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Tales from Nasreddin Hoca

The Nasreddin stories have touched many cultures around the world, they are told and retold endlessly. But it is inherent in a Nasreddin story that it must be understood at many levels. There is the joke, followed by a moral and usually the little extra which brings the consciousness of the potential mystic a little further on the way to realization.

A popular scholar, Nasreddin Hoca was famously considered the foremost protagonist of comical tales with an emotional content or other important message. Definite facts about his life have become mixed up with fictitious anecdotes because of the peoples’ great affection for him. The anecdotes about him focus particularly on love, satire, praise and gentle mockery. His words are a contradictory combination of the wise, ignorant, cunning, harmonious, insensitive, bashful, surprised, timorous and dashing.
Another important element in Nasreddin Hoca stories is the donkey, a reflection of the feelings of the people. It is impossible to imagine Nasreddin Hoca without his donkey, which is itself a vehicle of satire. The donkey, with its suffering and pain, the blows that are inflicted on it, is the most widespread symbol. No donkeys are to be found in humorous tales from the palaces, such people ride on horses.

Below are just a few examples from around a collection of 90 of his tales:

Taste the same

Some children saw Nasreddin coming from the vineyard with two baskets full of grapes loaded on his donkey. They gathered around him and asked him to give them a taste. Nasreddin picked up a bunch of grapes and gave each child a grape.
“You have so much, but you gave us so little,” the children whined.
“There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same,” Nasreddin answered, and continued on his way.

Watermelon vs Walnut

One day Nasreddin Hodja was working in his little watermelon patch. When he stopped for a break, he sat under a walnut tree and pondered. `Sublime Allah/God,’ he said, `it’s your business, but why would you grow huge watermelons on weak branches of a vine, and house little walnuts on a strong and mighty tree?’ And as he contemplated such, one walnut fell from the tree right onto his head. `Great Allah/God,’ he said as he massaged his bruised head, `now I understand why you didn’t find the watermelons suitable for the tree. I would have been killed if you had my mind.’


Nasreddin Hodja had borrowed a cauldron from his neighbor. When he didn’t return it for a long time, the neighbor came knocking on the door. `Hodja Effendi, if you are finished with the cauldron could I take it back? The wife needs it today.’ `Ah, of course,’ Hodja said, `just wait here a minute and I’ll fetch it.’ When Hodja came back to the door with the cauldron, the neighbour noticed that there was a small pot in it. `What is this?’ `Well, neighbor, congratulations, your cauldron gave birth to a baby pot.’ said the Hodja. The neighbor, incredulous, yet delighted, thanked the Hodja, took his cauldron and the new little pot, and went home. A few weeks after this incident, one day The Hodja came again, asking to borrow the cauldron. The neighbor didn’t even hesitate and lent Hodja the cauldron with pleasure. However, once more it was taking the Hodja forever to return it back. The neighbor had no choice but to go asking for it again. `Hodja Effendi, are you done with the cauldron?’ `Ahh neighbour, ahh’ bemoaned The Hodja, `I am afraid your cauldron is dead.’ `Hodja Effendi, that’s not possible, a cauldron cannot die!’ exclaimed the disbelieving neighbor. But Nasreddin Hodja had his answer ready. `My dear fellow, you can believe that it can give birth, why can’t you believe that it can also die?’

Delicious Stew

One day Nasreddin Hodja bought 2 kilograms of meat from the neighbourhood butcher. He brought the meat home and asked his wife to cook a real nice stew for dinner. Thus secured the evening meal, he happily headed off to his field to work. Hodja’s wife did cook the stew but about lunch time a few of her friends and relatives came over for a visit. Having nothing else to serve to her guests, she served the stew. They all ate heartily and finished it all. Hodja came home after a long day’s work and asked his wife if the stew was ready. `Ahh, ahh! You have no idea what befell the stew.’ his wife said, `The cat ate it all.’ Nasreddin Hodja, suspicious, looked around and saw the scrawny little cat in one corner, looking as hungry as himself. Hodja grabbed the cat and weighed him on his pair of scales. The poor thing weighed exactly two kilos. `Woman,’ said the Hodja, `if this is the cat, where is the stew? If this is the stew, then where is the cat?’


