Our route to Assos has significantly changed: we always used to go the Tekirdağ way, crossing the Dardanelles to Çanakkale and then down via Troy to our village.
But progress has worked in our favour: now there is a fast ferry service across the Bay of İzmit from Pendik to Yalova. Since Pendik is just down the road from us on the Asian side, this is infinitely preferable to battling with rush hour traffic over the Bosphorus bridge in the morning, not to mention struggling to get out of the city in one piece.And what a joy this new route is! We love it! It is much more scenic than the old one although to be fair, that wasn’t all bad.
But of course me being me, I am particularly interested in the different foodie items that are available along the way, either on sale at little roadside stalls or shops, or simply associated with the places we pass through.
Off the ferry the first area we hit is Gemlik. Every Turk would associate it with olives. Sure enough beautiful rolling hills covered with silvery-leafed olive trees meet our eye. But for us, olives are a bit old hat as Assos and surrounds are also olive-producing areas. I’m not going to stop here to buy olives when I can get them from Mehmet, our gardener, or Leyla, our neighbour.
|complete with patriotic flag|
We drive on: next on the scene is stall upon stall of attractive displays of potatoes and onions. We stop and buy a sack of onions primarily so I can take a photo!
|a heartwarming sight|
As we approach the city of Bursa, the very first capital of the Ottoman Empire now a thriving industrial city, we start to see roadside signs for kestane şekeri or marron glacé: sweetened chestnuts sold by the boxful!
We stop for petrol and spy this little Hansel and Gretel shop right beside it: I particularly enjoy the sight of the owner having his breakfast at his own little table right there by his shop: there was his boiled egg, his white cheese and olives with the inevitable glass of çay! It was a beautiful day and oh how happy he was as he sat there in the sun enjoying his kahvaltı!
|boxes and boxes of the stuff|
|these delights were on sale at the petrol station|
Again I bought a box: 10TL for a kilo the roadsigns had proclaimed but they fail to tell you that those chestnuts are not whole and a box of whole ones costs 15TL. Who wants those broken ones anyway?
We see a sign to Mustafakemal Paşa, a small town named after the founder of the Turkish republic in 1922, and know that this is where the well-known round-shaped sticky dessert or tatlı hails from. Yes, we start to see more roadsigns proclaiming that we can buy it here – and here – and here!
|an endearing sign that translates as 'What a sweet thing you are'|
referring to the tatlı
|you buy them either dry like this and boil them in a kilo of sugar and a litre of water|
to make a syrup
|like this: already prepared and ready to eat|
On the road again – a very good one, by the way - we approach the town of Susurluk. TT tells me this is renowned for its ayran, the drink made from yogurt so of course we have to stop to try it. Ayran is a popular drink in Turkey and even though I enjoy its tangy taste, I realise it may be a bit of an acquired one. We stop at the Belediye or Municipality gardens beside the main road, a pleasant rustic-looking place run most inefficiently by a man who seems to be cook, cashier and waiter all rolled into one. Luckily we are almost the only people there so our order of ayran and tost comes soon enough. The ayran is deliciously cold and frothy, the tost quite the best!
|looks quite amazing, doesn't it?|
|Susurluk ayran with the tost|
We also see myriad signs telling us that we can enjoy İskender Kebab at any number of roadside places: this kebab is indeed a masterpiece associated with the Bursa area that everyone should try.
|İskender means Alexander in Turkish and this is who the old guy is.|
He has given his name to this kebab
It is expertly sliced pieces of döner/layers of beef cooked on a vertical skewer on a bed of pide served with yogurt and a swirl of tomato sauce over the whole. We didn’t have it this time as we had had the tost but we did just recently, a few weeks ago. If you are hungry, try this! You order it in either half a portion/yarım porsiyon, bir or one/ or even bir buçuk/one and a half! These roadside places have it down to a fine art and I highly recommend it.
|I think this is a bir buçuk|
And then some four hours later, we reach Edremit and the sea. There our scenic route ends as we turn westwards for the last stretch before the village of Assos and home.
|olive groves knee-deep in daisies|