The main reason that brought us to Turkey this year was to see our family and friends. As we get older, our shrinking circle becomes more important, and that brought us there. Travel, especially air travel is getting harder, at least for me, but people we wanted to see made it somewhat bearable.
As we arrived, Ergun greeted us with open arms and we were very glad to see him in good health and at peace with losing his beloved wife, my dear sister Binnaz. He now devotes most of his time to the foundation that they started together to give scholarships to needy students. He also managed to publish a book about his sister, Nevin and is starting a new one on Binnaz. I am enjoying the first one and looking forward to the next one.
Before arriving in Istanbul, we tried to connect with our friends and make arrangements as our days were limited. Some were already in Istanbul but Suleyman and Haluk traveled about 600 miles each to see us, we are grateful for their efforts. Especially since Suleyman was waiting to undergo some medical testing. Cem was undergoing some treatments and his mobility was somewhat limited.
October 4, 2019
The first gathering was with Cem and Aytac and Haluk came from Antalya to be with us, a 600-mile trip. Thank you, Haluk. Cem had arranged a dinner gathering at the Big Chefs restaurant in Anadolu Hisari district, a sizeable restaurant right on the water with a view of both Anadolu and Rumeli Castles on either side of the Bosphorus. We sat outside first but the wind started picking up and it was getting a bit chilly. Before we even ordered anything we moved inside to a table at the corner. Since they were missing some components for a martini, I settled on a glass of wine and we all enjoyed good food and even better conversation. Part of the topic was various health issues Cem was facing and we all encouraged him to keep an open mind and follow the orders of his doctors. We wanted to have a few photographs taken and asked one of the waiters to help us out. I gave him my phone and he started to take a series of shots and he said: “Now we take the must-have” as he turned his back to us and took a group shot with himself included. Judging by the smoothness of his moves, he must have done it many times before.
October 6, 2019
I called and spoke with my uncle Sureyya who is the family elder on my mother’s side. We made arrangements to visit him on Sunday afternoon for some coffee. If the cousins could make it that would be even better. We arrived around 4:30 PM and all three of his children, Eser, Ender, and Esra were there along with Esra’s son Kagan who was celebrating a birthday, his 15th. A little later my cousin Murat arrived with his wife Bahar. Murat was the commander of the Turkish Naval Forces before his retirement several years ago and has successfully defeated bladder cancer. His was worse than mine as he ended up undergoing chemo and radiation therapy. The afternoon was very enjoyable as we celebrated Kagan’s birthday and how good my uncle looked at 93. Many happy returns of the days for both of them. I also realized that I am the second oldest member after my uncle on my mother’s side.
October 9, 2019
Early in the afternoon, Jan and I decided to visit the Kadikoy market and get some nuts and spices. The market gets a steady stream of people that may look like a human river. That day was no exception. Although the video below is from a later date with Mina and Elif in it, it shows the same stream of people cascading.
We managed to find the place where we got nuts before and to my surprise the owner recognized us as I had taken their photograph a couple of years back. We made our choices and they vacuum packed everything nicely. The spice shop was the next stop. Jan told him what we wanted and we got quite a variety of spices for cooking as well as for making linden tea.
Later in the afternoon, my younger sister Zerrin came from Gelibolu where she has been living for quite some time now. It was a postponed visit due to an unexpected storm that created travel problems and she delayed her visit to Istanbul a few days. We had dinner and she told us about a couple of tours she was going with friends, one to South Africa and then within a few weeks, to South America. It was good to see her and still energetic enough to travel extensively.
October 10, 2019
We did not have much on our schedule that day, Jan and I went to Kuzguncuk just to walk around and have lunch at Ismet Baba restaurant. The weather was great and we walked on the main and the side streets enjoying the temporal patina of the place. It is one of the neighborhoods in Istanbul that has managed to keep its character and texture despite the current trend of strange-looking highrise buildings everywhere else. More on the buildings and the strange architectural shift in Istanbul, perhaps in other parts of Turkey as well in a later post. As we hit the main road, we decided it was time to go to Ismet Baba and enjoyed some bonito, one of my favorite fish.
In the evening, our friends Ersan and Yuksel came for dinner. We enjoyed the delicious food prepared by the wife of Ergun’s driver and talked about the old days. It was good to see them all in good shape.