Turkish Cay (Chai)

No road is long with good company—Turkish proverb

I read somewhere that offering tea in Turkey is akin to a handshake in the United States.

Though this thought seems to be hyperbole, it is not far from the truth. I have visited Turkey on two separate occasions, once in Istanbul and once in Malatya. The one common thread running through these cities, one a very large international city and the other a smaller traditional Turkish city, is the hospitality of the Turkish people and the offering of tea (cay which is pronounced cheye).

I was offered tea in the shops, a barbershop, a Turkish bath, and homes. And of course in the cafes. There are tea cafes that are for men only. This is part of the tradition of being a Turkish man, to meet in the cafes and drink tea. Men and women can go into the Turkish tea gardens and drink tea. My point is that the culture of tea in Turkey is very important and to refuse someone’s offer of tea is bordering on an insult.

I love this part of the Turkish culture and I hope it never changes. I love the fact that people gather in shops and cafes and just enjoy being with one another. It is a change we could adopt in the US. The closest we have is the coffee shops, but most folks are in there on their devices.

The above photo is of tea in a tulip glass in a cafe in Malatya, Turkey. It was a relaxing few minutes watching the city go about its business while seated at an outdoor table.

My son and daughter-in-law recently gave me a gift of a Turkish tea pot, which is actually two kettles.

This tea pot has given me comfort in the few short weeks I have owned it. The tea is a learning process.

When I drink the tea from the tulip glasses, I am transported back to the cafes in Turkey. I would have liked to have spent more time there.

I think about how the Covid virus has impacted this tea culture in Turkey and I realize that so many people have had to get through their day without their friends sitting around a table drinking some tea and conversing and just enjoying each other. I hope they can get back to seeing each other soon.

In the mean time, I will try to perfect my Turkish tea and think about those people who are missing their friends.

Istanbul…in Bloom

 

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If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.—Alphonse de Lamartine

 

I don’t know if Istanbul is the most beautiful city I have ever seen, but on this day in Goztepe Park (above photo) with the tulips in bloom, it was surely one of the most memorable days I have spent abroad.

April in Istanbul is truly beautiful.  Flowers are in bloom all over the city.  I saw daisies, hyacinths, the most impressive wisteria blooms I have ever seen, and of course tulips.

We were in Istanbul in early April of this year.  We spent a lot of time in parks since we were babysitting our granddaughter while her parents were in language classes.  Leslie Knope’s head would be spinning with the landscaping budget that Istanbul procures for their parks.  I have never seen such beautiful parks in a city, so colorful with all of the flowers in bloom.

Their were two places where tulips were the most impressive. The Sultanahmet Square outside of the Hagia Sophia which has the largest bed of tulips in the world and the previously mentioned Goztepe Park.

If you love spring blooms, especially tulips and wisteria, visit Istanbul in early April.

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Blossoms outside the Blue Mosque.

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Tulips and minaret outside Hagia Sophia.

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Tulips in bloom outside the Blue Mosque.

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Wisteria and redbud blooms in one of the parks in Kadidoy.

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Landscaping in a Kadikoy park.

 

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Flowers for sale from a street vendor.

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The largest tulip bed in the world at Sultanahmet Square, outside the Hagia Sophia.

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Tulips and daisies around a fountain near the spice market.

 

The following photos are of flowers in Goztepe Park in the Kadikoy section of Istanbul.

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Mrs. Big Surf strolling and wishing for a bigger tulip budget.

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Hoscacal, Istanbul.

 

Istanbul…Heybeliada Island

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I feel we are all islands in a common sea—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

If you are in Istanbul and want to take a break from the sightseeing and want to relax, then hop on a ferry and head over to Heybeliada Island.  This is one of the Prince Islands, the second largest one in fact.  It sits off the coast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara,about a thirty minute ferry ride away.

Heybeliada Island is a wonderful  place to meander through the streets at your leisure.   There are no cars, except for service vehicles.  The late afternoon sun gave us wonderful lighting to explore this island of wooden houses and store buildings, many built during the late nineteenth century.

