Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Getting into the Tea Drinking Groove in Istanbul

You wouldn’t believe it but I walked for this 4-day Istanbul trip approximately 60 kilometres. SIXTY KILOMETRES in a span of 4 days! My feet hurt and my legs are as heavy as an anchor. I have a health app in my iPhone that tracks the number of steps and kilometres I take every day which is very handy.

So indeed, I have seen a lot in Istanbul. My walking jaunt was concentrated in 2 districts of the city: 1) Fatih, where the old city is located and 2) Beyoglu, where the happening is when the old city closes down for the day.

During my walks I have seen so many tea cafes. The Turks drink tea all day and these tea places are great venues to rest the weary legs a bit after some sightseeing on foot. They are everywhere in Istanbul, some are modern whilst many are as traditional as this cafe I sat down at in Eminonu somewhere in Fatih district one late afternoon.

My day was nearing its end and I was desperate to find a toilet. The call of nature does not discriminate, it can happen anytime. I thought that I’d get some rest at a tea house, as well as use their toilet facility. Whilst looking for the perfect place, you know something not too overly touristy and after having been sent away by a few tea houses because they have no toilet, I came across this small and low-key alley near the Yeni Cami Mosque. I went in and a jolly man approached me and offered me a table for tea. This is by the way very typical in Istanbul, everyone gets out of their way to get some business from the tourist or local. Being very desperate now for a toilet, I asked the man if he knows a toilet nearby. He raised his eyebrows, got thinking for a few seconds and beamed at me, ‘Yes, I know! Come with me!’

He led me to the end of the little alley and pointed to a small restaurant across the road, ‘You go there.’ I thanked him and told him I will be back to have some tea at his café.

The men at the restaurant were quite helpful and showed me the way up to the toilet. I was not a customer of theirs but they seem to be quite easy in situations like these especially when it concerns women. Turkey has a very macho culture, and if you as a woman play your cards right, you can get some special treatment =)

Back at the tea café, the man asks me if I want some apple tea, which I believe is very popular among the tourists in the country. I told him—‘No, black tea please’. Or normal tea I guess. I do remember my visits to the Turkish Riviera before and having seen so many market stalls there selling pre-packed apple tea powder to holidaymakers. I think I might have even bought one in Bodrum, albeit many years ago?

And unlike in Morocco where tea preparation means mixing tea with sugar and then serving to guests, here in Turkey it is different. They serve tea and sugar separately. The guest adds the sugar cubes into his or her tea accordingly to taste. I am happy with this because I prefer to drink my hot tea without any sweetener.

If you find yourself in Turkey, do stop by at the many tea cafes for some siesta and regrouping.

Everyone is only drinking tea here, nothing else.

The next tea cafe offers sisha (water pipes). I have tried this together with Blondine in Wadi Musa, Jordan, and honestly, it was not really my cup of tea.

The restaurant where I managed to use their loo and I just could not help make a selfie when the opportunity comes. You rarely find full length mirrors in the toilets in Turkey! And yes, I like wearing dresses when travelling as well.

The restaurant makes their own pizza. Have you tried Turkish Pizza? I have, many times actually, but not during this Istanbul trip though.

Travel Period: May 2015
Destination: Eminonu, Fatih (Istanbul – Marmara), Turkey

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