Sunday, June 17, 2007

from Istanbul: ice cream

Imagine, a cone with scoops of creamy goat’s milk ice cream – one orange, with chunks of candied peel and bits of nut, the other pistachio, packed with nuts, dripping with flavor.

Worth a long hike and a complicated boat ride after a day out on the crowded week-end streets of Istanbul? Sure it is.


The day can well be described as one of confusion. Saturday chaos. Week-end ferry schedules, requiring learning new times and different departure points. The hard way. By showing up at the wrong time and wrong place first. Eventually pulling away from the pier, wondering if maybe we’re bound for the Black Sea instead of downtown Istanbul.

from Uskudar to...??

Saturday in the city.

If you want to write home that you were pulled along with crowds coming in from all corners of the country in a mad rush of what appears to be compulsive buying, you’ll want to get to the heart of Istanbul on a Saturday.

Oh, but the color of it! The intensely interesting wares, the men calling out – actually I do not know what they were calling out, but it seemed full of energy and passion, despite the hot sun.

Old stuff, new stuff. And lots of it.



A detour to a beautiful mosque proved mistimed. When men (and women?) pray, the mosques close. Ten after one, the wailing chants reverberate throughout the city and we know we were done for. The best we can hope for is a quiet look at rows of men washing their feet in preparation for the services. It feels intrusive to even look this far.


We get lost in the markets. This is to be expected, but it seems especially difficult to extricate ourselves from the web of alleys and shops today. We take passages that look unfamiliar, even as the pleas to stop and shop are now just background noise.


In the spice market, we return to our favorite tea vendor. How is it that he is a favorite? No good reason. He had thrust his card at us, made us sniff his teas and there you have it. Friend for life.

One more look at spices,


One more purchase, this one sealed with a kiss (to be fair, he asked permission).

We return by ferry to Asia and hike along the road to our hotel with dripping cones of goat milk ice cream.

At sunset we go down for the first time to eat dinner at our hotel.

meze (tapas like)


grouper on skewers

The owner, Nedret Butler, a Turkish architect, comes over and chats about how it is that she, her daughters and her husband (an American architect) transformed this warehouse into a restaurant and small hotel (the Sumahan). Her husband moved to Istanbul with her and for years they worked on this together. It was an ambitious project, but the results are magnificent. Having experienced the quiet of a room looking out over the waters of the Bosphorus, it’s hard to imagine staying anywhere else.

An espresso, an ice cream baked in halvah and the day is done. With a warm crunch, lick and a drip.