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Discovering common culture while tracing Culinary Heritage


In the framework of 2018 European Year of Culture Heritage, the Delegation of the European Union to Türkiye had the pleasure to host fifteen European journalists from various European countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, UK) in Istanbul and Gaziantep for a discovery mission on cultural and culinary heritage.  

The visit began with a tour to the heart of the historical peninsula of Istanbul and the most magnificent Hagia Sophia, built in Eastern Roman Empire times; Hagia Sophia survived two major earthquakes and was strengthened by the Great Architect Sinan during the Ottoman Empire.  The group then moved over to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum where they had a great preview of the common cultural history of several countries through the centuries.  Fruitful discussions took place with the kind participation of Professors Filiz Yenişehirlioğlu and Edhem Eldem.  The journalists broke bread at the "Asitane", trying out traditional Ottoman Palace recipes experiencing a very special menu.  The use of sweet and sour tastes over fruits with meat was also common with the Roman Empire too.  Journalists then visited the monumental Chora Museum to witness the fabulous mosaic work and frescoes remaining from the Eastern Roman Empire period.  Next stop was Arçelik, where the first Turkish coffee making machine was invented.  The journalists got the chance to taste different Turkish coffee flavours with different cooking apparatus.  Thereon, overlooking Istanbul, the journalists met with the Director of IKSV Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, to get details of the Istanbul Design Biennial along with İstanbul Bienal, as well as the Music and Film Festivals, the Jazz and Theatre Festivals held in the city...  European journalists visited Istanbul MODERN at its temporary location and found out more about the institution, its current and permanent exhibitions, and its new building being constructed by the Pritzker Laureate Renzo Piano.  Their day ended with dinner at a Turkish 'lokanta' (restaurant) where the journalists met representatives of the press, arts, gastronomy circles sipping Türkiye's signature drink rakı "lion's milk" and mezes (kind of like Spanish tapas).

The following day, journalists crossed over to the Anatolian side of İstanbul by ferry to visit Kadıköy and got into the daily life of Istanbul on the Asian side.  Kadıköy – once called Chalcedon- was an ancient maritime town.  It is the most prominent neighbourhood and cultural centre of the Anatolian side of Istanbul, a residential and commercial area, with its numerous traditional restaurants ("lokanta"), all sorts of little markets; fish, pickle , fruits and vegetables, lots of 'street food' such as "simit", "kokoreç", "midye", "wet hamburgers", bakeries, coffee shops, cafés, bars, cinemas, bookshops and bibliopoles, and like everywhere else in İstanbul, with many examples of historical fountains ("çeşme"), Greek and Armenian churches, synagogues and mosques.  Kadıköy is sisters with Agios Ioannis Rentis, Greece and Berlin-Kreuzberg, Germany.  The tour was designed for journalists to witness the similarities and differences in peoples' daily lives.  During lunch, European journalists met Turkish authors, researchers', bloggers, and reporters on culinary issues at a remarkable restaurant (Here is a tip for the curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO0Rx4BVkn4 ).  The journalists ended their second day, which was the World Food Day, in Türkiye, participating in the launching gala event of the EU production documentary called "SEEDS" getting a sneak preview of the first episode. 

The "Seeds" documentary relates the journey of seeds such as wheat that were domesticated in Anatolia before spreading to Europe from the scientific point of view of archaeologists, archaeobotanists and ethnobotanists.  The documentary, which dwells on the long standing cooperation between European Union countries and Türkiye in the field of archaeology and their shared cultural heritage, was filmed in over 20 excavation sites and museums in Anatolia in addition to numerous excavation sites in Greece, Bulgaria and Italy, and includes interviews with European and Turkish scientists.  "Seeds" documentary tries to answer questions like “Why did humanity grind the seed?”, “How and why did humanity transition to fixed settlements?”, “What route did crops such as wheat and barley take on their way from Anatolia to Europe?” ... and will be made public in 2019.

On their third and final day, European journalists flew over to Gaziantep, Türkiye's first UNESCO Creative City on gastronomy.  The group visited the city's old castle (almost a mini-size Castle of Aleppo), its tiny museums as well as the most unique Zeugma Mosaic Museum, but also its marketplaces, where the old-fashioned handcrafts of cutlery, coppersmith, leatherwork and the original architectural texture is preserved.  The sum of the day could be explained as getting dizzy with endless variety of tastes, smell of spices and baklava - an EU registered product!

As Ambassador Berger remarked "understanding cultures is what brings people closer in a peaceful environment.  We are celebrating or we are commemorating this year the European Year of Culture Heritage, and what are trying to do, we are trying to link the past, the present and the future.  We need to know where we come from, we need to contribute to heritage and need to pass it on to the next generations."  We thank the European journalists for being a part of this pursuit and playing a constructive role establishing dialogue on the European and universal cultural heritage.


Note:  Journalists will file their articles and reports by 2019.


Story : Dilek Tütüncü - Istanbul Photos : Berkay Gülüm

The EU journalists at the library of the Archeaological Museum in Istanbul


The Istanbul Journalists at the Asitane Restaurant


The EU Journalists at the Kariye Museum