But What Are They Eating?

But What Are They Eating?

Author Shelley Workinger runs a blog that provides a unique approach to book promotion – food and the consumption thereof. My expanding waistline is evidence enough of my love of all things culinary, so I bit her hand off to get featured.

Turkish cuisine is justifiably famed as one of the world’s greatest. The Sultan’s table overflowed with extravagant bounty from the vast Ottoman domains that once stretched across three continents. The empire may be history, but food – preparing it, eating it, sharing it – is still of enormous cultural importance to all Turks regardless of status and income. So it’s small wonder the simple act of eating plays a starring role in both of my memoirs, Perking the Pansies and its sequel, Turkey Street. Here’s a soupçon…


Learning Turkish

Learning Turkish

I get regular requests from people asking to guest post here at Pansy HQ.  Generally, I politely refuse because the subject matter just doesn’t work for me – too commercial/ too dull/ too libellous/ too weird/ totally irrevelant (delete accordingly). Occasionally, though, something falls on the mat that rings my bell.  This is such a post. Why? Because it’s from someone who’s written a fascinating memoir about Turkey and the post is about the agony of learning Turkish. I failed pathetically to grasp even the barebones of the language. Liam fared much better.  So, ladies and gents,  please give it up for talented bilingual Yankee author, Ann Marie Mershon.

Who would have thought I’d live in Turkey? It evoked an image of mustachioed Bedouins galumphing out of the desert on camels—and I could barely find it on a map.

No, thank you.

An American teacher, I yearned for adventure, an escape from a world that was imploding on me. A painful divorce had left me on the perimeter of social gatherings, keenly aware of my image as a divorcee. Not really a pariah, I felt like one.

Ann Marie's DogThis excerpt comes from the preface of  You must only to love them, lessons learned in Turkey, which recounts my trials and joys adapting to life in Istanbul. Smarting from a recent divorce, I had decided to establish a new life overseas, intending to find a teaching job in Paris or Salzburg. Through a number of possibly serendipitous events, I landed in Istanbul instead (with my little dog). So began my love affair with Turkey and the Turks.

Actually, it wasn’t a love affair right off, as I battled loneliness and the frustrations of language as I navigated my new world. It was probably to my disadvantage that I lived on the remote and very English-speaking campus of Koç Lisesi (20 miles east of Central Istanbul), but the school kindly offered free Turkish lessons for foreign hires and there were a number of Turkish administrators living on campus. They also offered service busses to get us into the city on the weekends. which was a godsend.

I’d prepared for my move by purchasing and diligently studying a book called Teach Yourself Turkish. Each new lesson brought more questions than insights, but I forged on, thinking I’d learned the basics before moving to Istanbul. At least I knew tuvalet (toilet), bira (beer), and şarap (wine). What more could one need? Well, anlamadım came in handy (I don’t understand).

I thought I’d learned numbers, but once I tried to buy something in Istanbul I realized that Turks talked REALLY fast. Gosh, what was that word that meant slowly’? My first forays from campus into the Turkish world were riddled with anlamadims and yavaşes.  I guess that’s typical.

Turkish class on Wednesdays after school was helpful, but I needed more conversation and less grammar. My GOODNESS, the grammar was overwhelming. I wished that our charming teacher had first explained the basics of Turkish. Here’s what I think they are:

  • Every sentence begins with a subject and ends with a verb with all the modifiers in between.
  • Most languages have six possible verb endings (first person singular and plural, second person singular, etc.), while Turkish multiplies that by four. They like to vary those six endings with four variants order to harmonize with the verb. Twenty-four basic verb endings. ARAUGHHH!!!
  • There are a few letters that are confusing but you get used to them: c sounds like j, and ç sounds like ch, ş sounds like sh and the only silent letter is ğ, which is sort of a placeholder in a sentence.
  • The beautiful thing about Turkish is that every letter ALWAYS makes the same sound – hence, no need for spelling bees in elementary school. If you can say it, you can spell it.

You must only love themIt took me years to learn more than the rudiments of Turkish, and I’ve come to an amazing realization. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. When I finally lived off-campus in a sweet apartment up the hill in Arnavutköy, I began to truly learn Turkish. I had no choice if I wanted to survive, as few people in my little community spoke English. I chatted with the checkout person at DIA, I sat talking with the electrician as he fixed my hair dryer, and I met a boat captain who often invited me for a cup of tea on his back deck. It was a delight. The Turks helped me learn their language, just as they help us whenever we’re in need. It’s just who they are.

