Highlights of Istanbul
Fun for the Taste Buds
As is usually the case in our travels exploring the fragrant flavor so Istanbul was at the top of the priority list. Given that meat off the Döner kebab (meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie) is the grandfather to our beloved tacos al pastor that we enjoy so very much in Mexico, it seemed an obvious choice for our first bite of street food. After an inaugural Döner kebab in a wrap – delicious indeed – Luis moved on up to another type of Döner, one of lamb tripe, roasted horizontally. We continued on the Döner kebab trail throughout our Balkans journey, but none compared those first few we enjoyed in Istanbul.
The Turkish Breakfast
One thing’s for certain – the Turkish know how to go to town when they break their morning fast. The classic breakfast is huge, with loads of cheese varieties, breads, olives, cucumbers, cream, jams and honey. Plus, a bottomless cuppa.
A Meal with Friends
We had the pleasure of having an old friend of Luis’s take us out for dinner one evening, giving us a chance to try a smorgasbord of Turkish flavors. A variety of grilled meats, chilies, eggplant, all served on a giant pile of fluffy bulgar. All washed down with ayran, a frothy drink of yogurt blended with water and a little salt.
The Turkish Delight
While I’m no fan of sweets, the Turks most certainly are. Pistachio and walnut are top ingredients of choice, made into all sorts of sweet nuggets. Paired with a strong Turkish coffee and dessert is served!
The Urban Hustle & Bustle
Another highlight was the urban hustle and bustle felt throughout Istanbul with pockets of calm and quiet scattered throughout. I know this exists in all urban centers but in a city like this where the hustle and bustle felt so intense it felt extra serene when a quiet corner was found.
History & Religion
Grand. That’s really all that needs to be said about exploring the buildings and monuments of Istanbul. The majestic Blue Mosque is quite impressive to walk into. The details. The quiet and at the same time the constant distant sound of the humming of prayers. So many people and rows and rows of shoes. And the way the light flickers through the stained glass!!
Hagia Sofia has seen it all. Built as a cathedral in the 6th century when the city was still known as Constantinople. It survived fires and then became a mosque with the addition of the spires. And now, it’s open to the public as a museum. Most interesting was seeing relics from both religions intermixed as some of the original frescoes and pieces from its time as a cathedral weren’t completely removed, rather added too.
The Cats of Istanbul
And last but not least, the cats of Istanbul. There were cats absolutely everywhere. At first I was confused as they seemed to have no owner, but were clean and well fed. As time went on several times I saw people setting out kitty food for the street cats on doorsteps and street corners. Later, when we dined with friends, it was explained to us that cats are a sacred animal in Islam and that is why they are well treated and live like kings, roaming where they please.