OUR second day at Istanbul (during our visit in the end of December) brought sunny skies along with heavy winds. Despite the warmth of the sun, the weather remained just as chilly, and still required a three-layered ensemble with gloves and scarves. The weather was pleasant enough to wander around and take a good long look at our surroundings, which consisted of a beautiful garden that had to be crossed before making our way to the docks.
A Walk in the Garden
Despite having had breakfast at our place of residence, the hunger pangs that usually accompany any form of movement ensued. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to savor some of the baked delights sold around every corner by vendors of all ages. Buying ourselves a “simit” and a bun that tasted suspiciously similar to a cinnamon bun- minus the cream, we stood by the railings, overlooking the waters, watching the hustle and bustle as the residents of Kadikoy carried on with their daily lives, from the business men and women hurrying to catch the ferry – a mode of transport as normal to them as catching a taxi is for us – to the mother, making her way back home with a basket full of groceries, to the young couples, out enjoying the morning.
Ferry – A Common Mode of Transport
Nibbling on our buns, I noticed another woman tearing off pieces of her own simit, throwing it out onto the waters where a delightful number of seagulls competed for the morsels, swooping in by the dozens to catch that one piece, and pulling up at the last second before collision with the water, having been defeated. Imitating her movements, I began tossing in pieces of my own simit, and was filled with glee as the birds swooped in, their numbers growing in the sky as more and more started noticing the food floating in the waters.
Looking carefully, I noticed that the birds weren’t our only companions – floating within reach of the surface, and yet still too far away, were jellyfish by the hundreds, of a million different sizes, their translucent skin making them very hard to identify.
Having run out of simit, we decided to start walking and see more of the area before lunch. Our wanderings took us past all types of transportation used in this magnificent city, including the tram, the bus, and the ferry, and soon we found ourselves heading in the direction of the little café recommended on our map for lunch.
A Man Feeding Pigeons
There were many interesting things about Komsu Café, tucked away almost out of sight unless you knew what you were looking for, but the most intriguing was the method of payment. Being an anti-capitalistic venture that placed no value on such things as money, a customer was free to choose the value of the meal they ate, and pay as they wished, regardless of how much or what foods they ate.
The meals served in this quaint location were entirely homemade by the sweet woman who ran the place, and despite have the appearance of a structure verging on the run-down side, the spot was evidently popular to many.
After savouring one of Turkeys famously traditional “corba”, a lentil soup that to me tasted like spooning down mouthfuls of regular dal curry, we tried some of the more non-traditional foods, topping it off with their ever famous Turkish tea, while I opted for some home brewed Turkish coffee. The owner passed around a box of sweets for dessert making it a fulfilling meal experience. We hung around the café for another hour or so, looking at the artworks of various people who had visited, leaving traces of themselves behind, unwilling to step out into the chilly weather that numbed our fingers and noses so easily.
Artwork in the Komsu Cafe
Eventually stepping out of the café after paying for the meal, we returned to wandering the streets, noticing wide arrays of unusual, from the pickled eggs, to the ginormous sizes of the cats and dogs that wandered the streets. It excited me when I came across a sweet sold by the street corner that tasted very much like the indian jalebi that we Sri Lankans are so fond of, but the perfect ending to the day were the fresh roasted chestnuts, found at every corner, a warm welcome in the chilly weather.
A Variety of Pickles
We opted for some street-side shawerma, having confirmed that the meat was halal (what with the ever present abundance of alcohol in almost all shops), and while we munched on our early dinner, we noticed the gaggle of people collecting in the middle of the square. On closer inspection, it made me smile to realize they were, in fact dancing a traditional Turkish dance to some traditional Turkish music, jumping around in circles, and waving their hands in the air.
Our plan was to relocate to the European side the next day, and we felt pretty satisfied with our adventures on the Asian side, and so it was with contentment that we returned to Hush Moda for the last night we were to stay there.
To be continued In-sha Allah…
Photo credits: Rizwan Nizous