As the city heats up during the summer months, folks in Istanbul like going to green spaces for picnicking with family and friends. Turks, in fact, are quite the experts when it comes to laying out a really good picnic spread. It's something of a national obsession, and you'll find thousands of piknik yeri, or picnic grounds scattered across the country. Public spaces tend to cater to picnickers, with some riverside spots even offering tables and benches planted in the shallows so folks can cool their toes while they eat.
There's a whole process involved in Turkish picnicking, and it usually involves a crowd. Two or three families will often get together to share a meal, with each family divvying up the responsibility for who brings what. Each family or group will pack a picnic hamper, blankets will be spread out in the fresh air, and the event will commence.
And a serious event it is as well, with picnics often lasting for hours – from lunchtime well past twilight. As the daylight fades and the stars come out, someone might even light a fire so the festivities can continue. Someone will pull out a bottle of Raki (an unsweetened anise flavored liquor), and you can expect a good few hours more of loud talk, laughter, singing and even dancing.
If you're planning your own Istanbul picnic, you'll want to pack your hamper with the very best traditional picnic fare. For a bountiful supply of tasty treats, we'd suggest paying a visit to the Cihangir neighborhood of Beyoglu. Your first stop should be at "Antre", a lovely little gourmet shop near the Firuzaga mosque. You'll find a bevy of excellent Turkish olive oils and jams, firm Turkish cheeses and stuffed olives, along with a selection of imported meats and cheeses. "Antre" also has a delightful selection of prepared foods like stuffed grape leaves, fried zucchini patties and chicken salad.
Just four doors down from Antre you'll find "Yilmaz Manav", where you can stock up on fresh seasonal fruits before heading over to "Komşufirin" for baked goods. At "Komşufirin”" you can find traditional Turkish loaves as well as baguettes and other fresh offerings. Everything's hot from the oven, and sliced on request.
Finally, stop in at "La Cave" to stock up on some excellent wines to round out your picnic fare. Though prices are high (due to heavy taxes on both imported and local wines), this store has an excellent selection and the English-speaking staff is knowledgeable and helpful.
While you've got your hamper packed, the foodstuffs are only the beginning. A Turkish picnic spread makes our Western version look perfectly anemic in comparison. "Everything but the kitchen sink" is almost literally applied here, as the Turks bring along chairs, rugs, blankets and cushions, card games, sports equipment, and even electric lighting. Of course, no picnic would be complete without a semaver tea, and some families will even bring a portable music system or blare music from their car stereos.
There is a great selection of really good Istanbul apartments next to the piknik yeris, book yours now and enjoy the best picnic the Turkish style!
Hans Beltran is a world traveler, who enjoys writing everything regarding holidays and vacations. Passionate about SEO and world history, found in writing the perfect way to share his experiences with his fellow travelers.
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