Saturday, March 6, 2010

birds and powdered orchids

Istanbul from Galata Tower 1

I always wanted to be a bird. As a child, I collected feathers in a secret wooden box, and leapt off walls and swings while vigorously flapping my arms. I took up the trapeze as an adult. As I stood atop Galata Kulesi, cold hands on the even colder railing, I marvelled at the labyrinth of Istanbul spread out below me. Red-tiled crumbling roofs, salmon-walled buildings, grey cobblestones and silvery Bosphorus, Golden Horn and Marmara beneath my feet. Seagulls and jackdaws soared and plummeted in the wintery sky, this, their daily perspective.


After wandering around Beyoğlu all morning, I hopped on a ferry to Kadıköy for a heavenly lunch at Çiya, which has got to be my most favourite restaurant in this city. The waiters and guys behind the counters were so friendly, happy to explain what was in every single dish and offer recommendations. Beet salad and cooked turnip greens, oregano salad, dolmas, something with eggplants, a spicy nut purée— oh! There was this soup with chickpeas, lamb and yoghurt that just enveloped me in warmth— a silver bowl of comfort on a perfect rainy day. Fresh herbs, bold spices and subtle sauces. Every bite was exquisite, every scent a delight.

Belly full and happy, a walk in the icy rain was in order. Fishmongers and grocers called out the names of fish and fruit, as people huddled under umbrellas splashed by.


I warmed my fingers with a paper cup of sahlep on the ferry ride back to Beşiktaş. Sahlep is a hot, sweet beverage made from the ground tubers of orchids. It's thick and delicately flavoured— a flavour hard to describe— a wonderful winter treat.


Even though the minibuses of Istanbul will terrify you with their speed and irritate you with their stuffed-in-a-can sardine feeling, I love them. I love watching people lost in thought. What are they thinking? What worlds live behind their eyes, inside their hearts? When I sketch someone, I hope to feel even the tiniest bit of what they are feeling.

4 comments:

Grace said...

I drink sahlep all the time!
During the cold winter it's perfect.
It is a powder of sahlep, sugar, cinnamon, clover, nutmeg, vanilla and ginger (the one I buy here). It is an excellent substitute for coffee, I love it!

szaza said...

Oh I just love it. I tend to forget it exists— then I have some and wonder how on earth I had forgotten about such perfection!

I like the idea of adding ginger to sahlep— I will have to try that!
Yum :)

BELLASTELLAGIRL said...

Thanks for sharing you rainy day with us. Not sure why, but I am often surprised that the more southerly countries have worse weather. The UK has been blue skied and very sunny recently. (Yes, I know it won't last)! :)

szaza said...

You are most welcome, Bella.
It's been positively dreary here!
The wind is howling outside as I type, like some hungry grey beast. I hope tomorrow will be dry, but I'm not sure that's going to happen!

I'm happy you have some blue!