Edirne – Keşan – Malkara – Tekirdağ – Çorlu – Lüleburgaz - Kırklareli
We’re in Türkiye’s European lands. Thrace, or “Trakya” in Turkish, includes Edirne, Kırklareli, Tekirdağ, and a part of Çanakkale.
Let's start our gastronomic and historical journey from the west, in Edirne. Edirne has a border with both Greece and Bulgaria, and was once the capital of the Ottoman Empire, before İstanbul was conquered. It offers majestic architectural works and rich historical heritage - all this alongside a rich gastronomic heritage!
Edirne has a rich tradition of both meat and dairy products. Edirne peyniri (white cheese) is made with cow's milk and is a staple and protagonist of the local breakfast spread.
There are two things that should not be missed in Edirne: visiting the Selimiye Mosque, the masterwork of Mimar Sinan, the most famous architect of the Ottoman Empire, and eating tava ciğer.
Selimiye Mosque was commissioned by Selim II, the son of Süleyman the Magnificent, and was completed in 1575. This mosque has four minarets and has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2011.
Edirne’s famous tava ciğer is prepared by thinly slicing calf's liver, dipping the slices in flour, and frying them. There are many restaurants in the city center around Süleymaniye Mosque where you can try this local delicacy.
For dinner, we recommend a lamb dish. But before that, there is some more sightseeing since there is another magnificent work to be seen in Edirne - Ergene Bridge, the longest stone bridge in the world. This enchanting stone structure was built on the order of Ottoman Sultan Murad II in the early 15th century. It is 1,238 m long and one of Edirne’s main attractions.
It's time for dinner! We have a delicious recommendation: Elbasan tava. Lamb meat is slowly roasted in yoğurt sauce for a long time, becoming very tender and acquiring a matchless taste. Next to it you can try a salad called mamzana made with eggplants, tomatoes, pepper, parsley, and garlic.
Before leaving Edirne, it’s time for some souvenirs. Badem ezmesi (marzipan) and Edirne kurabiyesi (almond cookie) are the prefect choices!
Our next stop is Keşan, a town south of Edirne. Here, we will eat satır eti. Keşan is known for this special meat dish. It is special because in Keşan, satır eti is made of local grass-fed lamb, finely minced by hand, and cooked with an assortment of spices.
Moving away from Trakya’s western border, we’ll travel eastward. We’re headed for Tekirdağ, but first we’ll stop at Malkara. You have to taste the famous eski kaşar (aged kaşar cheese) of Malkara! This unique cheese is left to mature for two or three months improving its taste and enriching its nutritional value.
From Malkara, we head to Tekirdağ. We have to eat at least two meals, preferably lunch and dinner, so that we can enjoy the city's unique tastes.
We start lunch with a soup: çene çarpan. Its main ingredients are lentils and erişte (handmade noodles). It is both nutritious and filling. It might be a good idea to order half a portion to save some space for the main course: the famous Tekirdağ köftesi. This local specialty might be the most tender, tasty meatballs you'll ever eat! They are traditionally served with a special chili sauce, and grilled onions and peppers.
What about increasing your adrenaline level between lunch and dinner? Uçmakdere, on the shores of the Marmara Sea, is located a few kilometers south of Tekirdağ city center and is one of Türkiye’s best paragliding destinations. Uçmakdere is about a two hours’ drive from İstanbul.
Let's start dinner with another soup: kelle paça. This extremely delicious and healthy soup is made of offal (lamb or cow) and is served with garlic. Next, we have sini mantı as a main course. This dish is a combination of both mantı (dumplings) and börek (flaky savory pastry). It is made in a large tray called sini which gives it its name. It is prepared with ground meat and is served with a tomato sauce and yoğurt. To end this feast, we suggest Tekirdağ peynir helvası, a unique helva made with local unsalted fresh cheese.
We have to stop by another town of the province of Tekirdağ before moving to Kırklareli: Çorlu. We recommend having lunch or dinner in Çorlu. There are two dishes to include on your menu: Arnavut ciğeri and Hayrabolu tatlısı (Hayrabolu dessert). Arnavut ciğeri is prepared by frying chopped liver in a spicy oil; it is served with parsley and onion. You can find it in various places around Türkiye but the most delicious Arnavut ciğeri is without a doubt in Trakya, especially in Çorlu. For dessert, you should try Hayrabolu tatlısı, a dessert made using unsalted cheese and served with tahini sauce.
Now we're headed north to Kırklareli. Before reaching the city center, we’ll stop by Lüleburgaz. Lüleburgaz cuisine is not sharply distinguished from Kırklareli cuisine but is has some of its own specialties. One of the most famous ones is kupriva, which features nettle as the main ingredient. You can have borani as an appetizer prepared with yoğurt and spinach. Finish your meal with a cup of dibek coffee, a special name given to traditionally stone-ground Turkish coffee. A final note: do not forget to visit the Sokullu Mehmet Paşa Bridge, an impressive work by Mimar Sinan in Lüleburgaz!
Kırklareli is an old city with many historical sites – just like Edirne. You should visit the Little Hagia Sophia Mosque which was built on the order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian as a church and was converted into a mosque in the 14th century. Also, worth seeing are the Hızırbey Mosque built in 1383; the 3,200-meter-long Dupnisa Cave; and Kıyıköy’s Monastery of St. Nicholas built entirely by cutting into a massive stone.
Kırklareli is rich both in terms of history and cuisine. We recommend a drink and local specialty to give you energy throughout the day: boza and plaska. Boza is a traditional fermented drink made of corn and wheat, water, and sugar with a high nutritional value. Plaska is a salty cornmeal cake made with leeks that is unique to Trakya.
The star of a meal in Kırklareli must be Kırklareli köftesi. These meatballs are made using meat of animals of animals that live outdoors and graze in nature. This is the secret of the meatballs’ mouthwatering taste! Make sure to accompany the meat with the region’s special water buffalo yoğurt - animal husbandry is very common in this region. As a dessert, we recommend kaymaçina, a special milk pudding made using egg, milk, and sugar. You should also try hardaliye, a traditional fermented soft drink made of ripe fresh grapes, sour cherry leaves, and black mustard seeds. It is not easy to find it elsewhere!
- Selimiye Mosque
- Ergene Bridge
- Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Bridge
- Little Hagia Sophia Mosque in Vize
- Dupnisa Cave
- Kıyıköy and the Monastery of St. Nicholas
- Tava ciğer
- Elbasan tava
- Edirne beyaz peyniri (white cheese)
- Edirne kurabiyesi (almond cookies)
- Badem ezmesi (marzipan)
- Keşan satır eti
- Eski kaşar (aged kaşar cheese)
- Tekirdağ köftesi (meatballs)
- Kırklareli köftesi (meatballs)
- Arnavut ciğeri
- Peynir helvası (cheese helva)
- The milky aroma of buffalo yogurt
- The wind as you paraglide in Uçmaktepe
- The cool air of the Istranca Mountains
- The story of Little Hagia Sophia Mosque in Vize
- The story of Selimiye Mosque and its architect Mimar Sinan
- Local instruments and songs
- The history and stories of oil-wrestling