Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Istanbul: Final Thoughts

We took full advantage of the great weather in Istanbul by taking a cruise up the Bosphorus Strait to the Asian side of the city. Our Rick Steves guidebook had a good tip for us: take the public ferry from Istanbul rather than hiring a private tour. The ferry only costs 25 Lira ($11.80) for a round-trip. The boat takes you nearly to the edge of the Black Sea, where you stop for lunch in Anadolu Kavagi, an Asian fishing village. It was really nice seeing the major landmarks like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia from the water.

Rumelihisari Fortress


Another big hit for us was the Topkapi Palace, which was home to the Ottoman Sultans for more than 400 years. Make sure to buy a ticket to the Harem too; it was my favorite part. I learned a really interesting fact about the women who made up the harem: the Sultan was not allowed to sleep with them at will. The Sultan had up to four wives, and could choose a couple of "favorites" from the harem. The rest were strictly off-limits.

The palace gardens were beautiful, and the tile work throughout was absolutely stunning. The terrace, with its views of the Bosphorus, was a great place for a quick snack.

I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the food in Turkey. It was extremely vegetarian friendly, and even the simple dishes were bursting with flavor. I loved borek (a baked savory pastry filled with cheese), menemen (a dish similar to shakshuka), and surprisingly the Turkish Delight (known as lokum). I always thought I hated that candy since I associate it with an overpowering floral flavor. It turns out that there are many other flavors of lokum, including strawberry; chocolate pistachio; and pomegranate.

Trust me when I say I sampled pretty much every lokum in the city, and the best one by far was at Hafiz Mustafa 1864. We actually stopped there a few times because their desserts were so delicious.

All-in-all, it was a very successful trip--Zoey's first to Asia!

Read more about our trip to Istanbul:
Exploring Istanbul
Istanbul: Mosques and Markets

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