I was up with the muezzin this morning, and out the door of the hotel at 5:15, before the call to prayers ended. Let’s just say that the streets were not exactly teeming with the faithful answering the call. The only things moving at that hour are me and the cats, which Istanbul has a lot of. It is definitely a cat town.
Coffee or Turkish tea was what I was looking for, but none of the neighborhood places were open. In a moment of weakness I surrendered to a taxi driver’s solicitations and got into the cab without a firm destination. This is a mistake. Although I made sure that the meter was turned on after I got in, and although he indicated with head nods that he understood and could deliver me to a café, the next thing I know we’re tearing down back streets and then are on the Galata Bridge. He’s meanwhile doing the “I love America!” shtick, with thumbs up etc. and I’m getting angrier as the meter gets up to 15 lira. Where’s the café? “Fife minutes.” I insist that he turn the meter off and take me back. He pretends not to understand so I tell him to let me out now. He claims I owe him 54 lira, and points at his meter, which says nothing of the sort. I end up forking over 20 and cussing. The Koranic prescription for cutting off the hands of thieves must have originated after a ride with a Turkish cab driver.
I still want coffee and a helpful man cleaning his sidewalk points me to a half-basement entrance to a very smoky room where I am provided with Turkish tea by a friendly proprietor. Four men are having a spirited game involving tiles at 6 am and 5 others are watching Turkish CNN. I notice a door in the back and, from that room, can hear the click and clack of what sound like domino tiles from several ongoing games.
I figure out with help from the proprietor that I’m in the Taksim neighborhood of Istanbul, and walk downhill to the shore of the Bosphorus where I jump on a passenger ferry that heaves up to a barge next to the shore. This takes me across the Bosphorus to the Asian Side. It looks just like the other side, although one is in Europe (Thrace) and the other in Asia (Anatolia). I walk north to the Harem section and take the Oto Feribot back across the Bosphorus to the Sirkeci neighborhood, just minutes from the hotel. Here there is a coffee shop and I order a cup to complete the mission. I’m not even that crazy about Turkish coffee – Malaysia’s is better. It is 10:15 when I get back to the hotel and, having crossed from one continent to another and back again, I’m trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the day.
And another thing. Aplets & Cotlets did not originate in Cashmere, Washington, as I have believed since my youth. I can now state with certainty that they are in fact nothing more than rebranded Turkish Delight.