Istanbul’dan Merhabalar – Greetings from Istanbul!– I am embracing the many, vibrant colors of Istanbul; the Golden Horn, Spice Market, Grand Bazaar and the always vibrant Eminonu. This is the hub of life for many locals along with visitors in Istanbul.
The Eminonu district is the heart of Old Istanbul housing the Spice Market, Grand Bazaar, lot of local small businesses. Yeni Cami – New Mosque is at the center of Eminonu, and the place is always vibrant, buzzing with locals as well as tourists doing their shopping, hopping on and off to the ferry, Vapur, to travel to the Asian side of the city, as well as to the Princes’ Islands. I can just sit and watch the world go by here anytime of the day..
Have you ever had Gaziantep’s Keme Kebab? Keme is a type of a special truffle that’s grown in Gaziantep region between March to June; it is meaty and very delicious. Keme kebab features Gaziantep’s famous truffles with chunks of lamb. Look out for Keme if you are visiting at this period, you can enjoy this delicious kebab in Istanbul too. Gaziantep Cuisine is a culinary delight; here is some more information on the fabulous Gaziantep Cuisine and history.
After a good meal – or to be honest, any time! – a glass of cay – Turkish tea, is in order. Dear Evie from our Culinary tour, soon perfected the art of holding the Turkish tea glass : )
If you like spices, then you are in heaven in the Spice Market, Istanbul. In this ancient food market, you can find a great variety of spices used in Turkish cuisine. Spices feature an important role in Turkish cuisine, as we add a lot of flavor to our dishes through the artful use of spices. I use the pul biber, the Turkish red pepper flakes with almost every savory dish ( and even sometimes in desserts like this Choc0late cake with a touch of red pepper flakes). Cumin is another commonly used fragrant spice, and it is cumin, what makes hummus, taste like hummus. How about the tangy sumac? This fragrant spice adds a delicious, zesty flavor to salads like to this piyaz salad with onions, tomatoes and parsley with sumac.
Spice Market is also the right address to get delicious dried fruit like apricots, figs and many more. Shops even sell dried water melon, lemon and oranges, such wonderful colours and packed with flavor. Turkish dried apricots are one of the world’s best; they are very healthy and makes great snacks. This simple but delicious dessert, baked apricots with walnuts, is very easy to make and tastes wonderful. How about the dried peppers, okra, eggplant and corn? We dry vegetables when they are in season, then use them in stews, as well as stuffing them with aromatic rice in dolmas. They have a rich, delicious taste.
Over 500 years old Grand Bazaar, Kapali Carsi in Istanbul is most probably the ancient shopping mall in the world. It is a popular place to shop for the locals as well as visitors, though you would expect high prices. I like to go to the Grand Bazaar just to admire this magnificent building, the colors, ornate columns, a living history. It is also a good place to get small souvenirs.
Time Out at the Princes’ Islands, Istanbul
As much as I love the city of Istanbul, it is always refreshing to take a little time off and visit the charming, quiter Princes’ Islands. You can take the ferry from many ports in Istanbul (Kadikoy, Besiktas, Karakoy) and within an hour time, you are in the charming Princes’ Islands.
Many locals use the tradional ferry to travel between both sides of Istanbul and going to the islands. I love watching the locals doing their rituals; reading the paper, chatting with friends, doing the puzzle.
You can have a glass or cay, Turkish coffee or other drinks and snacks at the ferry. Sipping a glass of cay is a precious memory and a ritual for many, including me.
You can also sit outside, at the terrace or at the side benches at the ferry; the view is amazing and the reflection is inevitable.
What makes the islands so special is the serenity, relaxation it provides. No cars are allowed at the islands; you can ride on the horse carriages to explore around the islands, you can also rent a bicycle. It is lusciously green, and you appreciate the slower pace of life after the exciting but (can be) tiring Istanbul.
Heybeli Island is one my favorite islands and The Halki Seminary is located at top offers magnificent views. You can take the horse carriage to reach here.
It has been a real pleasure to explore the islands during our culinary & cultural tour with our enthusiastic travelers like Evie, Mary and Natalie. Natalie and Mary are over 80 years old; we all admired their enthusiasm, thirst for Istanbul and zest for life.
I like to eat sea food, especially the street food while in the islands. You can enjoy midye dolma – mussels stuffed with aromatic rice, the fried calamari or freshly fried mussles in most of the cafes. They are fresh, delicious and good value.
Have you ever tried kokoreç ? It is a dish of the Balkans and Anatolia, consisting mainly of lamb and goat intestines, as well as including sweetbread, hearts, lungs or kidneys. Kokorec is usually roasted on a horizontal skewer over a charcoal, gas, or electrical burner and it is seasoned with red pepper flakes, salt and oregano. It is certainly an acquired taste but once done properly, it is delicious. Kokorec is enjoyed widely in Turkey, you can have kokorec in the Princes’ Islands too.
After a wonderful relaxing day at the Princes’ Islands, we got on the ferry again and departed for Istanbul. Seagulls racing with the ferry, the wind behind and the afternoon sun on us, we recharged our batteries for more adventures in Turkey.
Our ferry came nearby to the Maiden Tower, Kiz Kulesi, what a sight I thought, what a beautiful country.. One of those moments that you seal in your memory and have felt very grateful to be here, for this very moment.
Now full of new excitement again to hit the road; Ephesus, Didyma, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, all await to be explored, and shared. I hope you enjoyed what you have seen & read, and I hope you can make it to this wonderful land sometime.
Istanbul’dan Selamlar – Greetings from Istanbul,