Call it serendipity or perhaps just warm Turkish hospitality! I was walking by myself down a quiet street in Antalya’s charming Old Town when I spotted a group of older men sitting at an outside table. They were chatting away while eating oranges and pomegranates. As I passed, they could see that I was a curious foreigner so they motioned me over and invited me to join them.
Heck, I’m always game for a local experience so I sat down with them at the table. They offered me a slice of orange which I happily accepted. Yalcin was the only one of the three men who spoke English – and his English was quite good. Upon learning I was an American, he told me that he really likes American accents – but British accents not so much!
Yalcin was clearly the gracious host of this little gathering of friends. From him, I learned they were all retired and enjoyed hanging out together – sitting here outside a friend’s restaurant. I asked Yalcin where he learned to speak such good English. He told me that he picked up the language when he was around age 18 by listening to a twice-weekly educational radio show.
I was also curious what type of work these men had done before retirement. I learned that Yalcin had run a restaurant, the man in the green shirt (below) had been in wholesale fabrics, and the black-shirted man was an architect. A little while later, a fourth gentleman joined us (in a blue shirt – seen in the top photo) – and he had been in tourism.
Yalcin noticed my Canon SLR camera. He told me he had a Nikon and proceeded to pull out and give me his business card (above). The card was imprinted with not only his name but the picture of a Nikon camera. Ah, hah – a fellow photography lover! So, of course, I had to show Yalcin & the other men some recent photos (on my camera “photo review” screen) that I had taken around Antalya – including the funny Turkish ice cream vendor (photo on right)!
When we Americans travel abroad, people will frequently ask us about our politics back home. The world really does follow U.S. news & politics quite closely. So, it was no surprise when Yalcin asked me if I liked President Obama – and I said yes, very much (this was Sept. 2015)! I then asked him about tourism in Turkey – and if foreign tourist numbers were down. Sadly, he said yes – a lot!
The Coffee Invitation
Yalcin then asked if I’d like to join them for tea or coffee. “Of course,” I answered! Turns out, he had come prepared. From the back of his near-by moped, Yalcin produced a pot for boiling hot water, set it on a chair & plugged it in. He also had a tub-like container with tea & coffee and other supplies, including 4 glass cups. Voila, a mobile café!
From the tub, one of the other men pulled out a small packet of Turkish coffee and gave it to me – their honored guest! Once the water was hot, Yalcin poured the water into our cups. Two men were drinking tea but one joined me in having coffee. However, his coffee was spooned from a Nescafe jar (which I’ve found is quite common in some countries).
So, there we sat there, sipping our drinks and enjoying a little more conversation. Sometimes it was in English between Yalcin & me and sometimes in Turkish between the men friends. Even though the other three men and I could not verbally communicate, we always had the universal language of a smile – along with the occasional translation by Yalcin.
As we were finishing our drinks, the last man to arrive received a call on his cell phone. The conversation (in Turkish, of course) became very animated. The “situation” clearly involved Yalcin who apologized that he needed to leave right away. Luckily, we were pretty much done – plus the skies overhead were looking ominous with a strong chance of rain.
So, as Yalcin departed on his moped (along with his mobile café), I bid farewell & gave my thanks to all the men and headed back to my hotel. My serendipitous “Turkish Coffee Date” had been so much fun!
I had made some new Turkish friends and I had been blessed with another priceless experience. It’s these simple, genuine heartfelt interactions with local people that I cherish the most on my travels! How about you?
More About Turkey’s Captivating Antalya
With my story now at an end, you might be wondering exactly why & how did I end up in Antalya, walking its peaceful back lanes? The answer: I was on an excellent 2-week tour of Turkey with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). After first touring Istanbul & the Cappadocia region, we worked our way down to Antalya on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast.
Antalya is a strikingly beautiful resort town & a gateway to Turkey’s “Turquoise Coast,” named for its lovely blue waters. Antalya’s picturesque Old Harbor (below) was one of my favorite sights! It’s lined by remnants of old Roman walls from the days when Antalya was a major Roman port. Today, the busy harbor teems with colorful yachts – old & new.
Antalya is a fascinating mix of ancient & modern. Its delightful old town – filled with Roman walls, a stone clock tower, different mosques with tall elegant minarets (like photo at top of post) & more – is easy to explore by foot. Then, of course, there are the warm & friendly Turkish people – as you have just seen!
Stay Tuned: I have included only a few Antalya photos here to whet your appetite. However, I will be doing an entire “Antalya Photo Essay” post very soon – to give you a real sense of what makes this beautiful town so very special and great for visitors!
In the meantime, you might enjoy reading the story of “My Visit to an Authentic Turkish Bath (Hamam)” in Antalya. It was a blast & quite the unique spa experience!
COMMENTS: Have you had an spontaneous local experience on your travels where you got to “meet the locals” in a fun way? Please share your story with us.