Since arriving in Turkey, I’ve been attempting to learn “survival Turkish,” including helpful phrases for navigation.
The Turkish alphabet has 29 letters, including seven of latin origin (Ç, Ğ, I, İ, Ö, Ş, and Ü.)
For example, the district of Küçükçekmece is pronounced Kew-chook-check-meje, and the district Çamlıca is pronounced Cham-lee-jaw. The “ç” has a ch sound and the “c” has a j sound. Quite confusing.
This experiemce reminds me of a video I watched about Texans trying to pronounce Wisconsin city names.
Now I understand their struggle. Hah. 😀
I’m sure it’ll be easy soon enough. 🙂
Anyway, aside from studying a bit of the language, on Monday, I headed to Sultanhamet, in order to see some of the top historic sights.
Sights in Sultanahmet
The Basilica Cistern is an ancient water reservoir, which originally provided water to Istanbul, once Constantinople. Admission to this “sunken palace” will cost around $7.It is comprised of over 336 columns, most being recycled from old ruins.This water reservoir replaced the Stoa Basilica in the 4th century, hence its name, and is located in what was one of the Great Squares of Constantinople.The cistern has the capacity to hold 100,000 tons of water; however, at present there are only a few feet and a couple of fish. Mysteriously, two Medusa heads were discovered in the water reservoir, one placed upside-down and the other horizontal.Their origin is unknown, but many speculate it hopes to offset the gaze of a Gorgon, an angry Greek God.This column, entitled Hen’s Eye, represents slanted branches and tears, which pays tribute to the 7,000 slaves involved in its construction.From there, my next historical pit stop was one of the stunning mosques, the most famous being Sultanahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque.
With one main dome, eight secondary domes, along with six striking minarets, it is known as the last great mosque of the classical period.Built during the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, it combines both Christian and Islamic elements. Before entering the mosque, I referenced the billboard regarding proper dress attire. They also require removal of shoes.Fortunately at the entrance, they provide visitors with wraps for their head and waist.The head wrap was like a sterile hospitable bed sheet. I’ll definitely bring something more colorful next time. 😉
Anyway, the mosque was intricately designed with beautiful blue tiles.The most impressive element being the mihrab, an inscriptive panel made of carved marble.Absolutely stunning!
The term “New Mosque” may appear as false advertising, since this mosque was actually constructed in the 17th century, during the Ottoman Empire.Shoe booties to protect the carpet.From there, I navigated the back streets browsing for knick knacks, traveling with the masses.I felt slightly overwhelmed with all these people, trying to guard my purse and pricey camera with lens cap.
I had to chuckle when I looked back at my Mom’s words of advice as I began using my new DSLR camera.
“Megan, the first thing you want to do is take off the lens cap…”
She paused as I lingered for her words of wisdom.
“…and shove it in your bra.” 😛
Well, thanks Mom! That seemed to free up my hands a bit as I navigated the chaotic market.
One less thing to keep track of.
Fatih district near Sultanahmet. While browsing, I stumbled upon a fantastic café to get a recommendation for a bite to eat.
The Australian owner was very friendly, gave me a tourist map, and suggested I walk around the spice market.
Middle Eastern Spices
The Spice Bazaar
The spice market dates back to the 17th century and was traditionally the last stop on the caravans route along the silk road.Popular Middle Eastern spices found at the bazaar include cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, turmeric and caraway.
I picked up some cinnamon and curry, which were both vacuumed sealed.
Great idea for gifts later on. 😉
Additionally, the market had numerous Middle Eastern teas, which all smelled delicious! 😀
My favorites being the white tea, love tea and pomegranate tea.Dainty tea sets. 🙂Other specialties include walnut-stuffed dates, apricots and figs.Baklava and other sticky sweets.It looks like restaurants deliver from these bazaar shops as well. On a lunch tray no less. Such service!Although the sweets were tempting, I’m more of a savory person, so I began to hunt down a small shop I had read about on TripAdvisor.
Mısır çarşısı Üsküdarlı Ünal TurşularıTurşu means pickled, and this shop pickles everything from beets and okra, to beans and garlic cloves. *drool*I was able to pick out a cup of pickled veggies for only $1.Unfortunately, coming from Mexico, I bravely loaded up on the pickled jalapeños despite his fair warning.
The heat was so strong, I broke out in the hiccups right in the middle of the spice market. Lesson learned! 😛
On top of the spicy pickles, I was able to sample another famous Middle Eastern dish, more for those with adventurous taste buds. 😉This dish, known as Kokoreç, is a combination of sheep intestines, fat, and other organ meats, that are seasoned with lemon, olive oil, and garlic, then skewered and grilled until tender. The meat is then chopped, topped with oregano, red chili pepper, and finally served on a crusty roll.
The texture wasn’t terrible, but it did find the meat heavily seasoned. Maybe I’ll give it a second shot at another locale.
Anyway, I capped off the day at a local café in Florya, enjoying a hot cup of tea.
The couple next to me was drinking tea with a pet chicken on their lap. Only in Turkey! Hah. 😛
The rest of the week, I’ve been adjusting to life at my new school on the Asian side of Istanbul.
From Florya, we have literally been crossing continents each day to get to work. So cool! 😀Now today we’ll be moving into our new apartment on the Asian side, close to work. Wish us luck! 😀
Until the next post. Happy weekend everyone!