We've mentioned the lamentable booze situation in Turkey once or twice. Turkish beer is filled with poisonous preservatives, Turkish wine is overpriced swill and imported liquor is taxed 100%. Therefore, hosts who typically allot two bottles of wine per guest for Sunday Dinner must constantly plot ways to keep the Booze Dolabı (a hilarious play on the Turkish for refrigerator, which is buzdolabı, lit. ice cabinet) stocked.
We've also more than once mentioned the dreadful pork situation. Though we never really ate pork before moving to Baku and Kyiv, now we can't get enough. Pork, along with wine/liquor, are the number one and two requests from those traveling to Istanbul. Though our contemporaries are almost always coming and going, logistical challenges still exist. Pork, it turns out, is perishable. Wine is heavy and frequently breaks. Each passenger can only buy four bottles of wine or two bottles of liquor on arrival at Istanbul Duty Free. Asinine restrictions on liquid carry-ons challenge duty free buyers coming from America, and, absurdly, Georgia.
We've tried several different approaches to solving these problems. Trips to Bulgaria? Not advisable. Attempting to use two different passports at Istanbul duty free? Denied. Insisting that all visitors fill their duty free quota both at their European layover airport and upon arrival in Istanbul? Red State Sibling was initially shocked at the audacity of this request, but, having spent a week here, concluded it was completely reasonable.
So, we plan stopovers in airports with quality duty free and schedule trips to places that have desirable wine or spirits with which we can fill an extra suitcase. We've even created a trade consortium called the International Liquor Transport Team, or ILIQTT, the purpose of which is to coordinate trips abroad with shortages ("Hey, I'm running low on scotch" or "I wanna have a margarita party. Grab some tequila!")
We hate to brag, but we achieved a personal best in the wine and pork department on our recent trip to South Africa. Between Johannesburg's first world, non-Muslim supermarkets and the airport's spectacular duty free wine department, we packed up 11 bottles of wine, three bottles of liquor, three kilos of pork products and some hard cheeses. We dreamed of bacon and boerewors for breakfast. Malaasef, it was not to be.
Memo to Turkish Airlines: Is it really so complicated to put someone's bag full of wine and pork products on a non-stop flight? Isn't that sort of a core competency? And should it be overlooked (these things happen!), could, perhaps, the recovery process be speeded up to less than SIX DAYS?
The thought occurred to us that ILIQTT had finally been busted for international trafficking of the forbidden meat, but it turns out the bag was just lost. Props to The Turkish Life for accepting delivery of the greasy, smelly, wine-stained mess while we were in Lebanon!
The Producer and I also did well in Lebanon, boozewise. Not only is the Bekaa Valley home to Hezbollah, it also hosts some pleasant wineries that offer decent, cheap reds. On the recommendation of one his Saudi clients, our driver took us to Kefraya (and, really, who wouldn't take advice from a Saudi on wine?). We also enjoyed Ksara, where we loaded up on lots of cheap and cheerful varietals that we hope will last us through Christmas.
For ILIQTT, the occasional greasy, stinky suitcase and broken bottle are the cost of doing business . If we devoted as much mental energy to more profitable activities, such as "work" as we do to importing liquor and pork, we might become wealthy enough to establish our own vineyard in a non-Muslim country.