Monday, 31 May 2010
From the minute I arrived in Istanbul, I have literally had food thrusted in my face from every single possible direction. From taxi drivers offering me sweets during the cab ride, shopkeepers serving up tea with sweet bites to my friends who took me where real Istanbulites eat and even my own experiences whilst taking pictures of various foodie stall, where the owners would want to give me free samples. What a warm and wonderful culture of people the Turks are. I cannot tell you how much this trip has enriched my knowledge and passion for Istanbul and it has made me want to see every inch of this beautiful country.
For the first night of my trip I was alone but my friend Aysegul made sure to send me to the best places for dinner – a funky cosmopolitan roof top restaurant called ‘360’ (an apt reference to the panoramic views overlooking the whole of Istanbul. Amazing cocktails and unparalleled views make ’360’ one of the hottest spots in town. It was only a Wednesday and this place was already heaving. The next day, after visiting the Blue Mosque (known to locals as Sultanahmet Mosque) and also the stunningly beautiful Hayasofia Museum, I tustled through the markets a little and headed back to the neighbourhood near my apartment and met my friend again for dinner. She took me to another funky rooftop bar lounge called ‘Midpoint’ in the bustling pedestrian streets of ‘Istiklal’ near Taksim Square and after a few Mojitos we headed to ‘Leb-e-Derya’ which means ‘By the sea’ for some wonderful modern Turkish cuisine overlooking the night lights of the city below.
The following morning, we go to Ortakoy right by the water for a traditional Turkish breakfast (pictured above) right next to the water’s edge on a bright and sunny day. We take a one hour boat ride around the Bosphorus and I see beautiful houses, palaces, an historic castle and I enjoy the unique experience of seeing two different continents at the very same time – with Asia on my right and Europe on my left, it really is something I will never forget and I am very glad had the opportunity to see it for myself.
In the evening we head to the ever-so-trendy ‘Lucca’ bar and restaurant in ‘Bebek’ which reminds me of the funky pavement cafés and bar of La Croisette in Cannes, which the uber-chic well heeled locals, rich kids and glamourous locals clamber to drink, eat and mostly, of course, see and be seen. Aysegul plies me with one of their famous ‘Satsuma’ Vodka cocktails, which leads to another and another and as the joint gets packed out, the music gets louder and I find myself in the party swing. I feel like a local, the whole experience is beginning to feel strangely familiar to me, like I’ve been here before. I love it and I can’t wait to make it a regular destination on my list of regular places to escape to. For dinner we head to ‘Vira Vira’a great and famous seafood restaurant owned by some famous singer or move star type. It’s not a showy place at all, which I like a lot but it is teeming with locals and the food is fantastic. Bottles of tiple distilled local hooch ‘Raki’ (pronounced ‘Raku’) line the shelves and cabinets and seem to be on every single table in the restaurant. Raki is a traditional aniseed-flavoured alcoholic beverage that traditionally accompanies Meze here in Turkey. It is consumed in great quantities, yet slowly slipped throughout a meal, just like wine. Our waiter Huseyin is absolutely lovely and is enthused at the sight of my camera and asks if I will write about him – so special mention to my friend Huseyin at ‘Vira Vira’ on the sea front.
Extremely tipsy and full of the joys of a Friday night we head back to my apartment, twisting and turning through all the ridiculously narrow streets, both uphill and down and we end up back at my apartment and enjoy the warm evening on the roof terrace, chilling and listening to music and laughing, half in English and half in Turkish as now there are more of us – The evening ends at 2:30am, which is a very early night I’m told. Some of our guests continue on to clubs to party til 7am! More stamina than I have, I’m afraid.
In the morning, I wake up with a sore head and fix myself a nice cup of tea with local bread topped with ‘Peynir’ (cheese) and a generous drizzling of honey. I would like to point out that this is a traditional breakfast for many countries, including Turkey and my own country Iran, especially when coupled with tea. It is my last day and I visit the insanely busy spice market, buy some lovely serving plates, take some more pictures and then when the heavens open up I go back to the apartment, stopping to grab some food from a local restaurant and I eat my final meal in the comfort of my apartment away from the flooded streets and heavy downpour – and what a meal it was! Stuffed vine leaves filled with meat and rice (Dolma), aubergines and garlic (Imam Biyaldi) and delicious lamb patties (Kofte).
If you are looking for somewhere nice to go away to, then Istanbul is the place. Beaches, Islands, restaurants, markets, museums, Mosques and so much more to see that one trip just isn’t enough! For me, for now, Istanbul will have to wait until 2011 for my next visit, but next time I will definitely be staying longer and will plan to see more than I could this time round. Istanbul is most definitely my new addiction and I cant get enough.
'Vira Vira' Seafood Restaurant (Besiktas) -
'Lucca' Restaurant/Bar (Bebek)-
'360' Restaurant/Bar (Tasksim) -
'Midpoint' Restaurant/Bar (Taksim)-
'Leb-i-Derya' Restaurant (Taksim)-
Posted by Sabrina Ghayour at 12:04