there were mosques around every corner. my favorite? the blue mosque:
it also happens to be one of the only ones we actually went into. my first time hearing the call to prayer was one of the strangest things i've experienced. over megaphones, every mosque calls the people to prayer, 5 times a day. chants from the quran filled the streets.
more things that filled the streets? street food vendors. like this guy selling 'simit' (round bread covered in sesame seeds):
stands were all over the place selling all kinds of food; simit, roasted chestnuts, boiled and roasted corn, pickled vegetables (gross), and halka (similar to churros). kebabs are also considered street food, and there were kebab 'stands' everyywherrreee. walking through one of the many many markets, luli and i stumbled on this little place:
there was a decent line of turks, so we figured it was a good idea. for 2 turkish lira, we got the most amazing sandwich i've had in a long long time. spicy deliciousness. in addition to to street food being everywhere, there was also baklava all over the place.
there are very few words to describe how good it was. after sicily and istanbul, i have a new found love for things with pistacchio. i'm pretty positive i had at least one piece of baklava every day we were there. it never got old, just stayed flaky and awesome.
i became obsessed with multiple things while we were there...
evil eyes. which, despite their name, are a symbol for protection.
tiles. so ornate. so pretty.
apple tea and turkish tea. we were given apple tea practically every time we walked into a store and were served turkish tea every afternoon when we got back to our hostels. i just love tea...so, job well done, turkey.
probably one of the best things about istanbul were the markets. the grand bazaar and the spice bazaar are two of the most popular, but there were so many others that oftentimes felt like little hidden secrets.
the grand bazaar. grand indeed. huge and intimidating. also, be prepared to haggle prices down; the vendors are extremely pushy and try to sell things to you for at least 50% more than what things are actually worth. needless to say i didn't buy a single thing there, i hate being harassed and hit on when i shop. a sight to see, but not the place for me.
the spice market on the other hand was much less crowded, and much more calm. they had everything. spices (duh), tea, honey, plants, mass amounts of turkish delights, and more. the colors were beautiful.
i think of all the markets we went to, my favorite was the arasta bazaar. they had the most incredible jewelry, and i found these old maps:
everything was really pricey, so again, no purchases; but everything was awfully nice to look at. it was also the smallest, easiest to manage bazaar we found and was right in the heart of sultanhamet, perfect.
the only market we went to that i bought anything was one we stumbled upon after walking around an area of the city known as eminönü:
i found a few cheap crafty things that i couldn't pass by. i'm convinced tourists don't really know this bazaar exists, we hardly saw anyone other than turks, and no one there spoke english. we also found amazingly delicious freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. since the man working at the stand spoke no english, we had to play charades to get it, but it was well worth looking like fools.
we went on a boat tour of the bosphorus and golden horn. it was freezing, but the sultans palaces that we got to see along the sea were incredible.
another incredible thing we got to see. whirling dervishes. mesmerizing.
my favorite part of the whole trip was probably the hamami we went to. a traditional turkish bath. it is probably also one of the most awkward things i've ever experienced. once i got past the naked self consciousness, it was blissful. i was scrubbed and exfoliated raw, bathed head to toe, massaged, and shampooed all by a turkish woman who's only english words were 'lady,' 'turn,' and 'douche' (which she used in the french sense, meaning shower). i got to sit in a sauna and a steam room, and swim in a cold pool. i hardly remember a time i have ever been so relaxed. i would go to one every week if i could.