to go in Turkey
After an Anzac pilgrimage to the battlefields of Gallipoli, hire a car in nearby Canakkale, and visit the Troy Museum, opened in 2018, and now regarded as one of the world's best archaeological museums. Detour by ferry to the sleepy island of Bozcaada, a favourite summertime escape for Turkish travellers, before returning to the mainland and continuing on quieter back roads down Turkey's west coast to vibrant Izmir. Use Izmir as your base to explore the emerging wine region around Urla, before venturing to Alacati at the western end of the Cesme Peninsula. Boutique hotels now fill Alacati's historic Greek old town, and some of Turkey's best young chefs have opened restaurants. Don't miss starting the day at the Bumbu Breakfast Club.
To "walk through" the Troy Museum as a 3D online experience, see www.sanalmuze.gov.tr. Virtual tours of more than 30 other Turkish museums and archaeological sites are also available.
What to watch
Spend any time in Istanbul or around the harbourside restaurants of Turkey's Mediterranean coast, and you'll soon be adopted by a feline posse of friendly local cats. Available on Academy On Demand and AroVideo's new AroVision online service (ondemand.arovideo.co.nz), Kedi (2016) is a charming documentary about seven street cats making their home amid Istanbul's multiple layers of history. If you're still occasionally firing up your DVD player, Wellington's AroVideo also rent out Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul, an excellent 2006 documentary about the city's underground music scene.
For foodie travellers, episode two of series five of Netflix's Chef's Table series focuses on Musa Dagdeviren, owner of Ciya Sofrasi, an Istanbul restaurant specialising in traditional homestyle recipes from the remote southeastern region of Turkey bordering Syria and Iran. The eatery is easily reached on a ferry ride across the Bosphorus to Istanbul's Asian shore.
What to read about Turkey
Since publishing A Fez of the Heart in 1996, British travel writer Jeremy Seal has penned other books exploring Turkish culture and history. Meander (2012) follows his journey along Turkey's winding Menderes river - the waterway's name is the basis for the word "meandering" – while his latest book, A Coup in Turkey (2021) reads like a thriller, and covers the ongoing tension between secularism and traditionalism which has defined Turkey since it's formation as a modern republic in 1923.
Turkish Awakening (2014), by Turkish-British writer Alev Scott integrates travel to all parts of the country via the author's rediscovery of her Anatolian roots, while her second book, Ottoman Odyssey: Travels Through a Lost Empire (2019) expands her razor-sharp focus to explore the historical echoes of Turkey's Ottoman Empire across 12 countries.
To understand Istanbul's previous centuries of history as Byzantium and Constantinople, dive into Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities (2017) by Bettany Hughes, while Istanbul: Memories and the City (2005) by Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk is a deeply personal account of growing up in one of the world's great cities.
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What to eat to experience Turkey
Kahvalti - literally translating to "before coffee" - is the Turkish word for breakfast, and the first meal of the day is a regular highlight for travellers to the country. Recreate the specialist breakfast restaurants of the eastern city of Van by combining warm flatbreads with fresh honeycomb – available online from J. Friend & Co (www.nzartisanhoney.co.nz) – with unctuous kaymak (clotted cream). Turkish egg dishes worth trying at home include menemen (Turkish-style scrambled eggs), and cilbir, poached eggs served with creamy labneh and a hit of chilli oil. Deco Eatery in Auckland's Titirangi serves an excellent menemen and cilbir is a menu highlight at The General in Mount Maunganui, and at Wharf Road Cafe in Coromandel Town.
For freshly-baked Turkish bread and sweet and savoury snacks, check out Zeki's Mediterranean Bakery in Henderson and along Karangahape Rd, and follow Woodspirit on Instagram @woodspiritnz to find out where Auckland's best wood-fired pide (Turkish pizza) is being served.
What to drink
Perfect as a summertime quencher, ayran is a refreshing blend of yoghurt, chilled water and sea salt, while Turkish kahve (coffee) is best prepared on your stove top. Try it az sekerli (slightly sweet) with baklava or lokum (Turkish delight). Post-lockdown, Zeki's or the various Paasha Turkish restaurants around New Zealand are recommended for this classic combination. For later in the day, team traditional Turkish snacks like sigara borek (deep-fried feta cheese rolls), with a glass of raki. Turkey's version of the traditional aniseed spirit resembling Greek ouzo is available online from Wellington's Regional Wines.