Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Selçuk and Sherbet [Turkey, pt. 3]

From Bursa, we drove all the way to the sea. Selçuk is a tourist town, it seems. We stopped at a promising little inn. Pulling the huge van into the strip of gravel that served as a parking lot, we filed out past a hedge of towering oleader bushes. I thought of Hawaii, and my father's childhood; of highway medians in California, full of the same pink and white blossoms and tongue-shaped green leaves.
The garden of the inn, as seen from my window
Down a little winding brick path past an old lady on a bench holding a hand-woven something-or-other, into a cool dark room with a glass cooler full of a liquid the color of hibiscus. An English speaking couple was on their way out the door. The parents spoke to the man at the counter; my sister S. and I sampled the small scones on a plate by the cooler. They were buttery and tasted of cheese and herbs.

The initial discussion over, we were released to wait in the garden. O.'s mother drew some of the red liquid into goblets for us. "It is sherbet," she told us. "Something sweet and cool." Punch, I thought, and took a sip.

It was not punch. At least, it was not a fruit punch. Everyone was taken aback by the intensity of the flavor. It tasted of cinnamon and... something else, something harsher and less sweet. Weeks later, we looked up the translation of the Turkish word. Cloves. This was essentially a clove tea, beautiful to look at, especially in the crystal glasses it was served in, but too strong for me to enjoy, like drinking incense.

After a few minutes, we were given keys and led through a garden of roses and luxurious greenery to our rooms. Later, S. and I were to discover tortoises roaming through the roses, confident enough in their shells to defend their territory against us interloping humans. One of them bit my toe when I blocked his way. They were oddly self-conscious though, and would stop munching on weeds when they noticed us staring at them.

S. with tortoise

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