Istanbul, day 3
In the morning, I cooked breakfast for me and Mo. I didn’t think much of it, but Mo was so impressed that he took a picture of his plate. (He hardly ever does that.) Afterwards, he took me to Çamlıca Hill in the morning. It’s the highest point in Istanbul, and we reached a bus stop about a ten-minute walk away from the hill by bus. You can enjoy views of both the European and Asian sides of the city from there. Usually, it’s quite crowded on weekends, but this is not a usual year for Istanbul.
We encountered a marble gazebo, which I thought Joanna might like. You can see the municipal restaurant seating area just behind the gazebo in the second of the following two photos.
They even used little blocks of marble to decorate the pathways. This floral example comes with a view.
The Turkish flag flew high above the center so that you can find your way back even after getting lost wandering around the forested area.
I appreciated the public water fountain dating back from the Ottoman era.
Some of the outdoor gym equipment was a bit of a mystery to me, so Mo demonstrated how to use them.
After exploring the forested area, we went back to the municipal restaurant at the top of the hill to enjoy some cheese-filled Turkish pancakes (₺2.50 each). I loved watching the employees make them. There’s a whole assembly line in there!
We headed back from the hill to Üsküdar on another bus, glanced at the mosque near Mo’s place, and caught the ferry to Beşiktaş.
I started getting crazy about döner kebab, so we went to Karadeniz Pide ve Döner for lunch. The guy carving meat off the vertical spit must have the best job in the world. I thought the durum döner (₺14: wrapped in a thin tortilla-like bread with tomato, pickle, green pepper, and onions) was far better than anything I’ve had in the states, but Mo said he’s had even better around Taksim Square.
On the way to the Kabataş Station, we passed by Dolmabahçe Palace. The ornamentation on the building was elaborate.
We took the funicular from Kabataş to Taksim Square and walked along the main street. Mo thought the square looked odd without the usual throngs of people everywhere.
I wanted to have Turkish coffee made in sand, which Mo had never heard of. We initially went to Mandabatmaz since Foursquare recommended it for Turkish coffee, but they actually didn’t make it in sand. Around the corner, we found Kadem Café, which made Turkish coffee in sand on the sidewalk across from their shop. Success! I was tempted to touch the sand but thought better of it. The coffee (₺5) was hot, thick, and strongly flavored. It came with some water to rinse any grit at the end.
Since Mo can’t have caffeine, he ordered dogal salep (₺6), and salep is made from the bulb of a kind of orchid. It supposedly has medicinal properties and is served warm. It’s a very comforting drink and has cinnamon on top.
After our afternoon drinks, we stumbled into Arter, an art gallery. Their current exhibit is “Not All That Falls Has Wings”, and the building has three floors of different artists’ work along this theme. We enjoyed a short film by Mikhail Karikis and Uriel Orlow called “Sounds from Beneath”, which is set in southeast England and features a choir made of former mine workers making sounds traditionally considered mine noise.
I also loved “Bruit Blanc” by VOID, a series of items that looked like phonographs, except the “records” were reproductions of various indoor and outdoor surfaces like a section of concrete with dog footprints in it, the “horns” were rolled up cones of paper, and the “needles” were plastic slivers scratching the “records”.
Another favorite installation is called “Ftt, Ft, Ftt, Ftt, Ffttt, Ftt, or somewhere between a modern representation of how a contemporary gesture came into being, an illustration of the physicality of an argument between Theo and Piet regarding the dynamic aspect of the diagonal line and attempting to produce a chroma-key set for a hundred cinematic scenes”. It was of a room full of black arrows, and the artist must have drilled holes in the floors and walls to install them.
Even the spiral staircase turned into an on-site piece called “Synonyms’ Synonyms” also by VOID.
We checked on the whirling dervishes performance at Galata Mevlevihanesi, but the employee at the ticket counter didn’t know when the next performance will be. I guess there aren’t enough tourists to justify the cost of putting on a show right now.
To find a postcard, we tried going to several different bookstores, including taking the metro up to Cevahir in Şişli, but I didn’t see any that I liked. It seems that all stores carry the same set of postcard designs and sell them for ₺3 each. But we stumbled on a souvenir shop in Şişhane area, and they were even ₺1 cheaper than everywhere else.
While wandering around, we got to see Galata Tower and an interesting dual staircase.
We walked to Karaköy to try a fish restaurant that Katie Parla recommended called Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı. It was a bit hard to find since it was on a side street and on the fifth floor of a building. I wish I’d checked with Jenn on whether she liked it before we went, or at least double-checked its Foursquare rating (7.3). The place has an unbeatable view of the European side, and since the restaurant was completely empty, we tried to pick our own table at first. But because we didn’t make a reservation, the staff asked us to sit further away from the windows. It didn’t make any sense because the restaurant was empty for the entire time we were there.
Mo can’t eat fish, so I ordered alone: fish soup (₺20: very small bowl) and sea bass cooked in paper (₺50). At least the water and bread were refilled consistently, and the bread had a nice French texture. (We were charged a ₺6 cover since it was a fancier place.) In the end, I wish I’d gone elsewhere for food, but I can see why some people might like it.
Since we were already in Karaköy, I led Mo back to Karaköy Güllüoğlu to try the other six baklava I didn’t get to try when I went with Hakan. Mo had never been in this part of town and felt a little bit like a tourist. As expected, the baklava was yummy, and I was delighted with the chocolate one with chocolate phyllo dough. The one with whole pistachios showcased the quality of the nuts.
When we reached the Karaköy ferry station, we waited about 25 minutes for the boat to Üsküdar.
During this time, we saw two boats that two different wedding parties rented for their celebrations. Mo said it’s really expensive to rent boats in Istanbul, maybe €1,500-2,000 for four hours, and that’s just for the small boats! These must have cost even more since they were quite large.
The bridge next to the ferry station didn’t look like much during the day, but at night, its lights gave it a new appeal.
After getting home, we watched “My Neighbor Totoro”. I’m glad Mo enjoyed being transported to the Japanese countryside!