September 18, 2013

Tea and a Turkish Bazaar

Yesterday's tea was in the British Museum cafe, and how on earth do you top that?  In search of my most memorable tea experiences, how about we cruise over to the Aegean coast and see what we can discover in the Turkish bazaars?  Kusadasi is a popular port of call for cruise ships, and on a trip to the Greek islands with our youth symphony two years after our London trip, we made a port of call there on our way to ancient Ephesus. 
The area has been a center of art and culture for centuries and has been settled by many civilizations since being founded by the Leleges people in 3000 BC. Later settlers include the Aeolians in the 11th century BC and Ionians in the 9th century.  Kuşadası was a minor port frequented by vessels trading along the Aegean coast. In antiquity it was overshadowed by Ephesus, until Ephesus' harbor silted up. From the 7th century BC onwards the coast was ruled by Lydians from their capital at Sardis, then from 546 BC the Persians, and from 334 BC along with all of Anatolia the coast was conquered by Alexander the Great. From then onwards the coastal cities  were a center of Hellenistic culture.  The Roman Empire took possession of the coast in the 2nd century BC and made it their provincial capital and in the early years of Christianity.   St John the Evangelist came to live in the area, which in the Christian era became known as "Ania".  Later the port was a haven for pirates.

Bazaar Entrance

As Byzantine, Venetian and Genoese shippers began to trade along the coast the port was re-founded, a garrison was placed on the island, and the town center moved from the hillside to the coast.  From 1086 the area came under Turkish control and the Aegean ports became the final destination of caravan routes to the Orient. However this arrangement was overthrown by the Crusades and the coast again came under Byzantine control until 1280, when Kuşadası was brought into the Ottoman Empire by Mehmet I in 1413. The Ottomans built the city walls and the caravanserai that still stand today.
Outside shops
But fascinating history aside, what (I can hear you asking) does this have to do with TEA?  We had a few marvelous hours to spend wandering the narrow aisles of the Turkish bazaar, filled with all sorts of fascinating and colorful and sometimes mystifying items.  

 My husband and I ducked into a small jewelry shop to "browse" and had a delightful time bartering with the owner over a pretty Greek key necklace.  I was impressed with my husband's bartering skills and was soon the proud owner of a lovely reminder of our Turkish adventure.  
I apologize for the grainy camera and I were having lighting difficulties.  You can see my necklace draped over a rock from the Parthenon ('s illegal to pick rocks up there!), some Greek coins and a pretty Greek key design table runner from Santorini.  The necklace has a key design as well.
Once our transaction was complete we began to leave the shop, but the shop owner hastily stopped us and asked us to sit down at a small table.  Then from the back room his wife entered carrying a brass tray with beautiful glass cups and a steaming pot of tea.  They explained that Turkish custom called for a transaction to be celebrated with hot cups of tea, which in this case turned out to be delicious apple tea.  Drinking hot tea also helped regulate the body's temperature to adjust to the heat outside, and in addition, apple tea was praised for its ability to help people with allergies and asthma.  
We brought home two glass cups, and also several boxes of the apple tea.  It did indeed help our son's asthma!
So there you have it, a wonderful unexpected tea memory at the Turkish bazaar.  It was an experience I think of often...two different cultures bridging the gap with gracious ceremony and sipping tea together.  I think we should try it more often.
That night on the cruise ship after we left Turkey and headed back to Greece there was a captain's dinner.  Here is the picture from that evening--my husband and I with our two older sons who played in the youth symphony.  What wonderful memories!

Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
So it's the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember...
The way we were...
The way we were...
(The Way We Were--with the sad middle section removed!  Lyrics by Michelle Lewis)

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