Istanbul Gone

 

We spent most of 2015 deciding where to move and then doing it. We chose between Berlin and Barcelona, making our first reconnaissance trip to Barcelona in early January and to Berlin in mid February. The weather did not factor into our decision, but the fact that walking in Barcelona we found the neighborhood we wanted to live in, and we couldn’t find its counterpart in Berlin sealed the deal.

For an American, without an EU passport, getting a visa to apply for the residence permit is challenging. Especially when gathering all of the information from two countries while in one with poor mail delivery – even express mail (Turkey, it’s complicated.)

We travel heavy, and pets add complexity…the pets needed titer tests, a four month procedure, which I didn’t start until June…having missed that little detail earlier. So, though we’d found and rented our apartment beginning in June in Barcelona, we stayed in Moda until October 28. Meanwhile we had some painting and other minor renovation done in Spain.

We’ve been here in Spain almost two months now.  It is Christmas Day and we will be cooking dinner for new friends, who are also fairly new expats in Barcelona.

I know I’ve abandoned you, my readers.  And for bloggers that’s the ultimate offense.  I quit writing this blog because as things developed in Turkey, I found it inadvisable to publish what I really wanted to say, and that killed the joy of the process for me.  I’m sad about Turkey and its situation. Living there was an adventure of my lifetime. I took to it immediately and thrived. I miss a lot about it, and certainly my dear friends.

Here is a (very amateur) video I made in May in advance of our leaving.

 

I was asked often what I would miss about Turkey.  It was impossible to know the whole answer to that question before going, but I did know it would be the creatures.  As I rewatched the video I was filled with such nostalgia and longing.  The whole street animal thing combined with the city’s integration with the sea is special and unique in the world I think.

Yes, it was a wonderful experience.  We lived there nearly three years, and I am so glad we did.

I will migrate this blog in some fashion…to another name at least…but for now I’m limited to an ipad as my single device and camera, and so will publish here for the near future.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

Lucy Speaks

Mom loves living in Istanbul. Me, not so much.  Mom says my stress is her stress.

The day Rita's and my life changed. The long car ride to the longer plane ride.  Rita and I were comforting each other.

The day Rita’s and my life changed. The long car ride to the longer plane ride. Rita and I were comforting each other.

When we moved here we lived in a hilly part of town.  I loved all the cats on the street.  They are different from California cats – not afraid of me.  They just stand and spit…I like it when they run and I can chase them.  Mom made me leave them alone.  Now people laugh at me…there was a kitty and it blocked the stairway we were on.  I left it alone as I was supposed to, I gave it wide berth, so there wasn’t room for us to walk on the stairs…people watching thought I was afraid of the cat….can you imagine?  I do chase a cat when I can…

Recovering from jetlag.

Recovering from jetlag.

In California, most people said nice things to me, or ignored me.  Being ignored is fine…I’m not worried about other people or dogs, I just follow Mom and Dad and the toy they are holding.

Istanbul is different.  People and other dogs sometimes are not too nice.  Mom doesn’t always see the mean street dog sleeping under a car, and is surprised when I try to get away.  I have to, because those dogs bark a lot and bite some.  Mom’s learned to hang onto my leash, to protect me from cars, in case I have to dart away from the street dog.  I am glad Mom and Dad respect my need to avoid the street dogs.  Sometimes there are so many on one street that we need to go a totally different way to get somewhere.  Mom and Dad pay attention to my needs, and I am relieved.

My old life.  In Carmel CA.  I used to draw a crowd on the beach...they called me "ballerina"

My old life. In Carmel CA. I used to draw a crowd on the beach…they called me “ballerina”

At least Istanbul has water.  We live in Moda because of this spot.

At least Istanbul has water. We live in Moda because of this spot.

It is hard to make friends here.  Many people act very afraid of me.  They make unfriendly faces and run away.  Some kids think it looks like fun to throw the ball into the water for me, but are afraid of me when I bring it back to them.  Some people want me to come to them, but not too close.  What is wrong with them?

This kid couldn't resist my game :-)

This kid couldn’t resist my game 🙂

Some people are very mean.  This morning there was a friendly dog with a halter but no leash…his mom was nearby waiting for him to come inside.  We played, peed on the same curb, and sniffed each other.  He then went inside.  But, a friendly (surprise!) street dog wanted to join the game, and came to sniff me.  I knew we were in the middle of the street, Mom was calling to me and a car was coming.  We didn’t get out of the street in time, so he just hit us.  His fender was plastic, he wasn’t going fast, it was really just a nudge out of the way…but Mom was really mad!  Dad said, “Good thing I wasn’t there”.

I draw a crowd here too!

I draw a crowd here too!

