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Welcome to Day 4 of Janet and Randy's Turkish Adventure 2015

Monday, March 30th, 2015

The day started out very early for us as we both woke in the wee hours of the morning.  Partly due to time change and partly due the fact that the hotel room AC must have stopped working.  The room was overly stuffy and was a bit uncomfortable.  We had initially set an alarm, but ended up not needing it. 

Today our  Flavours of the Old City food tour was booked to start at 9:30am next to the Legacy Ottoman Hotel.  We grabbed a very light snack from the Concierge Lounge at the Marriott, and then headed out for the requisite 3 transfers (Metro, Funicular, and Tram - each costing us).  We arrived at the Legacy Ottoman approximate 20 minutes early, so we wandered around the area for a little bit.  We had to keep track of which streets we wandered down as getting lost in the streets of Istanbul is a very real possibility. 

Spices at the marketWe got back to the hotel and met up with our guide Korhan.  We were on a tour with 2 other couples, one from the UK and the other from Australia.  So we had a very Commonwealth type tour group. 

Our tour guide started by taking us through a market just outside of the Egyptian Spice Market.  This was a narrow little street with food stalls all along it.  The various vendors sold items such as fish, spices, nuts and Turkish Delight (with amazing smells everywhere).  Korhan picked up a few items from the vendors, then took us into a commercial building and up to a 2nd level between a bra store and a store that looked like it sold some sort of chemicals.  We were shown a small table with some mismatched chairs (and small stools).  The purchased food items were spread out on the table (on a 'tablecloth' of newsprint), and he went downstairs to order some scrambled eggs for us. 

At this first stop on our tour, we tried the following items that make up a typical Turkish breakfast:

  • Simit - which is sort of like a bagel
  • Pastirma - which is like a beef pastrami
  • 2 types of cheese
  • Findik ezmezi - a hazelnut cream paste - one chunky, one creamy (drool)
  • 2 types of olives
  • Clotted cream with honey (bal kaymak) (more drool)
  • 2 types of Menemen (scrambled eggs)
  • Turkish tea

Baclava with giant chunks of pistatioWhile eating our breakfast, Korhan explained what would happen on the food tour.  We were going to spend the next 6 hours walking around the old city of Istanbul, trying various types of food.  The finale of the tour was a home-cooked lunch made at a local lady's home (We think her name is Marrissa, but we kind of zoned out with all the good food in front of us... or at least that's my excuse).  Including the breakfast mentioned above, and the final lunch, there was going to be a total of 9 stops during the tour.  It turned out that at most stops there would be a minimum of 3 items to taste.  That's a lot of food!  We needed to be able to pace ourselves if we didn't want to explode by the end of the day.

We headed off to Stop #2 - which was a shop that sold baklava.  However, we didn't go there for the baklava.  Instead, we had the following:

  • Su Boregi - layers of phyllo sheets filled with cheese
  • Gozleme - Turkish pancake filled with meat, cheese and spinach
  • Sahlep - a warm, milky-type drink that is made from the tubers of wild orchids (served with cinnamon)
  • Turkish ice cream - that has an an almost jello-type consistency that allows you to eat it with a knife and fork.  Weird, but tasty.

Stop #3 was a tiny restaurant that had maybe 4 tables in it.  We squeezed into the restaurant and were served an eggplant dish, a bean dish and Bayburt Kebabi - which is a beef and vegetable dish.  Oh, and bread.  Bread is a big component of Turkish meals. There was a bin of bread.

Baklava in a back alleyAs we walked from one stop to another, our guide would take us through different streets that typically sold just a single type of item.  For example, there was one street that sold just pots and pans.  Another street sold weight scales.  There was even a street with small tables in the middle of it selling Chinese-made Viagra. Janet mistakenly thought the Cialis was Claritin and suggested I take it for my allergies... I'm really not sure the effect would be the same. We also walked through a 4-story building where the only thing sold in each store was cell phone cases/covers.

Early on in the tour, I was sort of keeping track of where we were, but as we snaked through street after street, I had no idea where I was.  If we had lost Korhan at this point, the 6 of us would still be wandering around, trying to find our way back.

Next was Stop #4.  Here we had:

  • Kellepaca korbasi - beef cheek soup
  • Icli Kofte - meatball inside a shell of bulgar wheat
  • Chicken shish kebab
  • Kunefe - dessert of shredded wheat filled with cheese and topped with syrup
  • Salgam drink - a juice made from turnips, red carrots and paprika (not my favourite - or mine)

By this time, we were already quite full - so were only taking small bites to taste them.  Even though the kenefe was delicious, I only managed to have one or two bites (Randy managed to eat all of his - and the remainder of Janets).

