May 23 & 24
Constanze Letsch is our "Taste of Istanbul" guide. She also is a journalist for the London Guardian. Conni, is a young outspoken German with a wonderful command of the English language (she was in Texas for a few years) and fluent in Turkish. We met at 9:30AM in front of the Hamdi Restaurant which was not far from the tram station near the harbor. The tram was not as crowded as it was yesterday. We probably should not have had breakfast since we began to sample food on this "Taste of Istanbul" extravaganza almost from the beginning. Olives, nuts, and cheese were first, followed by tea and special twisted bread all served in a tiny back room. The tea is brought from this place by vendors to many parts of the market. Then the next stop was where a street vendor was setting up a chicken rotisserie and where the famous (and once outlawed) Kokorec, intestine wrapped lamb cooked on a rotisserie over a wood fire was ready for us to taste. We passed vendors with the pretzel shaped bread balanced on their heads and then entered a bakery where the most delicious Baklava was sampled (actually, more than sampled!). We even got to see the tiny kitchen where the baked goods are produced and watch the baker in action. It was getting near noon and we thought this was lunch when we entered a "Turkish lunch room" and sat down to a number of different dishes. BUT it was just a sample again and we headed off to another type of bakery where a pizza-type flat-bread was being baked in a wood-fired oven. That was really good! Next, to the candy store where there are at least a dozen flavors of Turkish delight. Then on to more tea in an outdoor theater housed in an ancient building. As we pass some vegetable stands, we turn into the Boza (a fermented bulgur wheat drink) store and try this with roasted chick peas. Boza is somewhat like yogurt, and has properties for aiding digestion. It's nearly 2PM and while we have been sampling food all morning, it is now time for lunch at a restaurant where we sit outdoors and have some hearty Turkish concoctions. As we bid farewell to Conni and the others in our group, we decide to walk back to our hotel (after all that eating!). We have a late dinner that night, but still have room for baklava with ice cream.
The next day, we get up in time to have breakfast and check out. Our taxi takes most of our Turkish lira and we head home at noon for the 10 hour flight to JFK in New York. While Delta Airlines has invested $1.5 billion in the new terminal 4, it's more fru-fru than function. We still have to wait in an interminable line to recheck our baggage (we were not allowed to just deposit the luggage on the conveyor belt as before) and "commuter" terminal 2 is only accessible by bus which does not seem to have any clear path from terminal 4. We do get home before midnight.
This has been one of our best trips (except for terminal 4 in JFK). The flights were all on schedule and the extra days in Amsterdam and after in Istanbul made it seem so complete. Of course, Classic Journeys was superb. Writing this trip journal has brought all the things that rushed by us back into slow motion, so we do this as much for us as for you, our "armchair travelers." Many have already asked, "Where will you go next?" Anne is dreaming up some possible itineraries, but it may be for our 50th anniversary (in 3 years). Right now, the RV, time with Jesse & Tim in the summer, and our annual trips to Florida are the only realities. But please "stay tuned" we might surprise you (and us too)!