Friday, August 2, 2013

“The Best Cutlets Ever” - Lommerzheim

There it is - pork cutlets with onions and potato salad!


When you’ve been teaching for years, it can get pretty stale if you just take the textbook, teach the students the words in the book like “good, better, the best” and then have them go through the exercises at the end of the unit.  I was looking for a creative way to teach a lesson on comparisons to my students so I wouldn’t end up like a desperately bored zombie about to pull out my hair, just to find a little excitement.    I needed a context to put these words into, something fresh, or it would first get stale, and then really old and moldy, like a loaf of bread stuffed into the back of the breadbox and forgotten.   Bread when fresh, is delicious.  Teaching, when it’s fresh, is exciting.

While pondering this, I remembered a tool that helps me find the best restaurants in whatever city I’m currently in – the computer.  Even though I live in Cologne, I hadn’t used the computer much to search out good restaurants, instead relying on recommendations from friends or the same books all the German bookstores have.  It never occurred to me to treat Cologne as though I were a non-German speaking tourist.  This time I went to the web and hit pay dirt – I found a short, to-the-point article in English about the six best restaurants in Cologne.  Perfect.  I made photocopies and brought them to class. 

My students peered at the page and began talking about the restaurants listed even before anyone had started reading.  Number one on the list was a place called “Lommerzheim,” a name I didn’t recognize, but my students certainly did.   “This is a fantastic restaurant,” Günter enthused.  “You used to have to sit on telephone books on top of empty beer kegs if you wanted to sit down.”  He added, “Now you get to sit on chairs at the tables.”  He looked disappointed. 

Sylvia added, “And the walls are a graying yellow, with a one-centimeter coat of old tobacco smoke.”  Thank God restaurants in Germany are now smoke-free. 

Steffie piped in, “You can get the longest bratwurst in the world there - two-meters long.”

“Do you know the story about Bill Clinton?” asked Günter.  “When he was in Cologne a few years ago, he wanted to eat at a Cologne brewery.  His aide called the restaurant and said, ‘I’m calling for President Clinton, who is with me.’  ‘If that’s President Clinton, then I’m the Emperor of China,’ answered Lommi.” 

“Did the President get to eat there?” I asked.

“No, Lommi wouldn’t let him come.  If Clinton came, his normal clientele wouldn’t have been able to eat there.  He chose to be loyal to his customers, so Clinton had to eat at another brewery.”

“Do you know Herr Lommerzheim?” I asked.

“Not anymore.  He’s dead.  Since he’s gone, the restaurant just isn’t the same.  It’s gotten more gentrified.  Nowadays, there are chairs for the people to sit on.”  His nose curled in disapproval.

This didn’t sound bad to me.

“Is the food still good?”

“Ah, the food!”  Peter smiled, his eyes glinting as he looked toward the ceiling, his head shaking slowly as he labored to find adequate words in English to express his feelings for this restaurant.  “They have the thickest pork chops in the world - four-centimeters thick.”  That would be two inches.  Very thick.  “And the cheapest price anywhere – only a few euros.”  He was doing very well with his superlatives.

My son was leaving for Korea the following day to study business, for who knows how long.  Maybe a night out for dinner would be a good idea. 

“What about the beer?”

“They serve Päffgen.”

In Cologne, that statement needs no further comment.  Most Kölner consider Päffgen the best beer going.  It is also my son’s favorite brand of Kölsch.  Other brands of Kölsch are served all over the city in various restaurants, but not Päffgen.  You can only buy Päffgen in the brewery itself on the Ring in Cologne – and at Lommerzheim.

“Can I reserve a table?”

“Ah, that will be difficult.  I don’t think so.  People start lining up outside the restaurant at 4:30 pm, when they open for dinner, and within an hour all the tables are taken.”

I taught the same lesson to the next class.  After only one lesson, the topic was still fresh, and I was curious to see if these students felt the same about this restaurant.

