Stories from Izmir


Breakfast in a Basket

By: Kenisha Leonhardt
April 5, 2018

Many people throughout the world have a go-to breakfast each morning. For some it is bagels; for others, croissants. But in Izmir, Turkey, you cannot have breakfast without gevrek, a pretzel-like bread topped with sesame seeds. Hüseyin (hü-say-ēn) is one of Izmir’s many gevrekçis (gev-rek-chēz), one who sells gevrek.

Many people throughout the world have a go-to breakfast each morning. For some it is bagels; for others, croissants. But in Izmir, Turkey, you cannot have breakfast without gevrek, a pretzel-like bread topped with sesame seeds.

In certain neighborhoods throughout the city of Izmir one can hear the gevrekçi (gev-rek-chē) coming down the street multiple times a day, yelling, “Gevrekçi ; sicak (sə-jük), sicak,” which translated means, "Gevrek seller; hot, hot."

Hüseyin (hü-say-ēn) began selling gevrek 17 years ago and has made quite the living for himself in this profession, he says.

As Hüseyin passes apartment buildings on his bicycle cart, which is full of Turkish breakfast essentials (gevrek, boyos (a croissant-like pastry originating from Izmir), cheese, and boiled eggs), customers yell at him from their apartment windows and balconies.

Many of Hüseyin’s customers live on upper floors with no elevator access. Therefore, they often lower down a basket or bag that is connected to a rope in order to purchase and obtain their breakfast.

Customers yell out their order, and Hüseyin begins to bag up the items.

As Hüseyin prepares an order in the street, he is always looking for his next sale as people pass by.

As a customer lowers down a basket with money in it, Hüseyin exchanges the money for the food.

In Turkey and other parts of the Middle East, though gevrek is eaten throughout the day, it is a must-have for breakfast.

The process of using a basket to make exchanges is used often in Turkey. If an order can fit into a basket, it will be delivered—whether it be gevrek, dinner, or drinks. Even couples might use a basket to send down something their spouse forgot upon leaving the apartment.

Each day, Hüseyin usually sells around 300 gevrek, 70 boyos, 50 pieces of cheese, and 70 boiled eggs. He buys his fresh, hot gevrek from a local bakery twice a day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Hüseyin makes his rounds throughout the same few neighborhoods seven days a week. Saturdays are his most lucrative day. On Sundays, he takes half the day off, as many Turks go out on Sundays. Hüseyin makes seven to ten rounds through this particular neighborhood (pictured) daily.


A Jovial, Bazaar Man

By: Kenisha Leonhardt
October 23, 2017

Bülent is a larger-than-life small business owner in Izmir, Turkey, who sells local fruits and vegetables at the local market (pazar).

Bülent is a larger-than-life small business owner in Izmir, Turkey, who sells local fruits and vegetables at the local market (pazar).
Throughout Turkey there are open-air markets that pop up all over the city, selling anything from fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheese, to clothes, household items, and anything in between. The Bostanli Pazar (market) is the largest in the city of Izmir and opens for only one day each week: every Wednesday from 7 o' clock in the morning until 8 in the evening.
Bülent (left) and three of his eight siblings, including his brother Levent (in blue), own three stands at the Bostanli Pazar (market), selling local, seasonal fruits and vegetables.
As shoppers pass by, they are able to taste any of the produce before buying.
The western region of Turkey where the seaside city of Izmir is located is known for some of the most flavorful produce in the world.
All the pazar workers are like family because most of them, life Bülent (left) and his brother Levent, have been working at the market for decades.
Bülent and his family have owned their business in Izmir since they migrated from Macedonia when he was 10 years old.
There are more than 100 areas of the city where Bülent and his siblings negotiate to find the best goods to sell each day.
Bülent travels with his family to different parts of the city five days a week to set up shop at different markets with the freshest produce they can sell.
With every passing hour the produce gets picked through, and many of the prices lower significantly. This is when most of Izmir's residents come out to shop for the best deals.
Bülent is jovial and kind. He clearly loves his job and enjoys interacting with people throughout the pazar (market). He is pictured here with his sister Melahat.
As the day moves from morning to afternoon the market gets busier, and Bülent spends his time switching between the three family stands to offer help where needed.
Now in his 60s, Bülent still takes pride in his work after laboring 50 years to help provide for his family.


