Istanbul Culinary Delights

After AAMAS 2015, I spent a day exploring Istanbul, Turkey with my labmates from the University of Texas at Austin.

Piyush’s constant inability to sleep past 5am on this trip led to him planning a day focused on what he cares about while traveling – food. I had no better ideas for the day, and he seemed excited about it, so I joined him.

We started the day by eating breakfast on the roof top. Then we checked out of the 6-bed dorm and left our luggage in the luggage room (which always seems to be crowded with bags).

Elad and Jake both really wanted to smoke hookahs, so we went to a café near our hostel for that. They ordered apple and watermelon flavors and Turkish coffee while I ordered a strawberry milkshake. I passed the time writing postcards, and we wrote one together to our advisor Peter.

Next, Piyush took us to a baklava place near the Galata Bridge. We had all expected a small shop, but the place was actually really huge. We got a box of 8 and quickly devoured them. We all agreed the puffy triangle one was by far the best – though they were all delicious.

Next to the Bosperous, by the baklava shop.

After the baklava, we walked across the Galata Bridge and then said goodbye to Elad (who was catching a flight to Israel) and Jake (who wanted to check into his room).

Fishermen on the Galata Bridge.

Piyush, Jivko, and I had lunch at fancy kebab place near the Spice Market. It had a nice view of the Bosperous and the Galata Bridge. Although the food was good, it probably was not quite worth the 50L I paid. That’s one place Piyush and I differ – I have little desire to pay for views, presentation or service. And you can get really good food for a lot less in Istanbul.

After lunch, the three of us went to the Spice Market, as Piyush wanted to buy coffee from a particular shop. He also bought some tea from a shop actually inside the Spice Market. I would have bought some as well if I did not have to carry it around for the rest of my trip. We wandered through the pet area of the market, and then bid goodbye to Jivko (who was going home to Bulgaria for a week).

With Jivko leaving, now there were only two of us remaining. Piyush and I took the 4L (cheaper with metro card) ferry to Kadıköy (on the Asian side). Some guy was trying to take our money instead of letting us buy a token. It was either completely a scam or perhaps he was taking the 4L and then actually paying less with his card to get people in – either way, his scam was flawed because it seemed sketchy and there was no benefit to us over just buying a token. As we were leaving the dock, we noticed what seemed to be two different political parties hosting booths and parties. One group even had a line of guys doing what seemed to be a coordinated dance with a group of spectators around them. Once we tired of watching the commotion, we tried to walk to a Turkish Delight place Piyush had found. Google Maps was saying it was 1.8 miles away, so we got general directions and started walking. We were in no hurry, so walking was fine for me as it would let us see the community.

The political dance party in Kadıköy.

Piyush started having doubts, as he though he remembered that the Turkish Delight shop was near the port. We stopped at a café that had wifi and ordered two Turkish Coffees. These coffees came out with water and a cookie, all for 4L each. The street the café was on was very pleasant, with shops below residences. The actual café seemed to be ran completely by women – which seemed to be a really uncommon based on our experiences as we never saw women working in restaurants at any other point during our trip. The Turkish Delight place Piyush had found was indeed back near the port, so it was good that we checked before walking too far.

Turkish Coffee in Kadıköy.

The Turkish Delight place was small, and had all kinds of chocolate as well. Piyush stocked up, and I bought two small bags as presents. We also got a few pistachio ones to eat then and later with Jake. These were really good (probably the best I’ve had), so hopefully the other ones we bought are good as well.

After leaving the Turkish Delight store, Piyush and I made our way back to the port and shortly walked around while we waited for our 5pm departure. We took a ferry to Kabataş and then took the funicular to Taksim. After a short walk through the park, we headed to the hostel. We checked into our new rooms, and settled in. I now had bunk 2 in room 59 – this was the top bunk by the door.

After settling in, I headed to the roof top and found Jake and Piyush. We drank beer and watched the sun set for a few hours. Once the sun was down, we headed out for dinner.

Another sunset from the Bunk Taksim roof top.

Piyush had found a small, hole in the wall kebab place with four tables. We were lucky enough to grab a table, and we each ordered a 12L double meat wrap (non-double was 7L). The wrap and veggies were nothing special, but the actual meat (minced, non-spicy for me) was excellent. Hence, if I went back I would try something other than a wrap.

After dinner, Jake and I went back to the roof for a short time before calling it a night.

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