Healing and Linden Tea

This time, something was different in our visit back home.

At the end of my trips for the past 13 years, usually I used to be ready to come back home to the States, sleep in my own bed and ready to get back into the hustle and bustle of our life here.

This time, though…that feeling…was absent. Instead, I felt like there was a life waiting for me in Istanbul, a life to live but not sure how to grab it. I felt lost…

And I simply just felt torn.

We took long walks in unknown-to-us neighborhoods, hand in hand, walked down on steep cobblestone hills. And mesmerized by the views each turn gave us.

I took the time to make dough and roll out some yufka with my grandma and quietly, I listened to her talking about how she and my grandfather got married while admiring her 1950s Hollywood glamor like pictures from a long-gone era.

I lost myself in the traditional wedding to-do list for my brother’s wedding and enjoyed doing these little things and being part of the hectic schedule.

I visited my long-time favorite bakery in our neighborhood and ate many many pastries without an ounce of guilt.

Enjoyed my share of meyhane, thanks to my brother, and drank enough raki to last me another a couple of months.

Spent a night, just us, walking down Istiklal Caddesi, taking a cooking class from Ozlem and meeting two great expats,Joy and Mary, who came to Istanbul for one reason or another and enjoying it.

Enjoyed ferry rides, grocery shopping, serving tea and borek to over 20 relatives at home three days in a row, doing the dishes, setting the table and many daily errands that I ran with my mom.

And at the end of the day, when I put my feet up and sip my warm linden tea, chatted with my husband while some Turkish drama show was on the background in the comfort of my old home, it just felt right for a moment. To be there. To be surrounded with my family, with the old, familiar pictures, furniture and sounds.

A friend told me because I just realized how fragile the family and people are. I think it is true and also all of a sudden I realized that the babies I held in my arms once upon a time are getting married and there is nothing I can do to stop the time. What hit me the most was seeing my brother to transform from this little soccer player that he was:

to the fine man he is now, saying his vows to his beautiful bride with his whole heart.

This short visit was one of the most emotional ones I have had.

No matter how fragile the life is, it is a beautiful thing when your family, friends and your favorite city are in it.






  1. by Mrs Ergül
    12:00 am
    Mar 6, 2013


  2. by Joy @My Turkish Joys
    2:31 am
    Mar 6, 2013

    Lovely post! How funny we did visit the same park and got almost the same photo. I can relate to this post even though I’ve only called Istanbul home for three years. When we leave soon, it’s going to be very difficult to say good-bye to our dear friends and this city that I’ve grown to love and to call home!

  3. by Pinar
    2:56 am
    Mar 6, 2013

    off aglattin beni Ilke sabah sabah..

  4. by Ilke
    6:43 am
    Mar 6, 2013

    Ozur Pinar :(

  5. by Angie@Angie's Recipes
    1:10 pm
    Mar 6, 2013

    I love to visit Turkish bakeries over here…Istanbul is so beautiful.

  6. by john@kitchenriffs
    6:32 pm
    Mar 6, 2013

    Such a great post. I think sometimes we all want to be in two different places at the same time, and it’s tough to choose. Istanbul sounds wonderful – I’ve never been, and so want to go. Someday! But in the meantime, I’ll have you and your blog to let me know what I’m missing.

  7. by thyme (Sarah)
    11:06 pm
    Mar 7, 2013

    What a wonderful post. I feel so sad that you are torn between two places. That must be very difficult indeed, especially on special occasions like this one. You probably have enough perspective on your homeland to realize how wonderful of a place it is now that you have been gone. Thank you for the photos…I’ll think of you when we are there.

  8. by Mary
    5:16 am
    Mar 8, 2013

    I could feel my own heart tearing as I read this post. So very beautifully written. Before I go and make myself a cup of linden tea and contemplate just how ephemeral our families are, I wish you luck in finding the balance between the home of now and the home of our heart.

  9. by Ozlem's Turkish Table
    10:29 am
    Mar 8, 2013

    Sevgili Ilke, what a beautiful post; also living abroad,I understand you greatly and feel the same. I guess one of the big comforts now is that being in England, I get to visit Turkey, home, more often, and it is a huge help. You have a true gift though; with your wonderful cooking and photos, you can cherish those memories, share and relive again and again. I also have a feeling you will find great ventures to connect with your homeland and visit often. My heartfelt thanks to you for coming to my cooking class and this lovely mention here – keep these posts and recipes coming :) cok sevgiler, xxx Ozlem

  10. by Ilke
    10:33 am
    Mar 8, 2013

    Thanks Ozlem. I do hope you are right, and I get to visit more often as well with one way or another. Thank you for the class and please thank your mom for coming as well and supervising the kunefe :))

  11. by Pinar
    2:20 pm
    Mar 10, 2013

    Ne özürü :) Aslinda keyifle okudum. Duygulandim. Looking forward to seeing you and Jay sometime in Finland or in Istanbul.

  12. by Lan | angry asian
    9:43 am
    Mar 20, 2013

    this was such a lovely post! i was wondering how your trip back home went…

  13. by Shelley
    9:25 am
    Mar 21, 2013

    Such beautiful city! No wonder why you miss it so. Thanks for sharing a peek of your lovely family. Best wishes to your brother and his gorgeous bride!

  14. by Ozzie
    1:45 am
    Mar 23, 2013

    Why did you not talk about how handsome your brother became and why did you take picture of raki bottle&glass with lucky strike box? :))))) that’s why we have the second floor and extra bedroom sister! This is your place and your family still… No need to get lost somewhere

  15. by Ilke
    7:44 am
    Mar 23, 2013

    Ozgurum :) I know there is a guest floor in your house. I am grateful for that. And hopefully we will have a house of our own in Istanbul someday soon :)

  16. by Ozzie
    4:29 pm
    Mar 23, 2013

    It is not for guests… This is your place as well.

  17. by Filiz
    8:52 am
    Mar 1, 2014

    Dear Ilke, I’ve been reading your blog archives (your cooking style reminds me a lot of stuff my mom cooked). Very beautiful post; my mom too was born in Istanbul and spent most of her life going back and forth in one way or another. She also spoke of feeling torn between places. Now, having been to that city myself a number of times, I can understand how a place like that– even beyond normal childhood nostalgia–inspires deep feelings. -Sevgiler, Filiz

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