Sunday, August 31, 2014

Istanbul Flashbacks

Waah so I have a lot of catching up to do, you guys. I am currently in Boston (in the States? What??), but before I get to that I'm gonna jump back to my week in Istanbul.

I seriously loved that city. I was there back in the beginning of July visiting my wonderful Moroccan friend from my days in Tangier part one, who moved to Istanbul about 8 months ago. Currently, he's teaching English classes, being passed off as an American from LA. Classy. So while he was working, I was out exploring on my own and he got to show me his favorite nooks and crannies on the weekend.

Let me tell you, there was an overwhelming amount to see. And most importantly, eat.

My friend was lucky enough to live relatively within walking distance (I say relatively meaning like 20 minutes, but I'm a crazy fast-walker) to the hip, bustling Taksim Square. So my first sights were wandering around the big open center and off onto the crowded shop-laden side streets.

Here I discovered a shop with the best Turkish Delight I've ever had called Haci Bekir, watched some guy make a whole show out of serving a little girl a scoop of ice cream, went to some great little local bars with my friend, and ate a lot of street food- my favorite being these clam shells stuffed with rice, clam meat & spices with a squeeze of lemon. Everyone I tell this to says "oh my god, you ate seafood from the street??" Meh. It was delicious and I'm still alive.

Later in the week my friend took me to a restaurant also around the Taksim area that had the most amaaazing Turkish food that was like stuff your imaginary Turkish mother would make you. There's a whole buffet of dishes to choose from and you can pick up to 5 for a ridiculously cheap price.

Most of the more touristy things I did on my own, and honestly found them to be a bit underwhelming. I saw the Aya Sofya Mosque from the outside which was lovely, but didn't want to wait in line (bein' lazy), especially when you could just breeze on into the blue mosque. So I opted to go into that one instead, which was stunning with intricate blue and red tile-work and lush carpets. The area around these mosques, however, had a few too many aggressive tour guides and vendors yelling at me for my taste.

The Grand Bazaar was near there too- I meandered through the narrow arches for a bit and almost bought a lamp.

I did go on a great boat tour that was just 10 lira and took you around both the European and Asian coastlines for about an hour and a half. You get to see astonishingly intricate palaces and beautiful beachside homes. Plus getting off your feet for that long is the best.

After Rome the week before, I didn't really feel a burning need to go see more museums, but I did check out Istanbul Modern one afternoon. The general collection wasn't exactly my thing, but there was a photography exhibit comparing old and new Istanbul that was beautiful and definitely worth the trip.

Also, if you're down in that area near the museum, walk around and maybe you'll stumble on this awesome staircase, surreptitiously wedged between two large buildings:

Last but not least- do not leave Istanbul without trying the best baklava you will have in your life at this place.

No I did not eat all of that by myself. But I could have.

Anyway, that's all just my humble advice & experience in Istanbul. Go see this city for yourself and tell me what I missed, for next time.