Bursa and the Iskender Kebab
On the way from Ephesus back to Istanbul we stopped at Bursa which is famous for the Iskender kebab. We found a small street restaurant and order three Iskender kebabs, not knowing what to expect. After a little while we were served with one of the most unattractive dishes I have seen. Picture a large pile of sliced kebab meat on a plate with glistening pools of butter. Hidden underneath is pide bread which soaks up the tomato flavoured sauce and butter. The only redemption was the few slices of pickles and tomatoes.
From Bursda we crossed the Sea of Marmara by car ferry and crossed from Asian to European Turkey. Instead of staying at old Istanbul to the south of the Golden Horn we thought it would be a nice change staying on the northern side in the Beyoglu district. After a nightmare time trying navigating the narrow one-way streets and looking for parking, we decided to not touch the car till our departure.
During the walk to our hotel, we started to realise we were staying at the hip part of town, boutique stores and street art everywhere. Our hostel was also a pleasant surprise, a small loft room with private bathroom and main window overlooking the street.
Galata Tower, Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square
That evening we decided to wander the streets, first visiting Galata Tower. Originally built as a light house, Galata Tower offers amazing views of the Golden Horn and Beyoglu.
From Galata Tower we followed the tram tracks along Istiklal Avenue an elegant pedestrian street to Taksim Square taking photos of the Monument of Republic. We ended our night with dinner at one of the restaurants.
In the morning we decided to visit Dolmabahce Palace one of the main administrative centres of the Ottoman Empire. Walking towards the Gate of the Sultan which marked the entrance to the palace there was a lone Turkish Guard guarding the entrance. I guess similar to the Queen’s Guards in Buckingham Palace. The Turkish Guard also did not move which made for some good photographs. Inside the palace grounds were neatly trimmed gardens and extravagant fountains. Inside the palace was what I would describe as an ‘old person’s home’, many styles clashing together with the view of more is better. There was also one of the world’s largest chandeliers in one room, though those went out of style years ago.
From Dolmabahce Palace we walked over the Golden Horn Bridge with the aim the try a famous fish sandwich. We found a number of restaurants under the Golden Horn Bridge who severed nothing move then a fillet of fish in a bun with salad, it was delicious. At the Old Istanbul side was a large open area with many small stands selling snacks, the first think we tried was a glass of red water with floating pieces, it turned out picked vegetables in brine (turşu). From salty we tried sweet, deep fried balls of pastry in syrup (kemalpaşa tatlısı).
We made one last stop at the Grand Bazaar stocking up on Turkish Delight and souvenirs.
For our last day in Istanbul there was no better thing to do then a cruise up the Bosporus River. After a rushed boarding, narrowly missing the departure we took our seats on the ferry. The ferry passed a number of key sights including Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, Ortakoy Mosque, Bosphorus Bridge, Beylerbeyi Palace, Küçüksu Palace and Anadolu Kavağı were we made a stop. Anadolu Kavağı located on the Asian side of Turkey is the location of Yoros Castle which on a hill overlooking the Black Sea. We climbed up to Yoros Castle, but unfortunately it was closed for restoration.
For lunch we had mezze at one of the restaurants on the shore before heading back down the Bosporus crossing from the Asian to European Turkey for the last time. One last walk across the Golden Horn Bridge heading towards the car ended our Istanbul holiday.