7 July 2014
As it had been a full 3 days since we were last in Asia we felt we needed to make a trip across the Bosporus Strait to the Asia side of Istanbul.
Our first stop was to get some Turkish coffee at Fazil Bey’in.
This is no normal coffee, it comes as an espresso shot and don’t be like me wanting to get just one more sip after you know it is starting to taste like sludge. To make Turkish coffee you boil the grounds with water so at the end of the cup there is about ½ inch of coffee grounds. I should have just been like the lady at the table next to us and flipped my cup to reveal my fortune, although I have no clue how to read it.
Then we wandered the streets some more and came across a local market. As we saw a handful of groups on food tours, we chuckled as we realized our instincts have gotten us here so all of those food tours we took in SE Asia have ingrained some sort of spidy sense.
It was slightly unusual to see each shop have their own store front and everything set up in a permanent state but I guess this is just another aspect of readjusting to what is once again our new normal.
Inside the market we found the best sweets shop, Caferzade where we asked the girl what we the best sweets and she proceeded to rattle off a handful of different types of sweets I had never heard of. We decided to settle on a piece of baklava like dessert and what just might be a new favorite, Fistikli Telkadayic.
I think honey is my new coconut and this just might be a problem. We also picked up a package of Turkish delights which was just a bunch of small pieces of various types, I assume the scrap pieces when they cut the delights into perfect squares.
As we ate standing on the corner and older gentleman began to talk to us. When we shook our heads and shrugged our shoulders and stated ‘English?’ the man just began to repeat himself a little louder. This was the first time gestures and facial expressions did not work as we could not tell if he was asking us if we liked what we were eating or to get the hell out of his way.
After enjoying our dessert we figured it was time to have lunch (that’s the right order correct?) We found a great place for lunch at Halal Lahmacun where just like a good Asian restaurant they serve up one specialty Lahmacun which is like a really thin pizza crust with meat and seasonings on top which you then add a squeeze of lemon and some fresh parsley before rolling it up like a taquito and enjoying.
After lunch it was time for dessert round two and Adam had to try the local Eta Bal, yogurt and Honey and I just watched in envy like a weirdo.
As we wandered the neighborhood we found ourselves walking down a street filled with antique shops. While there were many great pieces to be found in those shops the prices were quiet high even as starting points for negotiations. While I know I can negotiate well, I didn’t even want to try as I knew I would just end up offending the owners. Further up the street and back on the main road we saw a mosque in the distance and decided to make that our destination. Noticing that there was no specific tourist entrance here and Adam was in shorts and I in a knee length skirt we weren’t dressed appropriately to enter on our own, we just enjoyed the paintings on the domes outside.
More walking around the streets one thing I noticed that seems a little strange were these yellow vans that had Dulmas written on the top where you would normally see taxi. From what I could tell people just hopped in and hopped off (and looked like they were running for their lives) to go from place to place. I thought I had seen it all when it comes to transportation, but clearly this was a reminder that there is still so much to see.
After wandering around the streets for a good majority of the day we said goodbye to Asia for the time being and made our way back across the strait to Europe. Once our ferry docked we walked to the Rustem Pasha Mosque which is located in the outskirts of the spice market. We took a few laps around the block and thru the market to finally find the entrance but it was well worth it. While the building was small located in the center of a busy market area gave it a different feeling and once we walked inside we were both stunned by the tiles that lined the walls.
While the blue mosque is larger in size this is the mosque that should be seen by all. It is small enough that you can really appreciate the impressive tiles and also as there was hardly anyone in there it made for a much more enjoyable and reflective experience. After spending some time inside the mosque relaxing and enjoying the quiet peace we made our way back out to the hustle and bustle of the spice market. While we knew it was going to be a complete tourist trap, we were disappointed in the experience. Maybe it was the fact that there wasn’t anything that we were shopping for or knowing that even if we were able to find a store that sold quality spices there wouldn’t be a point in purchasing them as they wouldn’t last another few months, but we pretty much walked from one end of the market to the other end taking some photos before we were quickly on our way.
After the market we walked back towards our hotel but first made a stop at our favorite spot for tea, which happens to be next door to the place we get our pida.
As we watched the tour groups walk by and us the only tourists sitting in this shop with plenty of locals, we had to scratch our head and wonder why no one would stop on in here. I guess we are just so accustomed to constant change and everything always being so different from what we know that we just look for a place with local people and are immediately drawn in as that is our normal.
After relaxing in our hotel for a while we made our way out to grab dinner. On our walk towards dinner we wandered thru a new to us neighborhood just as the shops were closing down for the evening and the last customers were trying to get the best bargain of the day. This also meant that the cabs were working overtime. Now being back in a country where you drive on the right still throws me off and I catch myself looking the wrong way before crossing more times than I care to admit. But the cab drivers here are also a little crazy and I think drive way too fast for these streets. And every time I see one while crossing the street I can feel my heart rate rise. While explaining this to Adam, all I get is this look that says ‘really?’ and I quote “Japan made you soft.” Which is so true with the cab drivers who would stops meters away from you when they saw you at an intersection and when making a turn made hit mock speed of 5km.
Think of dinner service during Ramadan as one giant wedding every night for one month, once a year. These restaurants have it down to a science. While we arrived at Erzincanli Ali Baba just after seven for dinner we were told we should return in an hour so that we can be part of the breaking of the evening fast. We happily agreed and had seats reserved for later that evening. While waiting for sundown we took advantage of the restaurants location across from Suleyman the Magnificent Mosque and spent an hour taking in the feats of architecture and design and making our way to the outside of the temple grounds which had one of the best views of the city.
He loves to mock my love of doors
Our dinner mates didn’t speak much English and of course we don’t speak Turkish so our limited conversation was some pointing and smiles. But that didn’t stop our dinner mates from snapping a picture with us, when you see an iPhone directed at you there is a universal response. I am sure we made it on to some guy’s facebook page and he and his wife our sharing stories about us and how we ordered so much food and were taking deep breaths to digest by the end. Our eyes were of course much bigger than our stomachs and our waiter advised that we should only get two dishes and after struggling to take the last few bites of our meal, I was glad we didn’t have that third entrée.
Walking home was an eerie experience and the first time in all our travels where we were both pretty creeped out. While we have walked down many streets with closed up shops this was the first time when the shop owners didn’t live just upstairs giving a sense of security that other people were around. Nope these streets were devoid of any signs of people and as the wind blew and a creaky old hinge moved back and forth I was waiting for someone to jump out from a side alley. I don’t think I have walked so fast in my life and with a full belly I was actually starting to get a side cramp. But of course just a few meters from our hotel there was a section of road that was pitch black, luckily we didn’t have to go that direction, but is was one of those instances where you could hear your mom in the back of your head to not walk down dark alleys and trust our instincts. And when I could see our hotel in the distance and I began to hear two people having a conversation somewhere in the distance, I thought I could sprint to the hotel from here. While all of this was going on, we were of course joking out loud about all of this.
Today’s Travel: Awalk down to the ferry terminal to hop on the ferry to Kadikoy after wandering thru
Accommodations: Istanbul Central Hotel