(or The Baklava Post)
During my Athens sojourn I witnessed a profound change which can be summarised as follows: these days are the best time to be a Turk in Athens since, let’s say, 1820, when the then village and today’s metropolis was in Ottoman territory. Come to think about it, even in 1820, Athens would be a good place to be a Turk in only if you were some sort of rich land-owning aga. Anyway.
This is so because Grecoturkish (or Turkogreek) rapport, detente and entente seem to be at last flourishing. Obviously, there are solid (?) political reasons for this, but for everyday folk this new era is heralded by a number of highly successful TV series and films about Greeks falling in love with Turks (and vice versa), about the politics of love and about the consequent over-reacting. There is of course (at least) one more thing: food.
Like most Mediterranean peoples, Greeks and Turks share an insane love of food. So, when a branch of the famous Istanbul-based Güllüoğlu pastry shop opened in Athens, everybody knew that this would only bring the two peoples closer.
While in Athens I only managed to go there twice and practically tried everything on offer. I also bought a sample of their diverse types of baklavas for my parents (well, whatever remained intact after a long and tortuous shipment in an unsecured cardboard box across hundreds and hundreds of meters between Athens Güllüoğlu and, well, them).
Now I know it is true that there is no baklava like Turkish baklava. Although I have tried the Greek, Lebanese and Syrian versions, although Michael Manske (to whom I want to extend all my good wishes and sympathy right now) once extolled the Bosnian version, they all seem to pale in comparison to the unrealistically balanced tastes, the gossamer thin fyllo and the superb baking of Güllüoğlu baklava. If I am to get fat, I would like to get fat on this.
So, “Long Live the Friendship of Peoples” (as the old Soviet motto used to go), a feeling approximated in tone (although not in content) by this post’s title: “how happy to be called a Turk”. Even in Athens, that is.