Turkish Pide in London

 Last week while walking through London trying to find an office, I looked up from my phone GPS and saw a Menu outside a restaurant with some familiar words. I had to do a double take, and when I did I realised that they were Turkish. I glanced up at the restaurant name – ‘Tas Pide’ it said.
Mmm, pide – one of my favourite Turkish foods.

After I’d managed to find the office and done what I needed to do there, I headed back towards the train station. I was wrestling with myself trying to decide whether to go and have lunch in the restaurant or not. I was alone, and I’d picked up a menu list earlier so I knew that things were a little expensive. Eventually I plucked up the courage to go inside, unable to resist the temptation of a proper, Turkish lunch.

The restaurant itself was directly opposite the ‘new’ Shakespears Globe, along Bankside, a short walk away from London Bridge station. It forms part of a chain of ‘Tas’ restaurants in London, each specialising in a different area of Turkish cuisine, this one obviously pide, but it had plenty of other choices on the menu too. The inside of the restaurant was very pretty – a Turkish paradise, vines growing along the walls and across the ceiling, low tables and chairs, nazar/evil eyes hanging from the walls and an open kitchen with large, stone ovens.. It was beautiful, but being the only person dining in there alone, I was a little too nervous to take photos of the decor and risk looking silly!
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I had another look at the menu, which I had already studied outside while trying to convince myself to go in, and decided I’d have my ‘usual’ and compare it to the pide I’ve had in Fethiye so many times. Before I had even ordered, they brought over a bowl of fresh bread, a garlic dip and some olives. I’m not a fan of olives so I didn’t touch those, but the garlic dip was delicious and the bread was perfect.

A short time later, my pide arrived. It looked and smelt amazing. If you don’t know what pide is, it’s a sort of Turkish pizza, with thin, crispy dough moulded into a slight bowl shape, topped with pretty much anything you want. They had a lot of topping options on the menu and although I was tempted by the patlicanli (aubergine) one, I went for the kiymali one – mincemeat, onion, tomato, pepper and parsley. There was an option to have an egg on top too, which sounds vile to me, so needless to say I had it without. It was served with a bowl of crunchy pickled red cabbage. It was delicious. A medium sized portion, perfectly crunchy on the top but soft at the base, lots of fresh toppings and not greasy at all. Of course it’s not quite the same as eating in Fethiye, but you have to work with what you’ve got, right?
I was tempted to have baklava for desert, but decided it was too expensive and I was too full to justify a whole portion to myself anyway. That’s the downside to the restaurant… the prices. Perhaps it’s just because I begrudge paying £8.40 for something that I know I can get for less than £1.50 in Fethiye, but the prices were very high for what the food actually was. I took a couple of photos of the menu leaflet to give you an idea (click the photos to enlarge them and make them more readable).
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The starters were particularly expensive, and although they sounded yummy, I’d never pay that much for them. The main dishes of pide ranged from £8.10-£9.95 and the other main courses varied in price from around £9 to £14. I don’t know the size of the other portions so can’t comment on value for money, but I do know that for what those dishes are, it’s a lot of money. I’m certain that Berkay would go into shock if I told him I’d paid the equivalent of 31 tl for one pide – I don’t think he’s ever paid more than 5 tl!

All that being said, I was definitely glad I’d decided to try the restaurant because it really cheered me up after a rubbish day and I’d go back again for a special occasion, I just have to convince my family that Turkish food isn’t evil first! They rarely stray away from a chicken schnitzel or a steak while in Turkey!

Have you tried pide? Have you, or will you be paying this restaurant a visit next time you’re in London? Let me know.

An army update & going to visit!

Berkay has been in the army for 6 weeks today and although he hasn’t gone quickly, seeing the marbles in my ‘days down’ jar increasing everyday is quite reassuring and a good reminder that time is actually passing!

So far, Berkay’s not been having too bad of a time. We’ve spoken every single day over the phone, and had skype sessions on his day off for the past 3 weekends, although he’s not allowed out this weekend because there’s a chance of trouble due to a Kurdish holiday… I’m so relieved we’ve had contact everyday, even if it is mainly just a 2 minute phonecall. The fact it’s such a limited time we get to speak means it’s hard to say everything I want to, we used to live together, know what each other were doing all the time, and now suddenly we don’t really know anything about each other, living two totally separate, vastly different lives.

Aside from that, it’s been going ok. Berkay tries his best to help me understand army life, he tells me things they’ve been doing, once last week they all played paintball to practice shooting terrorists and his team won. That’s a good sign, right? They also go to the cinema in the base quite a lot to watch army practice videos and to regular lessons. It all seems quite organised.

