In Istanbul – Eminönü Pazari

At a stone’s throw from the famous Spice Market in Istanbul, there is another, the Eminönü Pazari. Just off the beaten tourist path, and yet so close to the Spice Market that I wonder how come I only saw a small handful of tourists there.  I came here in search of pide and Rüstem Paşa Camii (more about it below), and found a proper little treasure-trove of life and food. Full of life, more real and with more grit, I find this market also so much more interesting!

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Delicious notes from Istanbul

Simits!

Pastry seller in Istanbul

The first time we went to Istanbul, we did it all wrong, committed all the classic tourist mistakes. We stayed in a middle of a tourist trap, did no research before the trip, relied on unreliable guidebooks. In our brief defence, the trip was a bit of a last minute decision, but still, I’m not proud. We enjoyed the sights, but found that above all we wanted to be in the more interesting parts of the city, and spent a lot of time outside Sultanhamet. We loved Üsküdar most. Overall, we had a reasonably good time, but got hassled in touristy places and were above all somewhat disappointed with the food we found. We thought the food would be better, easier to find. It’s rarely like that, though, of course.

This time, I did it all right. I did the research, choose accommodation strategically, and took time to explore the areas I that grabbed my attention when they did. I had a fantastic time. Istanbul turned out to be one of those cities where you need to dig below the surface to discover its true charms. It’s not surprising though, given its tourist appeal; I’m embarrassed at our past naivety.

Here are a few of my delicious notes from my September trip to Istanbul. With thanks to these excellent sources of information and inspiration: Delicious Istanbul, Eating Asia and Istanbul Eats.

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Turkish cherries

Turkish cherries, originally uploaded by ~Maninas.

 

Istanbul Yoghurt Treat

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There was always yoghurt, tahini and honeycomb, amongst many other things, in our hotel in Istanbul for breakfast. One morning, I had an idea to combine them, and so I did. It was delicious! I loved it, and had it with my breakfast every day while we were there.

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I am not claiming this is an authentic Istanbuli treat. I have no idea, and so I wouldn’t even try. But I do know it’s absolutely delicious. Do try it! The bitterness of tahini added interest and nuttiness to sweet honeycomb, which in turn provided an interesting texture to nibble on. All this enveloped in delicious creamy, Turkish yoghurt.

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It really makes a stunning treat. At home, I use honey, as I don’t usually have honeycomb, but it’s still delicious. Just take a bowl of yoghurt and swirl some honey and tahini over it, and there you go!

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Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Sultanahmet Camii (‘C’ is pronounced like ‘j’ in ‘jockey’), better known as the Blue Mosque after its intricate blue-tiled decorations, is the first and the last place I visited in Istanbul. (The airport doesn’t count, no. They usually don’t.)

The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I (hence the name Sultanahmet Camii), and on the site of the palace of Byzantine emperors and the hippodrome, facing Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya in Turkish).

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Silent Blue

This is one of my favourite photos, if not the favourite from the great Mosque.

Amazing inside

 

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Mosque carpets. Not the expensive, hand-woven kind, I imagine, though I’m not an expert, but still wonderfully soft on our bare feet.

Multitudes of visitors inside the mosque

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   This is the space for prayers, from the other side of the barrier for visitors. The space for women was yet on the other side, towards the back of the mosque.

Men praying

Detail of decoration inside the Mosque

 

 

The Mosque at night

These were taken from the terrace of our hotel, which was very close to the Blue Mosque. So close that our room resounded with the call to prayer, or so it felt when we were in it. I grew to like the mesmerising sounds.

According to Wikipedia, until recently the muezzin had to climb a narrow spiral minaret staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer. Today, a sound system is used.

 

Yet another view of the Mosque, this time from behind, i.e. not from the little streets behind the mosque. This was taken on a very cloudy day, from a restaurante terrace.

 

Leaving the Mosque. Note the people sitting on the grass in the right hand corner. That was a common sight, people having a picnic in Hippodrome, the great Byzantine square near the mosque, or like here around the mosque, in the gardens towards Aya Sofia and Topkapi Palace.

Looking back at the Mosque from Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya in Turkish), our next destination.

 

To be continued…

 

 

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