It is Saturday. I take the metro from Gayrettepe station to Taksim. Then I took the Funicular down to Kabatas. After being in underground, like a mole, I am finally out in the sunshine. I still have 20 minutes to the boat departure time. There is a little tea/coffee house by the water. Of course, all the tables by the water are taken. I take one on the second row. I enjoy a cup of tea. The sun is bright. It is a beautiful spring morning. Tulips are exploding all over Istanbul. Well, I guess tulips are enjoying their homeland.
A fast ferry takes me to Kadikoy. one of my favorite towns in Istanbul. Kadikoy port is bustling and it is only 10:30. I pass by the flower stands. One flower lady eyes me and says “You definitely need some flowers.” She is right for all of us. We definitely need flowers. They are in brilliant colors. Just like any other spring flowers. Her stand filled with ronunculus, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, daisies, roses, and more in all colors. I promise her I will buy flowers when I return. She says “I will remember you. I am here waiting for you.”
From Kadikoy port, I walk up to the boulevard. I am looking for the shoe store where I bought my slippers a few weeks ago, just the day after I landed Istanbul. In Turkey, you need slippers if you are home. Turkish people never walk around their homes in their street shoes. They want to keep their homes off the street germs. Another great habit: they wash their hands first thing when they take their shoes off. Then, they can go about taking their daily groceries into the kitchen or relax on the couch.
I found the shoe store. It is Remzi Shoes. It has been there since 1962. It is an unassuming, stuck-in-a-corner shoe store. At the back, they have a section with very comfortable leather shoes that they themselves have them manufactured. The price is much better than fancy shoe stores in the malls. This is a family business and I love it. I like a pair but it had only the brown color in my size. This is not a problem with the owner, he says he can get it recolored in two hours at a professional shoe polish store. This is Turkey. They do the impossible to please the customer. I have doubts about it. But, I have to take his word. I love the shoes so I was even going to ask them if they could look into protecting leather shoes for the rain so I’m able to wear them even in less-than-nice weather.
So, I have two hours to kill in Kadikoy. The town is just awakening. It is not noon yet.
First I found a little store selling spices, soaps and every natural medicinal herbs, spices, and oils along with old fashioned Turkish desserts. I bought some cinnamon, kantaron oil, and one of my favorite desserts from my childhood. It is like a stick, strung up walnuts dipped in grape molasses and dried for weeks. Nothing artificial is added.
I walk up a road and find Ciya restaurant, actually one of the three with the same name within stone-throw at each other. It is a famous restaurant, featured in international press. I have a light lunch there with a great dessert: eggplant studded with walnuts served with clotted cream and pistachios. They have the same dessert with olives, pumpkins, plums, and some other fruits. I kind of know the process, but I am always scared of trying it. You clean, pit, peel, whatever you do to get the vegetable or fruit ready. Then you place in in lye water for hours. Somehow, this turns the vegetable or fruit into a candy like substance soft with a slight crunch. Then they cook it in syrup. The taste of the vegetable or fruit is very subtle, almost non-existent. But, the texture is to die for. I eat my dessert with a glass of Turkish tea. Since I am the first customer at the restaurant before even it is opened, their Turkish tea is not ready yet. They keep insisting that I have to wait for the tea to get ready. I am impatient. I want to have my dessert with Turkish tea. It takes the heaviness off the syrup and brings out the taste better.
After my wonderful little meal, I walk down the street. I still have another hour to kill. By luck, I end up in Kadikoy’s famous fish market. Believe me, if you visit there, you will never eat any processed food. Fish stalls are filled with a variety of fish and shell fish. The fruit and vegetable stands are bursting with spring produce in between the ever existing lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, scallions, arugula, all kinds of herbs. I bought a little container of black mulberries. They are the first in the season, and they are from my mother’s hometown, Silifke. They are picked by the hands of my fellow townspeople.
I buy some salad ingredients. I walk around. The cheese and olive stores beckon you to taste their products. Now I am having my second lunch. The olives are glistening under the sun. I cannot resist. I purchase some cheese and olives. There are also mounds of grape leaves in brine or just salt. These are for making wonderful stuffed grape leaves. The smell of fresh bread fills the air. The dessert shop is tempting, but I already had my dessert.
I go back to my shoe store. My shoes are not back yet. The owner is out to get them. Other attendee, I guess this one must be the nephew of the owner, orders me Turkish coffee. I sit on a stool, drink my Turkish coffee, and chat with this young fellow. He tells me about their family business. While waiting, I end up buying another pair of shoes. The owner comes with my “disguised-in-black and newly-polished” shoes. We chat a while. This is when you feel more and more that you are in Turkey. Business comes after relationships are built.
I walk down to the port. I am ready to go home. I hide from the flower lady. My hands are full with two pairs of shoes, fruits, vegetables, cheese, olives, and honey. I find the ferry going to Besiktas. I figure it is easier to get a taxi to home from Besiktas port. The ferry is full. I find a seat and enjoy’ yet another time’ crossing the Bosphorus and still awe about traveling from one continent to another in thirty minutes.