Saturday, June 5, 2010

Come together...right now...

Leaving one continent, travelling to another, just for coffee, and then coming back seems awfully decadent. I was completely in love with the idea. Total whimsy. And you know what was really great? It wasn't much effort at all.

A simple ferry crossing across the Bosphorus and voila! Still in Istanbul but now in Asia. Or back in Europe. How great is that? Transcontinental travel in Istanbul is the best.

Nevzat, our travel agent who quickly became a friend, met us on the European side and we travelled together on the short ferry ride. We all took to his soft, precise way of speaking, easy smile and energetic manner.

He immediately set about spoiling our kids, and from that day on they figured they were entitled to an ice cream at the drop of a hat. Any hat.

With all this talk of friends and coffee, I propose we take a moment to rhapsodize about Turkish coffee. I know I have already shared with you my enthusiasm for the dark and dangerous brew.

First of all, they give it to you in those little cups for a reason. If you have more than one I guarantee you it will knock you back on your patootie, pulse racing, motor mouth going a million miles an hour. Then it will drop you back down in a sickening and nausea-inspiring way, with no chance of getting any sort of sleep at bedtime. Unless of course you counter-medicate with the judicious and timely application of a beer.

Both paths are really bad for you, nutritionally speaking, so best to have just the one cup.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

The Turks are thoughtful, and, unlike the Arabs, don't give you the little pot in which the coffee was brewed. They pour off the liquid part, not trusting you with the muddy, silty gritty grinds. The Arabs leave you to your own devices, which in my case is apparently a bad idea. I can never seem to avoid getting a mouthful.

Turkish coffee is even more exciting to make than cappuccinos, even taking into account the much-loved hissing sound an espresso milk steamer makes. You take a small pot (the special one used just for this purpose is called an ibrik) of boiling water with sugar in it if you like, add your powdery finely ground Turkish coffee with cardamon and put it back on the heat. Then you watch it very carefully.

How Turkish!

At a certain point one of those magical food chemical reactions occurs and suddenly the mixture is boiling extremely rapidly towards the brim. Stirring alone does little good; you have to lift it, stir it, put in back on the heat for approximately a millisecond, repeating the process until you mess up the timing, it boils over and you end up with coffee all over the stovetop. Let it settle. Drink whatever is left over, again with sugar, or without if you have really impressive tooth enamel and the stomach of a billy goat. Never with milk. A cookie is good here too.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Really, it's a lot easier to order the silly thing at a cafe and call it good. Trust me.

Afterwards, you can even have your fortune read (called tasseography) in the dark grinds (bad stuff) and light areas (good stuff) of your cup if you are in the right company.

Back to our trip and the Asian side of Istanbul. After coffee we sailed back to Europe. On the Bosphorus the kids were cold, what with the difference in temperature in Dubai as opposed to Turkey. Fortunately, we'd brought grandparents for just that eventuality. Excellent for snuggling.

Bethy and Pa

Final mission of the day was to meet up with Bill, a friend, engineer, and former coworker of Mike's from Seattle, who was finishing up his vacation through Syria and Turkey. He'd selflessly and enthusiastically shared his love and knowledge of Turkey with us and helped us plan our trip. Deeply in debt to him for all his help, we couldn't believe our luck in being able to coordinate our trips well enough to meet him and his travelling companions for dinner.

We met on ─░stiklal Avenue, an elegant, bustling, pedestrian-only street (with the exception of a red historical tram that had mischievous youths hanging off the back as it somehow managed to part the people enough to get through.) Lively with musicians, (at Nevzat's urging I picked up a CD for 5 Lira, about $3, a great souvenir to be sure,) entertainers and living statues, a place to people watch, eat, drink, shop, and generally be merry.

Which was just perfect for the rest of our evening. We sat outside at one of the many restaurants as darkness fell, enjoyed Bill and his friends' Travel Tales, catching up on all sorts of the tidbits, trials and trivia of each others' lives which make friendship so rewarding.

They gifted Bethy with a TurkCell hat, which you can see her modelling below. (The Turkish mobile phone company's mascot is a yellow snail that you see everywhere.) The hat is definitely a hit with her.

She even wears it in Dubai. And it is hot here now.

Bill, by the way, is wearing a TAGRO hat, and for those of you who know what that is, now you know the sort of fellow he is -quirky, practical, and fun.

(For those who are interested, here is a link to those clever TAGRO folks: Gardening will never be the same.

Bill is also an amazing cook and adventurous gourmand, so we'd brought him some camel chocolate...I wonder how he liked it?

We ate, drank and made plenty of merry until we were all asleep on our feet, deciding that our last evening in Istanbul qualified as a success.

Good stuff.


Julia said...

I love the snail hat. And I'm glad Bethy looks so pleased with opposed to this:

Natalie said...

Well, who can blame that child? That's a mutant Turkcell snail hat! Snails were a constant theme of our vacation...they were, in an unobtrusive and non-icky way, everywhere! I'm very impressed you found that photo.

Mumsey said...

Our wedding rings were made by a jeweler from the middle east. He would sit at his work bench sipping cups of Turkish coffee all day making the finest gauge gold chains. We never figured out how he could keep is hand so steady.

Amarant said...

i LOVED Turkey.

I spend a total of 20 days there. A week in Istanbul itself. and that was not enough ...