Monday, 21 August 2017

The Turkish Café: A Place for Sweet Tea, Salty Snacks and Long Chats

Alternative Cultural Guide to Sofia*   
A presence in Sofia’s student city (‘Studentski grad’) for several years, the place is actually called Dilgün - Simit Sarayı. Sarayı in Turkish means ‘palace’ while simit is a typical Turkish circular bread covered with sesame seeds. The exact address of the Palace of the Circle-Shaped Bread is 23 Akademik Boris Stefanov Boulevard.

The place’s offerings include various kinds of sandwiches, salty snacks (simits with white and yellow cheese, olives, potatoes and sesame) and tasty desserts, such as puddings, sweets and about 10 kinds of baklava. The products are prepared according to “a special Turkish technology” – they are baked at night and always freshly served. Most frequently, they are accompanied by black tea, which is prepared by first making a concentrated tea liquid, which is then diluted with hot water and sweetened with sugar cubes. Served in tulip-shaped glass cups, placed on special plates, it is said that Turkish tea loses its flavour if served in ceramic cups. The tea is then slowly consumed, mandatorily in the company of friends and over a chat. The place also serves coffee but it is the espresso common in Bulgaria rather than the expected Turklish coffee made in a cezve – ‘pot’.

In addition to its offerings, the venue’s nickname – the Turkish, which was given to it by the Studentski grad residents, also comes from the core of its clients, which are mainly Turkish students living in the nearby dormitories. The chief communication language is Turkish, as many of the staff are also Turks. However, if you prefer to use Bulgaria – Problem yok! Everyone more or less speaks it too.

In his text “The Cafe,” published in Places of the Everyday, Etienne Francois claims that one of its main functions is as a place for communication. This argument can be applied to the Turkish café as well, as it concentrates the communication between “ethnically different” groups in the framework of Studentski grad. Or, to put it another way, if you’re not just a fan of baklava, black tea or the milk, rice and cinnamon desert, but you’d also like to have a chat with friends over a game of backgammon, Hoş geldiniz! ['You are welcome!']

* This story is part of the Alternative Cultural Guide to Sofia. The guide was created by students from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski. Initiated by associate professor Alexander Kiossev, it was supported by the Sofia University’s Academic Research Fund. The texts, published in Bulgarian by the student magazine Piron, were edited by Lyuboslava Ruseva, and translated into English by




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