Sunday, 7 April 2013

Istanbul

From the car trip from the airport took us along the edge of the Marmara sea past families barbequeing over little coal fires in the parks looking out on tankers. It reminded me a little of Singapore but with chaotic traffic.
Everyone seemed to be out enjoying the warm weather. We went walking around the Beyoglu area checking out the pedestrianised streets full of shops and grabbing a new pair of my favorite jeans brand (mavi). There were huge crowds even at 10pm! We had delicious kebap cooked over coals in the tight alleys filled with restaurant bars and enjoyed watching people. The stone tower on the hill rises up amongst the surrounding buildings and orientates you from all up and down the river. I tried a local purple carrot and turnip drink as it was purple. It was not as good as the sour cherry soft drink I had on the way out! To round things out we had some great baklava on the way home from a famous place just back from the ferry terminus.
Our first proper day we covered several of the biggest hits around sultanahmet. Aya sofya was originally a Byzantine basilica filled with mosaics before it was converted into a mosque in Ottoman times.
In the afternoon we saw the Topkapi palace and harem. The tiling and interlocking courtyards were very interesting. They also had extensive tulip plantings for the annual tulip festival. We lined up and saw the palace treasures, both the jewels, clocks and the casket said to contain the shroud of the prophet Mohammed.
Finally the "blue" mosque with it huge scale and ornate tiles was good to visit in spite of the crowds. I hate to think what it must be like here in Summer!
For a foodie highlight we went out to a slightly more distant suburb to where there are lots of Kurdish restaurants from Siirt. The pit roasted lamb was succulent and delicious. Watching the man make breads that where whipped in and out of a wood fired oven added to the show.

Monday was a little rainy but it didn't matter as we had a cooking class on. The charming Selin took us through a series of dishes and then we got to eat them at lunch.
For a touch of history we went to the Chora church museum in the afternoon adjacent to the old city walls. The mosaics here were amazingly detailed and gilded. They depicted scenes from Christ's life. I can't claim to recognize them all but it was artistically amazing.
A trip around the Grand Bazaar was a lot easier than the equivalent in other countries we have visited. Aided perhaps by not wanting to buy anything!
Dinner at Giritli was a spectacular seafood take on the local menu style of multiple small meze dishes followed by grilled fish. It reinforced how good quality fresh ingredients prepared simply can be.

Today we have been around an underground cistern filled with ancient columns and the archeology museum before a quick simple grilled fish and salad baguette (apparently a local specialty) and a ferry up the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea. The banks are lined with grand 19th century palaces and villas dotted amongst the city.

So in all Turkey is proving to be a fun mix of great food, sweets and complex history. The fact it reminds us of Morocco at time is testimony to how far reaching the Ottoman Empire's influence was.



















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