Coffee & Cats: An Istanbul Photo Diary
A look through my iPhone photos from my recent visit to Istanbul provides a narrow glimpse into my trip. A few touristy snapshots of ancient monuments and various places of worship reveal the city’s historical and geographical peculiarities—as the gateway between Europe and the Middle East—but say little about my personal time spent there.
On my phone’s camera you won’t find any visual keepsakes from the paternal family reunion that was the purpose of the trip. My Dad and other relatives wanted me in front of the cameras and in the center of all the shots so I obliged them. They had come from Tehran, wide-eyed and ready for a surreal gathering 25 years in the making, while I was still in denial about being jetlagged from Los Angeles. We had all flown through time and space to create a virtual memory, to bridge the inescapable distance, but after uploading my photos from my 10-day vacation in Istanbul all I see are the coffee shops I visited.
This is not to suggest that I have my priorities mixed up; my pictures don’t paint a full picture of my trip, but they do hint at something missing. Despite my lack of photographic proof, I did engage with my family and I was especially glad to get more acquainted with my cousins and half-sister. I also ended up seeing new aspects of Turkey that I hadn’t noticed on previous trips. Like all the stray cats that littered the streets…where did they all come from and why hadn’t I noticed them before? Cats sauntering through alleys, cats appearing and disappearing around corners, cats barely pausing at the start of prayers ringing out from the minarets, and so many damn cats napping in stores and cafés…as if they owned the city with their indifference to it.
I didn’t intend to remember the cats so vividly, just as I didn’t mean to avidly document the cafés I frequented. But discovering that Istanbul has turned in to a city full of specialty coffee shops and local roasters was an exciting surprise and an oddly comforting sight. The neighborhood of Cihangir in particular, where my hotel was located, is packed with small cafés serving quality beverages to local residents and tourists. Throughout the whole city I found numerous shops toting impressive menus, listing various handcrafted espresso and pour-over drinks.
Istanbul is a coffee drinkers mecca and I felt astonishingly comfortable sitting in their intimate cafés, enjoying a familiar tasting artisanal brew in a foreign country, while taking a break from an overwhelming journey.