Istanbul: All hail Fiko, King of Anzac St

By Jim Eagles

The Turks are so fond of Kiwis they've named a street after us, finds Jim Eagles.

Fiko's sales spiel for the Turquoise is entertainment worth watching. Photo / Jim Eagles
Fiko's sales spiel for the Turquoise is entertainment worth watching. Photo / Jim Eagles

Fiko is the king of Anzac St in Istanbul.

I'm sure it isn't really called Anzac St - I didn't spot a sign with any name on it at all - but Mehmet Kayici, my guide to the city, assured me that was what locals called it.

It all started with a hostel which attracted Australian and New Zealand backpackers, which led to more hostels and tour operators and cafes aimed at antipodean tourists, until the street was full of Anzacs and the name stuck.

It is also, according to Mehmet, a sign Turks feel "a great sense of brotherhood with Aussies and Kiwis".

This sentiment is movingly expressed on the battlefield memorial at Anzac Cove in nearby Gallipoli which says:

"Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace... You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well."

Because of that feeling, says Mehmet, "we are very happy to have a street named after you".

The king of that street is a Turk called Fikret, or Fiko for short.

Fiko doesn't belong to any royal family. Turkey got rid of its sultan about 90 years ago, and seems very proud of its status as a secular, democratic republic.

He's the street man for the Turquoise restaurant in Anzac St - the guy who stands out front and persuades passersby to come in - and he's very good at it.

I first went to Turquoise on the recommendation of Hassan, a receptionist at the Acra Hotel. But I returned largely to enjoy Fiko's performance.

Turquoise's food is fine, the service is good and the prices - though high compared with the places where locals eat - are par for the course. But I'm sure the reason Turquoise fills up quicker than the other cafes is Fiko.

Of all the street men - and some cafes have two or even three of them - he is the smoothest, the most charming - especially when it comes to attractive women - and the most successful.

Walk down Anzac St in the evening and there in front of you will be Fiko, arms spread in welcome, mouth spread in a warm smile, making an instant, and usually accurate, judgment of your nationality and offering some appropriate words of greeting.

For Brits, his voice is very plummy. Americans are greeted with a drawl. Australians get the "gidday mate". He also has a smattering of French, German, Spanish and goodness knows what else.

On my last night in Istanbul I ate again at Turquoise and afterwards calculated I had just enough lira left to buy a glass of raki.

So I sat and sipped and enjoyed the show.

"Bonjour," he said to a trio of young women. "Oh, you are not French? I am sorry. It is because you look so tres chic. You should come in and enjoy our veranda restaurant. There are beautiful views. You will feel at home ..."

How could you resist?

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Singapore Airlines operates 12 times a week between Auckland and Singapore and then on to 62 destinations in 34 countries, including Istanbul.

Getting around: World Expeditions' Best of Turkey expedition includes Cappadocia, famous for the underground cities and extraordinary rock formations, Konya, known for its whirling dervishes, and the historical cities of Ephesus, Troy and Gallipoli as well as Istanbul. Call 0800 350-354.

Jim Eagles visited Istanbul with help from Singapore Airlines and World Expeditions.

- NZ Herald

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