The main worry for me since even before he joined the army, was where he would be placed – he’s in Izmir at the moment for training, but once that’s finished he’ll be moving someone else… Well, finally last week he called me and sounded very excited – “guess where I’m going after Izmir?” He said…. “not the bad place! Kayseri!”. Kayseri is a big city right in the centre of Turkey, on a map it’s literally the exact centre point. It’s a long way from Fethiye – around 12 hours on the bus, so this gives you an idea of just how big the country is – its takes well over 24 hours of non-stop driving from one side to the other. We were both very relieved when he learnt he’d be sent there – it’s supposed to be a lovely place, and there was a real possibility that he could have been sent to the Syrian border, in fact he said 60% of the 400+ people he’s with in Izmir are being sent there, something we obviously didn’t want, so he is really very lucky.

We’ve also been waiting to find out the date he’ll be transferring bases and can take some leave – he asked for 10 days and it starts on 3rd April, so as soon as he rang me and told me that, I booked my flights out there. I was deliberating whether or not to go, but I think my mind was made up all along – although he’s only been in the army for 6 weeks, I’ve not seen him for 13 weeks and it will be 15 before the time I do, so I think it’s a necessary trip to break up the time a bit. I’m out there for 7 days from 4th April, which means flights were very expensive because it’s Easter, and the school holidays – in fact they were so expensive that I couldn’t even justify paying the extra £50 (rip off..) for baggage, so all I have is 5kg worth of hand luggage to stuff my clothes in – a scary thought! It won’t be a relaxing holiday – we probably won’t stay in a hotel as it’s too expensive and Berkay wants to visit his family in their village for a few days too, and of course lots of walkies and cuddles with Boncuk while we’re in Fethiye! It’s my birthday the day before I fly back so it will be nice to celebrate that there too, I’ve never been in Turkey for my birthday!

At least I have something to look forward to, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Berkay’s leave dates don’t change at all. For now, I’ll keep counting down the days, sticking those marbles in a jar and keeping busy – I have a job interview tomorrow so keep your fingers crossed for me please!

15 days to go 😉

Giveaway winners!

IMG_2151 As promised, at 8pm I made a list of all the entrants who commented on my giveaway post and used a random name selector to chose 8 names.

The first 3 names were:
Kate – You win the 3 necklaces!
Fiona Crocker – You win the glass Evil Eye, earrings and bracelet.
Rebecca Morrice – You win either a glittery map of Turkey or the personalised word cloud (:

The other 5 names chosen who will receive a mini-prize – a photo keyring – are:
Carole Nisbet
Val Canning
Barbara Yarwood

Congratulations to all the winners, although the prizes are nothing special I just wanted to give a little something back! I will be contacting each of the winners via the email address they registered with when they commented on the post initially – or via Facebook as I know a couple of you through there. Please reply to the email, comment on this post or send a message to my blog Facebook page www.facebook.com/livingtheturkishdream to arrange delivery of your items and I will send them out as soon as possible.

Thanks again to everyone who reads my blog, I love you all, all your lovely comments really made me smile. I have been neglecting my blog a bit lately but really want to get writing and posting more regularly again. I will be back soon with another post.

Disclaimer – I paid for the prizes with my own money, and chose the winner using a random name selector –  (http://primaryschoolict.com/random-name-selector/) to ensure it was fair.

300,000 views & a thank you giveaway..

I recently hit 300,000 views on my blog, a massive milestone and something I can’t really comprehend! 300,000 times someone has clicked onto my website to read what I have to say!

I have made great friendships through sharing my experiences on here, and can’t count the number of times I’ve received emails or messages from readers telling me they can relate to certain aspects of my ‘story’ or providing advice and reassuring me that everything will work out in the end. It’s a great support network and whether you read my blog because you can relate, because you’re just curious about the topics I discuss and story I share, or to just see some photos of the places we all know and love, I’m grateful for everyone who clicks onto http://www.livingtheturkishdream.com and interacts with me.

As a teeny, tiny thanks, I’m doing a giveaway. The prizes aren’t anything too exciting, just small token thank you’s.

There are 3 main prizes, to signify each 100,000 views. Since the majority of people who read my blog presumably have an interest in Turkey, all the prizes are Turkish/holiday themed.

