“And on the left we have The Golden Horn”
This saying actually originated from when Brita first came to Istanbul for the briefing earlier in the year and it stuck throughout our stay in Istanbul. Whenever we drove from our hotel out the Old City and started to see the Golden Horn river someone would assume the duty of tour guide and say, in an amusing tone, “and on the left we have The Golden Horn… and over here is The Iron Church”. Even some taxi drivers caught on to this without them knowing about our standing private joke…
It was an incredible and huge surprise when food stylist, Brita du Plessis, contacted me earlier this year to ask me to quote on a cookbook for a restaurant named Asitane in Istanbul, Turkey. Soon all was approved and we would have gone in March if the restaurant had not become really busy. So, after much anticipation, when we cleared check in and security on the 14th of July for our three-week job and excursion, I was elated.
With about three times the population of Cape Town, it is a busy place and I mean really busy. Maybe more than what the three-fold population figures might suggest. In the beginning I always had to caution myself before crossing the road by looking left first. It is a constant hustle and bustle of cars and people. A civilised beauty is that drivers do not get easily angered at all there, they just drive and get on with it. Amidst the busy and energetic lifestyle, the Istanbullions know how to enjoy themselves…. and Relax.
Luckily for me, they also know how to enjoy real good food, or maybe it’s just second nature to them by now. As Batur, our host and client said: “Michael is the happiest eater I have seen, even when he is chewing he has a smile on his face”. And rightly so, the food in Istanbul is AMAZING! The best thing is that even the ‘fast’ food is really good and tasty and most definitely a lot more healthy than most western popular fast food chains. But what I adore is the style in wich they do it. Little eateries with chairs on the pavement, graffiti on the walls. It’s the variety and the myriad of mezze plates that tingle the taste buds, plate after plate after plate, all laid out on the table so that you can choose what you want. The joy is in the variety and this is even before the mains or other courses that might follow. All of this is often served at a little tucked away local eatery. Love it.
One of my favourite eating experiences was at Zübeyir Ocakbasi & Restaurant. If you are planing a trip to Istanbul it is a must. A very helpful book that feature eateries is: Istanbul Eats- Exploring the Culinary Backstreet and istanbuleats.com is a little must have gem.
We have not yet talked about the buildings, monuments and really beautiful people. Truly a visceral overload for a first timer. We stayed right next to the Chora Museum, which hosts some of the best examples of Byzantine art in the world along with the other fine and maybe more well-known examples at the Hagia Sophia. Book at least half a day of your time for the palace if you plan to go! It’s on a grand scale, and it is grand…
Well Istanbul is a place that I will definitely have to visit again. There is just too much to experience, see and take in on a first time trip. Next time I’ll save and take a helicopter trip as one of the first things I do, just to get the lay of the land cause believe me it’s quite a big lay.
PS Don’t forget the Raki
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