My first visit to Istanbul was in the spring of 2016 with my husband. We were excited to experience all the great history and culture and came back with many great memories. But one of our most memorable moments was a quiet hour that we spent sipping Turkish tea at sunset, looking out over the Bosphorus.
At the end of each trip, my husband and I always play a game of “name your top three moments”. For this trip to Istanbul, sipping tea at a cafe overlooking the Bosphorus made both our lists. We had spent part of that afternoon strolling through the beautiful Gülhane Park, enjoying the vast displays of tulips, hyacinths and grape hyacinths, all at peak bloom. By the time we reached the end of the park overlooking the Bosphorus, we were ready for a break. It was a little chilly to be sitting outside, but that didn’t stop us. It looked like it would be a beautiful sunset and the scent of tulips and hyacinths was drifting on the breeze around us. The hot pot of Turkish tea warmed us as we sat for at least an hour and watched the boats, ferries, and freighters going up and down the waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.
Traditional Turkish tea is made in a two tiered pot. Hot water is boiled in the lower pot and then the hot water is used to brew a very strong tea in the upper pot. The tea is served in clear, tulip shaped glass cups. Additional hot water is used to dilute the tea to taste in the cups, and then sweetened with sugar.
Sipping the hot tea and looking out across the waterway that separated two continents, it struck me that Istanbul was very much like that traditional tea pot in which our tea was served. Like the two parts of the tea pot, Istanbul straddles the two distinct cultures of Europe and Asia, and like the tea, it seems to be able to successfully combine them into one uniquely flavored whole.
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