First you notice the cats. All colors and stripes, all sizes, every kinds of cuteness. They roam throughout the city. There’s even a cross-eyed cat that lives in the Hagia Sophia which met President Obama.
Several of the women in our group took to feeding the cats wherever we went, carrying around leftovers from our meals, and even buying cat food to dole out.
The Evil Eye
Actually it’s not really the evil eye. It’s a symbol you can wear as jewelry or carry on your key ring. It’s to fend off jealousy. If you are beautiful, or your life is going well, or you just won the lottery, it’s a good idea to carry this eye so that when someone looks at you in that way, their evil indentions are deflected.
You never tell a new mother that her baby is beautiful. That invites bad luck. But if you do say something good, you make a little spitting sound or scratch your tush to ensure no evil.
We had the chance to sample Turkish coffee. Because there is no filter, you request the amount of sugar up front because you don’t want to add sugar later to stir up the grounds. We all ordered “medium sugar” whatever that means. First the grounds are put into the little coffee pots and the water and sugar are added. They are then placed on the hot coals until they bubble. Gently poured into a small cup, you enjoy the coffee little sip by little sip until you are 2/3 of the way through the cup and you reach the top of the grounds. Done!
The Turkish language shares origins with Hungarian and Finnish. We learned to say Let’s Go (Haydi Gidelim) Good morning (Günaydın) and Thank you (Teşekkür). After we finally got our minds around Thank You and used it whenever we had the chance, we got one of two responses from the locals. Either they gave us a big smile (which warmed my little heart), or they repeated it back to us. I have not figured out if they were correcting my pronunciation or if they were thanking me (for what, I’m sure I don’t know).
Hookah and Turkish Baths
While we turned down the opportunity to partake of a Turkish bath, we did decide to try smoking a hookah. A group of us went to a local tea house with our guide and shared two flavors of the hookah. One was apple, one was cappuccino, and we all decided that the cappuccino was better. I also decided that one try would probably be good for the rest of my life.
More Traditional Food and Drink
The two carts we saw everywhere sold either simit (a Turkish bagel topped with sesame seeds) to which you can add Nutella or cheese. By themselves they cost one Turkish lira, or about 39 cents. I had a few. (This guy was obviously without a cart, but With Simit,)
You could also buy corn for 2 Turkish lira (or 3 lira if you wanted it roasted), but I would recommend that you not wait until the end of the day to try it. Maybe it tastes better when it’s fresher. At least we hope so. We’d already had our yearly fill of chestnuts in Zürich, so we refrained from sampling those.
A traditional spirit is the anise-flavored Raki. You add it to water and it gets all cloudy.
Yaren took us for a walk through an older neighborhood where we saw some of these views.
This truck drove through the neighborhood and yelled out what he was selling. If someone in the upper floors wanted something, she (usually a she) would lower a basket to the ground with money inside and the potatoes or tomatoes or onions would end up in the basket and the deal was struck. This takes lots of yelling since the distances are a little far. We watched one such exchange, but in the end, the woman at the top of basket declined the goods being sold and pulled up her money.