Bread, fresh-baked in a wood oven, still warm, and only 50 cents. I tell ya, it doesn’t get better than this. Straight from the oven, washed down with piping hot sweet tea. The rings are kinda like bagels, but better. If you want some, this bakery is on the main cobble-stone street in Safranbolu in western Turkey. But come quick cause the loaves are going fast.
This moment is a bit misleading. Modern Turkey does not really look like this. It’s mostly like any modern city around the world. I found this glimpse of its past in the small town of Safranbolu, near the Black Sea. The town is named after the spice saffron, once grown nearby and traded to the west. Today, this cute town is one of a few Turkish towns that retain intact Ottoman architecture. I spent several days there recently, capturing some of the traditional crafts and townspeople. On Friday I attended prayers at the mosque; on Saturday I took a turkish bath in its ancient hamans. There were lots of Turkish tourists in for the day. As a visitor I had the town to myself at night.
While this scene of fresh baked bread in a wood-heated oven is no longer average, or typical for the average Turk (who now lives in a big city), it is fair to say it is representative. It represents the recent past, it represents reality in some places, and it represents what Turks desire and would like to be typical. In all these senses then, this scene is very Turkish, and real. But like a real bird-of-paradise, it is a rare and endangered species. I tend to spend my time traveling to the small corners of the world where these rare species still thrive. Moments like wood-baked fresh bread are no longer ubiquitous, but they do exist, they do matter, and they can be experienced. I travel to meet them.