Snow

Not just the name of a famous (and, outside Turkey, rather popular) novel by Orhan Pamuk, but also an actual weather pattern which imposed itself on the city for much of the last week. While my first thought would have normally been to huddle up somewhere warm with an endless supply of çay, my dad and sister were in town visiting, so instead we braved the cold and I took them on a tour of the city.

Last Sunday we headed out to the Prince’s Islands (or, in Turkish, just “The Islands”), incidentally just as the cold weather began to move in. Walking around largely-shuttered Heybeliada, we reached a monastery at the top of the island, which was itself closed that day (thus completing for this trip a tradition, started near Lake Como several years ago, wherein my sister and I take long walks in the rain only to end up nowhere).

Killing time before the return ferry came, we stopped in town for a late lunch of zeytinyağlı mezeler, vegetable dishes served cold, like the ever-famous stuffed grape leaf. Going to that restaurant was the first time since leaving London, actually, that I found true Turkish hospitality as I had come to expect it—as soon as we sat down, coming out of the rain, the waiter said, “Let me bring you some hot soup, first.” Near the end of the meal, I asked (somewhat rhetorically) if they had coffee, and he replied, “There’s nothing in Turkey that we don’t have!” and our soon our demitasses were being brought out accompanied by a small pot of warm halva mixed with berries, likely to become a regular feature of my own domestic pâtisserie.

Snow falls, we visit more places, snow melts, my sister flies home, and on the second Sunday my dad and I are getting off a ferry in Üsküdar, stopping for a quick lunch of kumpir—stuffed baked potatoes which far, far exceed their wimpy chive-topped American counterparts. After taking a leisurely stroll inland, passing successively through conservative and liberal neighborhoods, we arrived in Kadıköy, where our ultimate goal was to eat at Çiya Sofrası, pitched to me as the best Ottoman restaurant in the city. We were not disappointed.

Just before going to dinner, though, we were walking along the shore bustling with families, couples, and friends, and it was one of those classic scenes that says, “This is why you’re here.” Hundreds of discarded sunflower seeds crunching slightly underfoot and the stately minarets of Sultanahmet popping up from the horizon over our shoulders, we passed by a local hipster taking photos with a vintage Canon, women with well-appointed wardrobes and poorly-applied makeup sitting in awkward contortions on park benches and flirting with their boyfriends, three small children reenacting (if only they knew it) the Myth of Sisyphus on a grassy hill while quoting English obviously learned from television, and a man smiling quietly as he walked arm-in-arm with a beatboxing hijabi.