Sunday, April 5, 2009

GB to a "T"

I'm trying to be an understanding bear - and I think I am quite understanding by nature - but the truth is, we've been in Turkey for 6 weeks now and we've done nothing "Turkish" - except eat baklava (which was excellent, by the way) and hang up our evil eye amulets. I finally put my paw down and told my bipedal attendants that even if we can't all go to Istanbul for another few weeks, we can still explore life in Turkey - here in Izmit.

And nothing says "Turkish" more than tea and water pipes. Except for maybe baklava and coffee. And maybe carpets and evil eye amulets. Oh well ...

In any case, yesterday afternoon we went to a small tea shop in town and sipped çay served in tiny glasses with cubes of beetroot sugar and smoked a narghile.

Many people equate coffee with Turkey and so prevalent was coffee in Turkish culture that their word for breakfast - kahvaltı - means "before coff
ee". In fact, until recent times, Turks drank more coffee than tea, but these days, tea is the drink of choice. After World War I, it became very expensive to import coffee into Turkey, so, because it's grown here, our friend Atatürk encouraged Turks to drink tea instead. I guess they listened because Turks drink more tea than any other people in the world - over 2.5 kilos of the stuff per capita a year. Not surprisingly, they sell a lot of teeth whitening products here too!

Turks use small clear glasses to show off the colour of the tea, which is something, as a former international fashion model, I completely understand. Never underestimate the importance of colour.

We also ordered a water pipe - or a narghile as they are known here - because socially, tea and water pipes go together like bears and honey. I've had water pipes before but this was my first one in Turkey. The pipe itself was quite pretty - a lovely green coloured glass - and the fabric which covered the hose was just like a Turkish carpet. (Again, that's the former international fashion model in me talking!)

Each pipe comes with its own hermetically sealed plastic mouthpiece (see above photo, right) because you can never be too safe when it comes to yo
ur health. I can only imagine what germs my female bipedal attendant picked up sharing water pipes with strangers in the back alleys of Egypt. It's amazing she didn't contract TB or something. Anyway, I'm making her keep a spare mouthpiece in her purse these days. I swear, it's like living with a child sometimes!

Anyway ... too be completely honest, I was a bit disappointed with my narghile. I confess that I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to my water pipes - or more accurately, to the tobacco in my water pipes - and maybe it's because I'm a bear but I prefer a plain ma'sal or honeyed tobacco like they use in Egypt. The flavoured "blends": cappuccino, banana, pineapple - are not for true connoisseurs. Honestly: banana tobacco??

And to make it worse, there was no tobacco in it! What's the point? Apparently, it's becoming common now to burn a tobacco-free fruit concentrate - a fruit roll-up for adults - which has no nicotine. It tastes good - I guess - and is guilt free. On the other hand, there's none of the euphoria of smoking a real water pipe. You humans! Must you always try to "fix" what's not broken?

You can still find real water pipe tobacco in Turkey, but you have to know where to go and how to ask for it. Clearly, this was beyond the abilities of my bipedal attendants yesterday afternoon so I'm going to sign them up for Turkish lessons. I mean, what's the point of having attendants if they can't even manage a simple thing like ordering a water pipe correctly?


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Grey Bear
You poor thing.
Maybe you should get new bipedal attendants. They sound like they are kind of thick-headed. Or maybe you sounded cranky because you didn't have your daily fix of honey.

Grey Bear said...

Hi Anon,
I always have a tiny hit of honey to kickstart my morning. It's such a natural way to cleanse the system and get a bit of energy. So no, I wasn't really being cranky - I think my bipedals are just thick-headed like you said. It's so hard to find good workers these days.