Lara Lakay

A writer and artist with a focus on cultures, images, and histories. A globetrotter with a soft spot for all port cities, but Istanbul is the apple of her eye. Lara Lakay, from the ‘Poetry Will Save the World’ movement, writes a love letter to the neighborhood of Moda, ancient Chalcedon, and the Tea Garden.

Hello old friend,

It is a time when blood boils, and grief reigns. I no longer hear your voice. I dream of you now and then, and that is when I pave over my heart. And each time my sun is darkened, gloom presides, and the ground beneath my feet seems to crumble and cave in, I seek refuge in you time and time again.

One day, Chalcedon on Istanbul’s Cape Moda was razed to the ground. Another day, Alexander sacked it and made it part of Rome. I don’t know how big the world was back then, but all the seasoned travelers of antiquity would invariably set foot on your shores. That is why your vista bears traces of the entire ancient world and all its eons.

The center of the world. There floated an egg in the sea when the universe was created. When it cracked in two, the world stood atop these shells. From this garden, while drinking tea on a plastic chair, I see the sea standing on that broken eggshell and those who conquered the world for centuries without a place to settle. I see worshipped idols, Gods, and true lovers.

People fell in love with water first. Thinking about it, water was here before we roamed the planet.
Before my Tea Garden ritual, I always stop by the Ayazma1 inside Koço Restaurant. St. Katarina of Alexandria believed in Jesus. The spring pouring out of a rock near the fisherman’s shelter in Moda was discovered in the 1920s, and it is said that there was once a church above it. A wooden church building was constructed here, only to be demolished a decade later. The Ayazma is preserved. Oh, Katarina!

Now, the basement of the old Moda Park Restaurant, where we drank raki saluting Monsieur Koço, is somewhere I visit whenever I’m here. After water, there was fire, no doubt. I light a candle.

Let’s go back to the plastic chair, the table in the corner, and the sunset.
The trees in Istanbul don’t really know how old they are. I observe the crows, doves, and swallows — swallows are a flight of fancy.

Legend has it that Alexander discovered the Fountain of Life, guarded by the Islamic saint Al-Khidr. When Alexander filled his cup and spilled some of the water onto a tree, the tree and the crow that drank the water from the cup became immortal. For me, that tree and crow have been around the tea garden on Cape Moda for a thousand centuries.

As the sun sets on the water that gave birth to the world, I drink tea on a plastic chair and wait for that tree and the crow, eager to find out what they have to say today.

I’m told, “This is the center of the world.”
(The tea is terribly expensive now. But I love you dearly.)

With love,

[1] A holy spring in an Orthodox church