In Istanbul there’s a place for you; offering peace, fresh air, sightseeing, and as much as tea you wish for. And of course the indulgence of the old days…
Moda: A lovely place to spend a sunday in Istanbul…
Weekend in Istanbul: After waking up and collecting yourself, go out without hivng breakfast. The destination is Moda. If you are coming from other districts of the Anatolian side, you may prefer the dolmus, bus, private car or a taxi. If you are coming from the European side and you don’t like traffic, the best way is getting a ferry. Ferry travel in the morning is much more enjoyable. After you get down from the ferry or the dolmus, you may get on a taxi-dolmus near Bostancı dolmus station or rather walk to Moda. As you go, proceed to the tea-gardens on Moda Avenue. There are three places where you can have a delicious breakfast. One of them is Elif Patisserie, just opposite Cem Street. It is one of the places that comes to mind when you talk about homemade savory pastries. Besides, the price is very reasonable. The second one is Moda Kup, next to Ali Usta Ice-cream Seller. There are many assortments here; you may hesitate which to buy. The third option is Eyfel Patisseire, on the left towards Moda Cape. Eyfel Patisseire is quite nostalgic, and has quite affordable prices. After getting the food, it is time to get the newspapers. Sunday enjoyment will be complete with a newspaper as accompany. But don’t forget to get it before you get to the tea garden, because there isn’t anywhere that sell newspapers there. Walk downward Ferit Tek Street, where Dodo, Kırıntı, Casa D’Moda and Guvert Cafer are lined on the right and Sedef Cafe and Şütte are on the left. This path will take you to Moda Tea-Garden.
Rambo, cats and Brother Ramazan
When you enter the tea garden, what draws your attention is the giant plane tree, the stem of which is covered with ivy. After you pass by it you will meet Rambo, lying down on the way. Rambo is a vaccinated street dog and he is a frequenter of the tea garden. You can see him lying down in the same position all day. He rarely changes its place. As you might have notices, there is a huge cat population in Istanbul and a large proportion of them are here. Rambo gets along very well with cats. They lie down facing one another calmly. Do not find it weird when a cat comes and sits down on a chair next to you suddenly, or falls asleep on your lap. These “big”, tame and well-fed cats sometimes even want to share your food. If you are a cat-lover, it may be nice to share your sunday breakfast with them. Go along the big parasols and take a seat at any table you wish. When you hear someone shouting as, “Evvet efenim çaylar! Çay isteyen var mı?” (Yesss, ladies and gentlemen, here are the teas! Anybody who wants tea?) it must be Mr. Ramazan bringing hot and freshly brewed tea. Mr. Ramazan is one of the faithful veterans of the tea garden. Sometimes he makes such jokes when he is bringing tea or reckoning the bill, you can’t help but think that he is a wasted talent. And you mustn’t forget that you may not get a glass of tea as soon as you order it. It is poured into 30-40 glasses after it is steeped and shared between the tables. Thus you may wait for a while after your order. Thence do not press the employees by saying “Where is my tea?” After the tea it is time for the newspaper. If you have forgotten to buy it, do not bother, because you may find nearly all the daily newspapers left by other visitors at the tea garden. Just tell which one you prefer. Or you may go and choose one. They are usually on a chair next to the soft drink cupboard. You may take them on the condition that you give them back after reading. You may also leave your newspaper there for others to read. They usually don’t accept that warmly but they don’t make an objection either.
