Rob and I took a day off from London to…
It still doesn’t seem real, but here we are in Istanbul! After a long flight and a brief stop in Germany, Rob and I arrived Sunday evening at an airport bustling with young men in trim suits, women in headscarfs and lots of smokers. We had dinner of schwarmas and freshly squeezed pomegranate juice sitting on a pre-school sized table and chairs at a nearby cafe. Went to bed after the 9:00 call to prayer.
Our first day in a new place is always about getting our bearings. Having done zero research for this trip, I had no idea what to expect. Our apartment is in Beyoglu, just a few blocks from that tower above and across the bridge from the main tourist area of Sultanahmet. It seems to be the “Brooklyn” of Istanbul with plenty of stylish wifi cafes and boutiques among a diverse neighborhood of renovated apartments and empty ones.
Rob and I walked down the hill and across the bridge – packed with men fishing off the side – and into the bazaar area for breakfast. Tiny cups of tea and fresh orange juice helped with my sore throat and jetlag when we stopped at a bakery. It was great fun to watch the owner chop up pieces of fresh baklava with a giant meat cleaver and sell it by weight.
They sell absolutely everything in Istanbul. Blocks and blocks of tiny shops, each staffed with a handful of men, arranged by theme. One street is brass, the next is lace trim, the next is wire, then rock tumbling supplies, then garden sheers. There’s a whole neighborhood of just shoes and shoe leather. Handcarts deliver everything from eggs to palates of fabric up and down the narrow cobblestone streets. Men with tiny glasses on round trays dash between them delivering tea. and sugar cubes. It buzzes.
The actual covered Grand Bazaar is more touristy. Full of row after row of scarfs, jewelry, purses, ceramics, lanterns, rugs and clothes under high painted ceilings.
We keep winding our way through the market streets until popping out at an open plaza with a massive Egyptian obelisk. It seems fake to us because the carving is so detailed, but the lovely Obelisk of Theodosius is real and was put up by a roman emperor in the 4th century.
From there, we’ve arrived at the Blue Mosque. Time to put on a headscarf and take off our shoes to explore inside.
It is beautiful inside and serene despite the excited tourists from around the world padding around in socks and taking headscarf selfies.
Here’s a closer look at the tile work.
Rob and I leave the mosque and walk down to the waterfront. We stop for a thick sweet turkish coffee before walking around the Golden Horn. There are dolphins chasing a big shipping boat out of the river and cats looking for leftover bait in the rocks. We cross back over the bridge and have fresh grilled fish sandwiches in the fish market for lunch.
We find our local grocery store on the way home. Stock up on yogurt, muslei, dolmas, olives, coffee, pumpkin seeds and eucalyptus cough drops before heading home to start our work. Not bad for a first day!