I have always
loved the Irish. Ireland a green island of bards,
poets and storytellers. A land of blarney and
I was getting bored in Fethiye, on the beautiful
Turquoise Coast of Turkey. What to do and where
to go to have a sane conversation with a fellow
Brit? I was lonely, hungry for culture and
stimulation. I was not into the Lycian ruins nor
swimming off boats nor sunbathing. I was advised
thus to go to a hangout for resident Brits called
The Mulberry Tree in downtown Fethiye.
The cafe was empty except for a man minding his
own business consuming a large portion of
homemade lemon drizzle cake with a mug of tea.
The starting point for a conversation it turned
out. Tony Olin was Irish from the lovely city of
Dublin. We spoke fondly of Bewleys Coffee
House and I told him about my 2 visits to his
fair city. Having retired early he was living his
dream with his wife, permanently residing on his
55 foot sailing boat drifted at will throughout
the Mediterranean having left his thriving
construction company to his 3 sons to live his
final 20 years hopefully the life of Riley.
We spoke of cabbages and kings and like me, Tony
was a storyteller and a well read poet. He
reminisced about his poor background in Dublin
but explained that in Ireland education is free
and available to all. This led on to telling me
about his next door neighbours, a very poor
Hungarian immigrant starving family who spoke no
English. He and his brother befriended the young
Atilla Lorincz who today is Professor of
Molecular Epidemiology getting a doctorate in
genetics from Trinity College in Dublin. They are
still in touch and the eminent Professor, now
residing in America, never forgot his humble
origins and faithful lifelong friends.
Into the art of conversation, Tony asked me about
my Liverpudlian background confessing he had
never been to our fair city. Surprisingly he
asked me my maiden name. No one ever did but Tony,
like myself, was into heritage and a people
person. Surnames tell a lot about a persons
origins, religion and heritage. Levin I told him.
Imperial Russian, The Pale Settlement, Jewish, I
explained. Plenty of Levins in Dublin said he.
What? Impossible. Levin is a pretty rare name.
There was a Levin in Leo Tolstoys Anna
Karenina, there was also Bernard Levin of
literary fame and the American blockbuster author
Ira Levin and American Mark Levin known for his
quotes. Then he said there was an added s
so it was not the same name in my book. At that
point the conversation switched, at his
instigation, to the Jews of Dublin including the
It was then he confessed his great grandfather
was French Jewish from Northern Paris and called
Pierre Olin, owner of Dublins famous
Turkish Baths in Lincoln Place and Its Cafe de
Paris within the ornate building circa 1861.
I was hooked because of my love for Ottoman
culture and my interest and research in the
Sephardic diaspora of 1492 ending up with the
clever far sighted Caliph Bayezid II of the
powerful Ottoman Empire inviting the elite
displaced Spanish Sephardic Jews to Salonika and
the capital of his Empire, Constantinople. The
Sultan sent out the Ottoman navy to welcome the
150,000 Jews under the command of Admiral Kemal
Reis to evacuate the Jews and save them from
persecution allowing education, science and the
arts to flourish throughout his vast in his
Tony then googled Victorian Dublin Turkish
Baths and I took a photo of him holding his
mobile showing a black and white photo of the
ornate building in Dublin. I glanced at the
detailed text, thinking of my old childhood
friend Sholem Wiseman from Liverpool and his
dedicated obsessed historian brother-in-law,
Schif, the authority on Turkish baths.
I had not thought about Sholem, his brother Joey
who I had a crush on, nor Schif their brother-in-law
since the 80s when I used to see him dashing
around the London Ephemera Society fairs
desperately sourcing material for his lifes
work. I also thought about my dear cousin Vivian,
who I was fond of, until her shyster lawyer
husband Michael took us to the cleaners. Memories
so long ago and far away.
I thought about all those nostalgic
Liverpool memories after Tony and I had said
Adieu. After kindly paying for my PG Tips cuppa,
Tony headed off on his bike into the endless blue
of the Turquoise Coast. Gone forever but the
Liverpool memories lingered on the screen of my
mind frozen in time sitting in the Mulberry Tree
cafe that Wednesday 4 July afternoon forgetting
it was American Independence Day.
I decided to research the article Tony had shown
me on google. It was by none other than by Malcom
Shifrin, author of his renowned book on Victorian
Turkish Baths!! A normal synchronistic episode in
the life of Sultana Jilliana!
having a cuppa in the Mulberry Tree Cafe, Fethiye
on 4th July, 2018.