Category Archives: ASIA

Turkey in 2 Weeks – Day 15: Karakoy

On our last day in Turkey, we met up with my boyfriend’s friend from university who lives in Karakoy, a commercial neighborhood in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul.

But first we stopped by one of the many fishing boats along the Bosphorus and picked up some fish sandwiches “balik ekmek”, one Istanbul’s favourite fast food.

Balik Ekmek "fish sandwich" along the Bosphorus. Istanbul, Turkey

Balik Ekmek “fish sandwich” along the Bosphorus. Istanbul, Turkey

So simple but so delicious: fresh grilled mackerel with onion on a crusty bun.  Loved it!

Balik Ekmek "fish sandwich" along the Bosphorus. Istanbul, Turkey

Balik Ekmek “fish sandwich” along the Bosphorus. Istanbul, Turkey

Fishing boat along the Bosphorus. Istanbul, Turkey

Fishing boat along the Bosphorus. Istanbul, Turkey

Leaving on a ferry to Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Leaving on a ferry to Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

We took the ferry across the Bosphorus to the European side, such a beautiful day for a ride out on the water.  Karakoy was a lovely change of pace from the old city – a bit more relaxed and less chaotic, more of a European feel.  We wandered through downtown Karakoy and then down a pretty pathway by the water, stopping along the way for a beer and some shisha.

Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

We had “kokorec” – a lamb intestine sandwich for lunch – his favourite food and I can see why!  Soft and spicy with a bit of crunch, I enjoyed every bite.

Kokorec (lamb intestine sandwich), Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Kokorec (lamb intestine sandwich), Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Even the ice cream is amazing in Turkey!  Cherry, honey cream (wow, what a delicious flavour) and Italian caramel, shaped into a flower just because.

Cherry, honey cream and Italian caramel ice cream, Karakoy, Turkey

Cherry, honey cream and Italian caramel ice cream, Karakoy, Turkey

Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

We met up with his wife and they took us out for an incredible dinner at their favourite local restaurant.  Up on a rooftop we drank lots of Raki, and ate raw meat sandwiches “cig kofte”, spicy eggplant and tomatoes with pomegranate and walnut – such a feast!

Cig Kofte (raw meatballs), Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Cig Kofte (raw meatballs), Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Eggplant and onions, Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Eggplant and onions, Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

But the highlight of the meal were the lamb ribs.  Tender and spicy with crispy skin, these ribs were one of the tastiest foods we had the whole trip.  We have for sure polished off a whole lamb while traveling in Turkey!  Such a lovely way to end our trip, with good company and good food.

Lamb ribs, Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Lamb ribs, Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey

We went back on the ferry and walked across the Galata Bridge, admiring Istanbul with all the mosques lit up at night.  Thank you Turkey for such an amazing adventure!  Everyone we met was so nice and helpful, I loved learning about your culture and your history, and of course, I loved eating all your delicious food!  One day I will come back…

Turkey in 2 Weeks – Day 14: Istanbul

The next morning we hopped on a small plane and headed back to Istanbul.  Flights to Istanbul were short and cheap – and I just couldn’t handle another overnight bus!  I was also happy for the extra time in Istanbul as we had a lot of souvenir shopping to do.

We stayed at a different hotel this time, and unfortunately this place was the most disappointing one of the trip.  My review of the Flower Palace Hotel is up on Trip Advisor.  That said, the manager apologized and offered a discount the next time we booked there.

We spent the morning hitting up the markets – the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market.  Shopping was a bit overwhelming at first, just a maze of every kind of item.  But I soon found my groove and got pretty good at haggling, making our way through both markets and ending up with bags filled with souvenirs: tea set, coffee pot, colourful small bowls, table runners, Turkish delights, tea, turmeric, saffron and even a Turkish lamp!  We go ripped off on the saffron – the cheap spice we bought comes from the same plant but isn’t the Iranian saffron which actually cost the same as back home.  The other scam we sort of avoided was with the apple tea.  We had been drinking this apple tea across the country – a gesture of hospitality whenever you enter a store.  This apple tea is pretty much Kool Aid-like sugar water.  We successfully dodged the shopkeepers who tried to push the sugar water tea on us and bought apple tea bags instead.  But when we tried the tea back at home they were pretty tasteless, and I wish I had bought the Turkish tea for everyone instead.

