Turkish Ice Cream – Dondurma

Fact – Turks love ice cream. Every McDonalds and Burger King that I saw in Turkey had dedicated little walk-up windows where the only thing you could order was soft serve ice cream. But really, I have no idea how fast food soft serve made its way into the country that invented dondurma.

Waffle cone maker in Egirdir

Our first experience with dondurma was at Lake Eğirdir. One night after dinner, we happened to walk by a guy on the sidewalk who was spooning batter into a waffle iron set up on a small folding table. This hipster was actually hand-rolling ice cream cones. So I was already sold on the cone before we even knew about the wonderful thing that is Turkish ice cream.

Dondurma boy in Antalya

So let me tell you about the wonderful thing that is Turkish Ice Cream. It’s made with goat milk, orchid flour, and mastic, which makes it thick and chewy. Sometimes it’s so thick that they just go ahead and eat it with a fork and knife. It’s usually seen on the streets being sold by a guy wearing a little vest and cap ensemble. The scoop is on the end of a long metal pole used to churn it like butter and pull it like taffy. Tourists will hear them hitting the little bells over-head and be enticed by the display, then get punked for a good five minutes while the guy in the vest serves them a cone on the end of the stick, then flips it upside down or pulls the ice cream back leaving an empty cone in your hand. Its fun for little kids. Big kids like Alicia sometimes just want their ice cream and refuse to play along.

Waffle cone maker in Eğirdir

But in Eğirdir there were no theatrics to delay your ice cream acquisition. Just two brothers, one sitting under a bug zapper and making cones on the sidewalk and the other in the shack with a scoop in his hand. Two lira for two scoops and a free dip in the chocolate sauce.



Sep 2012



Settling Down at Lake Eğirdir

It was decision time. Where do we go next? Tony had a design job to work on and we needed a while to just catch our breath and live someplace without worrying about what we “ought” to be doing or seeing.


We examined our last several weeks of travel and realized a few things. First, we’re really happy when we’re in proximity to large bodies of water, like when we were in the Black Sea coast cities of Batumi and Trabzon. Second, the blazing Turkish summer is so much easier to bear when the air is dry like in Cappadocia. Third, we really enjoyed being in places where you can walk down the street in peace without being seen as a big walking dollar (or lira) sign, like we could everywhere in Georgia.

Google Maps - Lake Egirdir

Google Maps - Lake Egirdir

So we checked a map and looked for a big lake in the mountains, and then picked a small town on one of those lakes. Lake Eğirdir, here we come. The dreaded night bus wasn’t too bad since we reached our destination by 2 a.m. and Ibrahim, our pension owner, met us at the bus stop. It’s always interesting coming into a place in the dark and waking up to a whole new world. From the first peek out the window in the morning, we knew: great decision.

Lake Eğirdir

We explained to Ibrahim that we’d like to stay a while, and told him what our budget was. Ibrahim and his family own Charly’s Pension, but they also own a few other guest houses next to it, and only a few days before had purchased a worn-out pension on the same street. He said we were welcome to stay in a private room for the price we wanted, as long as we didn’t mind that the building had seen better days (renovations hadn’t begun yet).

Ibrahim's pension empire

Our front door security system

The front door opened by pulling on a string attached to a bit of wood, and if the string broke, you could always just reach through the broken glass and open the latch from inside. We thought this was excellent. For one thing, it was a great sign that neighborhood crime was pretty nonexistent. For another, it meant we were far, far away from the slick and soulless tourism machine. (I’m sure if you were to go there today, there would be a proper latch!)

We stood on the white tiled roof and agreed that this was surely the best view in town. Even the hotel halfway up the mountain didn’t have a 360 degree view like this. We shook hands, and Ibrahim had someone put a table and chairs and a wardrobe in our room. It felt so good to unpack.



Sunset on Lake Eğirdir

We spent the next two weeks having long breakfasts at Charly’s, swimming in the lake and watching its colors change with the passing clouds, wandering through the streets and markets, reading books, gorging ourself on impossibly delicious fruit, and just generally having time to sit and be.

We had “our” restaurants, particularly the cheap one over the otogar and the almost-as-cheap one across from the Atatürk statue (every town in Turkey has one). We had “our” ice cream guys and “our” grocery store and “our” family of red-necked grebes that we watched dive for little silver fish. We made sun tea on the roof and took entirely too many photos of flowers and sunsets.

Laundry drying

Charly's Pension terrace

market produce


Multi-colored lake

Neighborhood kids

Old Greek building

Turkish boys swimming

Sun tea

Spiky plants

Eğirdir at night

Eating olives

This summer, Eğirdir was beseiged by an insurgency of midges that came in greater numbers than usual and stayed for far longer than expected. They didn’t bite, but they did make walking outside at dusk interesting.

Midges swarm a street light

One night, we had a campfire on the beach with fellow travelers Naomi and Patrick from Brighton and Robert from Hamburg (hello there, if you’re reading!). Another day, we went to explore the ruined city of Sagalossos. But other than that, our days were satisfyingly ordinary.

We could have done a lot of other things in Eğirdir. We could have filled every day with something fun and exciting. We could have gone windsurfing or sailing or canoeing or mountain biking or fishing. We could have even hiked in the footsteps of an apostle on the St. Paul Trail. But we didn’t. And it was great.


Lake shore

The castle

On the castle

Aug 2012