The near-universally celebrated day of love is upon us as on Monday, Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day will bring lovers around the world together. In Turkey, there are a number of inventive, authentic and creative ways you convey your affection to those you love.
Turkey has a variety of truly mesmerizing "puzzle rings" that are as popular as wedding rings and are often given as a gift to one's betrothed or someone you fancy. These rings come in a variety of interconnected bands that vary in numbers and thickness and a single ring can consist of anywhere from three to up to a dozen bands. The Turkish variety has intricate variations of infinity knots that hold together when correctly worn, but fall apart the moment the ring is off the finger. Once the puzzle is broken, you then have to craftily fit the pieces back together, hence the name “puzzle ring.” Not to worry though, most jewelry shops in Turkey will be able to give you instructions. These rings can be made out of copper, silver or gold and some are even a mix of all three.
The legend behind these rings is that husbands would gift them to their wives as a trick to see if they were being faithful. In Turkish they are called "sadakat" (faithful) or "yapboz" (jigsaw puzzle) rings, but in English they are also referred to as Turkish wedding rings.
Almost everyone can admit to loving candy and if not, no worries, as the treats made at some of Turkey’s most reputable confectionery shops are too sweet to eat to begin with! Whether you put together a box of fruit-replica marzipan from Cafer Erol, a bag of colorful "akide şekeri" from Hacı Bekir or a box of decadent chocolates from Divan, any one of these options will certainly hit the sweet spot. If you want to double up by sending flowers and chocolates, check out Çiçeksepeti, which offers carefully curated gifts for Valentine’s Day including a wide range of chocolates as well as bouquets of edible flowers, which each are in essence miniature cakes.
Why not ensure your loved one is protected from the “evil eye” with a "nazar boncuğu," otherwise known as an evil eye bead. The Turks have long believed that these opaque deep-blue glass beads serve as a protective shield blocking any envious gazes. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors and can serve as jewelry, a decorative hanging for the home or car, or even as a keychain.
Turks are the connoisseurs of bathing and self-care. After all, Turkish baths are now synonymous with the luxurious spa culture for a reason. Peştamel, the pure cotton thin wraps that serve as towels (and were in fact the first towels ever invented), along with specialty soaps and scrubbers always make for a great gift that is not gender-specific. A selection of winter teas sourced from any of Turkey’s spice shops, referred to as “aktar,” will serve to show you care and warm your loved one’s heart.
Let me let you in on a little secret: there is a revolutionary movement in artistic T-shirts going on in Turkey and they happen to make for the perfect gift. From Kaft to Nors, NaneLimonShop to even the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), there are some wondrously creative graphics and designs in comfort gear. Furthermore, the WWF has developed an entire Valentine’s Day series entitled “Love of Nature” in which they have created four different designs of animals expressing sentiments of love.
There is nothing like a one-of-a-kind find that can truly be a keepsake to give to your lover. Luckily, Turkey has antique markets held regularly in most cities. In Istanbul alone, this Sunday there will be antique markets held in the Kadıköy, Bomonti and Dolapdere neighborhoods.
Under Lucky Stars produces unique star maps of the sky at the very moment you met your partner. These maps that show how the stars aligned as you were falling in love are then framed in shapes, including circles and hearts. Admittedly, this is more universal than a Turkey-specific venture, but it is just such a romantic idea, I had to share.
Send your loved ones a surprise box of fresh produce and local products from farms such as Urla Bahçe, Ipek Hanım’ın Çiftliği and the Gürsel Tombul Farm’s Ekoorganic Market. From seasonal fruits and veg to unique products like Urla Bahçe’s börek made from hand-rolled phyllo dough, stuffed with artichokes, eggplant, green lentils and pumpkin. Tangala Peynirleri is a dairy farm in Fethiye that prepares artisan cheeses that can be delivered to your door.
Let’s face it, there is no better time than now to buy someone you love a candle to serve as a beautiful visible (and sometimes aromatic) reminder of the sentiments you share. Tay Mum is a three-generation Turkish candle-making company that has been in operation since 1975. They even have a line entitled “Inspired by Anatolian Civilizations,” which includes candles shaped like a head found on Mount Nemrut and the busts of Alexander the Great, Zeus, Aphrodite and more, including a variety of replica columns from various civilizations and the sultan's signature.
Last, but certainly not least, is the quintessential Turkish gift for any occasion: cologne. Turkish cologne is revered worldwide for its cleansing and aromatic properties and two of the most-established brands: Atelier Rebul, which opened in 1895, and Eyüp Sabri Tuncer, which opened in 1923, continue to take strides in innovations with their scents. Atelier Rebul has a wide variety of relaxing scents such as their Japanese line and has also added hand-crafted chocolate to their line for Valentine’s Day. Eyüp Sabri Tuncer also has relaxing scents on offer such as Rain Forest, but it is their line of aromas mimicking specific spots in Istanbul such as the Basilica Cisterns, the Grand Bazaar, the Hagia Sophia, the Bosporus and the Spice Market that are truly mesmerizing.