Living in Turkey: Finding a Haven

We’re bar people. You’ll know that, anyway, if you read this blog on a regular basis…

Wherever we are, we always find ourselves a little place; a haven where we can just sit, rest, feel comfortable with our surroundings, not worry about the outside world. We’re no strangers to a few beers – we love a beer! – but it’s not just about the beer. It’s something else.

Some people like to sit in cafes and coffee shops. Others like to while away a few idle moments, sitting on a bench overlooking their favourite view. We like all of those things, too…but for us, they’re just not the same as a bar. A bar has it’s own unique personality and is a familiar, friendly face even when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings.

Deep Blue Bar, Fethiye

Deep Blue – our original haven

I don’t know if we’ve been lucky in being drawn to our special havens (or maybe we’re actually just not that fussy), but wherever we’ve been to on our travels, we have vivid memories of the pubs and bars we have settled into. There’s something about the atmosphere of a building that makes us think, ‘That’s my bar!’

Living in Turkey, spending time in bars has helped us to break down a few barriers. Deep Blue Bar in Fethiye is where we’ve met almost all of our Turkish friends. We know tour guides, dentists, teachers, computer programmers, students, civil servants – all people we wouldn’t have met had we not spent time in the bar. A person we met in there introduced us to Baraka Bar in Istanbul; somewhere we would never had found without her suggestion.

Deep Blue is also where we heard our first Turkish rock track (Bir Derdim Var by Mor ve Ötesi) and from that, we’re now huge fans of many types of Turkish music. That’s been an important part in helping us to settle into life in Turkey – we like our music!

And maybe in Turkey, that’s what it is for us. Maybe the music plays quite an important part in this equation. Our friends’ occupations are not important. Much of the time, the type of music determines the type of people who go into a bar and therefore determines whether you enjoy your experience in that building.

Filika Bar in Antalya’s Kaleiçi drew us immediately. It was our oasis in a city centre we were struggling to get to grips with. Don’t get us wrong; downtown Antalya is a beautiful city and a must-see…but for some reason, it just wasn’t happening for us. The original Filika Bar however, is a fond memory.

Filika Bar, Antalya

The original Filika Bar in Antalya

We wandered in there on our first night in Antalya and that was us for the weekend. Live music on all three nights, good crowd, good staff. On one afternoon it poured down with rain just as we were wandering around to take some photos. Oh, how we were pleased we had a haven – a happy shelter – nearby.

I say that because as we rushed inside and ordered a beer, we watched the torrential rain outside. We also watched through the window as other tourists stood outside – in the rain – getting wet – wondering where to go – flip flops – bedraggled. That’s what put this blog post in my head. ‘What are you doing? Come inside, get dry and experience this bar,’ we wanted to shout. But even though they were getting wet and looked lost and confused, they obviously weren’t bar people.

That day is our best memory of this bar. We were the only people in there, taking shelter from the rain. Black and white photos of various Turkish rock stars from the 1960s and 1970 lined the walls. The usual suspects: Cem Karaca, Erkin Koray, Barış Manço and another face we didn’t recognise. We asked the guy behind the bar who he was. Bingo!
“It’s Kasım Koyuncu,” said our previously bored bartender, now looking a bit confused.
“Is he a famous singer or musician?”
Yes! And the other people are…”
“We know those people,” and we proceed to say who they are to the surprise of the 20-something bar guy.
A conversation follows and it turns out that Kasım Koyuncu sadly passed away in 2005, was an environmental activist and was also a fantastic musician.

For our introduction to Kasım Koyuncu, we thank our Filika bartender. Many a moment has been passed on YouTube searching out Kasım Koyuncu and he’s now a part of our music listings. That afternoon in Filika, we spoke people-to-people, rather than waiter-to-customer. And for that Antalya memory…well, it was the people, the music…and the bar we went to to come across the people and the music.

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  1. That picture of Deep Blue is making me smile right now of all our memories there. A good bar is like a good friend who is there with you as you drink a beer or four…or more 😉

  2. Bars are great! It is always interesting to see bar culture in a different place and check out who is on their walls.

  3. So true…where everyone knows your name. Can’t be better said!

  4. Can’t possible agree more with this! I have met so many interesting people and had some amazing times and adventures that started by just finding a pub where I could sit, relax, and eventually start interacting with other travellers and locals. It’s not about the beer (not that that hurts) but the sense of community. As the Dutch put it…gezellig.

  5. @ Anil: As is very often the case. I think we had a few too many on a number of occasions! 🙂

    @ Rease: We’ll second that one.

    @ Belinda: They definitely know our names in Deep Blue. 🙂

    @ Brett: That’s really cool that the Dutch have a word for this type of thing. They’re good bar people too. We know a lot of Dutch people in Turkey who we’ve met in Deep Blue. 🙂

  6. We went to Filike in a rainstorm and loved it! Also, the internet at our hotel had stopped working, so it became our haven for awhile.

  7. See, maybe all the best people go to Filike, Stephanie. 🙂 It must be the rain that gets most of their customers.

  8. Bars attract a different crowd to cafes, and often make better people watching! 😉

  9. Great post! Let’s hear it for bars 🙂 And thanks for letting me know about Baraka Bar – will definitely check it out when we’re there in August!

  10. @ Corinne: Definitely a different crowd – and I think we fit in more with the bar set. 🙂

    @ Deniz: Thank you. Yes, you definitely must check out Baraka Bar. It’s not dead easy to spot but worth the effort.

  11. Nice post – always good to find your “Cheers” bar where everyone knows your name or something like that. =) We have a little dive bar we like in Besiktas called “Beer Angel” where we play tavla and can enjoy a 70cl beer for only 6.50 TL. Now that’s a deal!

  12. @ Joy: Thank you! Glad you’ve found your little haven in Besiktas. We all need one! 🙂

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