I remember reading Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence, cuddled in bed in the cosy apartment of our kind host Matyás when my friend Visha and I just moved to Szeged.
Turning page after page in those sunny autumn mornings I was taking a storytelling journey to the streets of Istanbul, dreaming about the fragrances, the conversations and self-discoveries they offer.
Five years after these golden days I was roaming the main streets of Istanbul, filling my emotional backpack with impressions, sunlight and lokum. The reason for this journey was the first organisational meeting of the Getting Involved Toolbox Team. We stayed one step away from the main Istiklar Caddesi in the Beyoglu district and every day we were taking a stroll through coffee shops, fashion stores, galleries, confectionaries shopping passages and ambulant traders to reach our meeting venue – the friendly office of GOLA organisation. (Later we got to know that among the main activities of GOLA is organising a wonderful summer festival dedicated to arts and crafts of the Laz people, an ethnic minority living in the Eastern Black Sea between Turkey and Georgia).
So, while crossing the border by a ferry from the European to the Asian part of the city I was thinking of my first three personal favourites from this trip. Here is the list:
Associating Turkey first with boiled in a cezve coffee I was nicely surprised that çay, or tea is this much praised that one could as well encounter an ambulant tea traders, bringing around huge thermoses of freshly boiled çay. Typically served in an elegant glass on a plate, tea is served any time, but mostly after a meal or in the afternoons. We also accompany our brainstorming sessions with glasses of the amethyst drink. Later on, Zenel explains that when visiting a Turkish family in order to show that no further tea serving is desired, one should put the tea spoon over the glass.
2. Galip Dede Street
The narrow cobbled street leads you from the main Istiklar Caddesi downhill towards the Kemeralti street and from then – the sea. A stroll down opens up a golden view towards the sea framed between the old sparking curiosity buildings. The location is also famous as a music center, since walking around one could choose between all kind of modern and folk instruments. Sneaking in one of the stores we have the chance to get a short welcoming performance on the typical Turkish string instrument bağlama. The shop owner is kind and willingly shows and explains the specifications of the different bağlama, pointing out that there are short and long necked ones.
3. Crossing from West to the East by sunset
Just like the a good host who keeps filling your dish with food, Istanbul cherishes its guest with generous sunsets. Perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy this romantic part of the day is to go on a ferry trip from the European towards the Asian part of the city by sunset. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing the falling sun glazing over mosques and skyscrapers turning them slowly in a gorgeous city silhouette.