With over three thousand stores and 61 streets, Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is unlike any place I've ever been. It's one of the world's largest covered markets, and a visit is guaranteed to leave you exhilarated, frustrated and, above all, disoriented.
Although the glory days of the Turkish mustache might have exited with the Ottomans, Istanbul is still a Mecca of facial hair. Turkish men have the innate ability to grow a lustrous beard, and most emerge from the womb with a thick baby-stache already plastered across their upper lip. That, my friend, is a fact.
Under the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul was one of the world's great ethnic smorgasbords. Greek, Armenian, Albanian and Turk all got along relatively well and lived peaceably, if not equally, under Ottoman law. So it shouldn't be surprising to learn that Jews fleeing persecution in Europe found a permanent home here, and have long been part of the city's cultural fabric.
Found at the northern end of the Galata Bridge, the rough and tumble neighborhood of Karaköy is mainly visited for the purpose of transiting to other, more desirable areas. But with some nice spots to eat and a boisterous local atmosphere, there's good reason to spend a little time here.
Following a wild weekend of protests, we ventured up to Gezi Park on Sunday to see how things were going. The police had pulled out, leaving Taksim Square wholly in the hands of the people. Thousands had gathered around the square, and a festive atmosphere had settled in. We saw hundreds of volunteers cleaning up the trash and broken glass which had accumulated over the weekend, and others, less civic-minded, posing in front of vandalized, flipped-over cars.
I was at my desk in Cihangir, trying to write about the Yeni Camii, while outside the dueling sounds of chanting and tear gas cannons were clamoring for my attention. When, just outside your window, tens of thousands of people are clashing with police in a protest that was making headlines around the world, it's a little hard to concentrate on anything else.
Spread across some of the most beautiful land in Europe and the Middle East, Turkey lays claim to a jaw-dropping number of incredible sights. Visiting everything the country offers would take a lot longer than 91 days, so it's lucky that there's an alternative. Welcome to Miniaturk.
It was the mid 15th-century, and although the Ottoman army had long since surrounded the city, Constantinople was proving stubbornly resistant. In order to more effectively isolate the Byzantine capital, the invaders hastily constructed the Rumeli Hisarı. This fortress along the Bosphorus is still in marvelous condition, and makes for a fun outing.
They're side-by-side on the European shore of the Bosphorus Strait, but the towns of Arnavutköy and Bebek couldn't be further apart in spirit. One we loved, but the other we couldn't get away from soon enough.
Manti are best understood as Turkish tortellini. There's very little to distinguish them from their more famous Italian cousins. Pockets of dough stuffed with meat, potato, cheese, spinach, or anything else, this delicious Turkish staple immediately won a place in our hearts.