Time for Turkey

It’s official: I’m traveling to Turkey this November. I’ve just started planning the trip, and all I have right now is a return ticket to Istanbul. I’ll be in Turkey for 12 days, and I’m still working on the itinerary. I know I want to spend the better part of a week in Istanbul and a couple of days in and around Ephesus; the rest of the time is still unaccounted for (I’m also thinking about visiting Cappadoccia, or taking a cruise to visit Troy — but with 12 days, not everything can fit into the plan). If you have already visited Turkey and have any recommendations for where to stay, what to see — and especially, where to get a good gluten-free meal — I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, let me tell you what I’ve discovered so far. Neither of my favorite translation sites, Google and BabelFish, offers Turkish-to-English translation at this time, so I’ve been using Babylon, which gets the gyst of things but seems to miss many words. The Celiac Association of Turkey (Colyakla Yasam Dernegi) has a website that is available only in Turkish. (I’ve e-mailed the association for advice, and I’ll let you know what I hear from them.) Fortunately, Celiac Travel, my favorite site for celiac translation cards, has one available in Turkish.

One great resource I’ve found is a website called the Turkey Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan. I’ve met Tom several times (we’re members of the same writers’ organizations), but it was a pleasant surprise to discover his well-written and comprehensive site. Not only does it cover what to see and do, but there are specific pages of interest to celiacs and the food-allergic: “Gluten Intolerance (Celiac) in Turkey,” “Food Allergies in Turkey,” and “Food Allergy Awareness in Turkey” (there’s also a section for vegetarians).

My Frommer’s colleague Lynn Levine, author of Frommer’s Turkey and Frommer’s Istanbul, also runs a website called Talking Turkey. There’s no celiac-specific information, but there are good overviews about Turkish food and drink, as well as pages devoted to regions of the country, museums, spas, and shopping.

I’ve started reading the Turkish Daily News, a 47-year-old English-language newspaper that can be read online. An article from February 2008 mentions Saf, an Istanbul restaurant where “all dishes are low in salt and fat, raw, organic, gluten free and vegan.” I can’t wait to try it. In the article, Saf’s address is listed as: Akatlar Mah. Cumhuriyet Cad. No:4/6 Club Sporium, Akatlar; the phone numbers listed are 0212 282 79 46 and 0212 282 72 91.

4 thoughts on “Time for Turkey

  1. Hi Hilary,

    This is going to be a fantastic trip — I can’t wait to read you posts when you return. Unfortunately, I don’t have any restaurants listed in Turkey — maybe you could be the first to post some to our listings.

    Good luck and have a fantastic trip — can’t wait to see some photos.

  2. Turkey being somewhat of a not so developed country (outside Istambul), you will find a lot of food that you can enjoy without hesitation as it is made from scratch and mostly without the help of Nestle or other “kitchen helpers”.

    I spent some time along the coast in the Bodrum area and what I do remember was those giant open fire grills with whole lamb or pork being roasted. The best BBQ outside of North Carolina? Fresh vegetables galore, yoghurt based sauces with local spices and herbs.

    Not exactly a meal, but equally enjoyable is the Turkish Pine Honey. Dark Amber, strong flavor, just excellent.

  3. I loved my time in Turkey, albeit brief.
    I highly recommend Hotel Kelebek in Cappadoccia. Incredible surreal terrain & the food was yummy. Breakfasts in Turkey were almost always a nice mix of sweet & salty, with hard boiled egg, nuts, olives, honey, yogurt, tomato/oinion/parsley salad…and rich coffee or mint tea.
    Bon Voyage!

  4. Hi all – I’m a new visitor here and my husband (who is coeliac) and I went to Istanbul for 5 days in late October. We absolutely loved it!
    But…despite reading warnings from other coeliacs about the ‘Ottoman’ rice – he still was ill for 3 of our 4 days. Such a shame! But only in the mornings luckily. The culprit was vermicelli noodles in the rice. I’d read warnings to look out for small red flecks but these were about half a centimeter long and brown and we thought they were onions! We queried it with the waiters of several places and showed them his print out of the Turkish Coeliac card. The answer came back ‘It’s fine – there’s nothing you can’t eat in the rice’. The biggest problem we had was getting the waiters to take the cards to the chefs – they were all far too cavalier and we never really felt the chef had been shown the cards properly. Sorry to be negative but the cards were useless for John.
    Finally, on the final night, these brown shreds looked bigger than before and I tasted one on its own and realised immediately that it was noodles. The difficulty is that when you take a full forkful, in semi darkness, you just don’t feel the texture.
    We still loved Istanbul but it really wasn’t easy for him as a coeliac there. Just to warn people!
    Best wishes, Fiona

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