It was a brilliant, sunny morning when I dragged my sister out of our comfortable hotel in search of the Pierre Loti Café. The Pierre Loti Café is named after the French novelist and naval officer famous who supposedly sat in this spot to write his famous Aziyadé.
I had an inkling that the Pierre Loti Café was far, but I was determined to get there by using public transportation. I don’t like taxis for a few reasons: a) I get disoriented and can’t remember directions b) I’m not always in the mood for small talk c) I miss out on some great photos, which makes me sad. So, maps in hand, route planned out and camera ready, we set off on an adventure.
Getting to Eyüp (a municipality and district of Istanbul) was a little tricky. The tram doesn’t run to that part of the city, so we had to catch a few buses. We were the only tourists on these buses but everyone was really friendly and helpful. The only draw back was nobody spoke Arabic or English and my smattering of Turkish (which I had learnt from a handy iPhone app) was not enough.
After some wild gesturing and getting on and off a few buses, we made it to the stunning Eyüp Mosque (named after Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, the companion and standard bearer of the Prophet). According to Wikipedia, “Abu Ayyub came to Constantinople with the Arab army during the first attempted Muslim conquest of the city, died, and as his last request was buried there.” The mosque was later built in honor of Abu Ayyub, commemorating his resting place.
After exploring the mosque and resting for a bit, we continued our search for the Pierre Loti Café. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and active you could walk up to where the cafés are located. We decided to pass on walking the 15 minute steep, uphill hike through the beautiful cemetery and took the téléphérique (cable car) instead. We were there during the Eid holidays and naturally the lines were long, so be prepared to wait (or just take a taxi up).
Tired and frustrated at how far out of our way this café was, we finally made it to the top. Only to find that the Pierre Loti Café was full! Every little table on the side of the hill was occupied and there were people milling around, just waiting to grab an empty seat. We stood around for a while and when it became evident that we were not going to be seated any time soon, we continued walking up. We finally sat at a quite, empty café and took in the stunning view of the Golden Horn down below.We sat there for a while, if only to make our long trip worth while. I ordered a cup of coffee and my sister got a Turkish Cola. We soaked up the sun. We later walked around trying to see if there was anything else in the area. We discovered a small souvenir shop (typically overpriced but enticing); two kittens played outside and the place smelled like soap and old wood. It was all too cute to be true.
So is the Pierre Loti Café worth it? Not really. Especially if you only have a few days in Istanbul. The view is gorgeous up there and I wouldn’t mind spending long hours sipping tea or coffee and writing – but as a tourist destination? I suggest you skip it.