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Posted on 5/19/2020 12:00:00 AM in Travel Trivia

Instead of shopping at a grocery store, this elderly woman in Istanbul shops right from her window.

Question: How do Turkish elders retrieve groceries without ever leaving home?

Answer: They throw a basket out a window

When walking down the streets of Turkey’s big cities, it’s not uncommon to see a local elder throwing a basket tied to a rope out their upper-story window. No, it’s not part of a game, but a practical way for older residents to receive food and other essentials. A nearby neighbor or street vendor will load the basket up with groceries or other items, and the owner will reel the goods inside. This makeshift system has been a fixture for older Turkish residents for years, but amidst the outbreak of coronavirus, the tradition is more important than ever.

In March, Turkey imposed strict stay-at-home orders, and everyone over the age of 65 was required to stay home. Those that live alone would have been unable to retrieve groceries if not for this handy basket system.

They simply throw down their grocery list and some money in the basket and ask a neighbor to run to the store. Or they can call out to a passing vendor or bakkal (convenience store) clerk to fill their basket and charge it to a monthly tab. All vendors—including butchers, bakers, and farmers—know what a lowered basket means. They’ll drop in a newspaper, some bread, bananas, meat, or more to help out a neighbor in need. The system of trust relies on the Turkish value of neighborliness as well as the prevalence of friendly bakkals on every street corner.

During the stay-at-home order in Italy, a similar system was used by to support older residents. Rather than delivering goods to the front door, this window-pulley system is much cleaner and safer. The baskets have also been used to give out goods to those in need. Those who can give to the basket add supplies, and those who need food can take from it.

However it is used, this long-held tradition proves there is still lots of good in humanity, especially during trying times.

7 More Unique Customs of Turkey:

  • As is evidenced by this window basket tradition, the Turkish know how to respect their elders. Adding the word “teyze” or “amca” after an elders name, which means aunt or uncle, is a sign of respect.

  • Turks are hospitable to not only their neighbors, but also their guests. It is customary for visitors to remove their shoes before entering a home so as to not track dirt in, but they are often offered slippers in return.

  • Serving Turkish tea is a valued tradition of hospitality. This dark red tea is served in tulip-shaped glasses as a sign of welcoming wherever you go—such as in homes, shops, or a hair salon.

  • Turkish coffee is also a tradition of its own. The Turks enjoy their black coffee strong, thick, and served from their special cezve pot. In traditional Turkish courtship, a bride-to-be will make Turkish coffee and serve it to her future in-laws.

  • The Turkish believe that bread should accompany every meal, and fresh bread can be easily purchased at any nearby bakkal. Children are often seen bringing fresh bread back home to their families.

  • For Turks, showing affection between one another is not uncommon. Women putting a friendly arm around one another’s waists or business partners putting a hand on the shoulder is seen as an indication of trust.

  • The famous blue evil eye, known as the Nazar, is a big superstition for Turks. According to the tradition, blue eyes give off the most negative energy, so carrying the blue glass eye cancels it out. They are often pinned onto newborn baby’s clothes and hung above doors to ward off bad luck.

Experience the neighborly hospitality of Turkey when you travel on Turkey’s Magical Hideaways.

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