Okey Dokey. We're back in Istanbul and we're really enjoying ourselves. Istanbul is such a cool city. After getting settled in our room, we made our way to a part of the city we hadn't explored before. See, Turkey lays on two continents. Part of it is in Europe, and across the Bosphorous is the Asian Continent. So, we visited the Asian side our first night back to meet up with Emily and Neil, our buddies from Cappadocia.
The Asian side of Istanbul was very different from the European side. It was lively, even more friendly, and there was just a buzz in the air. There were people performing in the street, locals hanging out on corners, and way less tourists. It was homey. The Asian side has character. Something we saw right off the boat and continued to see were these people with large metal buckets filled with mussels. Wow, we're going to have to try that. But, maybe in a restaurant. We're told they are cooked with rice and raisins on the inside. You squirt lemon on them and viola!
Emily had cleverly made a reservation at Ciya Restaurant. She had heard about it on Trip Advisor and heard it was delicious. And, delicious it was! You start out by visiting the 'meze bar'. What is this? Well, it is a self serve, pay by weight, salad bar, but not salad like Sizzler. It's all Turkish salads. There were choices with eggplant and parsley and those were really good, but I think the winner was this greens salad with some sort of lemony drizzle on it. Then, you head up to an entree counter where you can choose between delicious Turkish fare with combinations like chic pea soup in a yogurt dill broth or pureed eggplant and yogurt with lamb stew on top (obviously I like yogurt). There were so many tasty dishes to try, and we tried a lot of them. Dessert was interesting. Emily had heard that they had an eggplant dessert that was supposed to be awesome. It was interesting. It was kind of like a small candied eggplant and they accompanied it with a type of whipped cream. I wasn't a huge fan. There was, also, a layered dough, but it was milky, and that was traditional for Ramadan, it was interesting. My personal favorite were these little powdered sugar topped round cookies with a fruit (perhaps fig) filing inside. It was simple but delicious.
We then found our way down the street to have a tower of beer and nargile. What? Nargile is what the Turks call hooka (aka water pipe). It was really nice to hang out with travelers. It's, also, kinda funny that they're both 'from' Colorado. I hope we continue to meet cool people from all over the world. It's nice to trade stories and share differences from home.
While we were drinking a man pushing a cart with a rabbit and a baby rabbit walked by our table, and because I had seen carts like this before and was so curious, I stopped and asked him what it was about. Apparently it was a fortune telling rabbit. I really wanted to hold the baby bunny, so I let the momma read my fortune. Unfortunately, the rabbit only wrote fortunes in Turkish, so I have no idea what my fate will be. But, the baby bunny was amazing!
The next day we were going to head to the Grand Bazaar, but apparently it's closed on Sundays, so we found our way to the Egyptian Spice Market. In our search to find the market we found what they call their garden bazaar. And aside from a few plant seeds and pots, there were a variety of animals and creatures. The first we saw were the buckets of leeches. I guess blood letting is still going strong. Then there were tons of different types of birds. Chickens, peacocks, ducks, parrots, finches, pidgins, and many different species within them. Some of them we've seen before, but many were new to us. Really interesting. There were, also, things like bunnies, hamsters, and guinea pigs, but they were not nearly as exciting as the birds.
When we finally made our way into the Egyptian Spice Market it was way more touristy than we had expected, and there were way less spices as well. There were lots of stalls selling Lokum (turkish delight) and scarves, some with ceramics, but wholly a tourist attraction, rather than where the locals buy their spices. Similarly, we were later told that the spice vendors cut their spices with cheaper things to increase their profit. Not cool. Oh well. We ended up buying a kilo of turkish delight, though. About midway through our spice market trip it started to rain. We had been hoping that the clouds would open up, and open up they did. The sky dumped sheets of water onto the streets of Istanbul. We were fine walking through the light rain, but when it started pouring down buckets, we ducked into a shop to wait out the worst. Eventually the rain subsided.
The next day we took care of some travel details, then spent a leisurely day around Istanbul. We walked around the Ramadan market and went out to dinner at a place where locals break the fast. That was nice.