The April issue of Australia's SBS Feast magazine includes our feature story on the cow-centric cuisine of Ardahan and Kars provinces, in northeastern Turkey. Included are 6 recipes, for a lentil-tomato soup with handmade noodles and croutons fashioned from the noodle dough; scone-biscuits made from ground dried corn; cherry tomato preserves; fresh pasta handkerchiefs with blue cheese; silky roasted eggplants stuffed with chopped beef; and rustic apple bars.
Doesn't sound much like the usual Turkish fare, does it? As our travels over the last few years have shown us, so much of what many think of as "Turkish food" is really only the tippy-top of the iceberg. Our Feast article is just a taste of what we've found out there, beyond Istanbul, on our road trips. We'll be sharing more in the coming months.
We did part of the research and photography for our Feast article while on a "crash test" trek with Balyolu, an American-founded, northeastern Turkey-based social enterprise headquartered in Kars city. We found out about Balyolu a year ago, via Kickstarter.
We shun tours. But though we certainly do get out there on our own when we travel, we're not equipped to nor, I think, capable of navigating our way across kilometers of open country. We were intrigued by what Balyolu was offering: a very casual, low-key trek village-to-village. Sleeping in homes and eating (and cooking) with villagers. And so we gave ourselves a late 25th anniversary present by contributing to Balyolu's Kickstarter campaign at the maximum level. In June we set off for our second-ever tour. (The first was in Bhutan in 1998).
That week was amazing. Northeastern Turkey is without a doubt the country's most beautiful region. It's just breathtaking. Wide open spaces. Craggy mountains, high plateaus, rushing rivers, placid lakes, Big Sky. In early June, when we were there, the region's lush greenness was complemented by sprays of yellow, white and purple wildflowers and random patches of unmelted snow. Herds of cows, shephards, cowboys. Oh, the sunsets, and the sunrises. (And then there was the food, the most wonderful cooking from village kitchens.)
A photographer's dream, as you might imagine. Dave was out the door most mornings by 5am (so much for a second honeymoon) and usually had to be dragged inside for dinners that started before nightfall.
We're heading back to Kars this June and we'd love for you to come along, as a participant in fantastic photography expedition that Dave is leading with Balyolu founder and National Geographic Explorer Catherine de Medici Jaffee.
Unlike the cooking / photography workshop near Istanbul that Dave is co-running in September, this week will be all about photography. Oh sure, cooking will be happening in villages, and you'll be able to join in if you'd like. And there will be photography of culinary subjects (bee keeping, cheese making, bread baking in a traditional tandoor). We don't compromise on meals, so that the food will be fabulous should go without saying. But the focus for the week will be on pumping up your photography, and on taking a big pictorial bite out of the region's landscapes, ruins, nature and daily life.
What's different about this expedition? One word: access. You'll overnight in villages (with a few nights in a boutique hotel in Kars), gain entre to artisan workshops, be led to secret ruins. You'll work on portraiture with individuals. You and your camera will go where you'd never go on your own -- and for that matter, where few if any other photographers have gone before. There will be a couple workshops, and lots of one-on-one coaching time with Dave. You'll leave with drop-dead images to add to your collection or portfolio, not to mention lots of good memories of a wonderful week with great folks in a beautiful setting.
(If you're anything like us you'll also leave with an extra pound/kilo or two.)
Best of all? A portion of the profits from the expedition will go to fund Balyolu's work in local villages; the organization offers entrepreneurial aid to rural women and sends village girls to school. (Read more about Balyolu and its activities on the website, here.)
We cannot wait to get back to northeastern Turkey. This 8-night/7-day expedition happens the first week of June. It's limited to six participants. You should be fit enough to get yourself and your camera equipment out to the field, but don't worry, there will be no all-day village-to-village hikes on this trip!
Any questions? Shoot Dave an email: drhagerman [at] gmail [dot] com.
We would love to see you in Kars!