Darkness. The narrow cobblestone road glistens, reflecting shoplights as a light rain falls. A man walks by hands in coat pockets. A girl wrapped in a woolly hat and scarf passes by chatting on a mobile phone. Couples hand in hand stroll by as the rain drizzles. A man in uniform comes running around the corner and disappears down the stairs into the Turkish Delight shop opposite. We watch it all from our vantage point by a large window in a warm and cosy restaurant.
We just got back from Istanbul. What a fabulous city!
It’s late afternoon and we drop into a sweet shop for something to have after dinner. The girl behind the counter urges us to try a piece of Turkish delight with pistachio in it. Yum. Next she wants us to try some pistachio with orange, then some chocolate delight, then some … and it goes on until we tell her we couldn’t possible try anything else. It’s all delicious. We purchase some of the things we tried and some we didn’t. There are some absolute gems amongst them. The 5-star winner is the pistachio nut surrounded by chocolate flavoured Turkish delight and then choc dipped with pistachio powder on top. Who thought of that one? Sensational! Some of the sweets are cut from 45 centimetre wide, 60 centimetre high cylinders much like the cylinders that kebab meat is cut from.
Some of the shop names make us laugh; ‘Dagi’ has to be a bad name for a fashion shop! The person who named the 'Hotel Ufuk' probably wasn't an English speaker!
We found that the restaurants advertising 'authentic Turkish food' were very ordinary while the little cafes (borek shops) were fantastic; cheap and delicious. Interestingly we didn't come across what we understood to be Turkish food. We were familiar with Turkish food from Sydney Road in Melbourne, Australia. This kind of food didn't seem to exist in Istanbul, or we couldn't find it, and we are wondering if perhaps it is peasant food. The Turkish bread in Melbourne is senstational, and is quite different to the bread in the restaurants in Istanbul where it was largely Greek style white bread.
I adored the Blue Mosque. The Hagia Sophia was really interesting. It has a history of hundreds of years as a church before being converted hundreds of years ago to a mosque. Although I enjoyed visiting the Topkapi palace and the Dolmabache, I found that I got a bit of a case of 'opulence fatigue.' Gold plated walls and ceilings are amazing, but you can only maintain interest for a limited number of rooms. The remains of a Roman hippodrome are pretty amazing.
I'd never realised previously that the river Bosphoros splits the city in two with one side being on the European continent and the other being in Asia. But then, I'm sure that there's an awful lot I haven't realised!