Istanbul: A small Greek café in the heart of Pera

Cité de Péra is a famous historic passage (galleria or arcade) on İstiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul

A few metres away from the bustling İstiklal Avenue, there is a Greek café with its own history.

Our meeting was arranged for ten in the evening. The truth is that Apostolis and I had spoken a couple of times before the trip and had come into contact with a mutual acquaintance.

In Istanbul, it is true that if someone doesn't tell you the new places to visit, you will hardly learn them on your own. Things are constantly changing here, and it is not always easy to keep up with developments.

Istanbul

A few hours before our meeting, Apostolis had sent me precise instructions to find his café in the narrow streets of Pera. Before starting and seeing the dots on Google Maps, I tried to memorise every bit of the route so that I stayed aware, and I searched ingloriously in the labyrinthine alleys of Pera.

After a few minutes of walking in the illuminated İstiklal, I found the shop of Apostolis in a small alley opposite and to the left of the Mısır Apartmanı. Despite the bitter wet cold of the evening, we sat outside and immediately started chatting over two cups of hot tea.

"When did you decide to open a café in Istanbul?" was my first question to Apostolis. "We opened the café in Istanbul, on İstiklal Avenue, next to the Church of Panagia Isodion in December 2021, in collaboration with my good friends, Mr. Gultekin Uçkun and Mr. Batuhan Bayır."

"It is a very beautiful collaboration, in the course of which until today, we also opened the second store in the Akaretler - Nişantaşı area. Finally, we all drink good coffee!" he tells me with a smile.

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Immediately, I wondered if he had anything to do with Istanbul and asked him if he was from here. He answers me directly: "No, I came to Istanbuul for the first time at the end of 2012."

I then ask: "And what is your relationship with the Greeks of the city?" and Apostolis answers: "The relationships I have acquired with the Greeks of Istanbul over time are beautiful. They have embraced me from the first moment. There are times when only Greek can be heard in the café, and the tables are full of freddo espresso and freddo cappuccino", he tells me, laughing, while I try to imagine the image.

Breaking our conversation for a moment, I look around the coffee area. The small café in the alley overlooking the bustling İstiklal awakens a breeze in me, and without missing an opportunity, I ask him: "Does the coffee place have its own history?".

He answers me with a smile: "Of course! Before us, the space was owned by Mr. Stefanos, a Greek from Istanbul, and the shop also worked as a café. From Mr. Stefanos, it passed to us, and then we renovated it, giving it the European look, culture and coffee!"

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While we were talking, I was thinking about how the relations with the Turkish customers of the store should be, and I asked him in turn:

"What do the Turkish customers say about your store?" and he answered me: "The Turks, too, have embraced me. I've been here for ten years, and I've never felt like a stranger. Wonderful people! Warm and kind-hearted! Over time, I have many dear friends. But anyway, we have almost the same way of life and culture!"

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"You didn't encounter any difficulties, though, all your way here?" I ask, taking a sip of hot tea.

"The only difficulty I had was when I first came, and I didn't know the language. I read a lot. And quickly!" he tells me, laughing. "Everything else was simple. I had no other difficulty. As I said before, the way of life and culture is almost the same."

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Just before we end our conversation, I ask him if he would leave Istanbul, and he replies: "I actually never thought about that until today. I'm fine. I am happy."

However, time passed, and the shops in Pera began to close one after the other. Then, I realised that our conversation was slowly coming to an end, and I asked him one last question. "How do you see the future in general?"

"The future... We will always drink coffee because we need it because it is a way of life, entertainment, and communication in our everyday life," he said.

Yanni Koutroudi is a columnist for Travel.

READ MORE: 5 Places for the BEST Hot Chocolate in Athens.

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This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor

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