Leyla Yvonne Ergil
ISTANBUL: Few foreign visitors know that this time of year is actually for many Turks one of the most beloved seasons in Türkiye. Whether it be for traveling, prepping the pantry or simply enjoying the weather, fall is a special time in this beautiful country
The start of fall is that precious time of year in Türkiye, when school begins and the summer holiday season slowly comes to an end. But for those vacationing without the kids and not seeking crowds, this is actually the most ideal time to travel in Türkiye. The weather is slightly cooler and the tourist spots and beaches less crowded, while most venues that tend to operate solely in the summer are still operating during the next month, which is widely considered to be the end of the holiday season. Most seasonal restaurants, cafes and operations choose to make Oct. 29, which is Republic Day and a public holiday in Türkiye, their final day of the season.
The weather will remain predominantly warm throughout the month yet with a chill in the evenings, so this is also a time to come well prepared, by bringing along swimsuits, beachwear and sweaters and cardigans and such. In other words, it is a great time to have layered outfits and to be well aware of how you can go from sweating from the heat to having chills from the breeze at any moment. The end of October will be a period referred to in Türkiye as “pastırma yazı,” which refers to that final heat wave of the year. The name itself is a reference to the cured meat called pastırma, which is dried at this time of year.
Generally, we are all hoping for some rain to fall beforehand in Türkiye, because after the hot summer with little rainfall and now low humidity, but high winds, it is primetime for wildfires. This past week alone there have been a few wildfires that have surfaced in popular vacation destinations that thankfully have quickly been extinguished. But it is impertinent to be aware that while the weather may seem cooler, the danger at this time of year is higher for anything to ignite as the forests have had a long dry summer, meaning they are simply sitting there as very dangerous kindling. October rains are also a reality in Türkiye and will be welcomed when they come, yet that is another factor visitors may want to calculate during vacation plans.
The slightly cooler weather makes it an opportune time to hold weddings though, so you may see more and more ceremonial processions and parties related to weddings, engagements, circumcision ceremonies, etc. In rural areas, these can be dayslong events involving large-scale celebrations held in gardens or even in banquet-like areas set up on streets with live music and processions of cars honking. This month and the next is also an ideal time to visit any archaeological or ancient sites and boat trips, all outings that can be trying in the sweltering summer heat in Türkiye’s southern coastal regions.
The farmers markets around the country and even the large-scale markets will look a little different this time of year as there is a variety of produce made available for pickling and preserving, which is a big part of Türkiye’s cuisine. Referred to as the time of “güz,” which is a Turkish word with the double-entendre of “harvest” and “autumn,” tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers and a medley of other vegetables that are smaller, harder and more misshaped are sold at more affordable prices to be purchased in bulk for Turkish homemakers to prepare their winter pantry.
The tomato and red pepper pastes that form the basis of many Turkish dishes are boiled down from fresh produce and stored in jars in the autumn season, thus saving glass jars and gifting them to neighbors embarking on this preparation process is a great way to contribute to this wonderful culinary practice that continues to flourish in Türkiye. This harvest season is also when grapes and olives begin to be picked and so you may see blankets laid out under trees and vines for this process and groups of people with sticks and other utensils used to collect these fruits. Olive oil factories will begin to have lines as the freshly picked olives need to be pressed into oil as soon as possible after being collected.
In Türkiye, this time of year is also called the “sarı yaz,” which means the “yellow summer” and not only refers to the autumn golden hues the leaves take on but recalls the calmness of the sea, which sailors say is the time of year ants can come to drink from its water. The bottom line is this is when the locals can enjoy their towns that tend to be overpopulated at the height of the season. And so, when traveling Türkiye at this time of year, visitors can truly get to see what life is usually like and experience the daily lifestyles of those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the most beloved holiday destinations in Türkiye year round.