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 Mediterranean Cruise 2008 - 10/14 - Istanbul Day 3

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10/14 - Istanbul 3
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Today was our free day to roam Istanbul. Our parents, who were staying near the historic district (Sultanahmet) on the south European side, went to the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Spice Market. My sister and I, staying near the young, modern business district (Beyoglu) on the north European side, elected to explore modern Istanbul before venturing to the Spice Market. After being directed to the bus station by the concierge, we set off on foot.

Since the W doesn't have free breakfast or a concierge lounge, we decided to scope out a local eatery on our way to the bus. We found a pita shop called Karadeniz. I don't remember the exact location but the address appeared to be 50 and it was on Catlak Cesme Sokak. The staff didn't speak much English but they invited us in anyway. We watched as their baker made Ramazan Pidesi (Ramadan Pitas) at lightning speed, tossed them into the wood fired brick oven for a few minutes then extracted them, boxed them up and gave them to the delivery scooter driver.

We ordered a lahmacun, pita spread with ground lamb and spices before being baked and a tomato cucumber salad, as recommended by the owner/waiter. I also saw a large beverage dispenser filled with a white liquid. I pointed to it and the owner replied "aryran." I was hoping for sahlep, but decided to try it anyway. After looking at the menu, I found ayran with a picture of fruit yogurt on it. Basically it was an unsweetened yogurt drink, much like an Indian plain lassi.

After breakfast, the owner pointed us up a hill toward the bus stop we needed. Along the way we asked an Asian (of Eastern, Oriental descent) for directions. I was a little surprised when he didn't seem to know English but that's a pretty arrogant expectation on my part. He pointed us further up the hill and said "Thirty." We thought he meant 30 meters and were starting to doubt his direction after 100 meters or so. We exited a small park and suddenly found ourselves on a large, busy street where we found a bus stop with the number 30 on it. After asking if we could get to our destination, Istiklal Caddessi (Independence Avenue) a nice lady indicated we were in the right spot.

Five minutes later, bus 30 came along and we followed the lady onto the bus at which point the lady stopped and waved us off the bus. She turned to the bus driver and asked a question, then turned back to us and said, "Istiklal, no." Then the bus closed it's doors and left us. We were a bit confused until we asked another man who also didn't speak English but he indicated a different bus number (sorry, I don't remember what the right number is) and so we sat and waited for a good 20 more minutes before the correct bus came.

After a mere 10 minute ride (we probably could have walked) we arrived at Taksim square on the east end of Istiklal. In the center of the square was the Cumhuriyet Aniti or Republic Monument, commemorating the formation of the Turkish Republic and Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, the father of the Turkish Republic. Between the square and the end of Istiklal is the Taksim reservoir. Taksim means "division" or "distribution" and this reservoir once served as the central gathering and distribution point for northern Istanbul (hence the name Taksim Square).

Istiklal was a busy and bustling place with shops, vendors, cafes and restaurants on both sides. The large road, approximately four lanes across, is for pedestrians only, except for a ground level tram line that runs in the center. Shops range from high end fashion to Western fast food to century old establishments, while lacking some of the tourist traps common in the historical district.

After a stop at Saray Muhallabecisi for baklava, kataifi and other baked goods, we also stopped at Ali Muhaddin Haci Bekir for Turkish Delight and Halva. I also stopped at a random shop for dried mulberries and local chocolate variations. We also walked by Mado which makes sahlep ice cream but we weren't hungry enough to have any. Upon reaching the opposite end of Istiklal, we found the subway station for Tunel, a one stop train to Karakoy where we could transfer to the main tram line that we took before.

Our next stop was the Egyptian Spice Market where we took a little rest room break. For 0.50 YTL (just under 50 cents) you received entrance to the rest room and, if you needed paper, a single small square beverage napkin.

Inside the Spice Market is a dimly lit L-shaped hallway full of shopping tourists. There were shops for spices, pastries, honey, snacks, purses, cheese, caviar, clothing and plenty of other things. We ran into some of the parents who indicated that our parents were searching for caviar. We never managed to find them so we continued on our own. My sister picked up a purse, I picked up some honey.

We also found Gulluoglu, a famous baklavaci (balkava bakery). There they had plain baklava or baklava with walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds or pecans. They also had kataifi and other baked desserts. It was hot and crowded in this tiny shop which made ordering a bit of an adventure but we eventually got a box of goodies.

