Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Istanbul ~ Part 1 ~ Turkish Cooking Class, Egyptian Spice Market, and Grand Bazaar

There is so much to say about our trip to Istanbul it is going to be broken up into several blog posts. First it will be about our arrival, the cooking class and the egyptian spice market. Also it will be our fantastic fish dinner with locals Rob met for business and our adventure thru the Grand Bazaar. Next it will be on the major monuments/ tourist sights that are a must see! In between these posts I may throw in some beer and food posts to keep you salivating to go.

We took the long way. We first drove to Zurich, caught a flight to Amsterdam, and then caught a plane to Istanbul. We arrived at 1 AM just to sit on the plane for another half an hour when we landed. The airport health officials were copying health worksheets for the flu pandemic. They passed them out on the plane and we had to fill them out before we could exit the aircraft. Turkish officials met us directly outside the door to the airplane wearing masks and collecting the worksheets. Since the WHO (in Geneva of all places) declared swine flu a pandemic, the Turkish were taking it seriously.

We then had to buy visas for 15 euros each and proceed thru immigration. I smiled at the immigration guy to match my picture. He found it funny that this American was trying to match the picture and he laughed at me. A driver from the hotel was holding a sign with my name on it when we exited the baggage claim and we sleepily followed him to his van. This guy drove really really fast and once in a while would stop and yell things out the window to people he knew of the street. It was an odd late night experience for our arrival. Once we got to our hotel and the front desk guy gave us about a million brochures for tours, we finally got to bed about 2:30 AM. They upgraded our room to the only suite in the place and it had a humongous bed but only two pillows. Why have such a huge bed with so few pillows?

The next morning, after a quick hotel breakfast and little sleep, we wandered out to another part of the old city where we signed up for cooking classes. We took cooking classes in Thailand on our honeymoon and loved it so we were hoping for another great experience. The normal dutch expat instructor wasn't there so we had "Fayzi", one of the main local chefs to help teach. With his broken English he instructed us to chop, stir, and fry. It was quite a fun experience. We took the class with 4 other Americans all living abroad this year. One couple was from Germany and the other were two students finishing up a year in York, England. It was nice to chat with people who had such similar yet different experiences. We made a red lentil spicy bulgar soup, long beans, fried zucchini cakes, lamb stuffed eggplant, and dates stuffed with walnuts cooked in simple sugar. Delicious!

Afterwards the whole group walked together to the Egyptian Spice Market and split ways from there. I sampled some Turkish delights and we kept walking up to the Grand Bazaar. We lost ourselves in the bazaar and bought some things that fancied our eyes. There were rows and rows and rows of vendors all in this huge covered space. The center of the market is the oldest part and sells the true antiques. The covering is made of brick domes instead of tiles and painted other domes of the market. We found out that some Turkish people can haggle way better then the others and it coincided with how good of deals we made.

We headed back to our hotel to rest our feet before dinner. Rob and I were going out with some local people that his business is working with in Turkey. They picked us up and brought us to an authentic great fresh fish restaurant. We didn't have to do any ordering as they did it all. It had an amazing view of the Sea and the food was fantastic. They happened to know the owner and manager and I think we got extra taken care of. The mezes (small appetizers) were yummy and the fish was perfectly grilled. Rob joined in on the "Raki" drinks with dinner.l Raki is like the Turkish version of the Greek Ouzo. (spelling?) The liquor is poured into a glass and then water is poured on top. Magically, two clear substances make a white fuzzy colored drink which they top with ice. Tasted like anise seed and Rob found it refreshing.

It was late and we had a wonderful dinner and great company. Half the table only spoke Turkish so it was up to one guy to translate back and forth. He did a lot of talking!

Stuffed Eggplants

Turkish Cooking Class

Feyzi and Rob. Look at that big knife!

Turkish Delights at the Egyptian Spice Market. Free Samples!

Spices at the Spice Market.

For more pictures of our Istanbul trip, including pictures to be used in future posts of this trip, Click Here.

For more information about the cooking class we took, Click Here.


Amanda June 18, 2009 at 12:51 AM  

I've been waiting all week for this post! (you know I'm living vicariously through your travels right now...) Yay! Cooking classes and fresh fish with the locals - sounds fantastic!

Jessica June 19, 2009 at 3:53 AM  

This is awesome. I envy you guys so much! I think I will have to book a trip to Istanbul right away! Great photos. Love the colors!

About This Blog

Tina & Rob have relocated their lives to Geneva, Switzerland. This blog is a story of their adventure during the year and all the details inbetween.

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Finding Simplicity

Three rules of work: Out of clutter find simplicity; 
From discord find harmony; 
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
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