“I go there once or twice a week in the summer,” said one of the students.  Then the students started debating whether “Lommi’s” or Früh, a famous brewery near the cathedral, was better.

“Lommi’s has a beer garden,” said Torsten.  “Früh doesn’t.”

“It does too,” protested Sebastian.  “You can sit outside.”

“Ah, but it’s not a beer garden.”

I was beginning to feel a conviction in my tummy that this might be a good place to spend our last evening before Jon’s departure – if we could get a table.

I went home and phoned the restaurant, but only got an answering machine, instructing me to leave my name and number, and someone would call me back.  I left my name and number, telling the machine that I wanted a table for three at 7:30 pm.  We waited for a call-back.  And waited.  By 7:00 there still was no returned call, so we decided to simply go there and try our luck.

“Hey – this restaurant is on our side of the Rhine!” I announced to Jon as I checked the address.  It is very difficult to find anything interesting on the right side, so we usually have to endure long tram rides onto the other side of the Rhine when we go out to eat.
Lommerzheim Brew Restauratn - with the tiniest sign in red, on the left
After a short tram ride, we got off near the Deutz train station and started walking, Jon using his cell phone as a navigation device.  Lommerzheim was on no main thoroughfare, but we eventually found it, in the middle of a short, narrow street.  It was about as old as Deutz itself and looked ready for demolition.  It was certainly hard to find.  You needed to know the house number to find it.  It didn’t even have a sign saying “Lommerzheim” anywhere on the outside.  There was a tiny little area to the side where a few intrepid diners (it was rainy and about 60° - typical June weather in Cologne) were eating.  Ah-ha.  The famous beer garden, tables now sodden after hours of constant rain.  I didn’t want a table that badly.  There was a crowd of people standing out in front, though.  This didn’t look good.  When we looked closer, though, we saw that they all had beer glasses in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  Ah, so this was where all the cigarette smoke was landing these days.  Maybe our chances weren’t so bad after all.

After one glance around the restaurant, we could see that all the tables were occupied, but we asked a waiter anyway.  “You can try your luck downstairs,” he said. 

Downstairs, it was cozy and even sort of attractive, with a stained glass piece lighted up from behind.  We found one sole empty table, and bolted for it.  A friendly Köbes, the word for waiter in a Cologne brewery, came and took our order.  I told him I had tried to reserve a table on the phone.  “What time did you call?” he asked.

“Around five.”

“Oh, that’s when we get really busy.  It was certainly too loud to hear any messages.”

I didn’t know how to order.  Could I eat a four-centimeter pork chop?  Some friendly-looking people at a table nearby were also eating pork chops.  “Can we split an order?” I asked them.

“Of course.  What do you think we did?  I could never eat one of these alone,” the woman answered.  “Is this your first time here?” she asked.

After my affirmative answer, she said, “You’re in for a treat.”

The beer was ice cold and delicious.  My students were right about the beer.  We could order the pork cutlets either “juicy” or “well done”.  We went for juicy chops with onions.  Two plates arrived for the three of us, thickly laden with onions that threatened to spill off the plates.  We bit into the most tender and flavorful pork chops we had ever eaten.  We couldn’t decide between French fries or potato salad, so we ordered both.  The French fries were crisp on the outside.  Inside, they were soft, like comfortable tiny pillows, except you could eat them, and they had that earthy potato flavor.  The potato salad was creamy, with a slight mustard tang, a perfect balance to the pork chops.  With that order, we had practically exhausted the menu.  There wasn’t much left to choose from, but it didn’t matter.  We couldn’t have ordered any better solace for the months of separation to come. 

It’s hard to imagine a restaurant that could be plainer, but also more comforting.  Perhaps that is the charm.  Perhaps what draws people to this restaurant is not only the food and beer, but its unpretentiousness.  My husband Peter shivers each time we pass a restaurant with cold halogen lighting, pale, bare wooden tables, chrome and mirrors.  In this frenetic, insecure age, more and more people seem to need warmth, comfort, and the solidity of honest age, devoid of facelifts.  We crave friendly waiters and fellow customers who aren’t too reserved or uppity to talk to us, just as much as we crave the security of comfort food.  

