We arrived in Turkey last Thursday. 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 here on the last leg of our trip, after we venture to the coast, eating, shopping, and wandering, mostly in Taksim Square and Istiklal Street. The streets are bustling with people, shops, bars, and restaurants.
We made a few trips to The Grand Bazaar and The Spice Market, so I could practice my carpet bartering skills and pick up a few treats - Turkish Delight and Baklava. The produce was plentiful, cherries, apricots, and figs. My bartering skills, I quickly realized are sub-par, and Turkish Cay (tea) is mostly Red Rose with 2 sugar cubes on the side. They also offer orange, lemon, and apple tea to the tourists, which is crystalized juice in hot water. The apple tastes like cider, but the rest are questionable. 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. 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.