I like the big park across the street, and I like to swim in the sea.  The park, the sea, the weather are all similar to home, but here I am trapped inside, with no gate that gets left open, so I can’t escape and go roaming by myself.  Sometimes kids in the park like me.  Dad always invites them to pet me, and get to know me.  Sometimes people understand that I am a sweet, obedient girl…mostly though; they don’t even give me a chance.

Dogs with families and homes aren’t always that nice either.  They steal my ball in the park, and their parents don’t stop them.  They get away with things.   Like, they pull their people all over the place, and they bark at me.  Mom and Dad won’t let me do that.  Their parents don’t always pick up after them either.  Mom is so fanatic, if I happen to poop on the steep slope in the park, she climbs after me to clean it up.  I don’t know why she bothers; no one else would do that.

We live in an apartment now.  In our California house I could bark as much as I wanted, although the parents always wanted me to stop.  Here they have some machine that bothers me when I bark.  I limit it now to the things I must bark about, like when the doorbell rings.  When they are gone they close all the curtains so I can’t see dogs outside to bark at.  Pretty boring.  I used to bark my head off at Dolores and the vacuum cleaner.  Wouldn’t you?  I hate that machine, it scares me.  Mom and Dad have been doing the vacuuming, so it’s not fun to bark at them.  Today they have someone else doing the vacuuming…but I’m not barking.  Maybe I’ve outgrown that.

Getting my exercise.

Getting my exercise.

There are some things I love, but I can’t tell you why…the simitici, for example.  He is a man who carries simitlar (Turkish “bagels”) on his head, and walks the neighborhood calling, selling to people who send baskets down on string.  He takes the cash, loads the bread and they haul it up for breakfast or afternoon snack.  That call really touches something deep and primal in me.  When I hear it I can’t help but throw my head back and join in with a howl.  It makes the folks laugh every time.  They call him “my boy”.  Sometimes when we are walking Mom will say “Lucy, there’s your boy”.  I don’t know what she’s talking about…”my boy” is only a sound.  Another thing I love, there are a lot of snacks on the street.  Mom always yells at me to “drop it”, but she’s not fast enough.  I won’t tell you what they are, but they are good.

They call him "my boy".  I don't know who that guy is!

They call him “my boy”. I don’t know who that guy is!

The streets are interesting too.  One day there was a wooden slat box lined in plastic on the street.  I sniffed it and was so shocked at what I smelled that I had to jump back.  I can’t describe what it was, but I did a double take.  Mom looked at it and didn’t see anything.  I could walk for hours just sniffing and peeing.  So many have been by the same place, there is so much to notice.

Mom and I go for long walks all over town in the evenings when Dad’s at the gym.  I like that – so many new streets and places to see. Mom tells me what a good friend I am, and how happy she is I am here with them.  Also, we go watch the boats out on the breakwater.  Sometime she ties me to a post and shops for things.  Being tied up used to make me nervous, but I’m a city dog now.

Mom and Dad are happy.  Rita is doing OK, and they protect me from the street dogs. It isn’t as good as my old life, but it is good.

A City in Love with Itself

It is more appropriate to say a people love their city – but in my mind, Istanbul is so much its own entity, with its deep history only fleetingly shared by its current inhabitants.

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Istanbullular (the people of Istanbul) love flowers.  In early spring, the title for this post popped into my head as we were out walking.

This meticulous flower bed in a local park named this blog post.

This meticulous flower bed in a local park named this blog post.

It was barely past winter and obviously municipal workers had been planting.  A lot. This is a different phenomenon from residents trying to cure winter cabin fever by planting blooms.  It is public and pervasive.  It represents investment, identity, and political will.

Early March, on the way to the ferry pier.

In March, on the way to the ferry pier.

I began noticing the flowers before it was tulip-time, but the tulip is the embodiment of spring for Istanbul. Tulips are a reconnection to the Ottoman past.   From about 1730, when mobs destroyed the lavish gardens of Sultan Ahmet III until the 1960s, when a special garden in Emirgan Park was created, Istanbul’s tradition of tulip cultivation was suspended.  Tulip gardens that had lined the Bosphorus disappeared.

A roundabout in Moda in late March. The center of it is a mini park.

A roundabout in Moda in late March. The center of it is a mini park.

We kept hearing about the display in Emirgan Park, although tulips are all over, everywhere.  Since 2006, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has planted millions of tulips from November to April each year in preparation for the annual tulip festival.  2013 is the 8th year of the festival.  For this festival 14,420,000 tulips of 270 varieties have been planted in parks, gardens, avenues, roundabouts, and rest and walking areas in the city.

Emirgan Park, once a private garden, is a beautifully landscaped public woods on the Bosphorus

Emirgan Park, once a private garden, is a beautifully landscaped public woods on the Bosphorus

Hilly and beautiful Emirgan Park on the Bosphorus on the European side is the main venue.  With the addition of other bulbous plants, such as hyacinth and amaryllis, 20 million plants have been planted in that park alone.  On Wednesday April 10, Jim and I marveled at the display on a sunny, but chilly day—not too chilly for a Mado dondurma (ice cream) cone, however.