I asked the Köbes about Lommi.   “Did you know him?”

“Oh, yes.  I worked for years with him.”

“How did he manage to get permission to be the only restaurant outside of Päffgen itself to sell this beer?”

“He was a Köbes there for years, and he won the trust of the owners.” 

There it was.  Lommi was trustworthy, and he created a restaurant with the same honest, straightforward core from which he lived an entire life.  He built a legacy which lives on.  After his death, and after his widow retired from serving Kölsch to what must have been hundreds of thousands of visitors, she sold the restaurant to Päffgen, who promised to maintain the restaurant in the décor in which they received it.  The owners of Päffgen, also following in the tradition of their founder, also proved trustworthy.  The only thing that has changed is that Lommerzheim has been brought up to hygienic and construction standards.  For instance, the kitchen and restrooms are clean.

“This is one place I’m going to bring my Korean friends when they come to Cologne,” Jon said as we walked back to the tram.  “I can’t wait to tell my students about it,” I said.  I love it when my students teach me things.

Me eating there again - I forgot the onions!  They came later.

Siegesstrasse 18
Köln-Deutz (tram stop on 1, 3, 4, 7 and 9 - Bahnhof Deutz)
Telephone:  0221/ 81 43 92
Opening hours:  11-2:30 pm, 4:30 pm – 1 am; closed Tuesdays
Credit cards not accepted. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sundays with Evelyn

My friend Evelyn, with me on the High Line in New York City
Four years ago, I was in Aix-en-Provence, a lovely little city in France.  I traveled there with my friend Elaine, who had a paper to present at an academic conference called "Women and Spirituality".  The conference was fascinating and by no means of mere academic interest.  The women and men there seemed to be individuals with a burning need to find a genuine form of spirituality.  One of the people I met there was Evelyn, a self-proclaimed agnostic.  "Well, let's just say I haven't bumped into him yet," I can imagine her saying.  Evelyn says she is not spiritual, but every time I'm with her, this seems to be one of our main topics.  She isn't so sure there's a God, but she goes to synagogue every week.  "I go there for the music," she asserts.  I accompanied her to her synagogue, B'nai Jeshurun, once.    I think she is one of the most inspiring, spiritual women I have ever met, but when I tell her she is spiritual, she looks either annoyed or confused.  Then I say, "Spirituality is not the same thing as religion."  This helps some.  Evelyn hates religion because people use it to discriminate against others, and she dearly loves people - of all religions and of no religion. 

Just days after returning from Turkey, I traveled to the US to attend a conference in Delaware on inner healing and how working through the "twelve steps", a spiritual program, brings about healing.  After the conference, I spent several days with Evelyn in her apartment in New York City.  Last time I was in New York, Evelyn said, "Come see me again - soon.  And stay with me next time.  Who knows how often we'll have a chance again for our intense talks."  I was only too ready to visit Evelyn again. 

One of the things I like about Evelyn is her youthful, positive, can-do way.  She was eighty when I met her, now eighty-four.  She is a passionate educator.  Whenever she can, Evelyn delivers papers on her ideas about learning strategies at conferences.  While I was there, she heard about a conference taking place at the New School for Social Research on teaching methods for teaching English as a foreign language.  With no hesitation at all, she had a proposal typed within half an hour, sent out within the hour.  One evening she showed me how I could use her method of "taxonomy", using the alphabet, to help my English students remember what they learn more easily.  Evelyn uses her method regularly on any students she can find.

