Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Spice Market, the Bosphorous, Fish Bread, the Hamam, and the Great Palace Mosaic Museum

After the first few days in Istanbul, I thought that in the end Turkey would be an interesting place to visit but I wouldn't really like it. It was too hot with too many tour buses and tourists. (Truthfully, even though there were a lot of tourists, there weren't any really long lines to get in to see the sights. It wasn't like going to Versailles; the most we waited was about 20 minutes.) Anyway, the weather got a little better, and Istanbul starts to grow on you after a relaxing afternoon or two of sipping tea and sharing a nargile.

In our last couple of days in Istanbul, we went to the spice market,

which is near where we caught a 90 minute Bosphorus cruise.

There are lot of palaces along the way.

And the awesome looking Rumeli Fortress. It's giant and appeared to have all of 4 tourists inside, but it's so far from the normal tourist spots.

Next to the Galata Bridge, not far from the spice market and not far from where we caught the boat, there are 3 boats that sell 'fish bread.'

The boats rock back and forth to nearly 45 degree angles, but that doesn't faze the guys on board who are constantly grilling fresh fish. Toss a fish in some bread with some lettuce and onions and hand it off to the customer on land for 4 TL (a little more than 2 USD). On land, some guys sell drinks, and there are some scattered stools and tables with lemon juice and salt to put on your sandwiches. They taste awesome.

In terms of activities to do, going to the hamam (Turkish bath) may be the most popular, aside from buying a carpet (people in Turkey will constantly ask you if you're going to buy a carpet or ask you to come see their carpet store). We went to Cemberlitas Hamam, which is in a historic (1500s) building and has nice but separate women's and men's baths and caters to tourists (so no one minds that you have no idea what to do or where to go). In the bath, you relax on a heated marble slab and then some old woman (or man, in the men's section) scrubs you down. Sean had an awesome time, but from his description of his experience, I think that maybe the women's experience is watered down: not as hot, less crazy scrubbing, no massaging component. On the other hand, the women's section had an awesome room with hot and cool water pools to hang out in.

The Great Palace of Constantinople once stood (AD 330 to 1081) where the Blue Mosque now stands. Excavations in the 1930s and 1950s uncovered some of the mosaics which decorated one of the courts and date to the 500s. It's giant:

Here's an elephant strangling a lion:

And here's a monkey catching birds. Awesome!

Even though there's a walkway to keep the tourists off the mosaic, the janitor can just stroll on them to clean to walkway railing.


Nora K. said...

Wow, these pictures are really spectacular! I am coming back to this blog!

Jackie said...


Spice Bazaar said...

Egypt Spice Bazaar, my wonderful ...
Wait .. I come from istanbul
Spice Bazaar, shopping center here ..