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The fortune teller in Istanbul, one coffee and my future

Did you know that Istanbul, a city with a much ancient and spiritual tradition, is home to a long-standing fortune teller practice tradition? Istanbul’s fortune teller practices span from coffee cup reading to astrology interpretation. However, if you ask me, the most interesting (as we have heard enough about astrology) is coffee cup reading. 

street view

Before I tell you about my experience with a fortune teller in Istanbul, let me explain what coffee cup reading is. Coffee cup reading is an ancient fortune teller practice involving the interpretation of patterns formed by coffee grounds left in a cup once one has drunk its coffee. The fortune teller examines the patterns and looks for shapes and symbols left by the coffee grounds to offer insights into the past and future of the person who drank the coffee.

This fortune-telling practice is a spiritual and social tradition in which people come together and look for each other’s fortunes in their coffee cups.

You’ll find many fortune tellers practices in Istanbul: astrology, tarot card readings, palmistry, and numerology. These are not traditional Turkish practices, although they are very popular now. That’s why I recommend you try the real Turkish deal, the coffee cup fortune teller experience. Even if fortune teller is not for you, it can still be a fun experience and a different way to spend one afternoon in Istanbul. Have you checked my other post about an alternative, more authentic way to explore the city?

fortune teller in istanbul

“This is not a holiday for you. You’re here for work.” My jaw drops, and I stare at the woman facing me and then focus again on my coffee grounds. Uhm, okay. I have to admit that I didn’t expect this. Does she, like for real, without kidding, know what the future holds for me? What does this fortune teller in Istanbul have to share about my future?

You have to know: I do have a voodoo doll. I wrote an exam in sociology about voodoo, but this time in New Orleans, I didn’t have the guts to go to a fortune teller. Once, I interviewed a parapsychologist for TV but hid myself behind the camera as I didn’t want her to tell me more about my ghosts. And yes, I own tarot cards (although I have no idea where they are at the moment), and in my early twenties, I thought they were as amusing as horoscopes in magazines.

So yes, I think this whole thing is interesting, but every time when it got down to the nitty-gritty, I chickened out. Until now. Until I’ve met a fortune teller in Istanbul.

Unsuspectingly, I stroll along İstiklal Caddesi, take a picture here and there, and think to myself: that’s so much like Kurfürstendamm in Berlin when my friend Buket tells me as a sideline about the fortune tellers in the side streets. And I still have no idea why, but at this very moment, I knew I wanted to know my fortune.

coffee in a white cup used by the fortune teller

Only a few minutes later, we’re sitting in one of the many cafés on one of the side streets of İstiklal Caddesi; the radio is tuned to noisy disco pop. We were the only one. Here, a Turkish coffee costs you around €5. That’s no rip-off but a loophole the fortune teller found to offer their services. Because fortune teller practices are illegal in Turkey. So, instead of paying them for their service, you’re paying more for your coffee.

To be honest, I don’t like Turkish coffee that much. But with Latte Macchiato, the fortune-telling won’t work. There are no coffee grounds, and without coffee grounds, there is no fortune-telling – at least in Turkey. That’s why I must drink the whole coffee cup until it feels crumbly in my mouth.

Then you put the saucer on the cup, turn it a few times clockwise, breathe a wish, and flip the whole thing upside down. You can place a small coin on the cup to enforce the wish.

a coin on top of a white coffee cup

Then we’re waiting. And I get nervous. Did I do everything in the correct order? Should I have thought about another wish? What will she tell me? We’re waiting. The fortune teller has time when the fortune teller has time; until then, you have to wait. After a few minutes, we’re brought to another room; pictures of angels and Salvador Dali hang on the walls. And there she is.

I expected an old woman. I guess she’s in her late thirties, wears a tank top, and drinks a Cappuccino. She looks at me sharply and then even more sharply at the saucer. Then, into the cup. She tells me this and that. Some things from my past are half-true, some from my present are very, very true, and some from my future might be true. We will see.

But I will keep them secret. Because you know, if you tell wishes out loud, these might never come true. 

red tram on a street

Do you also want to meet a fortune teller in Istanbul now?

Go to one of the side streets of İstiklal Caddesi; you know you are in the right place when you see signs like angel pictures or “tarot” in the windows. Have fun!