Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | March 4, 2010

molly’s cafe: more history

this one i wrote in the summer of 1998.  it is interesting to me to read these things, as now these kinds of things are pretty normal.

İstanbul evenings aug 1998

Life in Istanbul is very very good!  Here are a couple of recent evenings here.

Entertaining out of town visitors usually provides a reason to either show off something known or to see something new.  In this case, I spent an evening with a professor at Portland State University.  She and her husband were staying at the Hilton, which I hadn’t seen before. They had a very nice view of the Bosporus.  My friend and I met them there and after a brief discussion of where to go, my friend suggested Kumkapi, which is famous for its fish restaurants.  We piled into a taxi and off we went.


Kumkapi is an area near the Bosporus.  The street with the restaurants runs perpendicular to the Bosporus.  It is paved with cobblestones and lined with restaurants that spill out onto the street.  There is no car traffic on the street, but there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, from tourists to vendors
and beggars.  As we entered the street, men working at the restaurants greeted my friend with a hand shake and kisses on both cheeks.  We stopped at a restaurant called Talip, where the waiters all had shaved heads in honour of the World Cup.  We sat down at a table outside and proceeded to have a feast.


My friend ordered all sorts of things.  First, we had raki, which tastes a little bit like ouzo.  It is mixed with water and then chased with water. We were told it is good for the digestion.  Then a waiter brought us a tray of cold starters (meze), so we had ezme, a sort of ground tomato salad that looks like salsa,  and a  yogurt and cucumber dish.  Of course we had the wonderful crusty bread and a mixed salad (tomatoes, onions, peppers, parsley).  Then we had hot starters– a wonderful dish of shrimp and mushrooms sautéed with garlic in butter, deep fried squid with a coconut dip, and stuffed fish, which looked like a cross between sausages and croquettes.  More bread came with this, this time slightly grilled. Then the waiter brought a big tray with fresh fish on it.  I don’t know fish in English, let alone in Turkish, but the fish ranged in size from small (anchovies, maybe) to really big (as big as the tray).  My friend chose some medium sized fish, which were brought back later fried.  They were delicious.  By then we were drinking white Turkish wine.  For dessert we had
fruit (watermelon, honeydew, apple, peach) and also a special dish of helvah, which was a sort of pudding made with flour, sugar, cinnamon, and maybe butter.  Yummy!  Of course we had Turkish coffee, preceded by a shot of creme de menthe.


Around this time, the musicians sat down near us and proceeded to play. There were four men who played a dulcimer, a drum, a violin, and a clarinet. They also sang.  There were live musicians at the restaurant across the street, and they were all singing together at one point.  The Turks who were there knew the songs and sang along with them.  It was great!  It was time for us to go, so we walked up the street a little bit to see the rest of the area.  More people greeted my friend and others invited us in to eat.  We passed!

We then crossed the busy street and walked along the Bosporus for a half mile or so.  It was very pleasant to walk in the cool night air looking at the lights of Asia and the closer lights of SultanAhmet.  The conversation was great, the food was excellent, and it was just one of those wonderful Istanbul evenings never to be forgotten.

Another night my kids and I had and completely different experience. Actually, it started in the afternoon.  We went to Bakirkoy, which is a seaside area where people go to shop.  We walked to a mall that was full of Arabs, so we saw a lot of women with veils.   Women in Turkey rarely wear veils, I should add here.  The mall was quite modern, very similar to any of our malls.

Then we went to Taksim, where we walked along Istiklal Caddesi, which is one of the most famous streets in Turkey.  It is very old and lined now with all kinds of shops.  We went up one of the sidestreets and had dinner in a small restaurant.  We watched the cooks grill our chicken and lamb, and a young boy of about 14 made the flatbread that was baked in a hot oven.  From there we took a taxi to Beshiktash Stadium, where we had tickets for a football (soccer) game.  Wow!  There were 25,000 people there, of whom very few were women and even fewer were foreigners.  There were hundreds of police all over the place, and later I could see why.


When we first went itn, we were searched– for me they just looked in my bag.  The policeman who looked in my friend’s pocket stole his nice pen.  We got as far as one of the exits, but couldn’t get any further.  A man came to us and told us there was a place to stand upstairs, so we went up there.
The men standing there shifted so we could have a view of the field.  People were singing the Besiktas song and chanting various insults to the other team (including “fuck you fuck you”, which surprised us!).  The thousands of fans wore the black and white colours on shirts, hats, ropes around their foreheads, scarves, and flags (I guess they didn’t actually wear the flags…).  The noise was incredible and then got even more so when the teams got ready to come out.

First the visiting team came out, and the riot police protested them from thrown objects by standing around them with their shields up.  Then “our” team came out to great cheers.  People threw little bits of paper, empty water bottles, anything they had.  Some also had fireworks.  The people in the front rows of the areas under the roof had big drums that they beat on all night.  There were police and security guards ranged all around the field, most of them wearing helmets and some carrying shields.  Wild!

There were a couple of very unpopular calls by the ref, and people were very clear in expressing their unhappiness.  Towards the end of the game, the ref called a second red card against Besiktas and people went nuts.  They were on their feet yelling, and one guy ran out onto the field and beaned the ref with his head.  The police were there in a second, beating on the guy and hauling him off. Other fans ran onto the field and they too were hauled off and wailed on by the police.  I saw one carried unconscious to an ambulance. We were pretty far from the action, which was a good thing, as there were hundreds of pop cans and water bottles thrown onto the field.  The teams ended up with a tie after some mixed good and so-so playing, and we left a few minutes before the game was over.

taksim park

Whew!  We walked to Taksim and had a cold drink in a big tea garden in the park that overlooks the Bosporus.  It felt good to sit down (though a nice man gave me his seat in the stadium for the second half of the game) and to drink something cold.  Then we took various dolmushes home and got in about 12:30.  A different kind of Istanbul evening– being one with the people, or

In general, summer evenings in istanbul are spent outside.  these were just two examples.


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