Sunday, January 10, 2016

Turkish delights...

Taken near the Galata Bridge, gazing back at "Fatih", the backbone of Constantinople--I mean Istanbul--with mosque after mosque spiking the horizon with their minarets. Straight ahead and to the left the Spice Bazaar winds around the neighborhood--every bit as colorful as the Grand Bazaar--but focused more on plant products.

You can imagine my delight stumbling on a real garden center--compact but quite well endowed with a variety of annuals (and this was July!) a few perennials, and lots of garden goods of all kinds. They're also selling "Orkide" which is relatively easy to translate!

A pretty lavish display of seeds: the Turkish vendors know how to array these with flair!

As a bona fide cactophile, you can imagine I was not enchanted with the everlasting flowers dyed candy colors and pinned on the poor Mammilarias and columnar jobbies...not everything in Turkey is in good taste (except the food is always ambrosial!)

The technicolor barrelettes were even less to my taste, although they do recall other more delectable delights...

The technicolor is more appealing the the sweet shops, which are as ubiquitous in Turkey as they are in Greece (and why not? the two are really siblings--just from different mothers). These are mostly true Turkish delight, which I would have enjoyed sampling at leisure (with great thoroughness), but my companions whisked me off before I could even try one!

In the spice bazaar proper the colors were almost psychedelic! You'd be hard put to find ristras prettier than these in the entire Southwest! And look at those heaps of all manner of spices! Just looking at this makes me hopelessly nostalgic!

Another shop selling "Hakiki Sahlep Bulunur" the REAL Salep, in other words, bona fide Turkish orchid roots ground up and made into a sweet syrup for drinks. I wonder how many metric tons of Dactylorhiza, Orchis, Ophrys and Serapias (whose name perhaps is the origin of the drink's?--it isn't: see Alys' comment below) have been gathered by Greeks and Turks over the Millennia and ground into a drink I try only risking enormous guilt pangs. Doubt I ever shall. Interestingly enough, there are still orchids aplenty in both Greece and Turkey.

Of course, as someone of Greek ancestry, Istanbul resonates as profoundly as Jerusalem resonates for Muslims, Jews and Christians. The tiny remnant of Rum (Orthodox Christian, Greek speaking Turks) is dwindling, even though Greek Greeks are nowadays immigrating back. We're talking four figures, or lower five figure numbers here--pretty paltry stuff. Hundreds of thousands if not millions have left forever. More's the pity for Turkey herself: cultural uniformity is functional but boring.

And yet the color, mystery and beauty still remain on the Golden Horn. And likely will so when the last syllable of mellifluous, indigenous Rum is uttered (probably in the next few decades).

1 comment:

  1. Your photos and blog make me itch to visit Constantinople - the aroma of the spice stalls must be so heady. Re. your mention of the delightfully silky Turkish beverage, Panayoti, 'the word 'salep' is supposedly derived from the Arabic 'khasyu 'th-thaeleb' which means 'fox's testicles'. When salep was prepared in the UK from UK native orchid roots, the recipe referred to them as 'dogstones' which corresponds quite nicely. Slàinte :-)


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