We arrived in Turkey last Thursday, a week today. The air is less humid than Croatia, but the sun still warms our skin, and shelter must be taken from 12 - 2 pm. Istanbul is exciting and vibrant, with a constant buzz in the air. We plan to spend 3 more days there on the last part of our trip, eating, shopping, and wandering, mostly in Taksim Square and Istiklal Street. These areas are bustling with people, shops, bars, and restaurants, my favorite part of the city.
The street food in Istanbul is plentiful. Grilled corn on the cob, mussels with lemon, roasted chestnuts, fresh squeezed orange juice, pastries, pretzels, and toffee on a stick. The toffee is pulled and stretched and wrapped around a wooden stick, and then treated with lemon. It was extremely sweet and sticky, likely to pull out a filling.
A few of the popular spots, Aya Sofia, The Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern are a must see. Scenes from James Bond were filmed in the Basilica Cistern, an eerie underground basilica set on top of water, with swimming koi fish and two statues of Medusa.
I completely adore the food in Turkey, the traditional breakfast consisting of boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, bread, jam, hazelnut butter, and fruit. Each meal is served with a fresh basket of crusty bread and finished with a glass of cay. Menemen is a Turkish dish made up from eggs, tomatoes, and peppers. It is always served in the dish that it is made, and you will find yourself eating every last piece of bread to wipe the bowl clean. Vegetarian food is easy to come by, usually we order a variety of mezes, a selection of small appetizers. Dolmades, spiced rice wrapped in grape leaves and marinated, hummus, egg plant, borek. It is all so tasty. If you are a meat eater, I hear the shawrma is a treat.
Turkish coffee is a must try, but will likely be a one time event. It is thick, strong, and feels as though it should be eaten with a spoon opposed to drank. I've tried every variety of Turkish delight, strawberry and pistachio being my favorite. Turkish ice cream is also a must try, with its resistance to melting and marshmallow type consistency. For this reason, men in funny hats will stand on the street corners churning the ice cream with long paddles to keep it workable.
I learned the hard way that too much fresh squeezed orange juice will result in either painful heartburn or a mouth full of canker sour. Or both.
The past few days have been spent in Cappadocia, an area filled with tall pillars and volcanic peaks. The rock stays cool during the day, and for this reason people have built their homes into it. We are staying in a hotel situated in a cave, if you prefer, you could potentially opt for the fairy chimney or hoodoo, a tall peak of rock that protrudes from the ground. Cappadocia is similar to the Badlands in North America, except people actually live in the hoodoos here. The best way to see the area is a morning sunrise hot air balloon ride, which is quite possibly the best experience of my life. It was something extremely magical, lifting in the air, helium and fire, with 50 other balloons. Rising above the mountain range, the sun peaking its way out.
So far, Turkey has treated me well. The people are extremely hospitable. Every engagement or encounter is accompanied by a cup of tea. The food is amazing, rich, and full of history.