Emirgan Park

Emirgan Park

DSC_1864sm

The variety is breath-taking. These were earlier ones, beginning to curl. Bulb planting is sequential so that blooms will continue from late March through April.

Tulips are so associated with the Netherlands that tulip bulbs are sold as souvenirs in the Amsterdam airport.  However, the tulip, lale, in Turkish (from Persian lâleh) is indigenous to the central Asian steppes, primarily the Pamir, Hindu Kush and Tien Shan mountains.  The Ottomans (1299-1923) cultivated them and brought them to their capital city Istanbul, where they were planted in the gardens of palaces and the elite.

Amazing variety, riotous color.

Amazing variety, riotous color.

The Lâle Devri (tulip Age) period of Ottoman history, during the reign of Sultan Ahmet III saw an explosion of passion for the bloom, from its actual presence in gardens to its appearance in costume and ceramics.  Reportedly the sultan so loved the gardens that for an evening party, tiny lanterns were strapped to tortoise’s shells and they slowly roamed through the flowers.  Imagine!  The flowers came to signify commodity culture and excess and most were destroyed in the Patrona Halil Revolt in 1730.

Iznik tiles with stylized lale motif .

Iznik ceramic tiles with stylized lale motif .

Nearby societies also adore the flower.  In Persia, lovers declared their love with a red tulip, whose black center represented the lover’s heart burned to coal by passion.  Yellow tulips signified helpless and utter devotion.

This was one of my favorites, reminding me of the Iznik tulip.

This was one of my favorites, reminding me of the Iznik tulip.

In Emirgan Park, flowers are arranged in all variety of beds and shapes, forming the Turkish flag, waves, dolphins, and stylized tulips for example.  The park itself, at one time a private backyard for a sultan’s magnificent wooden yalı (seaside mansion) now includes three restored 19th century pavilions originally built as hunting and guest lodges.  It remained private property until granted to the city in the 1940s.

Sarı Kösk (Yellow Mansion), a restored 19th C. lodge

Sarı Kösk (Yellow Mansion), a restored 19th C. lodge

Ottomans cultivated more than 1800 varieties of tulips. The first tulip seeds and bulbs are thought to have been sent by an ambassador to the sultan of Turkey to Europe in 1554, but the flower became popular due to Dutch botanist Carolus Clusius’ work at the University of Leiden around 1593.  Tulips were exotic and different from other European flowers of the time, and demand grew quickly.

One of Jim's favorites, he said he always wanted a car of this color.  He said he never found it.

One of Jim’s favorites, he said he always wanted a car of this color. He said he never found it.

There are single hued tulips and wild multi-colored varieties.   The exotic varieties are produced by the “tulip breaking virus”, which “breaks” the plant’s lock on a single color.  It takes 7-12 years to grow to a flower producing bulb from a seed, and since the virus only operates on a bulb, the exotic, highly valued “broken” flowers can only be produced from the few “offset” buds that grow from a bulb each year, not seeds that are harvested from flowers.  Because the virus also weakens the bulb, fewer offset bulbs are created, making the most exciting flowers very rare. Tulip Mania, a speculative bubble of tulip bulbs brought the Dutch economy to its knees in 1636-37.

Emirgan Park

Emirgan Park

DSC_1835sm

Here this spring, I began noticing beautifully planted flower beds in early March, and tulips blooming at the end of March.  On our morning walk, Lucy called my attention to an attractive group of sidewalk planters…she thought they would be really nice to walk – and maybe do other things – in.  I redirected her and took out my camera.

This photo was taken at the end of March.  Today the tulips are white fluffy ones.  There are a few red petals left, and some yellows that bloomed in between the reds of March and the whites of now.

This photo was taken at the end of March. Today the tulips are white fluffy ones. There are a few red petals left, and some yellows that bloomed in between the reds of March and the whites of now.

Someone's kids in Emirgan Park.

Someone’s kids in Emirgan Park.

I love watching as urban areas don their spring attire, and Istanbul is in a class of its own.  I remember long dense beds of tulips blooming in the median on Park Avenue in New York, flowers beds in Rockefeller Center, residents planting their window boxes and the flowering trees lining the neighborhood streets.  A big event was commercial, the annual Macy’s flower show filling their Herald Square main floor.

Emirgan Park

Emirgan Park

Emergan Park

Emirgan Park

Last spring we enjoyed the magnificent spring plantings in Buchart Gardens on a visit to Victoria, British Columbia.  In the northern California suburbs,  spring is a more private celebration.  I enjoyed noting the daffodils sprouting on highway 280 – some years ago someone planted bulbs on gentle ridges along the freeway, and we always joined the many people buying backyard annuals at plant nurseries in April.