I was drawn to a bygone time as I walked the hilly streets and thought of all the families that summered there away from the big city.  I thought about how much I have in common with these folks that desire to live on this island, where the cares of life seem far away.  The feel is definitely more relaxed here on Heybeliada Island and worth a day away from the city.

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Leaving the city of Istanbul behind for a relaxing afternoon.

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The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, built in 1857.

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Orange Tree

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Sandal Market

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A shop now occupies one of the old houses.

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Flower market.

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Beautiful architecture of old houses. Many are now shops.

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Taking a break to check out the activity on the street.

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In April on Heybeliada, wisteria was in full bloom.

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See the cat hidden behind the molding?

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A welcoming chair and table awaits on a deck.

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A ferry awaits to traverse the Sea of Marmara.IMG_2751

We had a late dinner on the pier before heading back to the Asian side of Istanbul.

Istanbul…Two Continents in One Afternoon

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Istanbul…the constant beating of the wave of the East against of the rock of the West.—Susan Moody

We had an afternoon to explore some of the sights of Istanbul.  We were visiting my son’s family and baby sitting our granddaughter while in Istanbul.  We spent a lot of time in a park and playground of Kadikoy.  However we were able to take an afternoon and see some wonderful sights.

We ferried across the Bosphorus Strait to the European side of Istanbul, or what you really old folks may call Constantinople.  We grabbed lunch off one of the boats selling fresh fish sandwiches and an order of pickles.  This was a very unique dining experience and I loved the taste of both the fish and pickles.  We ate on the landing.

After our lunch, we headed over to the spice market.  What an incredible experience this was.  Normally, I am not a shopper but I was enthralled at all of the stuff for sale here.  We bought some Turkish Delight, of course.  We also bought some decorative tiles and some scarves.  There was great temptation to buy more, but we showed great restraint.

After the spice market, we boarded a train to take us to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

We were not allowed to enter the Blue Mosque but were allowed in the courtyard.  It is an impressive mosque and the grounds were beautiful as the tulips were in bloom.

The Hagia Sophia was an incredible architectural marvel, considering when it was built.  I loved looking at the ceilings. I also loved looking at the remnants of Christianity before it was converted to a mosque, a microcosm of Istanbul itself.  Although I shouldn’t use the term “micro” in the same context as the Hagia Sophia. One minor disappointment was construction going on inside, so scaffolding blocked some of the views.  I realize this is the chance you take going to see old historical buildings that need constant repair and restoration.  I am glad it is being done.

I can’t wait for the next time to visit Istanbul and be able to see more of the historical sites.  One afternoon was memorable.

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Waiting on the ferry to take us across the Bosphorus Strait, from Asia to Europe.

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Seen from the ferry, the Blue Mosque on the left and Hagia Sophia on the right.

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A closer view of the Hagia Sophia.

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In the spice market.

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Of course there are spices for sale in the spice market.

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And delicious Turkish Delight.

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Colorful plates and cups for sale in the spice market.

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Beautiful lamps in the spice market.

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One of the many fountains in Istanbul.

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Tulips in bloom outside the Blue Mosque.

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Up close at the Blue Mosque.

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Courtyard of the Blue Mosque.

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Hagia Sophia

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Domes of the Hagia Sophia.

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Large carpet of tulips outside Hagia Sophia.

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Inside the Hagia Sophia remnants of Christianity and Islam can be seen.

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Remnants of a Christian mural inside the Hagia Sophia.

 

Istanbul…Not just Turkish Delight Here

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Without effort, there is no food.—Turkish proverb

Like the history of Istanbul, this post is relatively long.  I am going to talk about all of the food we ate while staying here for five days…and I like to eat good food.

At one time Istanbul was on many travel lists as the most visited city in the world.

Though it has fallen some spaces on those lists, doesn’t mean the city has changed.  People’s perceptions of the city has changed and that is unfortunate, at least from my perspective.