The first prize is these 3 necklaces with a Turkish ‘evil eye’ or ‘nazar boncuğu’ theme – one is a small gemstone, the other is a Hamsa (also known as the Hand of Fatima) which is thought to provide protection from the evil eye, and the third in the shape of an eye with the famous blue bead in the middle, also thought to protect the holder from evil. These are really dainty and cute and a definite reminder of good old Turkey, you can’t go anywhere without seeing the nazar there, people hang them in houses, lay them into pavements, pin them on their children’s clothes, on cars… everywhere.  I love these necklaces so much I think I’ll have to go and buy some for myself!
The 2nd prize is another with a nazar theme, one of the many blue glass stones, you can never have too many of these in your house! A pair of sparkly earrings with a nazar design, and a bracelet to match.
The 3rd prize is one of the below, the winner can chose which they prefer and I’ll make it to suit them. Either a mounted, glittery map of Turkey, with small gems stuck onto whichever resorts or cities of the country that mean something to you. Mine has a heart over Fethiye, since that is my favourite place in the world. Perhaps you had a special holiday in a particular area, perhaps Istanbul holds your heart or you have a long distance relationship with someone in another part of the country? It’s a good piece to display on the wall and a constant reminder of Turkey and just where those special memories were made.
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The other choice is a mounted, personalised word cloud, it will be totally unique to you with family names, hotel names or words that remind you of your holidays. Shapes, colours, words and fonts can all be edited to suit you and the things that are important to you. Another lovely piece to display on the wall and remind you of your holidays.
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There will also be 5 photo key rings sent out as mini-prizes.

To enter, all you have to do is comment on this blog post – it has to be on here directly (scroll down and click leave comment). I’ll choose the winners at random using a random number/name generator.   Winners will be chosen after 8pm on Sunday 15th March and will be announced on here via a new post. I know there are people who read my blog from all over the world, but the giveaway will only be open to UK & Ireland residents due to postage costs overseas.

A little disclaimer, I paid for these prizes with my own money, they were not given to me. There is no fee to enter and winners will be chosen entirely at random, it is not a competition, just a lucky draw.

Thank you all so much once again, and good luck.

Pizza in Fethiye…

While abroad it’s always nice to embrace the local culture, break out of your comfort zone and try something new… I love Turkish food and ate it a lot whilst I was there, but sometimes all you want is an easy, unhealthy, pizza!

My favourite place for pizza in Fethiye is PizzaTomato, it’s part of a chain of restaurants all over the country, similar to Pizza Hut. Obviously, they sell pizza, along with the usual things, garlic bread, chips, wedges, chicken sides… It’s totally unhealthy, and not traditional Turkish in the slightest, but it is very yummy.
It’s not advertised on the menus, but they always have a ‘buy one pizza get another the same size for just 2tl extra’ deal if you ask. Medium pizzas are around 22-25tl and there are lots of choices! Of course there is a bit of a Turkish twist to the way its served – with a jar full of pickled chili’s, you wouldn’t get that in the UK, or Italy, would you? The Turks do love their pickled vegetables.

Along with yummy pizza, the Fethiye branch has the added bonus of a particularly nice view! The restaurant has 3 floors, with a small childrens play area on the second, and if you go right to the top floor and get a window seat, this is the view you get…right out over to the statue of Atatürk towards the sea.
Another bonus is the air-conditioning…on more than one occasion we’ve planned to go into Fethiye for doner, pide or something else cheap for lunch and ended up taking a detour to PizzaTomato instead as eating in a building with air con was an offer we just couldn’t resist!

I see people complaining all the time about people going on holiday to Turkey and eating ‘English’ food (I know, pizza isn’t English…) instead of trying the local dishes, I see the point, but these restaurants aren’t only there for the tourists. In fact, in all the times we went to PizzaTomato I’ve only ever seen 2 other British people in there, and it was always very busy! The Turkish people love their fastfood as much as anyone else, in fact, in large cities like Denizli which has very few foreign tourists, they have Mcdonalds, Burger King, KFC, PizzaTomato, etc… and although I’d prefer a lovely traditional Turkish pide, sometimes it’s nice to indulge in something a bit different 😉
If you want to visit whilst you’re in Fethiye, it’s on the main street opposite the harbour and small Migros.

Swearing in ceremony and army life for Berkay..

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Its been 26 days since Berkay first walked through the doors into the Izmir army base, and on Friday he completed his basic training and had his swearing in ceremony.

All the hundreds of men in the Izmir base stood together and marched, taking their oath and swearing their allegiance to the Turkish military to serve and protect their country and fellow citizens. Turkish people are very patriotic, they have a great respect for their history, their military and their country, so to serve in the army is something that they are very proud of, even though it’s compulsory.

Some of Berkay’s family made the 3 hour journey from their village in rural Denizli to Gaziemir in Izmir, where he is based. I was a little surprised they all turned up as they’re not overly close to him, but I’m glad they did as it meant he got to spend a few hours with them which I think made him feel a little better.

As for the actual cermony, I’m not entirely sure what it involved, other than a lot of marching! Berkay spent the whole week practicing for it. It was at 9am and lasted for about one and a half hours, there were well over 500 men taking part, all completing their basic training and swearing into the army for the remaining 11 months.  