Emirgan Park

Emirgan Park

Tulips are a favorite of private window boxes.  We'll load our boxes with bulbs this fall too.

Tulips are a favorite of private window boxes. We’ll load our boxes with bulbs this fall too.

Here in Istanbul, though, it is SO public, exuberant, coordinated…and gorgeous.  The planting is staged so that beds will have new blooms emerging as earlier ones fade. Emirgan Park is the main venue, but not the only park to be full of tulips, not to mention the bloomers that adorn expressways, main roads and most any little triangle of dirt anywhere. Too bad each tulip only lasts about a week.

Enjoying Emirgan on the Bosphorus.

Enjoying Emirgan on the Bosphorus.

On the way back from Emirgan Park.

On the way back from Emirgan Park.

Cultural Immersion Confusion

This weekend, we didn’t swim or tread water very elegantly, but we didn’t sink, either!  And we are ready for more.

We have been lamenting our lack of basic Turkish conversational ability after 12 intense weeks of studying Turkish.  We have been so dedicated and focused, that when our friends get here next week and later in May, I can’t wait to become a tourist in Istanbul.  We have studied at Tömer, a branch of Ankara University.  We’ve been well versed in grammar, in such detail that we have learned esoteric ways of writing Turkish for newspapers, but we haven’t gotten to future tense yet.

In our last two classes, we will be tested, and we know we will fail.  We contemplated bailing on the test, but have decided it won’t hurt us to cram for it, just for fun.

We must be forced to speak the language to Türks, without the option to speak English.  Our Turkish friends converse with us in English.  This weekend, however, we had to do our best to speak Turkish.  It began with our arrival home on Thursday evening.  Our landlady was in her car in the front of the building and in Turkish invited us for kahve or çay.  She said she would contact her daughter, who was the prior occupant of our apartment, as well.  I wasn’t clear where we would meet.  I asked nerede? (where) a couple of times (nerede?, and nereye?, and neresi all mean where, and I honestly don’t know how to use them), and was still not sure, so I said “Bizim Ev?”  (our home).  She said “evet” (yes).  Fine, we set it for Pazar (Sunday) at birde (1 pm).  I wasn’t clear if it was in our apartment or hers, and I wasn’t exactly sure which apartment in the building she lives in.

Friday night we had expat friends to dinner. They have lived in Turkey for many years and speak Turkish.  I asked them what sort of plans they thought I had made with Neriman.  My understanding was our landlady had invited herself to our home, but I didn’t believe it, thinking it odd.  Linda confirmed that Neriman meant it to be at her own apartment, and that we should take a small sweet.  We could ask the kapıcı (doorman) which was Neriman’s unit.

For Saturday night we were invited to the home of a class friend’s Turkish mother-in-law for dinner.  Arne, who’s German from Munich, and his Turkish wife speak German and English.  Arne is struggling with Turkish as we are, and Semin (his wife) and her mother Hikmet agreed that what we have learned isn’t what we need first.  Hikmet speaks very good English, way much better than our Turkish, but we still need a decent level of Turkish to be able to converse well with her.  So, our language chops, such as they are(not), were exercised last night.

Hikmet is a very interesting woman, who has traveled.  She is outgoing, with a career and life full of stories.  We got the gist, but would have loved to understand better.  One unfortunate tale, she was in New York City last year with a Turkish friend,  at a subway stop near Wall Street waiting with heavy luggage to go to the airport.  The train was delayed and by the time it finally came, the station was full.  When the doors opened, her friend boarded ahead of her and a young African American woman behind started screaming at Hikmet that she was rich and shouldn’t be using the subway.  She was pushing Hikmet’s big suitcase and yelling in her face.  No one in the car reacted.  Eventually Hikmet entered the car, and the train moved to the next station, the woman yelling at Hikmet until she exited there.  After that, the predominately white passengers were solicitous and helpful to Hikmet, but no one intervened during the incident.  Hikmet tested an interpretation on us…”have black people in the US now become aggressive because they have been emboldened by a black president?”  Given the profile of passengers and the stop where she was waiting, we felt Hikmet was the victim of a crazy woman, and we hated to hear the story.

This morning, we had a couple of hours before we had to head upstairs for kahve/çay. I prevailed upon Jim to go out in the rain and find a small box of candy.  It being Sunday, I wasn’t sure what he’d find, but our favorite little gift place, Ҫikolata Dükkan (Chocolate Shop) a couple of blocks away was open, and so we felt properly prepared to visit our landlady.

The little shop is as cute as the package.

The little shop is as cute as the package.

We have an L-shaped salon, with an area for TV viewing, the dining table, and then another sitting alcove.   For entertaining we use the alcove area which has a great sea view.  I wanted to test if switching the furniture between the seating areas would serve our usage better, so we moved it all around, distressing Lucy and Rita in the process.  (Since  the chaos of moving out of our California home, the necessary vet visits, the plane flight and the month in Cihangir before settling here, they get nervous at the slightest hint of change.)

