We packed a lot of favorites into our last day in Istanbul. Our flight didn’t leave until late in the afternoon, so we donned our backpacks (still relatively light) and struck off early and took our local bus to its terminus at Taksim square. We watched an older man feed the pigeons then wandered leisurely down Istiklal street. It was the first really drizzly day we’d had in Istanbul so we pulled my backpack’s handy little jacket over it to protect our precious laptops. Have I mentioned before that I love Istiklal street? Well, I do. We stopped at another candy store for copious samples of Turkish delight and a box of fresh baklava, bought some last minute trinkets and said goodbye to the area. We followed the street to the end near Galata tower where it turns into a narrow cobblestone hill lined with satellite and electronics stores.
I had my heart set on Balik Ekmek (literally Fish Bread, a simple sandwich filled with little fish). We crossed over Galata bridge which was teeming with fishermen pulling my soon-to-be-lunch out of the water, then had a seat at a Balik Ekmek stall and ordered straight from gilded boats tied to the quay. The boats seemed designed to rock dramatically in the waves as cooks danced around frying up little fish on them. The sandwich itself was meh, but the experience was worth it. It was obviously a popular activity with locals, especially groups of middle aged women taking breaks from shopping nearby.
We could see the spice bazaar from our seats, so after some fried honey mini-donuts we tentatively took our huge backpacks into the throng of spice shoppers. We lasted long enough to buy some snacks for the flight then fled to less crowded shopping avenues and checked out the unusual cheeses, fresh fruits (cherries were just coming into season), and nuts. Turkey is the world’s biggest producer of hazelnuts and they don’t let you forget it, they appear everywhere and in everything from Turkish delight and truffles to sugary breakfast spreads in different flavors.
We wandered up streets that sold children’s clothing, sewing notions and fabric towards the Hagia Sophia. There we sat on a wall, ate some roasted chestnuts (sold on practically every street corner in tourist areas, it was my last chance to have some) and admired the ancient city one last time.
We’re in Prague now with our friends from San Francisco. There’s already so much to talk about and so many pictures to post – coming soon!