Note: This is the next essay from the previous one, "In the Midst of Muslim Men: Travel Narratives in Istanbul" at http://www.worldpulse.com/node/8646 (I'm still writing the first part.)
I chance upon this restaurant called Best Western Acropol Hotel and Restaurant on my way back to my hotel. It’s strategically located since most of the important places to visit like Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Archaeological Museum and Topkapi Palace are just more or less 200 meters away. My feet tell me that they need a rest since the pressure from walking around for four hours inside the Topkapi palace has made my soles so tense, which took me 4 hours, and so, looking at this hotel with this rich dark chocolate colored wooden building makes me crave for rich and delectable food. It’s even made mouth-watery since the two bright yellow colored concrete buildings sandwich it. It’s probably the same experience as Hansel and Gretel, when they run into the house of the witch, which is made of the finest and tastiest ingredients one can ever imagine. My eyes grow big when I get to see Acropol that looks like Toblerone with its teasingly triangular shape.
The lounge area of the hotel is quite small but cozy. This hotel, after all, is called a “boutique palace”. You feel like, you’re one of the royalties and they treat you like a deity. The prominent colors and shades of brown, gold and white; from the ceiling to the floor, from chandelier to the sofas. Unlike Topkapi Palace that you feel a bit defamiliarized with everything grand and in excess, this one feels like home. You feel comfortable and satisfied just by sitting and watching the flamboyant ceiling, which was painted by professional artists who specialized in Ottoman art. There are several Caucasians inside, chatting and drinking coffee.
The young concierge approaches me and asks me if I want to try their meals at the Marmara roof restaurant. Roof restaurant sounds exhilarating and without second thought, I find myself following an older guy, who’s introduced himself as the manager of the restaurant. He leads me to a seemingly secret room. It’s a very small elevator that opens like a mouth, a classic. The feeling of being swallowed by this small room makes me feel dizzy. It so small that at most only 3 people of medium size can squeeze in. The manager is extra nice, always smiling and asking me general things like if I enjoy my stay in Istanbul and so on. I just nod. If I talk, I feel like losing more oxygen by giving out carbon dioxide, and the thought of it makes me suffocate. I cannot wait but to see the roof restaurant where I can imagine the wind is continuously flowing. When we reach the top, I am equally amazed as the one below.
The roof garden restaurant has a low ceiling, made of wood and consistently decorated in Ottoman style. The table cloths and napkins are pristine white, embroidered in golden thread. The curtains and drapes add sophistication to the whole set-up, and of course, the view is perfect. I can see from where I am the Marmara sea, St. Sophia, and the Blue Mosque.
There’s no one at the roof restaurant except me and the manager. I feel remote from the world but at the same time connected to myself and the surrounding beauty. He gives me my first glass of Turkish tea as he waits for my order. I just tell him, whatever he recommends, I will take, which makes him feel satisfied. He says, he will give me kebabs which I agree only if it’s chicken. I have given up eating beef a long time ago since Lakshmi is one of my favorites. I have been trying to reduce my red meat in take since I started taking meditation and yoga classes, and beef is the easiest to let go.
Mr. Acropol, as I call him since I can’t remember his name or I can’t pronounce it properly, is already 50 years old, he tells me. He’s hair is quite thin and golden platinum in color. He’s very neat looking although his teeth are indication of too much drinking and smoking. He says, as a compliment, the Turkish tea is on the house. I tell him how much I like it so much and I feel happy whenever I drink it. He asks me if I want to see how he prepares it, and of course, I say yes.
I follow him to the room at the back of the bar. He then tells me how to prepare the Turkish tea. He instructs me to put the tea powder in a jar, and that I should place it in a cool dry place to avoid it from solidifying. He says four full scoops for a glass of hot water will give the right blend and taste. Turkish tea is always served in Turkish tea set. The tea set is made mostly of glass with gold lid; with silver, bronze or gold coaster, teaspoon, tray and tea pot which are usually etched in typical Turkish style. The glass is the same size as a shot glass for tequila or lemon cello and the effect is just the same, at least for me, probably because of the sugar rush. That’s why, when he serves my first glass of Turkish tea, I get really high—floating and happy. He asks me if I want some more. I can’t possibly reject the tempting offer. He serves me four more, and the floating feeling suddenly is gone. Though it still tastes good, I’m quite grounded now and especially when he serves my kabob, which tastes nutty and has distinct flavor of herbs and spices. This kabob tastes differently from the kabob I ate in Taksim but equally good. I nibble it as slowly as I can as I try to name all the possible spices and herbs it contains; I can only name cumin, parsley, salt and pepper. Anyway, there is nothing else to do but enjoy the food as much as the scenery since I’m eating here, alone. Everything would have tasted better if there’s at least someone to share with.
When I finish my meal, I ask for my bill. The several Turkish teas I ordered are not included in the bill. One glass is 3.50 TRY which is roughly 2.2 USD. I save more than 10 USD! He asks me if I’m in a hurry because if not, I might as well, sit at the porch and feel the breeze. He asks me, “How long have you been here?” and I reply, “Not long and I’m leaving tonight back to my country.” He adds, “Then, let Turkey give you a kiss. Sit at the porch and let the Turkish wind kiss you good-bye." Wow! It’s poetic! How can I refuse?
So I sit at the porch. The wind does not only kiss me several times, it envelops me like a mother to her lost child. It gives me a shiver down to my spine, almost ticklish. For a few minutes, I lose my mind to the blueness of the Marmara Sea. Until I realize, it’s been waving at me. I wave back, only to feel embarrassed remembering that Mr. Acropol is just behind me, witnessing my crazy response.
“I’ve been managing this hotel for 30 years. I feel old already.”
“It seems that you are doing a great job.”
“I want to retire and have my own family.”
“You mean, you’re not married yet?”
“I had no time then, I needed to save up. But now I have the time.”
“Then you should find yourself a wife.”
“I think I’ve just found one.”
Silence. Then a strong wind gives me be a big hug, I feel the jolt in my body. His eyes staring at me straight seem to carry the blueness of Marmara. My phone rings. It’s my alarm. I have to go.
“It’s time for me to go. Thank you for the kindness and the service. The food is great, so is the tea.”
He accompanies me to the elevator.
I once again say thank you to him. He holds my right hand, kisses it three times. “I love you. Please don’t forget me.” His hand feels warm. I feel my whole face turns Turkish tea hot. This is already the second time that a guy said “I love you” to me, in a row.
Walking back to the hotel, I feel I have much more to carry than what I shopped for. I don’t know what’s with the Turkish men, what they see in me. Perhaps their tongues are made sweet by Turkish tea and Turkish delight. I'm coming home sugar high.