The Marmara Sea at night. The big sehpa (coffee table) holds a lot of meze for appetizers.

The Marmara Sea at night. The big sehpa (coffee table) holds a lot of meze for appetizers.

I had just gone to change clothes to walk upstairs, when the doorbell rang at 12:50.  Oops.  I opened the door and there stood our landlords all dressed up with a gift in hand.  I clearly didn’t look ready, and I said “Merhaba. On dakika.”  (Hi, ten minutes).  They gave us 20 minutes which was enough time to change clothes, set up the samovar for çay and arrange the cake we had bought for Friday night dinner when I didn’t remember if I’d asked our friends to bring dessert, which they did.

This servant offers hot çay all afternoon

This servant offers hot çay all afternoon

Neriman and her husband Selatin don’t speak much English. Their English proficiency might be less than our Turkish.  So we bumbled along, and here is what we learned, accuracy unknown:  Lucy barks all the time if we are not home, and it’s been worse in March and April than January and February.  So we determined that we must leave all of the windows closed when we leave her in the house.  We don’t want to get evicted from this place we love.  (Lucy probably is making sure we go back to California).

We learned that their granddaughter, Lara, who goes to school at University of Virginia is graduating this summer and she and her mother Figen, are going to tour America.  Then the whole family is going to Bodrum on the Mediterranean coast for a wedding of a family member here in the building.  I found the words to ask if Neriman has a new dress.  Yes.  Later in June they will go to their summer home down the coast where they will garden and fish.  I asked if the building would be boş (empty).  No, just a few folks leave.  We’ll be here holding the fort too.

Lucy and Jim now share the little sofa in front of the TV.

Lucy and Jim now share the little sofa in front of the TV.

Having to fly solo, without any translator, is the best practice we can have.  We don’t think we got an “A” in hospitality.  For one thing, there was that awkwardness at the door.  Then they wanted filtre kahve ,which they called American coffee.   I didn’t ask how they preferred it, although I did understand that she wanted süt (milk) and şekirsiz (no sugar). I did consider what to brew, and since Türk kahvesi is strong, I decided that’s how they would want it.   In hindsight, I remembered that our tutor orders filtre kahve weak, and, I think, with milk.  I learned how to ask what I would like, but not what she orders for herself.  What I offered Neriman was what I like: kahve sert olsun çok az süt olsun (Dark coffee with a little milk). They did not want tea, and I’d made enough for the four of us for a couple of hours of non-stop drinking – which the samovar facilitates (tea IS what we do in Turkey after all!).  Neriman commented on the strength of the tea I was drinking, calling it kırmızı (red). In the ensuing conversation I ascertained that she likes weak coffee and tea.

We learned that there are Americans living on the top floor.  The wife is Mexican (which is the Americas) and doesn’t speak English.  We aren’t certain if the man does – but we decided to leave a note in their box.  We are here a lot, and we’ve never seen them.

I also learned that I need to ask many more questions about tea and coffee preferences.  The samovar takes care of that if people pour their own – the pot on top is very strong, and one adds water to the glass to taste, sometimes 10:1 water:tea, I read somewhere.  On Saturday night we learned that dropping by unannounced is very Turkish.  When we were meeting to rent our apartment, Neriman would offer us çay or Türk kahvesi. She’d phone her maid who would bring down fresh beverages and wonderful little nibbles. Clearly she had them on hand.  I know her standards.  We didn’t meet them.

I hope we get another chance with Neriman and Selatin.  Maybe we won’t because we are just tenants; or because we are such horrible hosts, clearly not worth wasting time on.  The cake was not fresh, it didn’t taste good. The coffee was too strong…

Having to swim under our own power in the language arena was great practice, and I hope we can do it with them again.  They brought us a lovely housewarming gift, and we have a box of chocolates to eat. Also, we tested the new furniture arrangement much sooner than we expected to…it works well. Afiyet Olsun.

Home Cooking

By the time we are in our 60’s we’ve had a long life, as I have been reminded twice in the last two days.  Last night we joined an expat friend and her house-guests from Alaska for dinner at Çiya Sofrası ( http://ciya.com.tr/index_en.php ).

About “the Çiyas” as they call them on the English version of their website…”they” are a destination restaurant.  Frequently when a restaurant gets popular it expands into adjacent but separate storefronts.  There is another wonderful restaurant(s) we happened to walk by and enter in Beyoğlu last year, Ficcin.  It can seem kind of confusing to see several restaurants of the same name on a block…it requires coordination between dinner partners who arrive separately, but it works.  Çiya is about a 7 minute walk from our place, and we find it SO convenient when people we’d love to see volunteer to make the ferry trek from the European side of İstanbul to Kadıköy to eat there.  It is worth a trek from anywhere in the world, in my opinion.

