Morning at Çağdaş Börek, Pangalti

Photo by Hudin

Despite the expressive use of letters I was unfamiliar with, there was nothing about Çağdaş Börek that was fancy. In fact it was a place that was generally forgettable, perched above the entrance to the Osmanbey Metro on Halaskargazi Street. A bland entrance that had probably been remodeled five years ago, but seemed longer gave way to an interior that never stopped being filled with people. Like a linguistic Gatling gun, the rapid fire exchange of words between staff and customers in Turkish was never-ending.

Being a gigantic foreigner among this crowd, I managed to stick out enough and used British English (saying the same thing repeatedly in English but louder each time) to make my order. Thankfully, börek I already knew as in parts more west of the old Ottoman Empire it’s called, burek. And tea, throughout the world is some variation of “tea” (thé, té, tee, teh, thea, etc.) or “chai” (čaj, cha, чај, чая, etc.) In Turkey, it’s simply, “çay”, it only comes in black, and they drink their weight in it each day.

Barely able to fit up the shiftily built staircase, I made my way to their terrace which was little more than a few tables and chairs with an open air view on the street below. A young server who spoke six or seven words of English to complement my zero of Turkish brought my börek and tea to then leave me in peace among the other customers having their morning breakfast, checking mobile phones, and ultimately waiting for someone who was unduly late.

That of course is the great charm of Çağdaş Börek in that the terrace above allows one the chance to watch all that happens in this very busy street and have a bit to eat or a tea to drink instead of chain smoking down on the street. An endless parade of buses pass along this street; all generally full and all easily keeping pace with the taxis. The people walking along the street were all Turks and this very much “real” neighborhood bore little resemblance to the old city of Sultanahmet that was awash in tourists, their guides, and shoe shiners instinctively “losing” their brushes to attract potential customers.

And then of course there was the metro. Despite not being completed and fully linking up all parts of the city, the station was much like the street with one artery of the 12 million or so residents of Istanbul pumping through it all the time. There were lulls however when the trains in either direction had long passed and in these moments there was a squeak that would rhythmically pop up from the escalator. A strange sound, it made me notice a warning sign in Turkish that I obviously couldn’t make out but probably something to the effect of “Do not sexually assault the escalator for it will win.” My assumption for this was based solely upon the fact that the sound I kept hearing was as if some part of some past pervert who was indeed trying to molest the escalator was still stuck in the trundles of it and thus required a sign for all future potential deviants.

Of course such a thing was better suited for the authorities to figure out, much as they do with the San Francisco Civic Center escalators. I was there, otherwise satisfied with my tea, börek, and the life of Istanbul passing before me. Given this general contentment, I was not in much of a desire to change it although I did, saw some sites and only then returned to Çağdaş Börek for more of their offer.