Old workshops and ateliers are tucked away along the hilly streets of Beyoğlu. Narrow wooden doors lead to surprisingly large studios; some crisp and modern, others dusty and rustic. With our lovely guide for our artisan tour, Duygu, we met several artists who continue to work passionately at these “dying arts” and who were kind enough to show us their trades. Some of these “ustas” (masters) have been practicing their craft for 60 years and their impressive skill is evident.Duygu guided us off the beaten path, and introduced us to these local artists that we would not have had the chance to meet otherwise. We finished our tour at a small restaurant (another gem we wouldn’t have found on our own, and a place we enjoyed so much that we returned for dinner the next day!), discussing politics, culture and life in Turkey over çay (tea). It was a great part of our time in Istanbul. You can find information on Duygu’s walking tours here.
Aren’t hole-in-the-wall type places the most exciting to find? Our guide Duygu first introduced us to this gem after guiding us on our artisan walk, and we liked it so much that we returned for dinner the next night.
Serving up traditional, authentic Turkish fare, the food at Datli Maya is delicious and unpretentious. The restaurant is small; you order downstairs and either take out or hope that there is seating available upstairs (we got lucky both times). Apparently the owner, Dilara Erbay, did not initially intend for the upstairs to be used as a restaurant but her food was so popular that they decided to add seats and tables.
The goal at Datli Maya is to revive the traditional wood oven food culture and as you walk in you can’t miss the colourful mosaic that highlights the restaurant’s oven. Fresh from said oven, we tried cheesy pides (Anatolian pizza) and lahmancunlar (very very thin Anatolian pizza) and smoky clay casseroles. Mum got hooked on the pistachio cookies. The menu includes English explanations for us new to Turkish fare, and little quips that will make you smile. For example, Kavurmali is explained as “The Turkish equivalent of Corn Beef, but much better.”, or Humous “do you really need an explanation?”.
It’s a low key place, there are no wait staff, and it can get crowded, but the food is worth it. The atmosphere at the restaurant is warm and friendly, their philosophy on their brochure sums it up best: “Fresh, natural, seasonal village ingredients and best quality with reasonable prices. Healthy? Junky? Veggy? Meaty? Creative? Conservative? Come whatever you eat, come!” Go!
Aren’t the most “authentic” moments of your travels the most memorable ones? Our lovely guide in Cappadocia, Medine, made sure we got a taste of the local culture in all the small villages we visited during our stay. Luckily for us, her friend, Fatima, was hospitable enough to host us and Medine’s family for dinner last night and served us a delicious feast of traditional food from their village, Ayvali in Ürgüp. Stuffed pumpkin flowers, Turkish wedding soup, salads, and sweet apricots…everything was hearty, fresh, and delicious.
The wake up call at 4:20 am was worth it. Despite my fear of heights, I was really looking forward to our hot air balloon ride over the famed landscapes of Cappadocia– I wasn’t sure if I’d be trembling or comfortable in the basket up in the air but I was ready to try!
Turns out I wasn’t scared at all; we were just gently drifting above the ground. Unfortunately it was too cloudy this morning for any kind of beautiful sunrise but it was still an impressive view. It turns out that we were lucky as the balloon pilots were initially considering cancelling the rides due to some potentially strong winds, but the winds were calm and we had smooth ride with our expert pilot, Mike, of Butterfly Balloons.
The experience finished with a champagne toast back on the ground and a sleepy ride back into town. Now it’s time for a nap before trekking around for the day! Who knew this chicken would be such a fan of floating up in the air?? (Does this mean I can sky dive? I might be getting ahead of myself, now…)
I spent this morning wandering around the Beyoglu neighbourhood we are staying in. This area of Istanbul was apparently the European Quarter during the Ottoman Empire and you can feel it as you walk along the (steep!) narrow, cobblestoned streets. Now, the neighbourhood seems to be filled with music and instrument shops, quirky boutiques, cafés, and indie clothing stores. It’s lovely.
I walked from our apartment up to the bustling thoroughfare, Istiklal Caddesi, until I reached Taksim Square. Istiklal Caddesi is touted as Istanbul’s “most exciting” street, with all the shops you’d find in a big western city, restaurants, bars, mosques, churches, embassies, and of course, lots of people. I’m pretty sure I counted three Starbucks… It felt very cosmopolitan (if not just very commercial), and was a good little chunk to explore as I wait for my parents to arrive. I made it back to our apartment just as the rain started to fall.
My parents still haven’t arrived (another late flight!), it’s been an unlucky trip over for them, I just hope they’re not too weary when they finally get here! Meanwhile, I’m sitting by the huge window in our living room, watching the rain pour down over the Bosphorus, and sipping my tea…someone pinch me? Life could be worse! Happy Friday to you!
I’m in Istanbul! (And can’t believe it!) Any time Istanbul is mentioned, I think of this song. (It was randomly a high school favourite.)
I had to sprint across two terminals in Paris this morning to make my connecting flight here, but luckily I made it! Unfortunately, my poor parents have dealt with two days of delays — it started with snow storms, then continued with missed connections, lost luggage and overbooked flights. They were supposed to arrive a day before me, but it looks like they will finally get here tomorrow afternoon (fingers crossed!!).
I’m waiting for my parents before doing any of the big sites and more exploring, so I’ve spent the time by myself just wandering around our neighbourhood. We are staying just down the road from the Galata Tower and it seems like a really cool part of town. I’ve already satisfied my kebab craving and had my first taste of Turkish tea…so far so good!