This post, however, is not about Çiya, but rather about memories and a different miniature food place in Moda.

A TV Food personality...our newest cookbook.

A Turkish TV Food personality…our newest cookbook. (this book is not related to Çiya either…)

So, we ate delectably with Barbara, Scott and Cindy last night, and as we unfurled the stories of our lives for each other we were amazed at how long our tongues had become.  Then this afternoon with our Türkçe tutor we (trying) repeated the recitations in Turkish. The trick to keeping peoples’ attention is to paint with a VERY broad brush.

The Silver Palate Store on the cover.  This is one of 3 Silver Palate cookbooks I brought from California, out of 9 books total.

The Silver Palate Store on the cover. This is one of 3 Silver Palate cookbooks I brought from California.

I moved from Los Angeles to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1976.  In 1977 on Columbus Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd a tiny food shop opened called The Silver Palate.  I walked by it for years.   Two women catered prepared foods, originally cooked in their home kitchen around the corner, via their storefront and developed a line of foodstuffs that are still sold in various locations.  They sold the store in 1988 and it closed in 1993.  Sheila Lukens and Julie Rosso also wrote several cookbooks, the first being The Silver Palate Cookbook.  At its 25th anniversary re-issue they said:

It took slight madness to open our little store in 1977. Florence Fabricant was writing an article on the renaissance of Columbus Avenue, … she was on a deadline and called and said, “What are you calling your store?” We didn’t know. “Why don’t you call it The Silver Palate,” she said.

1980s nostalgia..their hair, their clothing...

1980s nostalgia..their hair, their clothing…

I wasn’t  their target customer because I cooked, and I’m not sure I ever bought a meal there.  But I have been cooking out of their books since they were published, and of the 9 cookbooks I brought to Turkey, 3 of them are dog-eared Silver Palate editions.

The back cover of a very ratty The New Basics Cookbook.  More 80s nostalgia, including food presentation...

The back cover of a very ratty The New Basics Cookbook. More 80s nostalgia, including food presentation…

What this has to do with Istanbul is Bizim Ev.  Istanbul and Turkish cuisine with its regional variety is foodie Nirvana.  There are many Istanbul and Turkey food bloggers, and tracking down the great places is easy.  Once you start following their advice you learn that the look of the place doesn’t mean much.  Pick any place with a lot of Turks and you’ll likely have a good, if not great, meal.

Jim, with lunch.

Jim, with lunch.

When we first moved to Turkey we didn’t have the energy or, actually, the bravery to cook.  Figuring it all out took so much time.  I stood in grocery aisles frozen, eyes glued to my smart phone, trying to figure out what I needed was called, and to understand what I was looking at any time it wasn’t patently obvious.  So, we ate a lot of take out.  Walk down any large street and there are steam tables loaded with food.  Istiklal Caddesi has many of these mutfaklar (kitchens), Karadeniz (Black Sea) Mutfağı, Kayseri (town near Kapadokya) Mutfağı and so on.  We also found our favorite kebapçı and balıkçı (kebap and fish houses), and we’d pick up food on our way in.  After awhile, however, the food all started to taste alike, we outfitted our own kitchen with the basics and we began to cook.

Handmade mantı pasta for sale, Kayseri style, by the kilo.  Mantı is like small raviolis.

Handmade mantı pasta for sale, Kayseri style, by the kilo. Mantı is like small raviolis.

There are still those days when we are tired and there is no food in the house.  Enter Bizim Ev (means Our House).  Not surprisingly, this is a common name for a restaurant.  Our Bizim Ev is a 5 minute walk away.  It is a tiny storefront, about as big as The Silver Palate was.  What comes out of it is a miracle for the tired and hungry.

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I’d walked by it many times and it looked like a tiny bakery – that’s because homemade borek is sitting in the window case.  It has a table or two inside…and one or two outside, which no one was ever sitting at.  And, it has Nezahat Hanım, a woman who appears to be in her 50s and cooks like an angel.  It is a truism that all food is compared to Mom’s here in Turkey.  We’ve found our own Turkish mother.  Her husband Ali Bey works with her… it was always him I’d see as I walked past, he’d be closing up the place before our dinnertime, at the end of their day.  (Those hours confused me also, bakeries are often open quite late).

Nezahat Hanım dishing up our lunch.

Nezahat Hanım dishing up our lunch.

Eventually, I read about this shop, and one day we walked in, carrying home a paket for lunch.  It did not taste the same as all the other kitchens.  Nezahat Hanım’s food is fresh, beautifully cooked, not oily, and delicious no matter what items we choose.  She cooks a limited menu each day. There is no steam table.

