I Only Have
Two Days To See Everything!
you go if you had only two days to explore a city? Shopping in London?
Museum hopping in Paris? People watching in Rome?
to a Helsinki sauna...
returned from a whirlwind trip to Turkey, covering five towns in
ten days, I have made my choice: Istanbul in autumn, where the feel
of summer still lingers in the air. Here, then, is the I Only Have
Two Days To See Everything! itinerary for Istanbul...
neighbourhood you happen to wake up in, there is bound to be a bakery
close by, and there's nothing quite like tea and pogaça for breakfast.
The tea is served,
not in a mug, but in the ubiquitous lidless hourglass, and the pogaça
is the larger, early-morning version of the cheese-filled pastry
generally offered at afternoon teatime. You can always add some
of the other components of a traditional Turkish breakfast -sliced
tomatoes and cucumbers, olives, and kasar cheese- to give yourself
energy for the long day ahead.
starts in the neighbourhood of Eminönü, on the southern side of
the Galata Bridge.
number of booths offer "Turkish Viagra", a reportedly
potent mix of figs and walnuts...
From here, the
streetcar takes you directly to the courtyard across from Istanbul
University. On your left is the Beyazid Mosque, built by Sultan
Beyazid II in the years 1500-1505; the Sultan himself is buried
on the grounds. Directly before you is the Sahaflar Çarsisi, the
second-hand book bazaar attached to the Grand Bazaar, and one of
the oldest markets in Istanbul. None other than Roch Carrier, internationally-renowned
Quebec author of La guerre, yes sir! and Le chandail de hockey (The
Hockey Sweater), recently published a small chapbook in honour of
the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Antiquarian Book Fair, detailing
his adventures finding, and endlessly bargaining for, a literary
treasure in the Sahaflar Çarsisi.
One of the more
original shops to visit in the Grand Bazaar is Deli Kizin Yeri (www.delikiz.com),
the Crazy Lady's Place, founded by an American ex-patriot who has
permanently relocated to Turkey. This shop specializes in Anatolian-inspired
gifts, including toys and kitchenware, that are easily packable
in already - crowded suitcases. Many of the items feature traditional
oya, intricate lace work made in villages across Turkey.
A short walk
away you come upon the Misir Çarsisi, or Egyptian Bazaar, also known
as the Spice Bazaar. This bazaar is about two hundred years younger
than the oldest parts of the Grand Bazaar. Back in the 15th Century,
Egyptians used to sell their spices here, and the bazaar still features
an amazing variety of spices, dried fruits and nuts, teas, sweets,
honeycombs and aphrodisiacs from Turkey, Egypt, Iran and many other
countries. A number of booths offer "Turkish Viagra",
a reportedly potent mix of figs and walnuts, and each booth offers
samples of its wares, so that in walking through the twists and
turns of the bazaar, you can almost eat a complete meal.
bazaars, the I Only Have Two Days To See Everything! itinerary offers
you two options:
In the neighbourhood
of the bazaars are the Aya Sofya Museum, the Topkapi Palace and
the Blue Mosque, among other historical buildings and monuments.
Your first option is to take the time to visit any or all of these,
and your afternoon ends with a late lunch/early supper at Otantik
Restaurant on Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Street) in Taksim.
Afterward, you can spend your evening exploring this broad pedestrian
walkway and perhaps having a nightcap or two. The latest popular
area for drinks is Küçük Beyoglu avenue, which was originally a
line of old, collapsing Greek buildings but has since been renovated
into a quartet of trendy bars and coffee shops.
you can take your time approaching Istiklal Caddesi by strolling
across the Galata Bridge and then up through the Galata neighbourhood
to the Galata Tower. This tower, originally built as the Christea
Turris (Tower of Christ) in 1348 during an expansion of the Genoese
colony in Constantinople, was later, during the Ottoman period of
the city's history, used as an observation tower for spotting fires.
According to the Seyahatname (Travelogue) of Ottoman historian and
traveller Evliya Çelebi, around 1630, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi used
artificial wings to glide from this tower over the Bosphorus Strait
to the slopes of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side. Indeed, on a clear
day, the view from the top of the tower (now a restaurant), or even
from the hill, makes such a flight seem almost possible...