Old style bill
The best specialty of the Moda Tea Garden, open both in winter and summer for many years, is its artisan tradition and warmth. Old-style billing system is still valid here. Usually there is not a bill on which the things you eat or drink are recorded. Instead the glasses and plates on the table are counted and regarded as a bill. After you sit here once or twice, you will notice that even if you don’t tell them, they bring the tea or coffee as if you had ordered before. The employees remember the frequent customers’ preferences. “Nescafe? You can’t find it here!” Nescafe, available at food and drink shops, cafes, restaurants, tea-gardens, buffets etc., is not served at Moda Tea Garden. When you say “coffee” it is regarded as Turkish coffee. The flavors of plain, little-middle or well-sugared Turkish coffee are always predictable. When strangers come and order Nescafe, they get the response as “You can’t find it here.” It is a small detail, but watch them when they describe your order to the employees inside; they don’t use words just say it through signs. Among other things, if you smoke don’t look for ash-trays. Since the area is so big it is hard to dump and clean up the ash-trays. Hence you may throw the cigarette stubs, but only them, to the ground. They will be swept at the closing time. You may also play Okey, Backgammon or cards at Moda Tea Garden. But you should stay in the indoor area for that, because it is forbidden to bring the play-sets or cards outside. The indoor area is particularly crowded in winters. The wood-stove, the very green and sweet-smelling basil on the tables are constants of the indoor area.
Frequenters of the place
Moda is known as a nostalgic district. Besides its atmosphere; the houses, shops, people living here also have a nostalgic manner. Sometimes you hear their chat, or see the faces at Moda Tea Garden, or feel the atmosphere. If you don’t like crowds, the best time to come here is the period between from the morning till noon, both at weekends or weekdays. And during the evening, it might be so crowded that you will immediately think of the Turkish proverb “even a needle doesn’t fall down.” More or less crowded, you may see some faces frequently here. For instance, you may see actress Pelinsu Pir and actor Levet Tülek and Prof. Dr. Sener Üşümezsoy with his majesty. Sometimes musician Edip Akbayram, Cemal Bey smoking a pipe and drinking tea all the time, the old lady that seemingly comes out from a Lynch movie with her clothing and facial features, the blond and long bearded gentleman who looks more like a German rather than a Turk and that comes with his kids, wife and Golden Retriever dog, the curly haired woman who nearly knows everyone here and tries to order something for everybody and whose speaking reflects her old Istanbulite manner and the white haired owner of the tea-garden who throws bread to the birds a few times a day and feeds Rambo with a liter of milk with eggs. And there’s the young man selling Turkish-bagel,one of the most prefered street foods of Turkey. His spanking clean bagel-car is never full, because at least 20-30 people buy bagels for bagel-and-tea pleasure from him everyday. He started to sell cheese and olive paste along with bagels recently. You just go and order and sit at your table. He brings your fresh bagels to your table in 8-10 minutes, according to his workload. Some of the bagels are given to lucky pigeons, sparrows and doves during the day. Like the bagel-seller, the kokorec seller is also one of the faithful veterans of the place. Sometimes he has so many customers that he can’t serve them all at the same time. He sells to the customers of the tea garden as well.
When you sit here, particularly in spring, it is possible to watch dreamy sailing boats which set out to sea from Moda Sailing Club, touring boats, ferries going to and from Prince Islands and seabuses. This is also the best spot from which to watch the calm sea, the wonderful blazonries of the sky at sunset before the fluorescent lamps come on. And when the sky is clear and when the stars rise, beautiful moonlight is seen on the sea. Moda is also alive during these hours. You may find lots of things in the area just in front of the tea garden like hand-made ornaments, kitchen equipment and incense. Families leave their children to play at Moda Park, just a few meters away, and enjoy the tea garden. Even when winter shows its face with rain, the frequenters don’t leave here. The tables are put aside except a few ones at the entrance section. The parasols are also put aside to prevent them being toppled by the wind. The stove is heated inside. It is a pleasure to drink tea and chat on country affairs and life with the frequenters, play games and watch the rain and clouds. The tea garden opens at 08.00-08.30 in the morning and closed at about midnight. You catch the closing signal as the lamps twinkle a few times. Of course it doesn’t mean “just go now”. It is just a call for the bills. The glasses are taken from the tables, the ground is swept, the garbage is collected, the soft drinks are placed in the cooler for the next day, the coffee-cookers are closed off. The lamps are off but life goes on. It is up to you to go home or sit and breathe the gloomy but attractive air that comes with the dark. Everybody leaves, but the conversations linger…