Published: March 21st 2011March 21st 2011
Cigarette smoke and heavy steam
– life in the Turkish tea garden
Ali and I are walking the streets of Odunpazarı, the old part of Eskişehir. Normally Eskişehir is quite busy, quite crowded, but this afternoon it is quite empty and rather quiet. We decide to go for a walk before settling down to have tea in a çay bahçesi. It's a Friday and the imams are calling from the minarets. That's why everywhere is so empty, so silent.
We wait for half an hour for the prayers to end and for the people to exit the mosques and enter the tea gardens. A plump, kind, middle-aged women welcomes us with a hoş geldiniz as we sit down and make our orders. Mainly older people are here, at least in this very moment, and most of them are men. Some are sitting alone enjoying small cups of Turkish coffee or glasses of burning hot tea. Still others have accumulated into small groups and are discussing, not energitically but however with some level of presence, about issues my 20 words of Turkish vocabulary are not able to reveal.
After a few minutes Ali adresses the largest group of people. We are here because of a school's assignment - to get a small insight into Turkish culture. Do they want to talk to us? Ali turns around with a rather disappointed expression on his face. However, as he walks his way back the 62 years old Mehmet approaches him with a couple of sentences and they both join me around the small table. Just a few seconds later Kemal, 55, kindly interrupts. He also wants to join. They tell a bit about their everyday life, about Eskişehir and why they love - not like - this city so much. But most of all they want to ask questions. They want to know about the Danish girl and the Turkish university student.
As Kemal is leaving after half an hour of interaction yet another unknown friend instantly introduces himself: Mustafa, age 42. Ali, whom is working hard as an interpreter, is suffering severely from the bombardment of questions provided by this very talkative and very curious man. I enjoy the Turkish friendliness and the casual, unstressful atmosphere here while watching the heavy smoke grow from Mustafa's cigarettes and steam rise from yet another hot drink. Afterwards Mustafa leads us to new adventures in the neighbourhood. As were are walking down the streets of Odunpazarı yet again I silently agree with those Turkish men whom I've just met: I love Eskişehir.