Once we had finished exploring the inside of the Spice Market, we left via the exit at the bottom corner of the "L," and discovered tons more shops with tons more crowds, but I was looking for a specific shop, Namli Pastirmaci. It turned out to be a big store with tons of food products, including their flagship pastrami, many examples of which were hanging from the ceiling and walls as they cured.

Once we finished all of our shopping, we took the tram again to the Cemberlitas stop and walked to our parents' hotel. Unlike the W, their room was quite small and due to a malfunctioning air conditioner, their room was boiling hot, despite it being quite cool outside. We dropped off some stuff that we didn't want to lug back to the W and then we went out for dinner.

We walked towards Sultanahmet looking for restaurants. There was a decent looking seafood restaurant just a block from their hotel but we decided to keep looking for other local cuisines. We ended up walking a good 15 minutes and found ourselves near the tourist traps of Sultanahmet and decided to turn around and check out Ortaklara, a kofte restaurant we had passed. It turned out to be a pretty good choice as the restaurant had good pita bread, lahmacun and meat dishes. The entrees all tasted a bit similar with tangy tomato and yogurt sauces, but they were still good.

After dinner we dropped our parents back at their hotel then took the tram to it's northern point, Kabatas, where we got a taxi the rest of the way to the W. Including a generous tip we paid 15 YTL (just over $10), reasonable for two people. After dropping our stuff off, we decided to walk to a super market to pick up some drinks. The W is located at the edge of a high class shopping area surrounded by fancy hotels so we got to see lots of famous stores, including Jimmy Choo's, although the only reason I know him is because his son Danny Choo is the Dancing Stormtroooper in Tokyo.

At the supermarket we discovered that manti is so popular you can get it in bulk, along with halva and all your standard deli items. After picking up some drinks, we returned to the hotel to get some rest as we prepared to head back home in the morning.

10/14 pictures are here.
Posted 01/23/2009 00:56 AM in Food, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel, Turkey | Total Comments: (0)
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On our free day in Istanbul, my sister decided to explore the young modern area of Istanbul, located on the north of the European side. We decided to take a bus and found this Karadeniz pita store on the way. I don't remember the exact location but the address appears to be 50 Catlak Cesme Sokak. Here you can see the baker making Ramazan pidesi (Ramadan pita bread) and baking them in a wood oven. He made several types of bread and many of them were boxed up and given to the delivery scooter driver waiting outside.

     
The menu, conveniently displayed under the glass table tops.   Some pita for our table.   Selection of meats and cheeses available.   A nice tomato, cucumber and pepper salad. The tomatoes were delicious, though it could have used a little more of the vinaigrette.

     
Ayran (yogurt) drink, much like an unsweetened Indian Lassi   Some Lahmacun: a pita spread with ground spiced lamb then baked. Very tasty, though the lamb was milder than expected. The pita was perfectly stone cooked with a nice chewy texture and slight crispiness on the outside.   We took a bus to Istiklal Caddesi. Despite being told to take bus 30, this was NOT the correct line. I forgot which one is, but at least you know it's not 30.   The Cumhuriyet Aniti or Republic Monument commemorates the formation of the Turkish Republic with Ataturk, the founder of Turkey, standing in front.

     
The monument is located in the center of Taksim Square.   This is the taksim reservoir (which means "division" or "distribution") which once served as the central collection and distribution point for water lines in northern Istanbul.   Istiklal Caddesi, which means Independence Avenue, is the center of the young modern shopping area in Beyoglu. Primarily a pedway, it is surrounded by restaurants and shops and is quite busy.

     
There were lots of shops with great looking food but we weren't hungry enough to have any.   Even McDonald's serves Kofte burgers.   More kumpir, but this one is smaller than the one we had.

     
Carts selling roasted chestnuts were very common.   Real candy apples with the sugar coating actually dropping off...   Lots of dried snacks   Dried mulberries. They were obviously qutie natural as they had lots of twigs and a couple of them tasted a bit... off. Otherwise they were pretty tasty.

     
Dark chocolote with Uzumlu (raisins), Bademli (almonds) and Findikli (hazelnuts)   Various chocolate flavors. The middle one, fistikli, is pistachio.   More chocolate, the middle one, Siyah, means "black" although I didnt' find it particularly dark.   I guy was handing this out. I believe Wagamama is an Asian fusion chain from the UK.

     
Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir, a famous candy maker with history dating back to 1777.   The candy counter with Turkish Delight on the bottom and plenty of other delights on top.   One of their famous products is Tahin Helvasi. Tahin (tahini) means sesame and helvasi means nougat, so this is a sesame based halva. Traditionally it was made in large cones, though it is now made in blocks.

