Sunday, June 3, 2012

Exploring Kars

This morning Michael and I both woke up, looked at the streaming sun and thought that we had slept really late.  Then we looked at the clock and realized that it was just after 5:00am!!  We have now found out that the sun goes down around 7:30pm and comes up at 4:30am.   It makes for a fairly long day!!

We went downstairs for breakfast and were greeted with a table filled with bread, butter, cheese, peppers, olives, cake, honey and preserves……

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Now, this is REAL string cheese….not like the stuff we get at home….

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We served ourselves Turkish tea from this gorgeous brass urn…..

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As soon as we finished eating, we headed out for a walk thru the campus.  The buildings are built in small clusters with large open areas in between.   This area was a “Glacial Refugia” which means that when the glaciers covered the land, this area was not touched.  Consequently, plants and animals survived here when they couldn’t survive elsewhere.  This has lead to a richness of species not seen in other areas.

It was amazing the number of species of flowers, grasses and birds that we saw while we walked.

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Michael, ever the scientist kept stopping to examine unknown leaves and flowers…

_6035925 Muhammet was proctoring an exam earlier in the morning and called us as soon as he was finished.  We told him where we were and he drove over and picked us up.  He told us that the plan for the morning was to explore the City of Kars.

The first stop was to a small cafe so that we could get something to drink.  Michael was ecstatic to be able to buy Turkish coffee and I enjoyed a Fanta Orange drink which are very popular here.

I made a stop at the WC (Water Closet) before we left.  As I approached I saw that one door was marked “Bay” and the other was “Bayan”.  Fortunately I had noticed in the airport that the “Womens” was “Bayan”.!!!

As we left the cafe, the waiter dribbled a small dab of sanitizing liquid on our hands.  It smelled nice and was very refreshing.

We then just walked thru the city while Muhammet pointed out various important buildings and other items of interest.   The city was inhabited by Russians for many years and much of the older architecture looks very stark sitting next to the more modern, brighter construction….._6035956 As we walked past one gate opening I heard a small voice say “Hello!!” and we both responded “Hello” back.  Muhammet looked surprised until we described the same interactions in China….the kids often know one English word…Hello…..and they use it every chance that they get!!!

There was a gorgeous park located around the Kars River and people were starting to arrive for the day’s leisure….

_6035969 We had asked some questions about cheese so Muhammet took us into a small cheese shop.  The smell was very pungent but the cheese tasted wonderful.  There were many different types of cheese, from String cheese, to “Old” cheese to aged Mozzarella cheese.   One type was being aged in a Sheep’s bladder….

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I loved seeing the blocks of cheese that are being aged before selling…..

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There were jars of honey and honeycombs available as well…..

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Then we saw this display of various sweets, being particularly interested in the long branch looking pieces….._6035988 

Muhammet told us that the outside of these are made from an apricot or mulberry “leather”…. purees of fruit, poured out and dried in sheets.  This is stuffed with chopped walnuts.  We were dying to try it so we bought one and the proprietor chopped it into 1 inch slices for us.  It has a very light, sweet flavor and we have enjoyed several slices of it throughout the day.

We passed several street vendors, including this man selling corn on the cob…..

_6035991 The cutest one was a little boy, holding out a bathroom scale and offering to weigh us for a small amount of money.  My thought was “Are you kidding me….I dont use scales on vacation and I am sure not going to let you weigh me on the street!!!”

Just before Noon we found ourselves in an area where there were a series of Mosques…..

_6035997   One was an old Armenian church that had been built in 932 AD and then converted to a Mosque, back to a Church, then a museum and now a Mosque again…..

_6036005 It was open and Muhammet said that although it was almost time for prayers,  that it would be alright for us to enter….without shoes and me with a scarf over my head.   While we were inside inspecting the architecture it came the time for the Call to Prayer.    From all over the area, including the church that we were in, men began the chanting that signifies that it is time to pray.  These were done with microphones and played on speakers through out the area…..just listen….

We quickly left the area as the men of the church started filing in.

As it was starting to get late, Muhammet directed us to a small “Boutique Cafe” where we could eat a light lunch.  His wife, Hulya, was at home preparing an evening feast for us and made Muhammet promise that he wouldn’t give us too large of a lunch.

The reason for visiting this particular cafe was because they specialized in “Lahmacun” (La-ma-jun), a pizza-type meal that we had heard about before.

It is a wood-fired “pizza” that has a sauce of finely ground beef, tomatoes, onions and parsley.  The crust is crisp and wonderful!!!  This particular style was served with a plate of onions dusted with dried Sumac and another plate of tomatoes and cucumbers.

You first place some of the vegetables on the Lahmacun slice….

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and fold it over to eat…..

DSC03036  It was fantastic!!! 

The drink of choice was “Ayran”, a watered down yoghurt that has been slightly salted……

_6036023 It was the perfect accompaniment!!

As we were leaving I was able to get a photo of the men making the Lahmacun.  You can see one rolling out the dough while the other mashes the meat mixture into the dough before firing in the oven…..

_6036025 At this point, Muhammet had to quickly return to the University so that he could proctor another exam.  We went with him to his building and were introduced to a number of his colleagues and friends who were also there to proctor the tests. 

Michael and I left and walked the mile or so back to the guest house where we spent the afternoon resting and reflecting on the excellent start to our day….

2 comments:

Linda said...

So glad the summer travelogue has begun! Sounds like a great start! Couldn't believe Popeyes in Turkey!

Linda said...

I had to smile at the "bayan" comment. When one of my sons was young, he came to us in a restaurant and (in a great hurry) asked, "Am I a hen or a rooster?"
I agree with you on the scales! I have to almost pay MYSELF to get on them. I'm certainly not going to pay anyone else to weigh me!

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