A voice addressed me in Turkish. “Sorry?” I looked up from the August edition of Time Out Istanbul. An older (than me, grin) man addressed me again, “May I share this table?” he asked, explaining, “It’s hard to find a place for one person.” “Certainly,” I replied, not wanting to hog the 4-person table I occupied. “I arrived early.” I’d already devoured half a pizza (pear, walnuts, cheese) and a great glass of fresh-brewed ice tea. I wasn’t ready to abandon the table; I hadn’t decided how to spend the rest of the evening. I had been weary all day &emdash; a reaction to the volume and intensity of recent days’ stimulation.
While he settled in I wondered about etiquette. I recalled my first trip to Germany, some 20 years ago, where people often shared tables and rarely spoke. Should I continue reading? We made eye contact. “Where are you from?” he asked. Twenty hours later (!) I returned to my room at the World House Café and Hostel.
Özcan is gregarious, curious, and happy to be alive. He writes. His first book is on Kazi Nazrul Islam, the national/rebel poet of Bangladesh.
Özcan loves his hometown, and had just completed a meeting with his publisher and several reviewers in which they approved the publication of his next book about its history. Bostanci has grown from a village of 1000 when Özcan was growing up, to a densely populated suburb of Istanbul. Eventually we ended up there, but not until after a second pizza (spinach, cheese), fresh walnuts (they taste different and have a softer texture than the dried variety we get in the States), a bottle of wine, music, flowers (we had to talk, wink), and some sightseeing.
First, the Rumi Mehmet Pasa Camii.
I can’t recall if the famous architect Sinan (who built the Suleymaniye Mosque) built this one as well as the next mescit (small mosque) that we saw, nestled right on the shore of the Bosphorus.
This one has the most decorated public water fountain I’ve seen, and a sweet small library. There were still worshipers in the mosque at 11 pm.
Did I mention that last night there was a full moon?
We took our last cay of the evening at Özcan ‘s sport club, where he exercises and takes sauna. (He’s a champion ping-pong player; I entertained the far-fetched fantasy of him coming to Amherst to take on George.) In the morning, I was treated to a delicious full spread mediterranean breakfast.
From passing the time alone with such activities as admiring an anonymous electrician’s work-a-day frog at The House Cafe to a companionable tour of two mosques and beautiful views of Istanbul from the Asian side, Özcan lived up to promise implied in his self-tease: “It’s not every night you meet an ambassador on the street!”
Tell me about it! 🙂