Life has been a bit hectic lately with a lot of back to back traveling and very little time to experiment in my own kitchen. Since I’ve mostly been cooking last minute meals and quick fix dinners, I don’t have a delicious food post for you today. Instead I’ll show you a bit of Istanbul, our latest adventure, through my eyes!
This visit to Istanbul was for a lovely wedding of a couple good friends of ours. I won’t go into too much detail about the wedding, let’s just say it involved a lot of alcohol and a long night of crazy Turkish dancing. I’ve had the pleasure visiting Istanbul before, exploring all the beautiful tourist sights, so this trip was all about exploring the more local areas and diving into the culture. I’m so glad we had time to see the other side of Istanbul, as it is so different to the Sultanamet area and equally as inspiring.
As hectic as Istanbul is, the streets of Karaköy offer a tiny bit of tranquilly among the chaos. There are really great pockets of restaurants and cafés scattered along the area which are perfect to spend the afternoon watching the world go by. One of my favorite days was wandering around the Karaköy area and meeting all the young shop owners, chefs and cafe servers. I really love the air of opportunity in this part of Istanbul. There is so much design and progression everywhere and it shows that the younger generation is embracing the opportunity to participate in the global design community. Every young person you talk to is excited to ask questions and have a quick conversation with you. I was lucky to meet two ladies who just started their new candle company using all local and natural ingredients. Of course I had made space in my suitcase for a few of these beauties.
The food is also something not to be missed. There is much more to Turkish cuisine than just the humble doner kebab which can be found on just about every street corner (though you must have at least one of these to keep you going!). Turkish pidas which are very much like pizzas without the tomatoes are oven baked and very delicious as well as the chicken kebabs which are so flavorful. However, my favorite has to be the mezzes. It’s hard not to order everything on the menu at once, but I haven’t met a mezze that I didn’t like! The grilled eggplant with tahini and yogurt, cauliflower with almonds, roasted pepper and walnut dip, hummus or tomatoes with sumac. All eaten with a delicious bit of Turkish bread. So many options and never enough space in my stomach! Make sure you have a bit of Kunife and try one of the roasted corn on the cobs from a street vendor. I’m positive you won’t leave this city feeling hungry!
A visit to Sultanahmet is a must if you are in Istanbul. The Blue Mosque is beautiful inside and out and the Hagia Sofia is so much bigger closer up than you would think! The Grand Bazaar is a world of its own and full of interesting stalls ranging from jewelry and handbags to trinkets. It’s easy to get lost, but that’s part of the fun. The spice market definitely hits your nose before you even enter and is filled with spices, teas and dried fruits along with the stall vendors shouting friendly jibes at you. This whole part of Istanbul is beautiful and full of life. It is very well kept and relatively modernized. The streets are clean and buildings are renovated nicely which contrasts greatly with the other areas of Istanbul where a little bit of crumbling adds to the chaos and the charm.
The waterfront is very much an important part of the city life. All along the coast people gather and have picnics, go for walks, go fishing and a sometimes a quick dip and the street vendors set up shop and sell everything from chestnuts to fresh mussels with a slice of lemon. My recommendation would be to avoid the crowded and long boat tours and instead spend a day driving up and down the coast if you can, as the views are beautiful and you still get to see a bit of the city life too. There are some beautiful areas just north of Karaköy and a lovely promenade to have a walk or even a picnic.
My favorite part of traveling is trying to capture the true feeling of the cities. Through food, through the architecture, the people and through my camera. It’s immensely harder when in such expansive cities like Istanbul, but it’s a challenge nonetheless. Istanbul is just huge. It extents on for miles and miles and it seems as though you’ll never reach the city limits in any direction. It’s just amazing how many people live here. It is very much a link between Europe and Asia and you can see this through the culture, the people and the way of life in this city. I joke with my husband since he hasn’t yet had the chance to visit Asia that this is just the first step. Things get much more chaotic the further east you go!
I had a lovely time exploring this city and taking in the sights, smells and celebrating a beautiful wedding with friends. I can’t wait to experiment with some of the spices and flavors so stay tuned for some new recipes!
Where We Stayed
Mama Shelter – Great concept with a lot of quirk and life. Great to hang out in the very funky common areas and escape the city to lovely calm rooms. The rooftop is the most amazing as it sits atop the 7th left and has a perfect 360° view of the waterfront, Blue Mosque and the rest of the city. HUSEYIN AĞA MAHALLESI
İSTIKLAL CADDESI No:50-54
Where We Ate & Drank
Kota Cafe – Great location in Karaköy and has a lovely Turkish coffee. Lüleci Hendek Cad. No.25 Tophane
Mum’s Cafe – Amazing homemade Iced Tea! Perfect when it’s so hot outside! Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi Fransız Geçidi Sokak Kapı: 1 Daire:16
Unter – Lovely restaurant serving up a modern take on Turkish food. Try the Kokorec (roasted lamb intestines with peppers served on a brioche bun) which was highly recommended by the chef and the Captain Ginger cocktail. Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mh., Karaali Kaptan Sk No:4
Antiochia – Great place for mezzes and delicious kebab! Try the chicken kebabs and the Eggplant with yogurt sauce. Asmalı Mescit Mh. Minare Sk No:21
Munferit – Great design inside and really great mezze dishes to share. Try the Fried Eggplant with Tahini, Cauliflower with Almonds and the Black Couscous with Calamari. The food was amazing but the service could have been a bit better. Yeni Carsi Cad. No:19, Galatasaray, 34425 İstanbul
Mama Shelter Rooftop – Amazing views and great cocktails with a live DJ on the weekends. HUSEYIN AĞA MAHALLESI İSTIKLAL CADDESI No:50-5