Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Notes from Istanbul

Istanbul. Two treasures not in the Topkapi Palace. Kuru Fasulye & Kaymak. Yes this city is a fascinating blend of vigorous urbanism, Europe, Asia, splendid architecture & quarters ranging from upscale to in-the-ages. But sometimes it is those simply surprisingly delicious things that impress deeply.

My 'foodie' treats of this trip are ultra rich kaymak, a creme fraiche from water buffalo milk served with deeply flavored honey, and, checking out the versions of kuru fasulye (white beans in butter-tomato sauce). Both sound simple, both are utterly delicious. Of course this is just the tip of the foodie iceberg. Turkish food is flavorful and varied. Generally very good quality and very affordable.
Check out for great foodie tips all over town. This is proving to be an excellent resource.

I've been back to my favorite, the ever superb Ciya Sofrasi in Kadikoy on the Asian side twice for utterly delicious meals, but have found several new places I count as favorites during this trip. It is hard not to eat well (and reasonably) here.

Istanbul is legendary for shopping. The textiles are beautiful, patterned tiles, clothing, leathergoods, jewelry, glassware, porcelain, endless gorgeous scarves... it just goes on and on. I found a shop yesterday near Taksim Square off Iskital Caddessi that is a little different. Nahd is a gift shop and consignment shop run by women to support over 20 women's cooperatives around Turkey. This cute little shop stocks beautiful handmade soaps, handmade baby clothes, crafts items and decorative objects.

The consignment area had a great bin of lovely scarves for 5 lira each and also had racks of nice quality jackets, blouses, dresses and such. This is a great place to support women's development projects with your gift shopping lira. The address is Bekar Sokak no. 17.

The ever bustling Iskital Caddessi is a half block away and is an avenue that is chock full of interesting shops and cafes, galleries and covered passages. If you continue down Iskital towards Tunel watch for Ipek on the right after you pass Galatasary Lycee. Ipek has the most beautiful silk scarves and neckties... prices are very fair, the quality is just gorgeous, and most are made in Bursa, a historic center for fine silk and textile making. Food and scarves. I'm happy. And that's before we ride the Bosphorous ferries under a full moon, visit the fabulous monuments like Aya Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Spice Market, the almost-overwhelming Grand Bazaar and simply walk, walk, walk and explore this remarkable city.

Take the walk from Taksim Square all the way down Iskital to Tunel (where the trendy and fun Asmailescit neighborhood is loaded with good bars, restaurants, clubs and shopping). This is a terrific part of Beyoglu on the European side of Istanbul.

Check out my new Istanbul.Ephesus.Cappodocia tour on
The first tour in April is full but pending interest I can schedule a second in the fall. Istanbul is amazing. Come experience it!

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