The door to her apartment was open the evening I arrived.  I heard a male voice coming from the kitchen.  "Oh hi, Noreen," yelled Evelyn, walking over to the entrance and giving me a hug.  A handome man of about fifty walked out of the kitchen towards me.  "I'd like you to meet Neil, one of my friends from BJ."  BJ is how the people who attend B'nai Jeshurun call their synagogue.  Neil "happened" to drop by to visit Evelyn.  "You just missed Spring and Linda," Evelyn said.  "They're my two Chinese girls.  They left ten minutes ago."  Evelyn is much too busy entertaining people to be lonely.  She collects people the way some people collect china demitasse cups to display in their corner hutch.  Later in the evening, Judy dropped by.  Judy is an actress who does Kosher catering to supplement her income.

Things did quiet down some during the week, but Evelyn had almost daily phone calls from Neil and Judy.  She told me about Reza, an Iranian she met at an academic conference in Spain a couple years ago.  Later they arranged to meet in Istanbul, one of the few places an Iranian Muslim and an American Jew would be allowed to meet.  They presented at a conference together.  "If only Reza could come to this conference coming up in New York.  But how could an Iranian possibly be able to enter into the United States?"

I always wondered why Evelyn is so passionate about education.  During this visit, when we had the luxury of nearly a week to talk, I found out why.

When Evelyn was a young student in a local Bronx school, her class was administered an IQ test.  This test was based entirely on spacial relation tasks.  Evelyn was always highly verbal, but her abilities didn't extend to figuring out which triangles fit when one of them was upside-down.  She was judged to have a below-average IQ.  This went into her school records and followed her all the way through college.

In addition to having a "low" IQ, she was hampered by a couple of other things.  One of them was her singing voice.  Evelyn has always had a powerful New Yawkish tenor voice.  If the right person had discovered her, she could have been another Ethel Merman in "Hello Dolly".  Instead, since she couldn't reach the high tones, she was forever cast into the mold of a non-singer in school.  School classes were made up of singers and non-singers.  Another strike against her was that New Yawk accent that just wouldn't go away.  She and most of her classmates at City College were even offered elocution lessons with trainers brought in from Michigan to train the New York out of their accents so they could major in better things than education.  It didn't work with Evelyn.  She just couldn't turn "ovah theyah" into a pristine soprano "over there".  Three strikes and you're out.  Evelyn was doomed to becoming a teacher.       

Thank God for that.  She went on to get a Master's degree, later a Ph.D. in education.  She has published several books on education and written other children's books telling stories about interesting historical events told from the perspective of one of her grandparents, parents, or even herself.  She wrote a play that was performed off-Broadway, a love story about a Jewish teenage girl and the German doctor sent to live in her family's home during the German occupation of Poland in World War I.

Evelyn never tires of opportunities to use her educational methods on children.   She met Spring and Linda a year ago when she was getting a manicure at a salon around the corner from her apartment.  She spied the Chinese owner's daughters over in the corner, amusing themselves with a computer game.  She asked if they had a piece of paper.  They did.  She gave them a writing lesson, then and there.  She invited them over for more.  They've been coming every Sunday ever since.  These are brilliant girls who managed to do better in their entrance tests to get into Manhattan's School for Talented and Gifted Children than did Evelyn in her day.  You can only get three out of a thousand questions wrong, or you're not admitted unless one of your siblings is already there.  Then you're allowed to get four wrong.  Spring got four wrong.  Linda had a perfect score.

Evelyn's Sunday mornings are spent with other kids besides Spring and Linda.  She has two boys, one of them Iranian and the other Eastern European, both of whom have had difficulty keeping up with school.  Thanks to Evelyn's methods,, their grades have shot up and they're experiencing joy in learning.

