Istanbul: Beyond the Protests

A day or two has easily turned into a week. Here I am, though, ready to deliver on my promise to share some more of what we did in Istanbul. As selfish as this sounds — please forgive me good, democratic people of Turkey — we were thankful that the protests didn’t prevent us from strolling around the city on foot, visiting the historic sites and nibbling various Turkish delicacies.

Our first stop was Galata Tower from which we took in the bird’s-eye view of the city that you saw above.

Followed by the best brunch I’ve had in a long time at Van Kahvalti Evi in the Cihanger neighborhood. So good, in fact, this greedy hand couldn’t wait for me to snap a photo.


One of my two favorite sites was Hagia Sophia, which was the Christian church of Constantinople until the Ottomans took over and converted it into a mosque. 1,500 years of history is stuffed inside…hard to fathom.


Hagia Sophia

Just across from Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque, one of only a few that dot the city skyline.


I kid. Touring Istanbul is like touring Italy. Instead of church after church, it’s mosque after mosque. All are unique with their different Iznik tile patterns, hanging lights, and mimbers. All are worth a visit. Like the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, whose ablution fountains are pictured below.


Speaking of Iznik tiles, you will never see more in one place than in Topkapi Palace, which served as Constantinople’s White House for four hundred years.* Many Ottoman sultans also lived here, a not-too-shabby locale considering its views of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus River, and the Golden Horn.

My second favorite historic site is below, the Chora Church, built around 1100. When the Ottomans took over Constantinople, they whitewashed over the mosaics that decorated the walls of the Byzantine Christian churches. A shame for centuries until the 1940s when this church’s mosaics were discovered and restored.


Visiting all these sites was like taking a 101 History of Istanbul course. I loved every minute of it. Being in Istanbul was like nowhere I’ve been before. I had never experienced the calls to prayer, which sounded off and echoed throughout the city. I didn’t even mind the 4:30 call to prayer that woke me up every morning. I had never had the pleasure of sipping on Turkish tea or coffee at all hours of the day, surrounded mostly by old men, who were either shooting-the-shit or playing backgammon. One guy even got a shave before enjoying his tea.

Often times, a hot Turkish beverage helped me wash down the freshly baked baklava I had just shoveled into my mouth. My mother-in-law may prefer Turkish delight, but I blame baklava for the extra pounds I came home with.

Actually, Turkish food in general was eggscellent…if you are an eggplant lover, you might get sick of it only after a full week in Istanbul. Thanks to a class we took at Cooking Alaturka, we learned how to make a great eggplant dish, not to mention other classic Turkish fare.

By far, the best food we came across — and, yes, I can speak for my significant other on this — was the hard-boiled egg sandwich.  We were introduced to it by the modest vendor below , who had set up shop near the Walls of Theodosius (aka the city walls). Unlike the Great Wall, these substantial stone walls were truly and successfully built to keep people out.  So much so, that I chickened out and refused to climb the stairs to the top of these sixty-five foot high formidable structures, leaving Iggy to go on his own. The sandwich served as his reward and my consolation prize. I’m surprised I never thought of this simple combination myself: pickles, tomatoes, several slices of hard-boiled egg, jalapeno, soft white cheese (like feta) stuffed in a small sub/hot dog like bun and sprinkled with salt. So incredible that I can’t think of anything else I’d rather end this blog post with.

*Happy Birthday, America! Looks like July 4th is turning into a good day for Turkey too.

This entry was published on July 4, 2013 at 7:04 pm. It’s filed under Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “Istanbul: Beyond the Protests

  1. Anna on said:

    The food sections of your blogs are the best!

  2. Great pictures! And I’m hungry now too…

  3. andi reilly on said:

    i liked the architecture of the turkish culture ,so different and those mosques are way cool ,would like to have my kitchen tiled in one of those interesting patterns in lots of colors to add some flair.., the food looks appetizing and i think u r just trying to keep up with ur bro with being a foodie – ha! ha!

    • The apple doesn’t fall far…I took so many photos of the tiles so Iggy can make me some in the future. And, please, i eat with the people of the world; not the chefs.

      • Can he make me some too? I love Arabic and Islamic art! These mosques are beautiful and Hagia Sophia has always been on my must-see-before-death list. So cool!

      • I’ll add your name to the list. Hagia Sophia is a must. Hopefully when you see it, it won’t be under construction.

  4. jinny on said:

    holy shit. pretty july tomatoes, check. sub roll, check. feta, check. eggs, hell yeah check. jalapeños, check… pookie, what kind of pickles? sweet or dill??? cannot wait to try this sucker for lunch tomorrow.

    • You want a sweeter pickle for this culinary wonder. I found Russian-style pickles in our nuclear supermarket (for real that’s its name) that are slightly sweet, yet also a little buttery. They worked well. Enjoy, Pooks!

  5. Wow, fantastic photos! I’ve always wanted to go to Istanbul and this post did nothing but further whet my appetite. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing. P.S. send me a picture of the city walls. 65 feet? damn.

  6. Looks awesome, Pooks! I also love the tiles so tell Igor to get to work! And I’m with Jinny on the sammy….yummmm!

  7. Terrific photos and travelogue, as usual, but now my mimber itches.

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