My wife and I were in Istanbul, not so much as tourists but as babysitters for a week.  We flew in from Munich on Pegasus Air.  We went to visit some family and be with our granddaughter. We were in parks and playgrounds and did not see many of the traditional tourist sites.  We interacted with many people in shops, markets, restaurants, parks, and playgrounds.  Of course this was based on their ability to speak some English and our inability to speak any Turkish at all.  But let me tell you the people were very friendly.

But, again, this blog is about the food I ate in Istanbul.  I would go back for the food alone, even if my granddaughter wasn’t there.

We stayed in Kadikoy, one of the boroughs of Istanbul.  It is on the Asian side. It is considered the most secular area of Istanbul and the most artsy.

We began our first full day with a trip to the markets to procure elements to assemble a take on a Turkish breakfast.  This is no light breakfast, but probably healthier than most American breakfasts.  A traditional Turkish breakfast includes cheeses, breads with jams or honey, eggs, sliced vegetables or greens, and of course…chai tea. We had most elements but did not have the eggs.

 

 

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One of the local markets in Kadikoy.

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The bakery was intimidating for me, since I don’t speak Turkish.  My daughter-in-law has workable Turkish language skills and she was able to navigate the crowded local bakery.  I just took pictures and enjoyed the experience.  I was able to go back to this same bakery later in the week to get some bread for  lunch.  I went on my own with my Turkish vocabulary of four words and was able to buy the bread I wanted.  The staff was really nice to me.

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This is the end result of our shopping for ingredients for the Turkish breakfast.

On Mondays in one of the parks in Kadikoy, there is a pazar.  I was not prepared for the amount of food that would be on sale.  It was incredible.  I could have stayed there all day.

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Beautiful olives.

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The yellow plums on the right were one of the best things I ate in Istanbul.

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Artichokes in water.

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I believe these are mixed peppercorns.

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The biggest raspberries I have ever seen.

 

One of my favorite things we did was ride the ferry over to the European side of Istanbul. You can buy some chai tea and drink on the ferry. Very nice.

At the end of the ferry ride we bought some fresh anchovy fish sandwiches right off the boat.  They were served with some sour pickles.  I loved it, my wife thought it was a little fishy for her.

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Fresh anchovy fish sandwich right off the boat.

 

After touring some of the historic sites, I bought an ear of corn from one of the many street vendors.  Corn in my home of eastern Kentucky is a popular staple. You may question my desire to eat some in Istanbul, but good roasted corn is good anywhere… and Istanbul street vendors are no exception to serving good grilled corn and it is cheap and easy to get.

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We had a sweet, late afternoon treat, stopping for baklava and chai tea at Karakoy Gullouglu.

 

We had an evening meal at Banadura Adana Kebapcisi. The owner was very nice and he informed us that he used only tomatoes from his native region of Turkey around Adana. He served us complimentary salads with these tomatoes.  They were so good.  Our food here was extraordinary, a very lovely meal with good, friendly service.

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Salads with tomatoes from the Adana region of Turkey.

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Delicious bread as a starter.

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Really good Adana kebap at Banadura.

Our last afternoon, we took the ferry over to the island of Heybeliada, one of the Prince Islands of the coast of Istanbul.  It is a lovely place, reminiscent of days gone by.  We had dinner at Adaturka Kafe Restoran.  This restaurant was just ok, however I did like the fried anchovies, the kaffka, and the salad.  Unfortunately, this was my wife’s least favorite meal in Istanbul.

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A row of cafes on the boat docks on Heybeliada Island.IMG_2738 2

I loved the fried anchovies at Adaturka Kafe Restoran, my wife did not.

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The kofte was pretty tasty here.

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Meals at home were very good. My daughter-in-law fixed delicious food for us with wonderful produce from the Istanbul markets.

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I think I assembled this plate of delicacies.  So easy with good food to choose from.

 

You will be able eat very well in Istanbul, my taste buds are longing for a return.

Of course if you are looking for some Turkish Delight, I can think of no better place than Istanbul.