Imagine watching a Whopper commercial on TV. You sit on your couch drooling over its char grilled deliciousness, your eyes watering at the sight of the flying onions on screen, and your stomach rumbling, crying for the special sauce. Then, imagine being able to pick up the phone, and call it in. A dream you say? Not in Turkey, here it’s reality.
Yes, Burger King delivers, as does McDonalds, and nearly every other Turkish restaurant in major cities. The delivery service, known as Alo Servis (literal translation, “Hello Service”), usually uses mini bikes with an enclosure strapped around the rear wheel to hold the precious cargo. Some restaurants use fuel-efficient vans to bring orders from door to door.
Last Wednesday, I had the good fortune to show off the Alo Servis to Bonnie Haupt, an American visitor from Kansas City, Missouri.
“You can order from Burger King!” exclaimed Bonnie after I asked my friend Orhan to call 444-KING for me.
Bonnie is in Kayseri visiting her daughter, Maria, and her husband, Orhan Iskenderoğlu. Bonnie sat, seemingly awestruck, as Orhan dialed the number and spent a few minutes with the operator giving my order and location.
“What a hoot,” was all that Bonnie had to say after Orhan hung up and told me the order would be coming within the hour.
When our trusty deliveryman, Ali, arrived, he came decked out in full travelling gear. He wore a heavy, wind resistant bike suit and stood at attention like any good soldier. (Almost all male Turks serve in the army for at least a year, so he’s probably had the practice) The suit was black and red, and his badge was the Burger King logo stamped across his heart.
I explained to Ali that Bonnie was visiting from America where Burger King doesn’t deliver, and said she wanted a picture. In reality, I wanted the picture.
Aside from the convenience factor, Alo Servis is probably used in Turkey because cities are spread out and many residents don’t have cars although more are buying each day according to commerce statistics. Gas is extremely expensive in Turkey at about $9.00 a gallon, so the mini bikes are an obvious choice.
And that’s this week’s delectable find.
NOTE: This article was first published for “Today’s Zaman,” an English daily newspaper in Turkey. View the article as it originally appeared here.
While jostling in the back seat of a dolmus barreling down the streets of Denizli, the minibus halted suddenly as three tanks paraded by. It was Cumhuriyet Bayram (Republic Day), the holiday commemorating the official start of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
Turkey is a country of many symbols, but no others are more dominant than the Turkish flag and image of Ataturk. On the highway between Ankara and Istanbul, you will find statues of a Turkish soldier raising the flag on many hilltops. In shops, schools, and houses you’ll find the flag or image of Ataturk, many times both, displayed predominantly.
As an American, I’ve found Turkish national pride familiar and something I can immediately identify with. Nearly two hundred and forty years ago, my country also found itself on a quest for independence. Living in Boston, I was brought up on the stories of how American colonists stood up and took up arms against the British Empire. Because of this, I wanted to know more about how Turks celebrate their country and independence.
“It is something so special. The feeling can’t be compared with any other,” said Mehmet Güleç, a Denizli businessman, when asked to describe Turkish pride.
Turkey’s pride may not be able to be described in words, but I’ve certainly felt it. During last month’s Victory Day celebrations, I was in Istanbul where buildings everywhere along the Bosphorus donned Turkish flags. Even thirty-story skyscrapers draped themselves with colossal flags the size of city blocks. Some of my friends are uncomfortable with such grand displays, but I found the unity displayed on these two days profoundly hopeful.
Part of that hope came in Denizli where I was invited to a Republic Day reception at Pamukkale University. Live music with a dazzling female singer filled the hall. Mammoth Turkish flags hung almost everywhere: from the second floor balconies, windows, and even the bottom of glass elevators that proudly displayed the banner. Along the walls were posters displaying the reforms made in 1922, and the subsequent successes of the Turkish republic including the advancements it made for women and in education.
The faculty and other guests danced through the night from the Tango to the hypnotic and more cultural Mevlana step. Together, people shared food, drink, and conversation. During the middle of the night, student performers dressed in oriental garb and put on an interpretive dance illustrating Turkey’s rich five-thousand-year history that culminated with the arrival of a dancer representing Ataturk in his military garb and Ottoman fez.
For me, Pamukkale’s reception was a sign of not only Turkish pride, but also the progress Turkey has made in its short eighty-six year history. In 1900, the aging Ottoman Empire was a collection of loosely connected tribes, and today the Turkish Republic represents a unified country that also stands as one of the world’s twenty largest economies.
“We have crazy blood,” said Güleç as we talked over a cup of Turkish tea, “It doesn’t matter how powerful our enemy or dire the situation. Even if we knew in one second we would die, we would do it for Turkey.”
Certainly, ideological differences divide Turkey’s political landscape just as it does in the United States, and every other democracy. But both Turks and Americans find themselves able to unite behind their nation. This does not necessarily mean blind obedience, but rather a desire to serve and contribute to the success of our home countries.
“The mind will change, but our power is in our blood. When the time comes, it will rise,” said Güleç about Turkish spirit.
It’s that strong sentiment I’ve come to admire from Turks as they proceed to tell me the “great accomplishments of Turkey.” Turkey has much to be proud of, and I’m happy to be its guest during such an exciting period.
Two months ago I clipped a keychain of the Turkish flag on my photographer’s vest to show my appreciation of Turkey. People stop me many times, often giving me a quick nod in appreciation of the flag.
Others ask, “Why are you wearing this?” some even add with a perplexing look, “Are you Turkish?”
I say no, adding that I’m an American and understand that freedom comes with a price.
As Guleç noted during our conversation, the red color in Turkey’s flag “symbolizes the blood lost in the fight for independence.
I say I wear the flag because I share the feelings of what it means. My country also understands the price of independence. I want to show my support of Turkish independence as I travel.
It’s a matter of pride.
In Turkey, the dryer is a rare and exotic instrument.
Why? Well, in Turkey, energy comes at an extreme cost. For example, gasoline costs roughly $3 YTL per liter (about $7.80 USD per gallon). Almost anywhere you go in Turkey, you’ll find that things have been built for efficiency. Energy efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are not only in restaurants and large buildings, but are also in almost every home. Many lights in public toilets, walkways, and hallways are activated by sensors. This is sometimes troublesome when the light goes off in the bathroom while you’re still doing your business, or at my apartment complex where the lights turn on AFTER walking down a perilously dark staircase.
Since dryers are far too costly an expense for most Turks to buy and use on a regular basis, Turks turn to the air.
A friend of mine also said that some Turks who could afford to use a dryer don’t because they prefer their clothes dried on a line. Most of Turkey is very dry, so clothes dry fairly quickly (3-4 hours in Ankara). When I came here, I thought that drying my clothes “the old fashioned way” would be incredibly time consuming, but actually it’s not too bad. The only thing you NEED is enough space to hang your clothes.
For this reason, a balcony is almost always a must for every apartment. Also, Turks love using balconies for eating and hosting guests, much more than in the US. Another Turkish friend mentioned when he and his family traveled to Hawaii for a vacation, they stayed in a hotel room that had a gorgeous balcony view. Every night, they ate on the balcony, but they also noticed that they were the only ones doing so!
One excellent thing about Turkey is that washing machines are first-rate. Again, because energy efficiency is a necessity, not a luxury, the washing machines in Turkey use just the right amount of water. I never find my clothes dripping wet. However, one cost is that the usual washing cycle takes about an hour and a half.
That’s today’s find, now I need to go find my socks…