You must only to love them is available through Amazon.

About Ann Marie

Ann Marie Mershon

Ann Marie Mershon is a Minnesota writer who taught high school students in Istanbul between 2005 and 2011. She kept a weekly blog while she lived there. She also published a guidebook with Edda Weissenbacher, Istanbuls Bazaar Quarter, Backstreet Walking Tours. She now lives on a lake near the Canadian border with her husband and their two dogs. Visit Ann Marie’s website at annmariemershon.com.

Fancy a free print copy of You must only to love them? Enter the Goodreads giveaway here (May 1-May 16 – US residents only). Or for a free e-book, enter here (May 10-17).

Turkey in Berlin

Today, I’m featuring a guest post from the gorgeous Marta López, a Spanish travel writer based in London. I rarely include guests posts on Perking the Pansies these days (and never for profit) but when Marta asked if I’d like to publish her article on the trendy Kreuzberg district of Berlin, serving up one of the coolest cities on the planet with an authentic Turkish twist, how could I refuse?

So ladies and gents, I give you…

Turkey in Berlin, Five Reasons to Visit Kreuzberg by Marta López

The German capital hides lots of history and monuments that you definitely should explore when visiting the city for the first time. Once you have done all those things mentioned in your travel guide, there’s still a stop for you at one of the coolest and more colourful districts in Berlin: The Kreuzberg or as it’s also called “the Turkish Berlin”; a very trendy quarter that houses the most alternative culture in the city. This is the home of anarchists, bohemian souls and of course the large Turkish community in Berlin.

These are my top 5 reasons to visit this district in the German capital. And remember, Kreuzberg feels neither East nor West!

1.      It’ s a very multicultural area

It used to be the black sheep of West Berlin (a sort of Bronx in Berlin) and now the truth is that it is the area with the most personality in town. 40 % of the population here is Turkish and the rest of the neighbours are immigrants, especially in the side known as “SO 36”. Every year there is a big festival called “The Carnival of Cultures”, a four day urban festival that reflects the quarter of different faces and cultures. Next year the celebration will take place on the 4th June. Do you fancy a bit of multicultural atmosphere?

2.      You’ll find the best kebabs ever!

Kreuzberg is far from picture pretty and perfect but it´s really cool! Thanks to its large Turkish community living in the area, when you visit the district you will find an endless list of local Turkish bars where you can taste authentic and spicy kebabs. Top tip: Pop in at Imren Grill (Boppstr 10, Berlin) and try their tasty and juicy meat! Did you know that the Donner Kebab was actually invented here? The inventor was a Turkish expat called Kadir Nurman who has just died last October in Berlin.

3.      It’s full of exotic markets

There are lots of colourful markets surrounding the district. Visiting the Turkish market in Maybachufer (note that the market closes on Mondays) means literally transporting yourself to the beautiful Mediterranean country. Here you’ll find exotic textiles, different kind of hummus and lots and lots of people searching for the best products at the best price. Top tip: Try the Turkish pizza; it is out of this world!

4.      You’ll find an alternative culture

It is the home to Berlin’s punk rock movement, as well as other alternative subcultures. From graffiti covered lanes to random museums and galleries like The Berlinische Galerie, which contains Berlin art dating from 1870. But it’s not all about underground art. The Kreuzberg district is also the Mecca for fashionistas! Here arrive all the up-and- coming designers, so if you fancy unique accessories, don’ t hesitate to visit High-Lite (Bergmannstraße 99, Berlin) -We could say it´s a bit like any Shoreditch store in London.

5.      Best nightlife atmosphere in the city

Who said that in Germany it’s not possible to go out until 6.00 am? In Kreuzberg the nightlife starts late and seems to end early in the morning! Most of bars here have that bohemian charm that will encourage you to stay for hours. Don’t miss out clubs such as Lido (Cuvrystraße 7, Berlin) which is in an old cinema from the fifties and runs parties on the weekend, or Monarch Club (Skalitzer Straße 134, Berlin) based in a building that offers amazing views and the best electronic music. If you are a young clubbing addicted adult, you can’t miss it!

Getting there


Berlin-Tegel Airport (TXL) is located only 8 km from the centre of the city so reaching the centre will take you around 20 minutes. The city buses are the best option. They stop at different points through the city; the main stop in the centre is Alexanderplatz, located in the heart of the Mitte area. If you need to travel from Berlín-Schönefel Airport (SXF) to the centre of Berlin, you can choose between three options: The regional train, the B-Bahn train and the bus that runs on a regular service.

