More customer visits today, mainly in Istanbul itself. Our man is doing his job well and he knows loads of people, most of whom seem to regard him as a good friend. Whilst driving around, I notice how green Istanbul is: there are no great parks, but everywhere squads of council workmen are busy, planting flowers or watering small garden beds by the road side. There is certainly a big effort to prettify the city.
We stop for lunch in Galatasaray, right in the city centre. We are in a small restaurant just off Istiklal Caddesi, the main Istanbul shopping street. It’s a small, homely place, and the food is homely too: Aubergine kebab, which turns out to be like a tasty aubergine and tomato ratatouille, a side of yogurt and cucumber, a few dried figs to finish. This is a typical dish that the Turkish family eats at home – meat kebabs, shish, dÃ¶ner and kÃ¶fte are not the norm at all!
More meetings with yet more tea in the afternoon and into the early evening. No time to brush up at the hotel before dinner: as it’s my last evening in Turkey, we’re off to a special meal tonight! We drive out towards the shores of the Bosphorus and go to Park Fora in Kurucesme, near Ã–rtakÃ¶y where I had the Happy Hour party two days ago. Park Fora is a large seafood restaurant set on a terrace amongst landscaped gardens with a great view over the straits. This is decidedly an upscale establishment and so are the patrons.
As the sun sets and the candles are lit, a bevy of waiters bring our dinner. Several meze to start with, including shrimps, purÃ©ed aubergine (a real staple here in Turkey!), deep fried anchovies and squid. The main course is a huge sea bass baked in salt. The waiters put on a show cracking open the salt shell, and the taste of the sea bass is equally spectacular: this particular way of cooking seals in all the juices, and the fish is exceptionally tender! A couple of baklava sweets and a good Turkish coffee rounds off this excellent meal!
As we enjoy our dinner, the conversation spaces far and wide, but one comment from my Man in Turkey grabs my attention: “You do realize that all this would be banned, if the Islamists start ruling the country?” he remarks, waving his hand at the tables around us. “They will impose shariah law, ban alcohol and cover the women up! Then I think it would be right for the army to restore order.” I stare at him dumbfounded: does this mild, progressive man really contemplate the possibility of a military coup? Modern Turkey is a country of contradictions, with the two poles in society far apart. In the well-to-do areas of Istanbul we pass on the way back to the hotel, Western consumerism is rampant, with a concentration of Ferraris, Porsches and BMW SUVs greater than in any other European city.