I got a second chance to meet Evelyn's "girls".  On my second Sunday there, promptly at 10 am, they walked through the door.  I first saw them sitting on Evelyn's couch, looking at a TV series on their I-pad.  Later in the day, when I returned from church, I found they had another guest - their grandfather, who had just arrived from China and who doesn't speak a word of English.  No matter.  The girls and Evelyn were cooking hamburgers and fried potatoes - practically a German (or Jewish? meal - for him.  One of the parents of the boys had brought Evelyn a bunch of bananas.  Evelyn didn't know what to do with all those bananas, but the girls had an idea.  They found a recipe for banana cake in the internet.  Evelyn's day was spent with the girls at the Whole Foods store, finding ingredients for the cake, baking the cake, and experimenting with dark chocolate and milk chocolate to see which would melt faster.  Dark chocolate won by about two seconds.
Linda and Spring with their banana cake

We sat down at the table together to eat - an American Jewish grandmother with Russian and German roots, an American living in Germany, two Chinese-American girls and a Chinese grandfather.  "Can I say the grace?" asked Linda.

"Of course," replied Evelyn.  Each of us held onto the same piece of bread as Spring prayed in perfect Hebrew.   "Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu melech ha'olam hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz".  "Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth."

Evelyn grinned.  "I taught it to them.  They wanted to learn it."

That's my friend Evelyn, this wonderfully alive, spirited and spiritual agnostic who never misses a Friday at the synagogue or a chance to inspire someone with the joy of learning.  I hope I can spend some more Sundays with Evelyn, being inspired as she inspires her kids.

Evelyn and her girls


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Istanbul Again - Part Seven

Rüstem Pasha mosque

Peter and I begin this, our last day by visiting the beautiful Rüstem Pasha mosque again.  Jon and Dayeong are off, doing their own sightseeing.  They want to see Topkapi Palace and take the boat ride down the Bosphorus, things we've both done before.  

We arrive at the mosque just before noon.  At noon we have to leave, as the mosque workers prepare for the Friday noonday prayer.  We sit in the courtyard  as the first call to prayer is called.  I love these calls.  I sit silently and focus just on the idea of God and whatever I need at that moment of God.  Usually it is the God of love and compassion.  I am in such need of compassion, first of all for myself, and secondly for my husband, whose outlook on life, although Christian, is so different from my own.  I pray then for more understanding and compassion, and thank God for being infinitely compassionate.  I sit there, aware of being in God’s presence, acknowledging that this presence is one of complete love.  I notice the smell around me.  Today it is the pungent smell of köfte being grilled.   

I let Peter guide us by taking us on the ferry from Eminönü to Üsküdar.  He chooses Usküdar, thinking that I had said that Moda, my goal for the day, is in Üsküdar.  I dimly remembered reading that it was in Kadiköy, but I have a hard time keeping all these names straight.  The ferry trip is around a half hour and only costs us a swipe of our Instanbul card.  Arriving in Üsküdar, we find ourselves in a very poor, conservative Muslim town or village, dominated by a mosque and lots of snack bars selling döner or köfte and fried foods around the bus and ferry stations.  We sit down on a bench.  I read the article on Moda that I had torn out of my flight magazine - aloud, so Peter can learn about Moda too.  We both quickly realize we are in the wrong place – we need to be in Kadiköy, which Moda belongs to.  Trying to learn how to get to Kadiköy, we also find that here in Üsküdar no one speaks English.  This is truly a Turkish area.  We are in the middle of an adventure!  How to get to Moda with no language skills and no map?  But Peter asks strangers, “Moda – bus?” and always gets help.  One man says, “Bus – Kadiköy, tram – Moda,” pointing in the direction we should go.  Another man next to us even takes us a hundred meters or so to the right bus.   

We climb onto a Turkish bus, place the card under the reader - and discover that the Istanbul card has run out of money.  Here, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, there seems to be no machine to charge it up with.  A passenger on the bus lets us use her card, but she has only enough for one ride.  We give her 2 lira for that, and the driver seems satisfied that we have at least tried to pay.  He doesn’t kick us off the bus, even though one of us is riding for free.  Is this mercy, or what?  Compassion?  This is what I prayed for!

I feel awful, sitting comfortably in my seat as younger women get up to give older women their seats.  I do notice, however, that none of the men give up their seats for a woman.  I justify my sitting there by telling myself that I am probably older than any of the women being given seats.  

