April 28th, Randy gets back from Golbekli Tepi and Urfa. That night we were invited to Hussein and Mehmet’s rug shop to hear Egyptian Sufi music. Hussein and Mehmet were, as was everyone we met, wonderful hosts. They laid out platter after platter of wonderful food. I had the best tomatoes I have ever tasted in Istanbul. We sat on stacks of rugs and listened to a father and son from Cairo singing music from their homeland and the wider Arab world. They played an oud and a kanoun? We were lucky enough to also have a professor (he taught at Berkeley for 28 years!) who could explain the history of the songs, music and the instruments. Later he joined in by playing the sas, a stringed instrument. Someone also brought out a drum and then, after bringing out the Capadossian wine, Hussein and his store manager danced. The night reflected the mix that is Istanbul: The performers were devout Muslims and abstained from alcohol, Hussein was making a pilgrimage to Mecca and would be abstaining before his trip (but not this night!), the wine was Turkish and there were people from all over the world there enjoying the festivities. Helena Petersen was nice enough to share her photos with me.
Another place that we called home was the Denizen Coffee shop. It too was right around the corner from our hotel along a narrow little street. It opened the day we arrived. We didn’t discover it until a few days later. Earl and Ken from San Francisco had taken early retirement from high powered jobs, Earl had been a contract negotiations lawyer, Ken travelled all over the world for NGOs, a lot in Africa, starting up very worthy projects. In their spare time they travelled as well, and as with many, they fell in love with Istanbul and had made many trips to the city. As Earl tells it, one day he turned to Ken and said “what would you like to do now?” And Ken said, “Open a coffee shop in Istanbul.”
And so they did…..The coffee was great and they had found a pastry chef who had trained in France and the pastries were divine. And we could talk of home…..
The world is large but once you start travelling it’s amazing how small it is. Once, when we were checking into our hotel in Paris, the woman ahead of us, turned and said, “You’re from New Mexico aren’t You? I’ve stayed in your B&B.” And at the Denizen, on a day when we hadn’t made it in, someone from Espanola HAD stopped in! I’m curious to know who that might be!
Sometimes we felt a little guilty sitting at our favorite spots. We should be out seeing things!! We’ve only got so much time! We began comforting ourselves by saying, “We’ll be back.” And so we will. We’re already looking at a cruise to the countries around the Black Sea and then a week or two in Istanbul. I miss our new friends. And I miss that most incredible city.