Turkish Coffee

Brings esteem for Forty years – Dates back 1300 years

The origin of the coffee tree is Africa (Ethiopia to be exact), far away from the shores of Turkey. Nor is Turkey a coffee producer. But the Turkish have a very special place in the history of coffee. Turkish coffee is the only type served with its grounds and is the most suitable for fortune telling.

The proverb “a cup of coffee brings esteem for forty years” sufficiently explains its fame in Turkey. The Turks took it as a measure of esteem, offered it to their guests, drank a cup of it after every meal and tried to read the future from the signs in the cup.

Coffee trees like warm weather very much. Very, very much! According to hearsay, it was discovered by a shepherd in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia in the 8th century. For many centuries it was confined within the boundaries of Ethiopia and was used for very different methods than those of today. Locals crushed the coffee beans into flour to make bread with it, boiled its fruits and used the pot water as medicine. Around the 10th century, coffee went to the Arabian Peninsula and it started to be boiled and drunk in a way similar to today, i.e. scorching, grinding and boiling.

Some sources say that the date of arrival of coffee in Istanbul is the 1500’s. However, many other sources go back farther. Furthermore, they also give an address in Istanbul. Kiva Inn, which was established in 1471 in Tahtakale, is said to be the first known café in the world. Sources which indicate the era of Yavuz Sultan Selim and the year 1517 for the arrival of coffee also tell about the same address despite the date difference; they tell that Kiva Inn in Tahtakale had introduced Yemen coffee to residents of Istanbul. Whatever the date was, it is clear that coffee was a center of taste among Ottomans in a very short time and it was even held in high honor in the palace.

Even though Courts of Shariah Law in Mecca declared coffee “nonkosher”, it was announced “religiously permissible” by the Ottomans in 1524. This interest grew stronger during the era of  Suleiman the Magnificent, even a rank in the palace called “head coffee maker” was created. The head coffee maker used to be selected from among “very reliable” names as he would take on such a task. For this reason, he used to be respected very much and even promoted to higher ranks later on.

The Ottomans are also known as the “first coffee importers” in the world. Coffee’s journey to Europe was also via Istanbul as Venetian merchants carried the taste they became familiar with in gradually increasing coffeehouses to Venice. Then coffee went further into Europe as of the 1600’s. It was first sold by lemonade sellers in the streets. Afterwards, just as it had been in Istanbul, coffeehouses were opened. Entering into the Europe continent from Venice, the coffee carried on its journey to more significant stops. According to the records, it reached Paris exactly in 1643 and London in 1651.

Even though it was  born in Ethiopia and developed in the Arabian Peninsula, it is very natural that coffee is mentioned together with the name “Turk” as it spread in Europe and from there in the world from Istanbul. Also the oldest coffee brand in the world belongs hereabouts. That brand is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi, which has a 150-year-old story. During the 1800’s coffee was being sold as raw beans, scorched in houses and ground in coffee hand mills. A very young entrepreneur, Mehmet Effendi, who was educated in Süleymaniye Madrasah, took a historical step in 1871. He started selling “ready coffee” in a shop he took over from his father. His fame spread through Istanbul instantly just like the smell of freshly ground coffee.

Although it varies in taste and appearance, counterparts of the word ‘coffee’ in almost all languages are very close to each other. It is named as ‘coffee’ in English, ‘Kaffee’ in German, ‘café’ in French, ‘caffe’ in Italian; Dutch call it ‘koffie’, Hungarians call it ‘kàvè’, Romanians call it ‘kava’, Russians call it ‘kophe’, Chinese call it ‘kafei’, and Japanese call it ‘kohi’. Armenians, on the other hand, fall very far away from the word coffee with a name like, ‘soorj’.