17 June 2009

Spice, Spice Baby!

Bright and early, we were awoken by the call to prayer from Aya Sofya. Luckily, we could fall back asleep and get a couple more hours in. When we finally got up, we headed back to the hotel’s terrace to enjoy another yummy Turkish breakfast. This time with Turkish coffee, SCORE! Then we headed out to explore the rest of the old town portion of Istanbul.

First up, Aya Sofya. It looked like we were going to have to wait a long time, but there was a bottle neck at the security point and then we could go at our own pace. Armed with our guidebook from the hotel’s book exchange, we were able to get a lot more out of our tour. Making sure to hit special spots in the nave like the Miracle Column of St. Gregory (the column supposedly sweats!) While very beautiful, its hard to take in all of the church/mosque/museum completely when there is scaffolding in the middle.

Next, we headed across the street to the Basilica Cistern. The giant underground reservoir was quite interesting. We walked all the way to the back to make sure we saw the famous Medusa columns. Once at street level, we made out way to Divan Yolu to grab some Donner pitas for lunch (meat for Charlton, chicken for me).

We then headed back to street level to tackle Rick Steves’ Old Town Back Streets Walk. We poked our heads into a cemetery and then made our way to the Grand Bazaar. Now that we had a map it was a little easier to get around and see some of the major spots in the Bazaar. After hitting all the landmarks, we wandered for awhile and was able to do a little shopping (and when I say little, I mean little) Then we wandered out the Beyazit Gate to the Old Book Market.

After reading the guidebook we were really looking forward to our next stop, the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent. Supposedly it gives the Blue Mosque a run for its money. So I got all gussied up in my borrowed pashmina and skirt to find out most of the mosque is closed and we couldn’t see the inner courtyard. At least Charlton got a good laugh at me playing Islamic dress-up.

We then wandered down Uzun Carzi, a local shopping alley. Lots of things to see and great people watching. Once we made it to the end we stopped at Rustem Pasa Mosque, for more Islamic dress-up for me and a really pretty mosque.

We were starting to get close to the Spice Bazaar, and I was excited! Along Hasicilar Alley, we began to see some dried fruits, spices, coffee and tea. At the corner of the Eminonu Square we grabbed some sucuk (nuts dipped in molasses) and sat down to watch the pigeons. We then headed inside the bazaar, where we got to sample Turkish delight and had merchants calling after us in Spanish. We saw stall after stall of beautiful spices and teas. Following Rick’s advice again we stopped at Gulluoglu Baklava to have some baklava and kadayif. They did not disappoint (although we both liked the baklava best).

We then walked back towards Sultanahmet, making sure we stopped for some snacks at a grocery store. We picked up some ayran (salted yogurt drink), some candy and chips and spread out our towels in a grassy patch over looking Aya Sofya. Then it was time to scoop out some dinner locations. We walked toward the Blue Mosque and checked out two places and fell in love with Doy Doy’s menu and vowed to come back at dinner time.

We wandered through Arasta Bazaar on the way back to our hotel for a nap and some blog updates. Once the sun was beginning to set, we headed straight to Doy Doy’s rooftop terrace, with a gorgeous view of the sunset over the Blue Mosque. We had a delicious dinner of the Doy Doy Mixed Kebab, that gave us a sampler of different kebabs, pides and lavas (puffed flat bread). The restaurant began to fill up halfway through our meal, so we got there at the perfect time for seats right in the corner.

Then we headed out looking for dessert. We got some Turkish pistachio ice cream and had it while overlooking the hippodrome and obelisks. We set off again to look for some more ayran and then headed back to the hotel to end the night.

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