A chill breeze makes me shudder as I sit atop a cruise boat sailing down the Bosporus River towards the Black Sea. The difference in architecture between the buildings on my left side and the buildings on my right side are truly remarkable. This is mainly due to the fact that on my right lies Asia and to my left lies Europe!
Yes, Istanbul, the only city in the world to be located in two continents. Istanbul is the definition of a culture fusion. Having visited most countries in Europe and as a resident of Asia I clearly see how this city has adopted traits and practices prevalent in both continents. In other words, Istanbul is the best of both worlds, or in this case both continents.
Istanbul is dubbed as one of the architectural capitals of the world and very rightly so. The Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque, The Topkapi Palace, are just few of the many magnificently crafted buildings that capture your attention. The rich history of the Ottoman Empire provides captivating back stories to these monuments.
The spice bazaar in Istanbul is one of the most famous spice markets in the world. It is without doubt one of the busiest places I have ever visited. Shopkeepers are kind and provide samples of everything (so visit it at least for the free samples) and the Turkish Delight, one of the delicacies of Turkey is sold in this bazaar. This chewy sweet is definitely a must have while visiting Istanbul.
After picking up a few spices from the bazaar, I see what looks like a chain of small cafeterias across the road. On coming closer, what I see amazes me. There are fishing boats bringing in fresh fish, presumably their catch for the day and what more, these fish are being cooked and wrapped in a subway style bun and served, all of this right from the boat! Being the foodie that I am, I decide to try it out. I assure you this is the freshest and juiciest fish you will ever taste.
I decide to explore the Istanbul cuisine a bit more after my delicious experience with what I now call the submarine fish wrap. The Doner Kebab is what comes to mind first. This kebab, now famous worldwide, originated in Turkey. I catch a cab from the bazaar and tell him to take me to Donerci Sahin Usta, a place recommended to me by a friend.
Donerci Sahin Usta is a modest outlet located near the night market. The Doner Kebab however, is anything but modest. I order a full plate, still hungry from all the Spice Bazaar shopping. The kebab is served in the shapes of small pieces of paper. The kebab is juicy, well cooked and is definitely the most unique and tasty kebab I have eaten. Don’t get me wrong, I have had Doner Kebabs before but this one takes the cake.
Having had my fill, I decide to try out the place recommended to me for Turkish Sweets, Hafiz Mustafa. This store has branches all around Istanbul and is one of Istanbul’s most famous sweet stores. I order the Kunafa, which is another Turkish specialty. It takes around 30 minutes to prepare which can seem like a long time but I assure you, the wait is well worth it. The Kunafa is cooked to a correct warm temperature, the cheese is stringy and the syrup trickles down your mouth to create a luscious taste. The baklava is close to perfection as well. The waiter smiles at me as I wolf down an entire Kunafa and a plate of Baklava on my own.
I arrive back at my hotel, Hilton Bosporus after a rather eventful day. Istanbul is definitely one of those places which have a magical land feel to it. The sights are marvelous, the people are amiable and the food, above all, is a culinary orgasm. Istanbul is a tourist haven and a must visit for someone looking for a quick and economical getaway.
Written by: Mohamed Uzair Adil