As far as I’m concerned, finding souvenirs to bring home is the worst part of traveling. It so hard to try to find thoughtful gifts for friends and family. Since I travel so much, I’m not expected to bring back something from every trip, but going to a destination like Turkey that is new to most of my friends and family, it’d be pretty unforgivable if I came home empty handed. We Japanese are really big on Omiyage.
I wanted to make things as easy and quick as possible for my souvenir buying spree. I had some ideas of Turkish handicrafts that I wanted to pick up but also wanted to keep an eye out for things that I may “discover”.
Turkish Delights: I discovered that the
junk delicious Turkish Delights that I’ve had before weren’t really that good. I had the opportunity to try some truly delightful Turkish Delights from Altan Sekerleme. The lokum was just softer, sweeter, fresher than the ones that I had out of boxes. The shelf life was a lot shorter so it was critical to eat these things within a few days [I tried, I swear I did].
Turkish Towels: I had a bridal shower to go to the day after I got back. I didn’t have time to mess around so I decided to pick up Turkish towels for her gift [as opposed to trashy lingerie…clearly I suck at Bridal Shower Gifts]. But, oh…these towels from Jennifer’s Hamam was so sinfully thick and soft. I felt like I could sink my fingers into the towel for miles. I would like to use mine as a blanket, it’s so soft and cozy. It’s not an inexpensive option, as it is handmade on a loom, but it’s still cheaper than how much you’d pay for similar quality in the US.
Hamam Towels: Flat cotton towels, perfect for a scarf, beach towel, or sarong [striped towels in the photo above]. Anywhere from $5 – $35, from cotton to linen, these towels are perfect in weight and thinness to pack up and take home as gifts. I found some great colors that I love. I had to refrain from the linens, even though those were the most gorgeous of the towels.
Spices: Do not get your spices from the Spice Market. Prices there are so high! Go around the outskirts of the Spice Market and you’ll find an array of spices available at a much better cost. I bought an entire grocery bag filled with various spices for only $5. I was so thrilled and excited about these prices that I had to go back and buy some more. Now that it’s the holidays, I’m kicking myself for not picking up cinnamon sticks for my cranberry sauce!
Nuts: This is going to sound crazy since these things are so flipping heavy but I had the room for it so I bought it. Blanched hazelnuts are pretty expensive in the States. I bought a 1 pound bag for less than $7.50. Not THAT much of a savings but it does help when you bake as much as I do. [Ok, I admit it, this one was a personal souvenir.] I requested 15 Turkish Lira worth of nuts, which ended up being about 1 pound.
Coffee: Turkish Coffee is a rich espresso-like brew, with the fine grounds left in the coffee. You need to be careful not to drink the sludge or it’ll cause you to choke violently…uh…not that I know from personal experience or anything. I loved the stuff but I’m a coffee freak. It’s probably why I’m crawling up the walls most days.
Tea: Most of the tea in Turkey comes from Ceylon. The area of Rize in Turkey actually grows black tea but I had a hard time finding the tea in Istanbul. My next trip to Turkey will have to include a stop in Rize since I love tea so much.
I have to admit that I purchased a lot of souvenirs to bring home. I have to further admit that I bought a lot of souvenirs for myself. Spices, Nuts, and towels turned out to be my undoing. I am ashamed. I hope you don’t think less of me.Altan’s Sekerleme, Turkish Delights Kiblecesme Caddesi 96 Kantarcilar, Eminonu, Istanbul, Turkey Jennifer’s Hamam, towels