Its funny to think that just a few days ago Mark and I were following the keto diet. For those that dont know what this is, it is basically high fat and low carb. We were so concerned about eating our way through Italy that we both felt we needed to take it easy and lose a tad bit of weight. Well, easier said than done. I had half of my brain reminding me of how good I felt not stuffing my face with carbs, happy with the way my clothes were starting to fit again and genuinely feeling better about myself. Turns out the other half of my brain is the strongest. It kept reminding me that I wont have another chance to try food out here, that I was missing out on all the local delicacies and to worry about weight gain when I got home. Soon enough I will be back in camp, back to routine, running my shredmill and depriving myself of camp food (which isn’t all that bad).
Now that were back to eating what we want, the little voices still never shut up. “Ami, you DON’T need another piece of Turkish Delight.” “Do you really have to buy an entire KG of it?!” “Maybe just have a salad for lunch, cause you know you’re going to stuff your face with whatever you can at supper.” This voice is a tad quieter so its a bit easier to ignore, until I have to put on one of my tank tops, then it screams “I TOLD YOU SO!!” in the mirror. But hey, when am I going to have the chance again to eat Baklava in Turkey, Natas in Portugal or Pizza in Naples?? Never again, I remind myself! Enjoy it now, deal with it later right?! Please dont judge my rolls when I get home.
Istanbul has been pretty amazing. We made sure to check out the popular tourist spots like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Both pretty beautiful and worth the visit but nothing can ever top Barcelona’s, Sagrada Familia so I wouldn’t say it wowed me that much (how ignorant do I sound hey?). While we were waiting in line at Hagia Sophia which is directly across from the Blue Mosque we happened to hit prayer. For those that havent been to Turkey, they pray 5 times a day over a PA system and it goes on for a couple of minutes. Its quite interesting to listen to if its not waking you up before 5am. Its extremely loud and can be heard all over the city making it impossible to miss.
We dipped into the famous Grand Bazaar and spent some time zig zagging through the ancient market that was once only cloth tents and now a huge building full of shops. A lot of it was the same stuff over and over again but still entertaining none the less. We stopped at a Turkish Delight store and ended up blindly buying a box full after getting a bunch of free samples. Be warned, they are great at selling you with free samples! You almost feel obligated to buy after you ate a couple handfuls! We over paid by WAY too much and being too nice to say no, it ended up costing us 180 TKL which is about 40 euros and way too much for candy. We ended up going into an actual bakery a day later and got proper Turkish delight for less than 40 TKL, about 8 euro. Well, that can happen when traveling, you live you learn.
Our favourite place to visit the entire time was Istaklil Avenue in Taksim Square. A bustling, tourist street filled with high end shops, bakeries, restaurants, doner places and cafes. Packed shoulder to shoulder with other tourists, the street is lined with street performers of all kinds. It is such an amazing sight and our go to place when looking for food. You can find anything on this street. Mark and I ate at several different places and were never disappointed. Everything from the amazing Adana, minced spicy meat with pita and tomato bulgur to traditional Baklava with walnuts. The food here is phenomenal and hard to turn down. You are always being tempted with stacks of baked goods shining in the windows as you walk by and locals trying to entice you with their menu and shisha. I fell in love with the atmosphere and liveliness of this place.
I wasn’t aware that Istanbul is actually split up amongst two continents, Asia and Europe. Its only a matter of taking a 5 minute ferry ride and you will end up in a new continent. Mark and I are staying on the Europe side and for only 2 TKL (57 cents CND) you can get over to the Asian side. Pretty amazing and insanely cheap. We took a quick walk along the harbour before we headed back to our side. The heat here is quite intense and very different from Greece and Italy. Its been a struggle to adapt to different types of heat and humidity, especially at the rate were going. Its as if we are just getting used to it and we leave and have to get used to a completely different type of heat, I know, stop complaining right?
The amount of strays here can be a bit unsettling, especially when you see some in rough shape. I was reading up about them here and apparently locals enjoy the stray cats and feeding them. I noticed dogs roaming the streets with tags in their ears which mean they have been caught, vaccinated, spayed or neutered and released. Its great that they’re taking care of the health of these strays as I’ve read that Istanbul had a huge rabies outbreak in the past. I still cant help but want to hug and cuddle each one that I come across but have to hold myself back that they probably wont be as inclined to it as I might think. They make great subjects for practicing my photography now that I’ve started taking an online class.
I can tell you right now that Turkey is very high on my list for one of my favourite places so far and that if you’re looking for a place that is cheap, has amazing food, great culture and wonderful beaches, please, please add Turkey to your list! You wont regret it!
Tomorrow is our last day and we have a night train to Sofia, Bulgaria. It is the beginning of a long trek into Croatia. Yet another new country and I’m just as excited as the last one to share with you guys. Thanks, as always, for reading and please share and comment! Check out my Instagram and Facebook page for more photos or just to say hello. I love and miss you all, but just not enough to come home yet!
Drop down below for more info on Istanbul!