We ride past bazaars and cheap shops for about a half hour until we near Kadiköy, where we suddenly see mansions and lots of big, tall trees.  We round a corner, and there, right before us, is the Haydarpasha train station, right next to the Kadiköy bus station!  Peter has wanted to go into the train station so badly, but we've been thinking it is out of the way.  When we find ourselves practically at the entrance, I talk him into  doing this first.  Surely, since it's lunch time, we'll find food for lunch in the train station.   
Haydarpasha train station
Inside the Haydarpasha train station

Restaurant of the Haydarpasha train station
The train station still has much of that early twentieth century grandeur, with stained glass windows and huge spaces.  Peter tells me it was built in the German style and paid for by the German Kaiser Wilhelm in the early twentieth century.  The restaurant is delightful, lined with blue Turkish tiles and pink trim on the ceiling.  We eat meze.  One of our dishes is grape leaves - stuffed with cherries!  I love the tangy, sour flavor, mixed with the sweetish rice.

Peter's rib is doing much better, and that helps the general mood.  Buoyed after our delicious lunch, we easily walk about a half mile around the harbor to the ferry station and then look for a tram.  Again in Kadiköy, although the area is beautifully landscaped and buildings look more prosperous, we have to use one-word questions.  This way works, and before long we have loaded up our cards again and have entered the tram.  The tram ride is a lot of fun.  It is interesting to observe how different Kadiköy is from Üsküdar.  Kadiköy seems to be as wealthy as Üsküdar is poor, and the shops keep getting posher, the higher up we climb.  We don't know when to get off the tram, though, and we miss our stop.  At this point, Peter's patience and good spirits come to an end. 

“I’m not climbing that hill on foot,” he says in a loud, stubborn voice.  “You’ll have to do it without me.”  

I think quickly.  Moda was MY destination for the day, and I wanted to see this with Peter!  I find a solution in about two seconds.  “We can just stay on the tram again – it’s only another fifteen or twenty minutes more,” I say, and Peter agrees to that. 

We feel at home in Moda right away.  It is a stylish, very Western, European place with enormous homes or modern apartment buildings overlooking the Marmara Sea on one side, and Old Istanbul with the Sultanahmed mosque, the Aya Sophia and Topkapi Palace on the other.    The only foreign thing about this place is the fact that there are practically no tourists here.  We seem to be the only ones, surrounded by well-dressed, western-looking locals.  We pass one trendy shop or coffee bar after another.  We spot a fruit and vegetable shop.  "I need quince for a dish I want to make when we get back to Germany," Peter says.  I've already been looking for quince in the local German markets.  There's none to be found this time of year, I keep hearing.  At this stand in the outskirts of Istanbul, we find not only quince, but ripe pomegranates as well.  The shopkeeper is thrilled to learn that we live in Germany.  "I lived in Germany too!" he exclaims in German.  "Nuremberg!"  He throws in an extra quince and more and more pomegranates until we yell, "Stop!  We have to get this onto the plane!"  He is simply thrilled to find people from Germany who are interested in Turkey and his neighborhood, Moda.

With a bit of difficulty and repeatedly saying the word, "Dondurmaci", we eventually find the ice cream restaurant that the airline magazine raves about - the "Dondurmaci", run by Ali Usta .  I eat a cone.  It's pretty good, especially with the chocolate sauce they add.
Moda with a view of the Marmara Sea

Across the street there's a Lavazza café.  I drink cappuccino as I lovingly lick my ice cream cone.  Peter has a waffle he bought at a waffle place across another street.  His is the most incredible waffle I have ever seen, loaded down in strawberries, banana and chocolate syrup.  "This is only a fraction of the toppings you can put on it," he says.  We sit and enjoy watching self-confident, European-looking Turks walk along the street chatting and greeting people eating in our café.  There's a lady pushing a baby in a stroller, perhaps her grandchild.  She stops to chat with some women in the café.  