As you begin
your walk along Istiklal Caddesi, there are a number of landmarks
to note on either side, including the Galatasaray High School, Saint
Anthony's Church and the Pera Museum (http://www.peramuzesi.org.tr/index_en.html),
just one block away on Mesrutiyet Caddesi. The museum's current
exhibit, The Lure of the East: British Orientalist Painting in the
19th Century, runs until January 2009. Their permanent, and best,
feature is Osman Hamdi Bey's Kaplumbaga Terbiyecisi, or Tortoise
Tamer. This stunning 19th Century work, with its rich reds and intricate
details, portrays an Ottoman tortoise tamer; some have suggested
that the painting symbolizes the difficulty, or slowness, of achieving
Careful of the
tramcar as you head back to Istiklal Caddesi! If you find your legs
beginning to ache from all the walking, you can always hop on the
tram as it makes its way up to Taksim Square. If you prefer, you
can end your day with dinner at any one of the restaurants, bars,
coffee shops, fast food outlets or kokoreç (seasoned and spiced
lamb intestines served with vegetables in a half loaf of bread or
pita - very tasty!) stalls along Istiklal Caddesi.
and flavourful option for traditional Turkish dishes is the aforementioned
easy to distinguish by its oversized front windows where a smiling
woman is always rolling out dough. And what meal would be complete
without Turkish coffee and a selection from the dessert tray?
Hamdi Bey's Kaplumbaga Terbiyecisi, or Tortoise Tamer.
Day two begins
in the Ortaköy neighbourhood. A number of artists and artisans display
their wares along the avenues beside the Ortaköy Mosque, directly
on the Bosphorus. Two of the more original creators are Ebru Tanis
who designs lovely glass jewellery, and Fethi Develioglu (http://www.fethibaba.com/bio.html),
who paints delightful miniatures of Istanbul skylines, often including
cats. Breakfast or brunch may be enjoyed at any of the waterfront
cafes, whose servers will all try to entice you into their establishment
rather than their competitor's.
you can continue walking along the sea, or hop on a city bus, toward
Arnavutköy. From the quay here, the Bosphorus ferry leaves at scheduled
times and stops at both Kandilli (famous for its yogurt) and Anadolu
Hisari on the Anatolian side - the counterpart to the Rumeli Hisari,
both fortresses built prior to Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror's siege
of Constantinople in 1452 - before heading toward Emirgan.
district features the Sakip
Sabanci Museum (http://muze.sabanciuniv.edu/main/default.php?bytLanguageID=),
currently hosting the Salvador Dali: A Surrealist in Istanbul exhibition.
If, while you are in Istanbul, you hear of another equally interesting
exhibit (such as through www.timeout.com), feel free to change this
part of the itinerary. If your visit falls on a weekend, you could
even schedule a full boat cruise of the Bosphorus
(http://www.bogazturu.com/index.html), either in the morning,
the afternoon, or throughout the day, meals included.
If you are not
joining a boat tour, then an ideal place for a late lunch is Köfteci
Ramiz, in the Levent Carsi neighbourhood. Levent - a once entirely
residential district, now featuring bakeries and boutiques circling
a public park - is accessible by metro or, if you still have the
energy, is about an hour's walk uphill from Arnavutköy. The view
from the top, overlooking the Bosphorus and across to the Turreted
Military High School on the Anatolian side, is well worth the climb.
from above Arnavutköy.
cats and dogs of Istanbul are especially plentiful in this neighbourhood,
and gather in groups round the doorways of the houses - and sometimes
even appear on the windowsills!
Shopping Centre is halfway along your walk, and currently features
a giant shoe on each of its four levels as part of the Istanbul
Shoe Art exhibition; artists and designers have collaborated on
these sculptures, which will be auctioned at the close of the exhibition,
with the money donated to charitable foundations.
in Levent is a restaurant devoted entirely to the Turkish köfte,
or seasoned meatball, and next door is the ideal place for dessert:
Özsüt, featuring rice puddings, chocolate puddings and various Turkish
specialities such as asure, or Noah's Pudding. This pudding is one
of the oldest desserts of Turkish cuisine. As legend has it, when
Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat, Noah and his family wished to
hold a celebration to express their gratitude toward God. All their
food stores had dwindled, however, so they made a dessert with all
the remaining ingredients, including chick peas, apricots, figs,
raisins, and other fruits and legumes. Another speciality dessert
is tavuk gögsü, kazandibi, a type of burnt milk pudding whose main
ingredient is chicken breast - much tastier than it sounds!
After all this
walking and eating and sightseeing, it is high time for a rest.
From Levent, the metro takes you to Taksim in less than ten minutes.
Head back down Istiklal Caddesi to the Perla
Kallavi Nargile House (http://www.beyoglubeyoglu.com/cafeler/nargile_cafe_k/kallavi_cafe.html)
- up four flights of stairs and out on to the gallery. Here you
can smoke a nargile (shisha), sip a coffee or two, or have a beer
as you gaze out over the rooftops of Istanbul, toward the Golden
Horn, remembering all those who have previously looked out over
this panorama, and looking down on the crowds that nowadays move
through the city's streets. Perhaps you too might take wing, like
Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi, and glide over the water...
November / December 2008
by Deniz B. Bevan:
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Bladeby
Approaching Ireland by ferry...
Just Plain Nesin