Pocket Change

By: Jami Sall and Kenisha Leonhardt
September 7, 2017

As many families living in Izmir, Turkey, enjoy their summer evenings by the seaside, they encounter many activities demanding their attention and wallets. For example, they can eat roasted corn, buy toys for their children to play with on the nearby hillside, or even shoot balloons on the sea. Yes … shoot balloons.

In the seaside city of Izmir, Turkey, Samet (left) and Ahmet go to the coast every evening to make a little pocket change. (Photo by Kenisha Leonhardt)
Eighteen-year-old Ahmet is the youngest of eight children. His oldest brother is Samet's father, making Samet, who is only two years his younger, his nephew. (Photo by Jami Sall)
Due to the extreme heat, during the summer evenings many families escape to the seaside to enjoy the cool evening breeze. As the sun sets, the boys arrive with their supplies ready to clean the balloon line from the night before and prepare it for freshly inflated balloons. (Photo by Jami Sall)
Sixteen-year-old Samet, who has a vivid interest in UFOs, inflates some balloons. (Photo by Jami Sall)
Samet then hands the balloons off to his uncle Ahmet (right) to tie to the line. (Photo by Jami Sall)
After an hour of cleaning the line, and blowing up and tying the balloons to it, the boys cast the line into the sea.  Every night, Samet and his uncle inflate approximately 100 balloons, which cost roughly a total of three dollars. (Photo by Kenisha Leonhardt)
After the balloons are all in place, Samet readies a pellet gun for action. (Photo by Kenisha Leonhardt)
Pellets sit on a stool ready for action. (Photo by Jami Sall)
The boys’ BB (pellet) gun sits by the seaside equipped for action, ready for passersby to try their luck at popping one of the hundred or so balloons. (Photo by Kenisha Leonhardt)
Ahmet teaches an interested young woman how to use the pellet gun to make a perfect shot. (Photo by Jami Sall)
As families enjoy their evening by the seaside, they encounter many activities demanding their attention and wallets. They can eat roasted corn, buy toys for their children to play with on the nearby hillside, or even shoot balloons on the sea. (Photo by Kenisha Leonhardt)
Every night, Ahmet and Samet work until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, earning about 20 dollars of pocket change. (Photo by Kenisha Leonhardt)


A Holiday of Sacrifice

By: Jami Sall
August 31, 2017

For Muslims around the world and in Turkey, Kurban Bayramı (known as Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, in the Arab world) is one of two major religious holidays they celebrate each year. This year, Islam’s foremost festival begins today, in the evening of Thursday, August 31, and runs through Monday, September 4, 2017. Çetin and his family raise animals all year long that are sold just for this holiday.

Çetin and his family are from the eastern Turkish province of Ağrı. This province is known for the great quality of meat that comes from the animals they raise.
Every year about a month before the holiday, Çetin and his family load up around 250 cattle and 100 rams in very large trucks to be transported to the large city of Izmir.
In the center of the metropolis of Izmir one can find the largest animal market in the city during the holiday season.
Çetin's nephew Orhan is in charge of selling the rams.
Since rams are a smaller animal, they are typically bought and sacrificed by a single family.
Cows are the largest animal that can be purchased, and they are usually bought by three to seven families who put their money together. After they sacrifice the cow the families will divide the meat evenly.
Anywhere from a month before to the day before the holiday begins, families come to the market to pick out an animal. Once they take it home they feed and take care of the animal until the first day of the holiday, known as the day of sacrifice. This is the day they sacrifice their animal. They believe this sacrifice will cover a year of sins that they have committed. After the meat is sliced and divided, as a tradition they give some of it to five different neighbors. They freeze the rest for winter.
Çetin and Orhan bring six shepherds with them from Ağrı to take care of the some 350 animals awaiting sale.
Çetin and Orhan bring six shepherds with them from Ağrı to take care of the some 350 animals awaiting sale.
Çetin and Orhan bring six shepherds with them from Ağrı to take care of the some 350 animals awaiting sale.
At the end of this holy holiday Çetin and his family make the long journey back to the east with enough money in their pockets to last a year.


Working on a Miracle

By: Jami Sall
March 23, 2017

Meric_SOOC

American sitcoms first turned Meriç, a Turkish college graduate, on to life in the United States when he was a teenager. A trip to New York a couple summers ago further piqued his interest in the American Dream shared by many worldwide. Even given the current political climate in the U.S., Meriç keeps hope that he will one day be able to live out his dream on American soil.



SUBSCRIBE TO OUR PODCAST