Day five, our penultimate day, we woke up fairly early and had breakfast on our minds. We popped out and on our walk to the main road spied from a little shop window, some savoury breakfast pastries – I think they’re called borek. I recalled enjoying these on our last visit and dragged Mr Man in.
As you can see, they use a wooden ruler / plank to cut straight lines as individual portions. These are cut into smaller bite sized chunks and sold really, really cheap. You can get a variety of fillings from potatoes to cheese to meat.
We opted for a cheese filled one and plonked ourselves outside to enjoy them whilst they were still warm. Yum! We spotted a man selling freshly squeezed juice not long after and grabbed some of that. Perfect way to wash down breakfast.
After that we hopped on the tram and headed to Rumeli Hisari. This is an old castle like structure in Sariyer, located just off the Bosporus. Inside you can explore the grounds and climb up steep steps to each of the three towers, hard work but well worth it for the great views! There were a few areas off bounds for safety reasons, I guess they don’t want you scaling the walls and ledges without the appropriate safety railings but Mr Man’s rebellious streak kicked in and he insisted on sneaking past a few of these these anyway! (It was really empty in the morning and as the guards were few and far apart this wasn’t an issue…) It’s a real shame all the buildings were locked, I’d have quite liked to see what they were like inside and climb the towers but even still we spent a few hours here exploring and it was great fun. Managed to snap up some really cool pics too:
I’m a particularly big fan of this one. A set of secret spiralling stairs I captured through a crack between locked castle doors. I’ve currently got it set as the wallpaper on my phone:
By the time we left it was around midday and we decided to grab some lunch nearby – however, the place we picked, Fincan was still serving breakfast… We grabbed a couple of omelettes. Nothing special, at all. But the view was pretty damn great. Unfortunately, I was unable to take a picture. And by unable, what I mean to say is, I forgot.
After brunch we moved on to talk a stroll down the coast before hopping on the tram.
We walked from Eminonu to Balat, a neighbourhood which is pretty much a straight walk from the Galata bridge. It’s pretty quiet and you won’t find many tourists here. The houses are painted in various colours and it’s a really pretty place for a long walk, even when you’re legs don’t want to function as you intend! Had the whole place not been drenched in afternoon shadows, I reckon we would have an amazing set of pictures, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
We stopped off for some cake and coffee at Afilli Cezve. Coffee was good and the cake was really great – walnut and fig, topped with icing and a generous dusting of cinnamon. YUM! Moist, well flavoured and perfectly complimented the hot drinks! Really recommend it. We also got some little pastries – nice but well outshone by the cake!
After this we hopped on the ferry back to Eminonu and decided to finally pay the spice bazaar / Egyptian market / misir carsisi a visit. It was absolutely heaving, kinda like the central line at rush hour but not as smelly. One thing to watch out for here is pick pockets, one cheeky lady thought she’d try sneak her hand into Mr Man’s pocket, he immediately caught on, to which she had the nerve to throw a little hissy fit over like he’d been the one to do something wrong! Be warned!
You can buy so much here – from spices, to tea, Turkish delight to dry fruit, to baklava to gold and much much more!
First stop was a shop called Inanc Baharat. This was actually outside the indoor market bit but all in all a really good shop. We picked up a variety of things from here: a salad mix (with lots of sumac!), a mix designed to spice meats, lemon salt (all natural and really potent!), apple tea, cinnamon tea, fresh cinnamon sticks (which I plan to use to make some icecream!). Oh I also bought some vanilla from this shop!
We then moved on to the shop we visited last time round, Hazer Baba – these guys are really, really good and you find locals shopping in there too which is reassuring. We picked up some of my favourite mix, their special BBQ spice alongside some more fruity teas – lemon, apple, mixed fruit, rosehip and some dried crystallised fruit – strawberries, mango, pineapple, coconut and lime. Yum. We had a long chat with the sales man who said he was from North London if I remember correctly and that the Hazer Baba company exported spices around the world – in the UK you can find a selection at Waitrose, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for when my stocks start diminishing…
Finally as we walked through the rest of the market something caught my eye – a reddish blend called Ottoman spice, I tried a bit (feel free to ask for samples, sniff and try spices, it’s a very sensual shopping trip!) And, it’s the done thing, you really don’t want to buy stuff that’s not fresh or flavoursome. Before we left, we also picked up some olives – some pitted green ones stuffed with pimento and more green ones muddled in spices and oil. Both we’re packed in plastic boxes and I tossed them into jars and put them in the fridge when we got home to try and keep them fresh for as long as possible. Both were delicious so juicy and flavoursome. Again, always try before you buy!
Here are some pictures of my spice shopping. As you can see, everything was vacuum sealed to preserve freshness and also to avoid any messy transportation issues. It’s also worth borrowing a marker pen there and labelling your purchases!
Pockets lighter and bags heavier we left the spice market and headed back to the hotel to drop off our purchases and get refreshed before dinner. We passed what I had previously referred to as ‘the original food truck guys,’ who in fact were actually called Gala Kokorec and grabbed a sandwich to share. So good! Lamb cooked on a horizontal spit in the back of a little van. They add in some spiced tomato salad which compliments it perfectly. I think it was like 4 lira if I remember correctly, so just over a pound.
After the pit-stop at the hotel we headed back to the tram station and took a quick ride to Eminonu. We walked across the Galata bridge to the dock of Karakoy. Enroute we saw locals lined up with their fishing rods and picked up some fresh pistachios. We also got to watch the sunset – absolutely magnificent.
From Karakoy we we hopped on a ferry to Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul and then we did what we do best, walked. For dinner we decided on a restaurant called Kebabci Iskender:
This is a restaurant with a difference, these guys only have one item on the menu, yes, that’s right, just the ONE item on the menu. These guys claim to be the inventors of the Iskender kebab and their decor and table placemats reflect this – pictures of their ancestors, timelines and the likes:
The waiter was a really nice, chirpy man who explained this concept to us. So we placed two orders for Iskender, I opted for a diet coke to wash mines down and Mr Man chose their freshly squeezed grape juice.
Here’s a picture of this one dish wonder:
It was incredible. slow roasted strips of lamb kebab, soft, smokey and so juicy. Topped with a garlicky tomato sauce and upon serving the waiter drizzled sizzling hot, browned butter over the top! For a butter lover like me, it was the ultimate touch. There was a generous dollop of yoghurt on the side to cut through that richness. The other side, there was a helping of a roasted aubergine puree. Finally a little tomato and roasted green peppers to seal the deal. The only one tweak I’d have made is slightly more tomato sauce. Mr Man however said he wouldn’t agree so I guess that just boils down to personal preference.
We ended the night with some icecream from a shop just up the road from Iskender called Karafirin. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. We opted for three scoops – caramel, vanilla and something called ‘authentic’ which was lovely and cinnamony. This stuff wasn’t like the usual dondurma. More along the usual texture, creamy and rich. Simply delicious.
And that was day 5 – I’ll aim to have the final day up by midweek before resuming my usual recipes over the weekend. In the mean time, don’t forget to subscribe – top right hand side!