#10 – Dinner in Istanbul
Sometimes, a layover is more than just a layover. And a dinner is more than just a dinner.
Sometimes, a single inexpensive meal can be the perfect bookend on an amazing journey – and open your eyes to a new world of possibility.
Our layover in Turkey, during our flight home from Europe, was a bit of a crapshoot. It took a while to get out of the airport, and then I thought there was something wrong with my visa (turned out the issue was that the immigration agent was so busy flirting with me, he forgot to save my info and had to chase me through the airport. No biggie…). We had no idea if we were going the right way on the train, or if our luggage was really safe being left on the plane (we only took carry-ons off), and we were holding fistfuls of money, since the exchange rate in Turkey was in our favor. But as we got off the train to the sound of the evening prayer, all our anxiety faded away. It was replaced with awe, and reverence.
Over the previous month, I had danced in British clubs, seen top-notch theater, admired famous works of art, eaten croissants on the bank of the Seine and wine on plazas in France, been massaged on a beach and hustled by someone at a train station, and more. But the magic of Istanbul made dinner here my favorite moment of the trip.
The restaurant we stopped at, Mesale Cafe, had it all. Cushioned benches. A cat at the table next to us that was bold enough when it was being fed to jump right up onto the table. The sweet smell of hookah from people smoking around us. And a perfect view of the live music and dancing – really spinning – on the stage at the front of the place, which drew us in initially.
We ate like queens, tasting marinated chicken and meat crepe-like pancakes, made by women sitting mere feet from our table. We drank literally every tea on the menu, and when we were done, our waiter said “just one more!” and then brought us a syrupy-sweet concoction that was a mix of all the teas together.
We sat back against the pillows. We paused and didn’t check Facebook. We watched the dancers and smoke and shifting lights – and we realized that this was only the beginning. If this city, that seemed so foreign and daunting, could be so sweet and beautiful and welcoming, nothing should hold us back. We immediately started dreaming bigger – Katie of Thailand, me of rural Turkey, to visit a college roommate.
By the end of the meal, we were only out about $18 total – and in addition to our full stomachs, we gained an awareness that no adventure is inherently off-limits in this vast and wonderful world. Even if you start with a layover, getting your feet on the ground is a perfect beginning.
The #10 is brought to you from the streets of Carcassonne.
All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.