They say your whole life is written on your palm. They say your past even before you exist and your future is recorded there.
It’s not a coincidence that everbody -even if they set food in Istanbul or not- is born with an Istanbul map on their palm. The lifeline on the palm is the one side of the Bosphorus in the middle of everything… Somehow, we all have a part of Istanbul in our faith even if we are from Istanbul or not.
I an taking a sip from my coffee while I’m watching European side from the Asian side. It’s like I’m sitting on the palm of the world. Istanbul is on my hand and my hand is on Istanbul. My coffee is plain, black and came from Topkapı Palace just like you even if you don’t know. The times when Ottoman Empire ruled the two thirds of the discovered world… Governor of Yemen has already found out the taste and stimulant effect of the coffee. He presented the coffee beans that he has brought from Ethiopia to the Sultan. As the masters in the palace developed the methods for roasting beans and making coffee, coffee has its first step to the palace and then to the western culture with the Siege of Vienna and eventually a part of Istanbul has leaked in our faiths.
My coffee is foamy just like the foam that the ship passing by me leaves behind… Even if I’ve been living in Istanbul for many years, I get surprised by the way ships act as a time machine; a wave hits and there appears a porter carrying a large basket and it hits again and there appears skateboarders skating down. It is like the whale swallowing humans for centuries in the Pinocchio. It flushes from today and then it flushes back from three hundred years…
At the right side of the ship, the year is around 1500s. Flues of Sultanahmet, cradle of Topkapı Palace, mysteriously smoke like a hot coffee. Even if I’m a Turk from Istanbul, I still find Sultanahmet, Sirkeci and Eminönü are epic and exotic every time I see. That movie set like narrow streets, domes, hawkers, porters carrying a basket, spices, healing herbs…
As soon as I turned my head to the left, I’m beamed up to another place and time; at the left side of the ship, there are skyscrapers, shopping malls, famous restaurants, chic cafes of Maslak. Giant metropolis with fancy lights… It is also distilled and chic just like a coffee made by a coffee machine. One side there is a Turkish coffee on the coal fire and other side there is espresso or affagato. However, both have a high rhythm with plenty of caffeine. I’m in the middle of past-future and east-west. I’m sipping all of them from one cup. Maybe coffee is known all around the world right now but you can only get that joy in Istanbul. The sun starts to go down; gulls are trying to catch their last bagels. In this city that everybody and everything are boiling up in a single coffee pot for centuries, our bagels have become gulls’ and their fishes have become ours just like the Arabic baklava has become Grecian and our kebab has become Arabic shawarma. Istanbul is a giant boiler.
We had anchovy in the menu yesterday. I had Circassian chicken, mashed roe and Agristada at first and once more I had no room for anchovy. A typical view from Istanbul; Armenian, Circassian, Grecian, Jewish and Laz are all together sitting in one table. There are Arabic hummus, Syrian maqluba, Bosnian pita, Kurdish pita, Georgian braised meat, Albanian fried diced liver and many more. Istanbul is multinational united table for centuries.
Happiness is only real when shared. In such tables, people from Istanbul want to dance and sing. If there is music, they start singing a folk song in Turkish and finish in Greek and in the chorus they sing it as Turkish-Greek mixture. Thousands of year’s culture of Balkan, Arabic, Ancient Greek, Mesopotamia, Mediterranean and even Africa is spooned up, sipped, sang, played, talked, touched and seen in Istanbul. A lot of thing to talk. Therefore, both the conversations and night get longer.
If you get tired, then have a cup of Turkish coffee and if you don’t get tired then have a cup of Turkish coffee as well.
When considered, it is very rational that coffee has had a place in the world’s culture from a city which hasn’t slept and hasn’t got tired for centuries and is always dynamic and active and don’t know the meaning of night or holiday. Those who describe New York as “the city that never sleeps” should see Istanbul. Is there any place like Istiklal Street which is crowded all day, every day? Every shop from bookstore to market, souvenir shop and lottery outlet is open all day and each street is full of spirit. Seller of roasted chestnuts flicks his tongs; Maras ice cream seller rings the bell; the toys of the hawkers scream out. Apart from all of that I have a friend who ordered diaper at the four in the morning (and Nutella for me). How many cities in the world that are prepared for chocolate crises occurring at night? So, what about my coffee serviced with a combination of porcelain saucerful and a modern cup with an Istanbul silhouette pattern in such day that I was lost in thoughts? Is it a coincidence in a city boiling such multiplicity all together or just an ordinary situation?
I called to the old coffee market, “Check, please.”
The major part of its silhouette stands in front of me: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia entrusted from civilizations to civilizations and Galata Tower… All of them are both in front of me and on the left hand of all of us. For instance, Hazerfen Ahmet Çelebi jumped from this Galata Tower with the wings he invented in 1632 and landed tı the left palm of all of us and performed the first intercontinental fly of the history. Even back then, Istanbul must be a captivating place influencing the mind and making you do such crazy things. Lagari Hasan Çelebi, who is the brother of Hazerfen Ahmet Çelebi, became the first person flying with a rocket by igniting the infundibular cage with gun powder. Thanks to God, he fell into the water and get of scotfree. Therefore, Istanbul has leaked in our faiths once more.
The old man said “The coffee pot of a peasant may be pale but it always boils,” while he was giving me the money back in change. In other words, he meant that the coffee pot may be poor-looking but they always keep it ready for the guest. Istanbul is always modest, hospitable and generous-hearted.
I got on the ship from the heartline of Istanbul and got off the lifeline at the other side. I headed Taksim. The gulls had the last dinner of the day from me.
Istiklal Street is crowded, sparkling, “mixed” and microcosmos in itself… I am walking down the street bu looking at the graffiti made by native and foreign artists using the deep history and culture of Istanbul as canvas. The yellow punches of German street performer Kripoe, angry pandas of Leo Lunatic…
It is obvious that recently the street art is rising in Istanbul and also the numbers of the art galleries are increasing. It is a fact that Contemporary Istanbul and International Istanbul Biennial are getting qualified each year. How did it happen?
I heard the shrilling voice of a bagpipe as I walked. It’s a sound of a bagpipe and kemancha; a horon group of 30, everybody is having a blast. At the opposite site St. Antuan Churge; at the backstreets there are bars, high-heeled ladies, gentlemen dressed to the nines, hipster youngers; the seller of roasted chestnuts is at the right; tourists holding cameras at the left; meoclassical and art-deco buildings are all around us and there are kokorec restaurants and international fast food chains in them. It’s a weird but perfectly balanced contrast. I guess, Istanbul gives the answer to my question.
Istanbul gives a crazy inspiration and power just as it gave Hazerfan, Kripoe or Orhan Pamuk awarded with Nobel Prize in literature. It feels like if you hit the ground you can divide the world in two parts just as Bosphorus does.
by BİLGEHAN ÇELİK – DUYGU ŞAR