It’s that time of the year, and we have holidays, travels, exploring the exotic and perhaps the unknown in our mind and hearts. I have the travel bug in me again, as I will be departing for Istanbul in August. But before that, I wanted to share an exciting itinerary with you; our 2013 Fascinating Istanbul and Grand Turkey Tour Brochure, from March 29th to April 8th 2013.
I was born and bred in Turkey, lived and travelled in my homeland extensively over 30 years. No doubt, I love my homeland, and it is a joy to share all the treasures of Turkey through my blog. While I was teaching Turkish Cooking Classes at Central Market Cooking School in Austin, Texas, folks coming to my classes expressed an interest to see Turkey from a local’s perspective. Now, thanks to them (especially to dear Pam Wood, for the initiation) once a year, I team up with Four Seasons Tours, organize and host a culinary and cultural tour to Turkey.
So, what do we do in our tours? My foremost aim with the tour is to show my homeland, through a local’s perspective; the places we Turks go for a delicious bite to eat; the markets we shop for the best spices, baklavas; the sites and many more. With our highly knowledgeable guide Kaan Gulcur, we visit some of the finest and most fascinating sites in Turkey. Here is a taster of what happens in our tour:
I lived in Istanbul over 15 years; it is a city where old and new exists together, it is old but not tired, ancient, yet alive. Here is the breathtaking Hagia Sophia; a pioneer of architecture and once the largest church in the world prior to the St Peter’s in Rome. I must have visited Hagia Sophia over 15 times, it still amazes me.
I have been staying at the Armada Hotel at the heart of Old Istanbul over 15 years. The location is superb and their hospitality and Turkish breakfast overlooking the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia is unforgettable.
Istanbul is a big city with a population of over 12 million, and the Bosporus strait divides the city into two parts. One of the best ways to appreciate both the old and the new parts of Istanbul is to take a boat cruise, like we do at the tour. Try to take a small size boat, where you zig zag at the both sides of the Bosphorus to see the Yalis (wooden, residential summer houses for the Sultan and high official’s at the Ottoman Empire), Palaces, or just simply to witness how the day goes by at the side streets. Local ferries, Vapur, might also be a good and cheap way to explore Istanbul in both sides.
How can we not visit the Spice Market when in Istanbul? Spices are an important part of Turkish cuisine, that’s the way we add flavor to our dishes. So a visit to the Spice Market is a must to stock up wonderful spices, Turkish tea, Turkish Delight, nuts and many more. I could spend hours at my favorite spice shop, Malatya Pazari at the Spice Market.
Entrance to the ancient Spice Market, Misir Carsisi
Now comes the Grand Bazaar; renown as the world’s oldest shopping mall, it is so worth seeing for its architecture, colorful shops selling a huge variety from gold to leather, to china and many more. I would be careful to shop there for big items like rugs, as you will most likely to get tourist prices there. But the atmosphere is magical and well worth it.
Baklava is a delicacy that is perfected at the Ottoman Palace kitchens and Gulluoglu Baklava is one of the best places to sample the real thing. We also like to take demo baklava classes there and witness how this delicious treat is made; it is one of the highlights of the tour!
Why not have a go and make baklava at home? It is easy to make baklava with fillo pastry sheets at your home, and you can adjust the syrup to your liking. Here is my recipe, you will be amazed with the results.
Turks are a very hospitable nation and they regard the visitors as “God’s guest” and their door is open to them. Wherever you go , you will be offered tea, Turkish coffee, or like in this case some pine nuts and local honey by this local village man near Pergamum.
At the Aegean, a visit Ephesus, provincial capital of Asia Minor for the Roman Empire and one of the seven churches of the Revelations is always a highlight. As one of the best preserved Roman cities, its monumental theater was where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians. Ephesus also boasts one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Temple of Artemis, and the resting place of St. John the Evangelist is in the Church of St. John.
