Istanbul – Day 3

Saturday evening, I tried to get a table at three different restaurants on my list – all booked! I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise on a weekend, but it was frustrating nonetheless. Wound up at Ficcin, which features Caucasian specialties – no that doesn’t mean turkey on white bread with mayo – and had Circassian dumplings for dinner. A decent meal.

Another early start on Sunday. The tram delivered me to Sultanahmet by 830AM, which was great – the hordes of tourists had yet to arrive.

When I got off the tram, I wasn’t quite sure where I was, but I did spy a massive domed edifice. “The Blue Mosque! Wow – it’s pretty amazing! But not very blue…” Turns out I was staring at the Hagia Sophia – which is indeed lovely. But then I turned around and was treated to a splendid view of the actual Blue Mosque (it’s really the Sultan Ahmed Mosque – only foreigners use the term Blue Mosque). Thanks to the early hour and the beautiful blue sky, it was breathtaking.

Wandered around the courtyard snapping photos and then headed inside. Apparently, I was addled since I agreed to some old dude’s offer at the entrance to give me a “tour” for 30TL ($15) – he spent a few minutes telling me a bunch of things about Islam and the design of mosques that I already knew. I was really kicking myself for allowing myself to be fleeced – and it hardly seems pious to be scamming visitors to one’s mosque. Though I suppose as a non-believer, I was fair game…

Next a stroll through the cisterns, which was cool despite the mob of pushy cruise line tourists.

Took a nice long walk to the Süleymaniye Mosque, the exterior of which is even more breathtaking than the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. As for the interior, yes, it was lovely. But just as with churches, shrines and temples, they all start to look a bit the same. Yes, I am a philistine.

Headed back toward the Spice Market and had a rather lovely lunch at Hamdi Et at 1130AM (I’d been up since 5!) – I was the only one in the joint, but who cares? It’s up on the fourth floor and has a spectacular view of the Bosphorus. And the food was pretty darn tasty!

Back to my place for a nap. Did some laundry, had a little downtime and eventually roused myself to get some dinner. Many restos closed Sunday evenings. Happily, the fellow I met on my tour the other day recommended Datli Maya – a whole in the wall with a wood burning oven they use to make lahmacun. I’d been dying to try this local specialty (especially since the place recommended for them in my guidebook had gone out business) and Datli Maya did not disappoint. Like a thin crust pizza, but topped with minced lamb and garlic. Served folded in half and you add fresh parsley, lemon and onions and chow down. It was pretty effing delicious. The one drawback? The tiny dining room upstairs was literally (by which I mean literally) one million degrees.

Back home, hoping again for more than four hours of uninterrupted slumber – but no dice. Up early Monday for another tour. More to come on that on my next post.

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