Europe and Asia in Five Minutes – Turkey Part I
After the gong show that was Athens, we hopped on our first flight in three months. Voted the European Capital of Culture for 2010, we were off to Istanbul, Turkey. Previously known as Constantinople; Istanbul is where the world connects East and West. There’s no other place in the world where you can be welcomed into Europe and Asia in the span of five minutes when your driver realizes she’s missed the required exit.
To see Istanbul requires as little as putting one foot in front of the other. Walking into the Sultanahmet district each day we would cross the Galata Bridge. Passing over the Golden Horn waters, the bridge is home to hundreds of fisherman. Walking underneath the bridge you’ll find tons of seafood restaurants and great views of the fishing lines. Beware of the menus you’re sure to have skim your face, and the off fishing line you might spot whizzing past your face, sometimes full of wriggling fish. Fresh seafood is a treat to try in Istanbul. From fresh barbecued fish baguettes off the colour fishing boats for 4 TL at the end of the Galata Bridge or rice stuffed oysters squeezed with lemon or orange juice and tipped into your mouth, Istanbul is the seafood lovers wet dream.
The Spice Market, also known as Egyptian Bazaar, was one of the markety-markets I’d been waiting for. Unlike the Grand Bazaar, which I had high hopes of being blown away by, it fell short on account of being too shopping-mall-ish and too commercially contrived. The Spice Market, where vendors toss buckets of mackerel in the air for the seagulls and are housed in shanty-stable type stalls, is a true market.
We hadn’t been in the place more than five minutes and we hit some action. A large group of people were swarming around something on the floor. Bent over and carrying what looked like cups of colourful goo, I peeked through some arms and legs to see what the fuss was all about. Two large boxes had been opened up and the contents were free for the taking, only it wasn’t full of SPCA kittens so I hesitated. Hey, if the locals were going nuts over it…. I snafooed one of the cups, and a spoon from the box man, and dug in. Similar to a rice pudding, Sutlac is the Turkish name for the grey goo delicacy full of pistachios and dried fruit. Thinking I had just scored big time we muscled our way through the crowds toward more action. Plates of Turkish delight were shoved in my face. Reluctant to take any, knowing it would cost me or mean I could now be faces the beginning phases of a carpet deal, the man insisted it was free. Jumping at a chuck of powdery goodness (I must say I am not a fan of Turkish delight, but the real deal is delish) the Turkish man’s wingman says “One Lira” to which I retaliate by blowing a puff of Turkish delight powder at him, “You said FREE!”
Suddenly the skies open up and some heavenly being strikes a chord. No, it wasn’t God; it was the timely call to prayer beckoning people to their knees. The Blue Mosque, famous for its interior blue tiles, is still a working mosque and place of worship. Inside you can find the sectioned off cubby-hole areas behind the shoe stands where the women pray. The rest of the entire mosque is open for men’s prayer. The intricacy of the tiles and the hanging light fixtures are truly beautiful and to see them is free.
On Turkish Carpets: No I didn’t buy one and I must admit that I’m hurt that I wasn’t hustled into some secret room with the door bolted shut behind me as some fine Turkish gentlemen wooed me with his tea and crafts. If anything I was more accosted with restaurant menus and chai (Turkish tea) than anything.
Apologies for the late post.