The following day, back in Frankfort, Germany, we stand in line to go through Immigration.  A friendly man whose appearance could be German, but whose accent isn't quite right, is chatting with people to help the time pass.  I notice his name tag.  He's Turkish!  I exclaim, "We were just in Istanbul."

"I live in Istanbul as well as here," the man says.  "I live in a part the tourists don't usually go to, in Kadiköy."

"Kadiköy?!" we exclaim.  We were there yesterday!"

Now it is his turn to be surprised.  "Really?!  But I come from a place outside of Kadiköy, called Moda."

"We were there yesterday!" we continue, thrilled to have been in the very village this man lives in.

"Did you try the ice cream?" he asks, and is visibly pleased to see that we have.

"That Ali Usta is quite the guy.  He's a farmer, and he brings his own milk to the ice cream café."  This is a first for me, to have eaten ice cream from the owner's own cows.

What a place Istanbul is.  Not everything about this trip has been easy.  I have been stretched and challenged, first of all by my own personal situation, and also by this city and country.  I am charmed again, despite myself.  In my heart, I want to go back to Egypt, where life is much harder, but where faith is more visibly present.  But, precisely on this point, there's something about Turkey that intrigues me.  I believe there is more here than meets the eye.  In Istanbul there is a lot of crass materialism, but there is also a less obvious, but possibly more deeply lived, more personally tailored kind of approach to spirituality than the obvious piety I saw in Egypt.  I am drawn to this.  I want to learn more.  I hope I can go back to Istanbul, but perhaps to another part of Turkey one day.  If I get there, you'll hear about it.   

Monday, May 13, 2013

Istanbul Again - Part Six

The Sultanahmet, also known as the "Blue Mosque"
Today we have to make up for our lost day.  We have a full day ahead of us.  We will "do" Old Istanbul, visiting the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sophia and the Byzantine Cisterns.  We'll have meat balls at the famous köfte restaurant, "Sultanahmet Köftecisi".  I am told that, like with Ray's Pizza in New York, everybody tries to imitate the best one, using similar names.  The best, the original one is at number 12 on the Divan Yolu, a stone's throw away from the blue mosque.  We ate there the last time Peter and I were in Istanbul. 
THE place for köfte - Tarihi Sultanahmet at #12
In the afternoon I will go to a proper historic hamam in Old Istanbul.

One of the cars in the Allgäu-Orient Rallye
On the way to the Sultanahmet mosque, we stop at the Hippodrome, where Peter explains the Egyptian obelisk and the function of the hippodrome to Jon and Dayeong.  We see some dusty cars parked - right on the Hippodrome.  We walk on.  More cars.  They're not oldtimers.  The cars are loaded with stickers.  What are they doing here? 

At first, we think it is some sort of PR gimmick.  All the cars have roof top carriers filled with things like suitcases, thermarests and sleeping bags, even bobby cars for kids.  They look tired, used up.  After a closer look, we see that every single car has German license plates and almost all of the cars are German-made.  I find a couple of men sitting near some of these cars.  They look non-Turkish, so, figuring they might be German, I speak to them in German.

 "We're on a Rallye!" they exclaim.   
Participants in the Allgäu-Orient Rallye

So what's a Rallye?  Jon explains that it's a sort of cross-country car race.  You can read all about a Rallye and this particular one (in German) here:  In short, the drivers have to drive cheap used cars, and can't drive on any freeways, toll roads or ferries.
These guys have a map right on a carpeted hood!

There must be a couple hundred of these cars.  The men tell me they're in a race that began at the Lake of Constance.  They're on their way to Amman, Jordan.  They left Germany a week before, driving all the way to Istanbul without ever having to be on a ferry.  They have three more weeks to go.  The only part they will do on water is when they have to take a ferry around Syria, which is too dangerous to drive through right now, with a civil war going on.

What an adventure!  If I had time and a companion, I’d do it, even if I ended up last.