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After rereading the article, http://istanbuleats.com/2011/12/bizim-ev-the-stash-house/  I must go try all of the borek, which Jim has realized he does like after all!  (see post https://2istanbul.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/entry-in-the-diary/).

Bizim Ev is reminds me of my early adult days in Manhattan.  I’m not sure whether I love that link to my younger self or the food better.

Sounds of Easter Morning

Christians in the world are celebrating Easter today, (except Greek Orthodox which is 5th of May), but those are not the sounds in my neighborhood this morning.  All of our windows are open; the temperature is 68F/20C now at 11:15 daylight savings time.  Since we just changed the clocks, and Istanbul is a late city anyway…it is calm outside…not yet kalabalık (crowded), which it will soon become in Moda as people flock to the shore and the outdoor restaurants for kahvaltı (breakfast).

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Historic peninsula in the background.

In the still quiet I hear the Moda Tramvay creaking on its rails. It stops 2 blocks away, and in the right conditions, like now, I can hear its bell clang and doors screech as they grind open.  On the street below is the occasional motorbike, and seagulls guffaw hysterically and crows comment in their raspy caw.

A Roma walks along playing a heartrending lyrical tune on his accordion, with his son along to collect alms.  I wonder if people throw coins out their windows.

A sign in the doorway of the building he is in front of warns off vendors and yabancılar (foreigners)...him/us?

A sign in the doorway of the building he is in front of warns off vendors and yabancılar (foreigners)…him/us?

We hear a loudspeaker and a flatbed truck turns down the street loaded with flat white cloth bags.  It looks like they are selling potting soil, but my six weeks of Turkish lessons fail me, so it’s just a guess.

No one is moving quickly this morning.

No one is moving quickly this morning.

In the ferry lane, the IDO between Kadıköy and Bostancı growls by.   It is a fast, powerful catamaran with a booming horn sounding a deep throated warning.  Louder though, are little fishing boats and skiffs, bobbing like bathtub toys in the wake of the ferry.  We hear them long before they come into view close to shore, the sounds of their staccato pistons piercing the smooth bass rumble of the ferry’s motors.

Here they all are, in one shot!

Here they all are, in one shot!

Off, a couple of blocks away are street dogs vocally defining their turf – Lucy heeds their warnings when we are out walking.  A junkman pushes his cart calling Eskiiiiiiciiiii   for the things we might want to pitch out – Spring cleaning made convenient.

Very efficient recycling system, the hurdacı (junkman)

Very efficient recycling system, the hurdacı (junkman)

Walking Lucy this morning, I stopped at the grocer and the bakery.  It is so peaceful early in the morning, with just enough people out to feel like a town.  What a luxury it is to have no breakfast food in the house, and gather those things simply by changing our daily walking route.  I was wearing a heavy cotton shirt and cords, with a wool shawl, and I was too warm.  It is T-shirt weather now, the warmest it has been since we arrived in December.  Spring, a time of rebirth, is here.  Getting out of heavy winter garb feels like its own rebirth.

Bostancı ferry pulling into  Kadıköy harbor, with Europe in background.

Bostancı ferry pulling into Kadıköy harbor, with Europe in background. The ferry’s mast points out the Istanbul Modern Museum. People strolling the rıhtım (quay) in the park, lower right.

A sound inside is big flies buzzing, and Lucy snapping at them…we need to buy screens for the windows, and have inquired at a small neighborhood shop…but our lack of Turkish makes it a challenge to get these things done efficiently.  The shopkeeper took Jim’s number, but Jim was unclear what he would do with it.  We hope he calls and comes to take measurements, and then makes us screens.  We can’t let our fingers do the walking and arrange things by phone because we can’t have comprehensible conversations.  We do not yet have a house cleaner, because we have to find one who will tolerate Lucy – who fears the vacuum cleaner and voices her anxiety–and we don’t know where to start on that, without Turkish.  Our Türk friends live on the European side, so they don’t have references for us.  Plus all of our Turkish classes and homework cuts into our time to track these essential local services down.

Çay (tea) and ezan (call to prayer) to write by...

Çay (tea) and ezan (call to prayer) to write by…

I love this İstanbul spring morning!

İlkbahar is coming!

Or, as we might say in the US…Spring has sprung!  Which isn’t exactly true…things are beginning to spring, more in some places than others…

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It’s been a very mild winter.  The second and last snow was January 7.  I know that date because I had my residence visa appointment that night, and wanted to keep it, a worry that diminished my joy of the snow day.  January 7 seems so long ago.

Two of three little neighbors...they speak German, English and Turkish.

Two of three little neighbors…they speak German, English and Turkish.

In February we left home every hafta içi (weekday) morning for Turkish class.  There was rain, and some days were raw–high 30’s-low 40’s, but reports from this winter in California sound similar.  Before we got to Turkey I had the idea the winters were like New York, but the ground doesn’t freeze here, and it is only slightly colder than Northern California.