While we are at the Aegean, we take a hands-on Aegean style Turkish cooking class, where we knock up wonderful casseroles, mousakka, gozleme (Anatolian flat breads with various fillings), and delicious salads dressed with the local olive oil. This experience stay with us a long time, and it is always lovely to hear participants making all these wonderful dishes they learned to their family and friends back at home.
Kusadasi is a wonderful port we stay while at the Aegean. Dining out overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean is a real treat.
On the way back to Istanbul, drive towards the Dardanelles to see the battlefields of Gallipoli, view Mount Ida, the site of the beauty pageant that led to the Trojan War.
It is always a pleasure to share the wonderful treasures of my homeland and this is a tiny little snapshot of what Turkey offers. Participation for our tour is limited to 15 people. If you would like to join us to explore the fascinating land of Turkey, do please contact me, and also view photos from my previous tours. If you can’t, I do hope this post may inspire you to visit Turkey sometime, and give some ideas. For some additional and fantastic travel posts from Turkey, please also visit Turkish Travel Blog; Natalie’s travels, stories and photos across Turkey are simply mesmerizing.
Have you ever travelled to Turkey? I would love to hear your experience, please share with us.
Happy Travels to All!
Looks like a great tour Ozlem! I’ve already seen all the sites since we’ve been living here, but your tour is a great highlight of some of the best sites in Istanbul and the Aegean Coast. THough I would love to do the baklava demo with you! 😉
Many thanks for stopping by, I would have loved to do baklava with you too! Check out Gulluoglu-Karakoy’s demo classes, they are brilliant and you get to see how the real thing is being made, quite an experience!
Thank you so much for sharing this. I would love to visit your homeland!
Thank you Lorrie, hoe you get a chance to explore Turkey sometime!
This is an excellent post. So detailed and with beautiful photographs.
Turkey really is such a fascinating country and the food it offers is just mouthwatering,
Well done on this!
Thank you Alida, so glad you enjoyed the post.
I love Istanbul so much. Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures it brings back fond memories. I loved the spice market and the Hagia Sophia. I really miss the wonderful apple tea. Is there a way to get it in the states?
Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, how I wished to be back to Istanbul together, hope one day. Re the apple tea, try http://www.tulumba.com, online Turkish grocery that delivers in the US = hope it helps!
I miss Turkey so much it hurts! Especially Istanbul. Thanks for the wonderful pictures. Keep the recipes coming!
So kind of you – truly hope you make it there again. in the meantime, if the photos help bringing good memories back, that is a happy feeling for me; )
Dear Ozlem, it’s a dream to someday visit Turkey and see these beautiful sites and be a part of these once in a lifetime experience:) great post, it took me there through my mind’s eye! Reading about your tour always makes me want to pack my bags…Much love:)
The same here dear Peri, I would so love to see you there and experience the sites together – a dream to work on, we will make it happen!:) xxx Ozlem
So wonderful to get your comment and that you’re enjoying Turkey – Antakya is one of my favorite destinations too : ) Very glad the blog brings happy memories back:)
Gorgeous photos, Ozlem!
Cok tesekkurler Deniz!
I have been to Turkey and I’m utterly in love with Istanbul. Everytime I get the newsletter from your website I get so excited.
I hope I can go back to lovely Istanbul in the near future. There’s still so much to see and experience there.
Many thanks for your shares. I have got to know more of the Turkish culture and cuisine thanks to you.
Cok Tessekur Ederim Ozlem!
Adriana from Romania
That’s so very sweet of you, many thanks for taking the time to write; I am over the moon that the blog inspires and reflects my love for home – love Istanbul too!- truly hope you can make it there again and again 🙂
cok tesekkurler Adriana 🙂
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Wow, thanks for the tour of Turkey, Ozlem and good luck with your upcoming tour. Looks great. Strange you should be talking about travel – must be a spring thing – because we’re just planning our routes for May. 🙂
Thank, it certainly is – I think we all have the travel bug : ) good luck with your May travels too, look forward to reading your adventures! 🙂 Ozlem