Desperately seeking beauty…
Like Paris with spice. Charming side alleys filled with outdoor cafes. Adorable little red trolleys. Cats lounging beneath fish market stalls, slinking along walls and roofs. Tea sipped from tiny tulip-shaped glasses. Patisseries filled with baklava and Turkish delight. Street musicians playing exotic sounding instruments. A huge platter of kebabs, Turkish pancakes filled with spinach and potatoes. Stuffed cabbage and grape leaves. All served slowly and elegantly just steps away from the chaos of Istiklal Street. What’s not to love? It’s an intoxicating place.
Silhouettes of mosques. Calls to prayer. Strangely beautiful as we leave the spice market and walk beside the sea. The sense of time standing still amidst the chaos and ever throbbing sea of people. A reminder even to a non-Muslim of something greater.
Sampling sweet roasted chestnuts from one of many street vendors. Delicious. Strolling over the Galata bridge past fishermen casting into the Golden Horn below. Cruise ships, fish markets, and felines adorning doorways, stone walls and sidewalks. Climbing steep, winding streets filled with cafes and little shops on our way to Galata tower to take in the 360 view. Meandering back through streets pulsating with drum beats, Turkish folk music, didgeridoo mixed with modern techno and cats. Always the beloved cats. Sipped hot tea from our tulip cups. Discovered Turkish pistachio ice cream made with goat’s milk. With baklava of course. And finally, lost, guided back to the hotel by a kind Turk, continually glancing behind to make sure we were staying on course.
Hagia Sophya and blue mosque were stunning. The Topkapi palace impressive. But the best part of Istanbul is on the streets, in the alleyways and cafes. It’s the symphony of spicy scents, red-tiled roofs stacked around the ship filled sea, peasant women selling bread to feed the pigeons, market vendors rushing through the stalls carrying delicate cups of tea atop ornate trays, then later leaving leftover scraps of food out for the local cats. It’s seeing men washing their feet outside the mosques as the sun is going down. It’s the poetry of people living their familiar lives, oblivious to passersby, like me, who are completely enchanted by the newness of it all.