     
The store front window with lots of goodies on display.   A box of assorted Turkish Delight. It's packed in powdered sugar, so I dumped it out for this picture. In this box are rose, pistachio, hazlenut and one other flavor I wasn't sure of.   Saray Muhallebicisi is a famous bakery. The name means "Rosewater Pudding Palace"

     
A tower of kataifi, similar to baklava.   Lots of kataifi, baklava and other sweets

     
More baklava.   Inside they also have a counter full of other pastries and bakery items.   Some kataifi and another pistachio sweet that we got.

       
An ekmek (bread) dessert soaked in syrup and topped with Turkish ricotta.   A profiterole, giant cream puff smothered with dark fudge.   The Tunel, a two-stop subway line that runs from the west end of Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu to the Karakoy tram stop where we could transfer back to the T1 tramline that we used the previous day.

     
Just as we did the previous day, we took the tram from Karakoy to Eminonu and walked around the mosque to arrive at the Egyptian Spice Market, a busy market place known for spices, caviar, turkish delight, honey and lots of other things.   Outside the market were also lots of vendors selling meat and fruit. On the left are lots of decorative cactii. On the right is a squash labelled Kudret which means power, might or force. Below is a list of ailments that I assume the squash is supposed to heal: Mide ulseri means gastric ulcer, nefes darligi is asthma, seker hastaligi means diabetes and bronosit is bronchitis.

     
One of many honey displays   Turkish cheeses   More nut-based sweets   Entrance to Gulluoglu a famous baklavaci

     
Lots and lots of baklava! On a side note, we found that most baklava in Turkey has a slight goaty flavor to it. Baklava considered the "best" is often made with goat or sheeps milk fat (butter). While the baklava was very good, I think I like plain cow's butter more...   Gulluoglu has received wide acclaim, including some from American publications

     
There was actually more shopping to do outside of the spice market but this particular shop, Namli Pastirmaci, came highly recommended for their pastrami and other products. They have a special spicy rub that they use to make their pastrami which is hanging all around the shop. I bought a half kilo of the pastrami along with a half kilo of manti (lamb dumplings).

     
Some cumin spice mixes. On the left is one with pastrami (pastirmaci), middle is plain (sade) and right is walnut (cevizli)   Hazelnut Butter (findik = hazelnut, ezmesi = nut butter)   Incir (fig) tatlisi (dumpling or syrup soaked dessert).   All sorts of food.

   
Lots more food including several mezes like those we saw at the restaurant yesterday..   And instant ramen of course... it's everywhere!   Close up of the fig dumpling

     
After meeting up with our parents we wandered around the hotel for dinner and settled on this kofte restaurant   A really yummy pita that was completely hollow, kind of like a rugby ball!

     
More lahmacun, this time served with veggies and lemons to make a little pita sandwich.   More ramazon pidesi

     
Kofte platter. Savory kofte spiced meat over cous cous served with soggy fries (a common style in Turkey)   Tangy, spicy lamb with yogurt sauce. Tasty but a bit on the sour side.   Tangy, spicy beef with dumplings (bread chunks) and yogurt on the side. This tasted pretty much like the lamb one...   That's some high class bottled restaurant water.

     
Osetra (Sturgeon) Caviar from the Spice Market. I'm no connoisseur and know very little about caviar (aside from Japanese masago and ikura). This stuff was very mild, smooth and pleasantly salty. I can only assume it's pretty good mid level stuff (my dad bought some expensive stuff too but we didn't try it).   After dinner we returned to the W hotel. We decided to walk to a local super market for some drinks. On our way we passed Jimmy Choo shoes, although the only reason I know him is because his son Danny Choo is the Dancing Stormtroooper in Tokyo

     
It turns out that the W is at the edge of a fancy shopping district.   This supermarket didn't quite fit in with the other high class shops...   More tahin helvasi (sesame halva) along with some Tost (toast)

     
More manti, available in bulk at the supermarket   Turkish Cola! Tastes pretty much like any canned cola... probably more Pepsi-ish than Coke-ish though.   Cappuccino Cola Turka, like a mellow Coca-Cola Blak except not as tasty. I'd take Coca-Cola Blak over this if it weren't discontinued.   Efes Pilsen, a Turkish beer. I did not try it though.

   
Returning to the W   Reception to the left, main entrance ahead.   Crystal decor in the elevator.

     
Nice button-less elevator controls   The hotel lounge.   The hotel bar.

       
Bronze stairs from the bar to the lobby.   Turkish clothing display in the elevator lobby.   Chocolate truffles waiting on our bed.    

 

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