Where to stay

If you are looking for accommodation and you want to stay closer to the alternative scene, you can search hotels in Berlin near Kreuzberg with Expedia. Remember this is probably the most budget-friendly side of the city!

Author Bio:

MartaMarta López is a travel writer based in London.  She loves travelling and discovering new cultures. When she isn’t writing on her laptop, she can be found around the city looking for the coolest urban art. Follow her adventures on twitter @Martazepol

The Spirit of the Games

As the sun sets on the Friendly Games (bring on the Paralympics), I bring you an accidental guest post from an ancient friend and co-host of the Olympic Opening Ceremony knees-up we attended. It’s accidental because it’s actually an email he sent to the good, the gobby and the inebriated who graced the penthouse pad party and emptied his wine cellar.

Hit it Ian…

Following on from the AMAZING opening, this last week just seems to have transformed London from the mildly aggressive and pushy city we all know and usually love, into something rather special. Just wanted to share some of my ‘all warm inside’ moments of this historic week.

One was my fairly usual 9am-ish District Line ride to work. Alongside the 2012 tracksuit wearing larger men and womenfolk who look like they could only win Gold in a pasty eating competition, 2 Austrian Olympians joined the carriage at Mile End in their matching white tracksuits complete with Austrian team logo and dangling Olympic passes. A young lad in his twenties and an older (well mid-thirties) tall guy with cropped hair (very Teutonic). As I glanced up from my Metro (could that paper be any duller?) the young lad had his arm around cropped hair and when they looked into each others eyes, they had that look that only people in the honeymoon period of a relationship have –  a mix of lust, anticipation & hope. Of course no-one batted an eyelid in the carriage, and it was as normal as delays on the Central line..I bet they didn’t do that in Beijing.

Another transport trip earlier in the week saw us sharing a Docklands train with a mass of nationalities returning from the Greenwich Park Eventing. a middle aged Irish guy was using the blarney on some loud and tipsy New Zealand wenches and telling them that Ireland’s 5th place result was the best ever and to celebrate he’d been asked to a drinks reception at the Irish Embassy. Now that’s how to impress tipsy Antipodeans.

Then the most heart warming happening of all followed on the next day. A morning trip to Boots in Piccadilly Circus on the way to work to get some essentials (no, not those…). As I was perusing the men’s toiletries aisle a smart young lad with suit and badge asked me if I would like some help and then not only took me to the item on the shelf, he picked it for me and offered it in said basket all with some witty banter and winning smiles. He signed off by wishing me a nice day. I was momentarily stunned.  Normally you could have collapsed in the feminine hygiene aisle in this Boots and been walked over for ten minutes before Security’s arrival to remove you. I almost skipped to work.

Add on to the above the smiling and funny volunteers who guided me through security at the North Greenwich Arena (02 to us) within ten minutes from tube to seat, the mix on the streets and shops of Olympics bods, fans and tourists, the genuine (and noisy) fans filling all the fantastic stadia even at 10am in the morning..and the fact I seem to be permanently glued to Claire Balding or Gabby Logan on the magnificent BBC (abuse it at your peril Jeremy *unt) and it all completes my warm glow for this beautiful city I call home.

Even the weather has been on our side.

Arise London for you are putting on a winning performance as I always believed you would, from the energy of the Olympic stadium, the noise of the Velodrome, the beauty of Hyde Park and the majesty of Greenwich. And you and your welcome are the true star of this 30th Olympiad so far.

Not like me to be effusive. Must be the warm glow (or the onset of senility). Back to Gary Lineker and Sue Barker’s helmet hair…

You might also like:

Let the Games Begin

Rainbow Sporting Heroes

Trailer Trash

When I planned my virtual tour, I knew the book would have to take centre stage. There would be little point if it didn’t. But I didn’t want to just bang on about it and do the hard sell. People would get bored and simply switch channels. I know I would. I had to find a theme, something to maintain interest. I also wanted to say something related to the people that have kindly let me loose on their blogs. A theme gradually emerged: me. My favourite subject.

Today’s post is on Helen’s European Journey. Elegant Helen is wander-lusting gypsy-like across Europe (well, so far across Iberia – give ‘em time) in a travelling caravan with hunky husband and two pretty pussies in tow. So, folks, I give you… me and caravans. Not the dusty camel trains of antiquity hauling exotic goods along the ancient Silk Road from China to Anatolia, but the common or garden static metal type of my childhood. It’s a tenuous link, but stay with me.

Over the Helen for Trailer Trash