We had a new kapıcı, plus helper, for a few days...

Our temporary kapıcı (doorman), plus helper, for a few days…

I remember that Magnolia trees on the campus at San José State would begin blooming in late January. At home our Chinese Plum tree usually was in full bloom by February 22.  Our tenants confirmed its normal behavior this year.

Jim getting ready to enter our gate, taken from our window above.

Jim getting ready to enter our gate, taken from our window above.

Here in Istanbul I began noticing changes at the beginning of March.  Flower shops had flats and pots out on the sidewalks, and people were stopping and buying.

Then I saw this:

A couple of weeks ago it was still cold, but getting colorful

A couple of weeks ago it was still cold, but getting colorful

Then these…

So bright.

So bright.

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Like everywhere else I’ve lived, the first warm weekend of the year brings everyone out.  This past Sunday looked like this:

Jim and Lucy at the back of the promenade.

Jim and Lucy promenade.

Everybody is out sunning…

How many nappers do you see?  Five.

How many nappers do you see?   Five cats lazing in the warmth.  A first hand view of parking challenges in Moda, as well.  We are gladly sans-car.

Lucy is doing the same thing here she did in California…

This spot is why we chose Moda to live...our sea dog in her realm.

This spot is why we chose Moda as our residence…our sea dog in her realm.

Istanbullular (people who live in Istanbul) are outside in winter more than New Yorkers or San Franciscans.  One California/Istanbul friend said Türks sit outside in winter because they like to smoke…maybe, but I was struck when I visited at really how much life here is lived outside.  There are outdoor heaters everywhere in constant use in the winter, day and night. And, there is the charming tradition of the “house pashmina”, color keyed to the restaurant’s decor.

Istanbul at play…

It's hard to see, but the people standing are shooting air guns at the string of balloons.

It’s hard to see, but the people standing are shooting air guns at the string of balloons.

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Relaxing in the sun…

T shirts!

T shirts!  Don’t you just relax looking at them?

We fell into step with a guy and his girlfriend…they’d been shooting the balloons.  Though Western, we don’t look like tourists…I had a camera, but nothing else with me, and Lucy was with us. Turks frequently ask if we live here, and seem surprised that we do, which has led to many fun conversations.  Our new friend told us about Turk WebTV…I found a sitcom I’m now going to watch every week as a barometer to how much Turkish I can understand.  I got none of it this week…I wonder how long it will take until I can understand it?  The couple lives in Beyoğlu near Taksim Square, but say they come over to the Kadiköy seaside every weekend.  Maybe we’ll connect up for brunch one day.

Sundays, regardless of the weather, are also football days.  There are 3 Istanbul soccer teams: Beşiktaş, Galatasaray, and Fenerbahçe.   Fenerbahçe’s stadium was on our walking route, and fans had been fueling up — Efes beer, mostly — all afternoon for the game that evening.  Here they are in the park in front of the stadium…

Fenerbahçe.fans in their regalia.

Fenerbahçe .fans in their regalia. I think the smoke in the background is BBQ.

Ours is a quiet street and building  but if there is noise, it is on Sunday nights.  If people entertain within our building, it is then.  The waterfront park across the street attracts inebriated fans singing their fight songs.  I am happy that the season won’t go all summer, it ends in May.

Local color.

Local color.

There are a couple of drawbacks to it getting warmer here.  First, the belongings we shipped are still not here, and we originally expected them mid-January.  We were tracking the ship we were told it was on, but last week that boat made its last call in Turkey at the port of Nemrut north of Izmir in the Aegean Sea.  Then it headed to New York, and is now in the North Atlantic.  Our freight forwarder said, “no your boat isn’t headed to New York”, but our stuff will be delayed a couple more days. My annoyance with being “stuffified” at home has been replaced by a longing for my books and artist tools.   I also want the art pieces we packed, and our pots/pans and kitchen knives. It’s been like this for the last 6 weeks, I’m not even asking about it anymore.

Flowering trees, new this week.

Flowering trees, new this week.

Instead I’m shopping!  I packed winter things, and not one piece of warmer weather clothing, in my suitcase.  It got warmer all of a sudden, and our classroom at Tömer is hot, the air conditioning isn’t on yet. In the city, if we are out, we are walking all day, so shoes and purses get a workout.  For Turkish-made purses and shoes, Istanbul is a candy store.

The other drawback is that as the trees fill in, we will lose our view.

These will leaf out...soon.  There's been a lot of branch trimming in the park, we hope they'll do this tree too.

These will leaf out…soon. There’s been a lot of branch trimming in the park, we hope they’ll do this tree too. All those little intermediate branches could go…

Happy sunning…or dreaming of it, depending on where you are..It is supposed to get cold here again in a few days…but “they” keep revising that coldness forecast upwards.

Joyous İlkbahar!