Local mosqueWandered through some spice markets and came to Stop #5 for some baklava.  This was just a shop with no seating, so we took the baklava to go and Korhan took us around the corner into a back alley.  He went into a basement tea shop and brought out some plastic stools and tables to set up in the alley.  The tea shop owner then served us our tea and we then had two types of baklava.  You can't get more local than this!  Best ever !

After the baklava, Korhan took us into a nearby mosque to see the interesting architecture.  He claimed that it was nicer than the Blue Mosque - but I will reserve judgement until after we visit the inside of the Blue Mosque.

Right outside the mosque was Stop #6.  This was an outdoor food vendor, and we could see the lamb meat being roasted over a spit.  For the kebab, they actually just slice chunks of meat off the big roast and serve it to you on a skewer.

  • Cag Kebabi - roasted lamb meat.  Pita bread is served with this dish, and you use a piece of pita to just pull the lamb off the skewer and then eat it.
  • Some sort of tomato and mint salsa
  • Ayran drink - a cold yogurt drink mixed with salt.  I wasn't fond of it. (Salty frothy yogurt drink - Blech)

Randy at the kebab placeI was so full at this point that I only had a small piece of lamb (even though it was delicious).  Then it was off to the next stop.

At stop #7, we were able to try an interesting local dish called Kokorec.  This dish is various seasoned lamb offal that is wrapped in intestines to form a sort of roast.  It is then roasted on a skewer.  Once roasted, the 'meat' is then chopped up into small bits and grilled with tomatoes and green pepper.  It is then put onto a crusty roll to eat.  I must say, this tasted a lot better than I expected.  I don't know if I would actually order it again, but it wasn't that bad.  We also had some muscles stuffed with a seasoned rice.  It was good, but I was so full I could only take a small bite.

We continued on to Stop #8 - which was a shop that made Turkish Delight.  We were given a couple of samples, and then taken upstairs to actually see how they make it.  Basically, they take sugar, starch, water and whatever necessary flavourings, and put it in a big mixing bowl over high heat for 3 hours.  They pour the cooked mixture into pans and leave to set for 24 hours.  Then they cut it up into small pieces and dust with icing sugar.  Eating fresh made Turkish Delight was fabulous.  We ended up buying six boxes to bring home with us.  (we plan to share with family and friends, and not just eat it all ourselves!  Or maybe we'll just hoard it to ourselves)

Interesting lampsFor our last stop - Stop #9 - we headed to Marrissa's (not her realy name, but that's the name we heard) apartment to have a typical Turkish lunch.  We had to do a bit of a walk to get to a bus, and then took a 5 minute bus ride.  The bus was packed with people and was very hot inside.  I'm glad that we didn't have to stay on there any longer.  Once off the bus, we had to walk a few blocks to her place.  She lived on the 4th floor, so we had to walk up 4 flights of stairs.  At least we were burning off a couple of the calories that we had input during the day.

Once at her place, we sat in her living room for a while to relax and visit.  Marrissa only spoke a few words of English, but Korhan translated for us.  She was a lovely lady and it was a pleasure for her to have us at her house.  After a bit, we sat down at her dining room table and had the following:

  • Tarhana Corbasi - a soup made with yogurt, tomato, vegetables and wheat
  • Karniyank - eggplant stuffed with minced meat, onion, tomato
  • Rice pilaf
  • Rice pudding for dessert

Because we had a bit of a break while visiting, I was actually able to eat most of the food.  It was all delicious, and tasted like your mom's home cooking. 

This was the end of the tour, so we thanked Marrissa, and Korhan took us to the tram station, to send us back to our hotels.  We were both quite tired from walking around for 6 hours, so we just headed back to our hotel - arriving around 5:00pm.  We relaxed in our room - just downloading pictures and taking it easy.

Finally, around 7:30pm, we went up to the club lounge.  We weren't overly hungry, so just had a few chips and some of the awesome chocolate brownies they have there.  Since we were a little sore from all the walking, we grabbed our bathing suits and headed to the basement where the hotel pool was. 

The pool area was very nice, and the change rooms had heated floors and lockers that you could enter your own combination for locking.  We soaked in the hot tub for a while and then came back to the room.  Worked on the journal for a bit, but then went to bed as we were quite tired.

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