Very important cullinary words that you should know by heart to enjoy Istanbul fully!

Meze: Side dish or starter served together with raki. The most simple and basic mezes are white cheese and melon and they go very well with raki.

Raki: National Turkish drink made of fermented grapes. It has a strong aniseed smell and taste. It contains 45% alchohol. Usually it is drunk together with food although recently people started drink it alone as well.

Meyhane: This is the restaurant you drink raki and eat meze and chat with your friends (paradise!). You should eat and drink very slowly though. The slower is the better! Spending 2-3 hours is very normal, 5-6 hours is not unusual at a meyhane table.

Fasil: This is the Turkish classical music, with some gypsy touch, played at some meyhanes. The band is usually made of gypsies.

Fasil Meyhane: Easy! When there is fasil at a meyhane then this meyhane is called “fasil meyhane”. Don’t miss this experience and try to choose an authentic one where local goes to.

What’s winter weather like in Istanbul?

Many people think that Istanbul is tropical. This is completely incorrect! Istanbul is cold in winter. It’s often rainy and on some days it’s snowy. So bring very warm clothes and winter shoes/boots! Brrr…

A good fish restaurant right on the waterfront: Villa Bosphorus

You’ll be very close to Bosphorus at this restaurant: so close that waves might roll over you sometimes! The restaurant is an old wooden mansion at Beylerbeyi, which is a pretty, authentic district on the Asian side of Istanbul.

Beylerbeyi is rarely visited by tourists but is in fact well worth exploring. If you decide to eat here, you should try to make time to wander through the neighbourhood and to visit Beylerbeyi Palace as well.

The food is good and the prices are reasonable. The service is great. On the weekends Villa Bosphorus serves very good breakfasts. You should try to book a table next to Bosphorus to enjoy this place fully.

Address: Iskele Caddesi No:14, Beylerbeyi / Istanbul.
Telephones: +90 216 318 68 10, + 90 216 321 69 87
Website: http://www.villabosphorus.net/

Fantastic meze and fish plus roof-top views!

Doga fish restaurant restaurant has a simple formula: delicious meze (starters) and fish, great service with (if you book your table in advance) really lovely views.

The place is a bit pricy but if quality food experience is important for you, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to eat here. We recommend you to book in advance especially to get a table with the sea and old city views.

Address: Akarsu Yokusu Cd. No: 44-46, Floor 7

Cihangir (Beyoglu-Taksim) / ISTANBUL

Phone: +90 212 243 36 56 +90 212 293 91 44

Pedestrian survival kit for Istanbul… and for the rest of Turkey too!

Cars are king, pedestrians are nothing, cyclists do not exist… so, as a pedestrian, you need to give way to cars and not expect them to give way to you.

Officially cars drive on the right, but you can never be sure! Look both ways all the time.

Zebra crossings are meaningless unless there’s a traffic light in place.

Even if there is a traffic light for pedestrians and you are crossing at green for you, still be cautious.

If you are crossing one way road, still check both of the directions.

Don’t forget that traffic is the biggest danger for you in Istanbul and Turkey!

The above are serious recommendations but take them with a light-heart! 🙂

A great hidden meyhane in a great hidden disrict

Huseyin’in Yeri, which means Huseyin’s place, is great absolutely authentic meyhane in Balat. The district is a very interesting and historical, it is not touristic at all, it is safe but poor. The restaurant itself (meyhane) is completely low key, people are very friendly, they offer cheap and very good food and mezes. If you’d like to have a real meyhane experience, get great hospitality, kind attention and service, you should not miss this place.

They don’t have a website. Their address is “Vodina Caddesi No 173 / Balat” and phone number is +90 212 525 32 51. Most probably there will not be someone who will be able to speak to you in English. This place is very low-key, so you don’t need to book in advance.

Ice-cream man tricks!

Turkish ice-cream is made with salep -wild orchid root powder- and it is hand whisked with a long metal stick.

The origin of this ice-cream is a city in the south east Anatolia called Kahraman Maras. In this city, they sell the ice cream not with weight but length! The reason for this is the texture of ice-cream; it is very sticky because of salep and lots of hand whisking.

You will see quite a few shops selling it along the Istanbul streets. The ice-cream man is dressed up with traditional costumes and they bell a ring. Seeing them easy but getting the ice-cream is not easy! You’ll be tricked every time you think you are getting your ice-cream! Lots of fun and you should definitely try it.

In winter, MADO might be the only option to try this very special ice-cream. Their ice-cream men dressed in a modern way, don’t do tricks and the ice-cream is not the real stuff but it is still very good. Having said that, you can be sure that everything at MADO will be fresh and good quality and they have hundreds of shops in Istanbul. So, finding one will not be difficult at all, neither getting your ice-cream!

christmas in Istanbul

photo by marfis75

Christmas is not widely celebrated in Istanbul although you will see Christmas decorations around the main streets in a humble way. These are for New Year and have nothing to do with Christmas in fact! One should not be surprised considering Christians are very few in Istanbul’s vast population. Church services are regularly done and this is correct for Christmas eve as well.

So, Istanbul might provide a good opportunity to be a bit away from fuss of Christmas time whilst not missing it completely.

Is the Bosphorus a river flowing through Istanbul?

The Bosphorus is not a river but a sea-strait dividing Istanbul in the middle. It’s approximately 30 kilometers long, 1.2 kilometers wide and is salt-water. With its sea-smell, lapping waves and deep blue colours it’s definitely a sea, washing Istanbul with its salty cool breeze all the time. If you go to shores of Bosphorus in the evening, even in the summer you’ll probably need a warm jumper or coat!

The Bosphorus is beautiful and very important for Istanbul. You should definitely spend time alongside and on it, during your visit to Istanbul.

Is it worth to visit Princes islands during our short Istanbul trip?

Spending some time on Princes islands must be a must for your Istanbul visit! Princes islands is a green untouched oasis in Istanbul. It is a great surprise and very hard to believe as well how these islands stayed so protected and so untouched considering their proximity to Istanbul.

There are four main islands Buyukada, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kinaliada (ada means island in Turkish). If you don’t have time to see all of them then Buyukada is the one not to miss. On princes islands engine vehicles are forbidden any only exception to this is municipality vehicles. Transportation way for people on the islands is walking, cycling and horse carts. Especially the mansions on Buyukada are very impressive and they are one of the best examples of wooden houses of late 19th century and early 20th century.

Once you go there you should rent a bicycle and explore the island. If you want to see the island in a lazy manner then you can take a tour of the island with a horse cart. There are two types of these tours: Big and small (Buyuk and Kucuk in Turkish).

To go to islands, you’ll need to catch a boat but it is strongly recommended to get a traditional boat not the fast-boat (seabus) to enjoy the marvellous sea journey. If you take off at Buyuk island first, then you can catch the boat from this island to the next one and then to the other next one, one by one without paying money for the journeys you do between the islands.

Nearly all of the Istanbul sea transportation, including Princess islands, is done by IDO which is the municipality’s sea transportation company.

Here is the website for IDO in English: http://www.ido.com.tr/en/index.cfm

One last thing: Don’t miss the fish-soup at one of the restaurants around the main jetty at Buyukada. When you get out of the boat, they will be on your left along the coast. Enjoy!