“… of all the traditions that say Turkey to me, the use of lemon cologne is the earliest and strongest memory I will always have. When I first came to the country back in 1990, I took long road trips on buses stinking of cigarette smoke. Despite the nicotine fug I always came out smelling of citrus. This was because after every stop we made, the bus boy walked along the aisle, proffering a bottle of strongly scented lemon cologne. By watching the other passengers I learnt to hold out my cupped hands into which he would sprinkle or indeed sometimes pour the liquid, depending on his enthusiasm and attention span.
A bottle of lemon cologne continues to be a much welcomed present from Turks visiting family living abroad, and mothers’ often pack one in the luggage of a child setting off to study in another city. When sprinkled on the wrists the aroma works as a poignant yet comforting reminder of home. Sadly, like tea being served in real glass on the ferries, as Turkey embraces newer and more hygienic practices, in many cafes and restaurants bottles of lemon cologne are being replaced by small squares of freshness in the form of moist towelettes. Offered at the end of a meal, they still carry the same scent as before, but the solemn ritual of offering and receiving perfumed water from the bottle is lost…”
You can read the full version of this extract in my essay “Lemon Cologne” found in
Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City, 2nd Edition.