Erkan Bertram ’18 rekindled last summer break a once-yearly tradition of visiting Turkey over the summer. It had been four years since his family had last visited his extended family in Turkey.
Bertram went to Turkey with his family because, “school was stressful. I wanted to decompress, and I had missed Turkey. It had been a long time since I had gone. I especially missed the food. Food was probably the No. 1 reason why I wanted to go back. Compared to American fast food, Turkish food is gourmet.”
Bertram usually goes to Turkey every year because his grandmother has a house in Turkey, and Turkey is where much of his extended family lives. This year, his vacation lasted about five weeks.
Bertram’s grandmother’s house is on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and located in Hekimkoy, Turkey, a small town.
Bertram says food in Turkey is homemade and is comparable to food you would find at a specialty farmer’s market in the states.
“My favorite Turkish food is a doner,” declared Bertram.
It is a loaf of bread shaped like a football cut in half. Inside the bread is a sliced meat, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and sometimes even French fries.
The meat used inside can be chicken, cow intestine or beef. Cheese is never used inside the doner.
“It tastes like a slice of heaven. I like the chicken doner most. It also happens to be the cheapest of the doners, so the money I save from buying that I use to buy more doners. I also sometimes enjoy the cow intestine,” laughed Bertram.
The desserts in Turkey are also a favorite of Bertram’s. “The desserts are delicious. I have two favorites. The first is Marash Ice cream. It is really amazing dessert not just because of taste, but the people who sell the ice cream on the street put on a show. The sellers will make a fun game out of getting the ice cream, which makes both for a great experience and taste.”
Bertram’s second favorite dessert “is Kunefe. This dessert is a fried cheese fried in sweet sugar water. I like to combine these two desserts together for the best of both worlds.”
The majority of his vacation was spent relaxing, since most people don’t arrive to the Bertrams’ vacation spot until July, and his family arrived in June.
“I read a lot while I was at Turkey — specifically, “11/23/63” by Stephen King and “Miracles in the Emergency Room.” I also slept a lot, too. There is no cable and no Netflix since the government blocks them. This, although a little disappointing, really facilitated great family bonding. I met a lot of family friends that I had never met before, which was also a fun experience. I learned a lot of crazy stories about my grandparents, which was especially fun,” said Bertram.
Bertram also has friends from Turkey who live along the bay near him. He was able to catch up with his friends and learn about their experiences in college in Turkey.
“I actually met my best childhood friend at the bay where I vacation. My group of friends and I all keep in touch during the year, and we spent a lot of time together going to sports games, out to Bodrum, which is the main city in Turkey, and to dinner,” explained Bertram.
He also went with his family on a drive around Turkey to visit old historical places, and he made a visit to an eco farm. Bertram volunteered and lived at the farm for a few days during his vacation.
The rest of Betram’s family only volunteered during the day instead of staying over at night, too. “I wanted to get the full experience of sleeping in a tent and volunteering with the farm. I painted the bottom half of trees to help keep bugs away; raised and fed chickens; and picked fruit. I also cooked with the family, too, and got to know a lot of people. It was an amazing experience,” stated Bertram.