Straight after the ceremony, Berkay got to see his family. I’d asked his brother to send me a few photos via Facebook…  It was so strange seeing him in his uniform, although he looked very proud to be wearing it. I was so thankful I finally had some photos to look at, it helps me picture everyday life there and feel closer to him.
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The best part was still yet to come… after Berkay had met up with his family and had a picnic for lunch, he was able to borrow his uncle’s phone to skype me! Seeing him face to face (well… video to video) was surreal, after 3 weeks of not seeing his face at all. It was lovely, and really cheered us both up, thank God for modern technology. He spent 4 hours with his family and then skype called me again on his way back to the army base. His brother took this brilliant photo of Berkay and his stepmum waving to me through the phone camera, I think it’s adorable, look at his big grin! It’s hard for me not seeing him, but it must be 100 times harder for him, at least I have Facebook and photos to look back on, he has nothing. In fact, he gave me the address of the base so that I can send some photos for him to keep, I said I’d send him some chocolate and sweets but he said all he wanted was a few photos of us and our dog. Bless him. I think he’s finding it tougher than he lets on.
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Since basic training is now over, some people have moved on to their permanent base, but Berkay is staying another month in Izmir along with all the other people learning the same job as him. Now that training is over they have a tiny bit more freedom, in that they have a day off each week to leave the base and have some free time. Berkay’s day off was Saturday this week, and the first thing he done was head to the nearest internet cafe so that we could have another skype webcam chat!

Again, it was so, so weird seeing him face to face, but lovely. I didn’t know what to say to be honest, it was like I had to fit 3 weeks worth of information into one conversation. Sure, he has managed to call me on the phone everyday so far, but there’s only so much chat you can fit into a one minute phone call. Anyway, after a couple of minutes, we soon found things to talk about and the conversation ended up lasting for half an hour. I showed him my countdown jars and explained about the marbles, he had a big grin on his face and thought it was really cute. Then I showed him a photo our friends had sent us of Boncuk, so he knew she was safe and well. “Awww, I really missed her” he said.

Once his time in the internet cafe had ran out, we said bye and he headed off on a train to another part of Izmir to pass some time, I don’t think he really knew what to do with himself, and he has no friends or family nearby so he probably felt quite lonely too, he hasn’t had time to make friends with the locals yet! 3pm came and his name popped up back on Skype, he’d come back for another 20 minute chat before he needed to be back inside the army base for 4pm. This time he looked really fed up, I can’t imagine how horrible it must be knowing that you have to go back inside the base when you’ve had a few hours of freedom and nothing really to look forward to. I guess it’s like a Sunday evening feeling, dreading going back to work on Monday, but on a much larger scale. I suppose that’s the problem with having a few hours off, he remembered what freedom felt like and was releasing what he was missing out on. Soon the time came for him to go back, and we said bye to each others faces for another week.
We had a good chat about army life, and he told me some things that really shocked me. As expected, the officers in the army are very strict, he was telling me how they stand and watch everyone make their beds to the standard required and will test to see if a coin can bounce off it. (You’d think they’d have better things to do with their time, wouldn’t you?) They allow them to have a shower twice a week, although there is a Turkish hammam on site which they can use everyday, if they can cope with the cold water provided. He says each person is expected to know everything about the man in the bunk bed below or above them – their name, parents names, role, holiday dates and exactly where they are at all times. According to Berkay, the food is very nice, and they are fed a lot of meat, but they apparently put pills in the food to stop the men partaking in any ‘funny business’! The biggest concern of mine is that if any one person out of the hundreds there misbehaves (ie, is found sneaking a phone in, drinking alcohol, comes back late from time off or disobeys orders) they sacrifice the freedom of the rest of the men in the base and nobody will be allowed their one day off for that week. I hope that nobody is selfish enough to do that, but I hear so often of people getting caught smuggling in phones etc, so I’m very wary!

Berkay also tells me funny army stories, and I can’t wait to hear more. This morning he told me he was on guard duty for 2 hours last night and that ‘a crazy boy’ kept climbing out of his bunk bed, walking around and having conversations while sleepwalking, so Berkay had to keep putting him back to bed. I couldn’t stop giggling thinking about this. Brilliant. I’m not entirely sure how useful this guy would be as a soldier… not at night anyway!

Time seems to be going slowly, it’s been just under 4 weeks since he went in. Nearly 1 month down, another 11 to go. I’m not sure when he’ll find out where his permanent base will be, but I really hope it’s somewhere as nice as Izmir. Phonecalls everyday and skype in a local internet cafe once a week I can cope with. Fingers crossed it continues!

339 days to go.
Berkay, his stepmum and uncle.