TRIPPIN’ TO TURKEY ; Part 1.
Isn’t that a cheesy title? I think we are allowed some cheesiness once in a while.
So, I have been meaning to travel for a very long time. What with one thing or other , it’s been 2 years since I went anywhere.
When the chance came up, I chose TURKEY, because of several reasons. ISTANBUL is said to be a place that you should visit at least once in your lifetime. I have seen mind blowing pictures of the balloon rides in Cappadocia, and I wanted that checked off of my bucket list. Turkish donor wraps, shawarmas, kebabs and baklavas have been our favourite while growing up.
It only seemed fitting to travel to this place that sent out such exquisite cuisine to the rest of the world. We were travelling with a 3 year old, so that was also a factor in deciding the destination.
This was all that I knew about Turkey when I started out. I also knew that the Ottomon Turks had a history of rule that lasted for centuries , and that it was a predominantly Muslim country but also had a strong population of Christians and Jews. I had never heard of any of the other cities , or about the different landscapes.
We were all packed and ready to roll for this 7 days and 6 nights trip. I chose to go through a travel agency (houseoftours.com) rather than plan everything myself, because of several reasons that I will not list here. The plan was to visit 3 cities ISTANBUL, ANTALYA and CAPPADOCCIA.
We dropped Pamukkale from the list, as that would have been really hectic. But I regret that decision because Pamukkale is apparently spectacular.
Day 1. 14 June 2019
We arrived at the old Istanbul airport. We reached at 9:00 am . The traffic on the way to our hotel was insane. Granted, it was rush hour but at times the bus was hardly moving. The roads to the city were really clean ,with spectacular glitzy multi-storeyed buildings and well maintained trees along the roadsides.
Our stay was at the Palde Hotel, in the Sirkeci area. It was a really good choice because the area is surrounded by superb restaurants, shops, tram stations, markets, even the Grand Bazaar was easily accessible. The sea of Marmara was also a short walk away.
The city pulsed with energy. There were people everywhere. There was a tram track running through the front of our hotel. And my son, Adam, was really excited to see the colourful trams and the yellow taxis. He had seen them only in miniature so far. The weather was spectacular. Sunny but not too hot or humid.
We had the entire morning to explore the city by ourselves. So, after freshening up, we took a walk around the hotel. There was an Istanbul market a few feet away from the hotel.
There was an Istanbul market a few feet away from the hotel.
They had shops selling rugs, scarves, precious stones, and those wonderful Turkish lamps that givee an enchanting feel to the whole area.
And then they were droolworthy Turkish delight sweet shops. They have to be seen to be believed. The syrupy, gooey, decadent , delicious goodness that Turkish sweets are.
Get an eyeful of this Turkish delight!
The market had several jewellery shops, and the opportunity was too good to pass up. One of the shops, was run by Afghan immigrants who were very happy to show us around the shop. The jewels and stones were breathtaking, each one more spectacular than the other.
I found the Zultanite stone particularly mesmerising. Apparently, these are mined only in the Anatolian mountains of Turkey and are relatively rare. They appeared yellow when I saw them, and that colour itself was eye catching enough for me to consider buying it. But then the shopkeeper, as if imparting a great secret, told me to go outside with the stone and to observe what happens. My curiosity piqued, I went outside, and I gasped in shock as the color turned to a deep pink, and I went into the next shop with dimmer lighting, and the colour changes to a beautiful kiwi green. I had never seen anything like it. Needless, to say I ended up buying an entire set of the Zultanite stones.
By this point, all of us are hungry , and can’t wait to try out the much fabled Turkish cuisine.
We went to a Bistro ( don’t remember the name), looked at the menu and nothing made sense except the word kebab. So, I pointed at random things on the menu and hoped for the best. One thing I knew about , which I ordered was “Menemen” which is a delicious egg and tomato dish.
The Turks serve their food with much drama and flair. Lunch becomes a dining experience. After we had our Turkish breads(pide), salads, fries, served in abundance, along with the kebabs, the handsome Turkish waiters approach a nearby table with a huge covered dish, then the light the entire thing in flames. Yes. You read that correctly.
A show is put on , and all the while I am wondering who that dish is for. Apparently, the dish was covered in salt which was then set alight. After about 5 minutes, the flames are put out, the waiter is done with his theatrics and he walks towards our table with the dish. All of us are so stuffed with kebabs, and everyone turns at me accusingly , and I shrug because I obviously had no idea about the many items I had ordered.
Anyway, the dish was a lamb dish , almost like a lamb curry but differently flavoured , and was so delicious, we all dug into it with relish even with our almost bursting bellies.
And no Turkish meal is complete without either a Baklava/Kunafe and of course, the Turkish tea, served in very cute , glass tumblers.
After a very fulfilling meal, we decided to walk around a bit, to get the digestive juices flowing. On the same road we saw an entranceway, through with lots of people were entering and exiting. It turned out to be a park.
I was completely taken aback by it. The city seemed so crowded , and loud and hectic, and here was this huge space full of greenery just in the middle of it , which was so quiet and peaceful. They were lots of people here just chilling in the shade. SO, FAR Istanbul was offering surprise after surprise.
The evening was booked for the Bosphorus cruise. The city was a sight to see with all the landmark buildings lit up spectacularly.
Turkish dancers were very entertaining, but it was not very different from the some of the previous river cruises I have been on. There’s average food, you see somewhat similar cityscapes, and even if there is a single Indian in sight, they will put on loud Bollywood music. The cruise was for 4 hours and it seemed interminably long.
I was totally knackered by then. Having travelled the previous night, , and sleeping for only a couple of hours. But Adam had different ideas. He absolutely was not ready for bed. So, I took him in his stroller and went for a walk in the streets adjacent to our hotel. It was 1 ‘0’ clock in the night.
But almost all the shops were open, and the streets were buzzing with activity. There was a cafe right outside our hotel, several souvenir shops, a Turkish sweet shop called “Hafiz Mustafa” apparently since 1863.
Perhaps, people like me with chronic insomnia will do really well in cities like these.
We walked around up until 2.30 am when the crowds started to thin out, and decided to call in a night (? a dawn).
Until next time