In the afternoon we saw a whirling dervish show – no photos allowed unfortunately.  The show was so beautiful and relaxing, like being in a trance.  I loved the Turkish folk music and the dancers were mesmerizing to watch, swirling endlessly in a circle, their form held so still and meditative.  The dancers are Sufis and they have given up their worldly possessions to act as messengers to connect God with the material world.

Grape leaves at Pasazade, Istanbul, Turkey

Grape leaves at Pasazade, Istanbul, Turkey

We had dinner at a romantic restaurant near our hotel called Pasazade.  We split some fresh grape leaves and I had lamb with smoked eggplant – smoked eggplant really is to die for!

Lamb with smoked eggplant at Pasazade, Istanbul, Turkey

Lamb with smoked eggplant at Pasazade, Istanbul, Turkey

Pasazade, Istanbul, Turkey

Pasazade, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

We wandered around the old town that evening admiring all the cute streets so full of life and lights.  We ended up in the main square where we picked up some baklava and ate it by the fountain in the park, admiring the Blue Mosque all lit up at night.

"Tower of Baklava" -  Istanbul, Turkey

“Tower of Baklava” – Istanbul, Turkey

Sultanahmet Park, Istanbul, Turkey

Sultanahmet Park, Istanbul, Turkey

I love how there are so many cats in Istanbul that there is a cat house in the park!

Sultanahmet Park, Istanbul, Turkey

Sultanahmet Park, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey in 2 Weeks – Day 13: Goreme

The next morning we crawled out of bed at an ungodly hour.  The reason?  Hot air ballooning.  The only reason I would ever wake up at 3:50AM!  Cappadocia is one of the top three places in the world for hot-air ballooning.  Predictable winds and moderate temperatures create favorable flight conditions that allow balloons to fly 300 days a year (compared with where I live, Ontario is lucky to get 20 days a year). We booked our flight with Voyager Balloons for 160 euro and they were excellent.  The flight ran smoothly and we felt safe with our pilot, who was very experienced and hospitable.

"Balloons getting fired up" - Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

“Balloons getting fired up” – Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

"Balloons getting fired up" - Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

“Balloons getting fired up” – Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

The flight was totally worth the early call.  Hot air ballooning over the surreal lunar landscape of Cappadocia was a magical, peaceful experience that I will never forget.  Soaring up over the land with a hundred other balloons as the sun begins to rise is beyond picturesque.  Moments like this make me feel so lucky to be able to go on these amazing adventures with someone I love.

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

"Descent" - Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

“Descent” – Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

After we landed, we all had a glass of champagne – a French tradition.  A perfect way to end this once in a lifetime experience.

"Celebratory champagne" - Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

“Celebratory champagne” – Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

That afternoon we headed out to the Goreme Open-Air Museum.  More caves!  These caves were once an important Byzantine monastic settlement, then a pilgrimage site from the 17th century on.

Goreme Open-Air Museum, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme Open-Air Museum, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Filled with frescos, churches, chapels and monasteries, most were no-photos-allowed.  The shot below is of the most famous church in the museum: Karanhk Kilise or “Dark Church”.  The church is filled with frescoes and is one of Turkey’s finest surviving churches.  There is another church called the Carikh Kilis “Scandal Church” where we saw the supposed last footprints of Jesus Christ before he ascended to heaven.  I guess that’s pretty impressive!

Goreme Open-Air Museum, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme Open-Air Museum, Karanhk Kilise “Dark Chuch”, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

For our last dinner in Goreme we decided to try a traditional kebap meal: meat and vegetables slow cooked in a terracotta pot, and then broken at the table.  Quite a dramatic entrance for our meal!  We sat on traditional Turkish couches on the floor and drank from clay goblets – such a fun and relaxing dining experience!

"Breaking the pot" - Kebap meal at Dibek restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

“Breaking the pot” – Kebap meal at Dibek restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

"Breaking the pot" - Kebap meal at Dibek restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

“Breaking the pot” – Kebap meal at Dibek restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

"Breaking the pot" - Kebap meal at Dibek restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

“Breaking the pot” – Kebap meal at Dibek restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Beef Kebap, Dibek restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Beef Kebap, Dibek restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

The tender meat was full of flavour and the spiced juices enveloped our plate. Another amazing meal!

We said good bye to Goreme, such a unique and fascinating town.

View from Oriental Cave Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

View from Oriental Cave Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey