Istanbul Arrivals...Let the Eating Begin

Back when I lived in Jackson, Wyoming, I recall telling a middle-aged man from Texas about my upcoming travel plans and how they would probably include a trip through Turkey.
Our first glimpse of Istanbul from the ferry
He responded with look of shock and disapproval, then proceeded to advise me that I should stay away from the "Middle East," that the people of Turkey weren't like "us Americans," and that they don't respect women any more than the ground beneath their feet.
istanbul tourism
I totally paid the bird off to fly in for this picture
True to my nature, I gently laughed in his face, told him that I didn't think it would be quite like that, and changed the subject.

My, how wrong he was.

The people are generous and immeasurably hospitable (why do so many people keep trying to help me!?), the landscape boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery and impressive historical relics in the world, and the food...have I told you about the food??
turkish delight
istanbul pastry shop
walnut stuffed fruit
istanbul pastry shop
Sure, there is a lot more to it than just sweet stuff...but four pictures of pastries is just what happens when you have an addiction
Perhaps many Americans hold the view of my misinformed Texan. Is this why we seldom think of exploring this amazing country instead of Greece, Thailand, or some other exotic locale?

My mission over the next few days, then, is to try to show you the real Turkey.
middle eastern guitar
turkish nut pastry
turkish olives
istanbul tourism
Clockwise from top-right: A man playing the Turkish oud at the ferry station; window shopping for huge blocks of halva and nut balls; a man stands proudly by his olive display; arriving to the old city by ferry
Currently in Istanbul (and yes, I am going through cat withdrawal after leaving the farm), I am caught up in a mixture of cosmopolitan Europe, ancient Ottoman and ­­Roman architecture, and mysterious Muslim tradition. It's as though I am breathing in the secret to rich and delicious cultural immersion, and I feel nourished.
Approaching the Blue Mosque at night
Istanbul is a humongous city. There is so much to explore and so much food to eat that John and I have broken our stay up into two parts: two nights "splurging" on a private hotel room ($27 per night with a shared bathroom) in the old city, and two nights on the other side of the river, couchsurfing in the uber metropolitan and trendy Boyoglu region.

The hotel, I'll mention, is the first accommodation we've paid for in nearly seven months of travel.

Our arrival to the city greeted us with beautiful weather, so we spent the day settling in to the flow of city life. We mostly checked out various food shops, drank Turkish coffee, and explored the bustling streets...
istanbul cats
Cat lickfest in front of a shop
Breakfast pastry stuffed with olives
One of Istanbul's many Mosques
The highlight was visiting the Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, which dates back to 1609 and is called so for the blue coloring on the interior tiles.
Lucky for us it stays open past sunset
inside sultanahmet
People still use the mosque for prayer
We ended the night with a quiet dinner at Buhara Ockbasi...
turkish cheese
Starting off dinner with something like puffed pita bread, some crumbled sheep cheese, and butter
istanbul kebab
Our mixed kebab plate with chicken wings, kofte, thin "pizza", chicken, and beef ribs, $15
The next day was cold and rainy, so we watched the Cloud Atlas matinee for only six bucks each, caught up on computer work at the hotel, and went out for dinner and and relaxing evening of smoking hookah and playing backgammon.
baked rice pastry
Dinner at Siirt Seref Buryan Kebap Salon, starting off with perde pilavi, pastry dough stuffed with rice, chicken, currants, and almonds and baked until golden, and two bowlfuls of the delicious Ayran yogurt drink
lamb in istanbul
Siirt Seref is renowned for its Turkish style "pit BBQ" where a side of lamb that is cooked over coals in a hole in the ground. The result is absurdly tender meat and a crispy crunchy layer of fat, if you're lucky
lamb kebab
The melt-in-your-mouth chunks of lamb served over pita
kebab plate istanbul
Another kebap plate (what else?) with ground lamb 
(And I finally decided to give up on hookah and its consistent ability to make me nauseous).
It's aways fun to take pictures of the nauseous girl
You can't act cool if you're not winning, John...
Tomorrow I'll cover our trip to the region of Istanbul across the Bosphorus river and, of course, more amazing eats.
istanbul bay
The guys catching tonight's dinner

Stay hungry!


  1. I am ready to pack my bags! I feel like I'm already there! I will be stopping by Serenade today and will tell Nur to be sure to click on chowgypsy. And eat a piece of her divine chocolate for you....

  2. Great post! Unfortunately, many people have misconceptions about Turkey. That's partly why I started my blog when we moved here 2+ years ago - to share what my daily life is like here in Istanbul. There's so much to see and eat! Check out Istanbul Eats for cheap restaurant recs and stop by Ciya on the Asian side in Kadikoy if you have time. Afiyet olsun!

    1. Thanks so much! It's nice to see you're leading the cause to let people know Turkey isn't some scary place near Syria. Love your blog, and thanks for the advice!

  3. the food looks the best yet...!

  4. What a wonderful post. I have learnt so much from this blog.I like your blog.Thanks for the post.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...