Normally when I share tips about destination I start by talking about some things to do, and then if there’s particularly noteworthy food I’ll share a suggestion or two as well. In the case of Istanbul, what I’d really like to do is post a picture of every single thing I ate, tell you to cut calories and work out like a maniac before you go, and then encourage you to do nothing but sample the city’s amazing foods for the whole time you’re there. I mean, just look at that plate!
So yeah, the first thing to do in Istanbul is eat. My favorite meal of my trip was at Ciya Sofrasi on the Asian side of the city in an area called Kadikoy. It is very easily accessible by public ferry and a quick walk. The photo above shows my plate of cold appetizers. All of my choices were vegetarian, but dishes with meat and seafood were available too.
After eating way too many cold appetizers I asked the server to prepare me a plate with a variety of their hot entrees. I requested dishes without meat, but once again a number of dishes with meat and seafood were available. And finally my server asked if I’d like to try some unusual Turkish desserts, bringing me a plate of candied tomatoes, olives and pumpkin! There is great food to be found all over the country, including great vegetarian choices. If a restaurant doesn’t have any vegetarian dishes on the menu you can often ask for a meze platter and they will combine small servings of their appetizers into a full meal. In summary, if you go to Turkey bring elastic-waist pants.
Another ridiculously fun thing to do is take a cruise of the Bosphorus. The public ferry company runs its own tour. No matter where I am I prefer to take the government-run tours, so I hopped on their boat late one morning and sailed along the strait all the way to the Black Sea. There, I disembarked at the tourist-filled fishing village of Anadolu Kavagi and followed the crowds up to the Yoros Castle. It’s a hot, steep walk, though local children have the market on cold bottled water covered (seriously, pathetic middle-aged tourists who are drenched in sweat and unwilling to part with fifty cents, now is not the time to bargain with a child labourer). At the top you’ve got a castle, some lizards, great views and, if you’re lucky, a live taping of Turkish MTV!
Now, go eat some more.
Oh, and I almost forgot you can do other stuff as well. There’s some big mosque or something. And I think I went to a castle. Yeah, I definitely did visit a castle… it had a circumcision room. There was a pretty museum by the mosque. And I went to this wet underground place with lots of columns that I saw on Bachelorette. And on my last day I stripped down naked and let a topless Turkish lady scrub my body until chunks of skin the size of cornflakes peeled off.
And then, as I prepared to get on an airplane and fly far, far away, I ate some more. (Okay, and I had a few boxes of Turkish delight in my bag for the road.) (Fine, and a chocolate-pistachio ice cream bar.)