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Istanbul

March 14, 2014

Istanbul was so much fun. It’s such a wonderful city to visit; the perfect combination of east meets west, with markets and culture and bonkers goings-on and local food and spices and cats. Even though it rained from morning until night all weekend, we still trooped on and refused to let it stop us. It’s a shame, because you do tend to keep your head down to avoid getting too wet or from stepping in another huge puddle, but you miss so much when you’re not peering round at your surroundings, taking it all in.

These photos are a mix of iPhone shots and photos taken with my DSLR. I wouldn’t normally mix them up, but because of the rain and the busy crowds I was reluctant to take my camera out a lot of the time – plus we went to a lot of places that didn’t allow photography. So hopefully these still tell the story of our trip to Istanbul. You can find a few more in my last post here.

The first main ‘touristy’ place that we visited was The Basilica Cistern. As I said in my last post, this was an absolutely stunning place. Do not miss it if you’re visiting Istanbul!

I really wish we could have gone in the evening to watch a concert, it must just be amazing. I couldn’t stop taking photographs as we walked around. There were fish of all different sizes swimming in the waters, and the light was incredible.

Moody lighting is so much fun to play with! This is Trout’s sexy moody model look.

One area of The Basilica Cistern was held up Medusa’s heads. It’s amazing to think of how much detail and thought went into buildings – the design and meaning is so different to how it is today.

Nearby was The Blue Mosque. We did pop into the grounds, but at the time prayer was about to start so we couldn’t go in, and we ran out of time so didn’t end up actually seeing inside the mosque.

All over the city (including outside our hotel room…) are speakers so that you can hear prayer wherever you are. Prayer is sung throughout the day and night (hello 3.40am wake up call!).

After we had played tourist for a while we wandered around the streets, met loads of cats and saw the bonkers side of Istanbul. There were a lot of abandoned buildings in this area – well, they weren’t entirely abandoned, as plenty of cats had moved in. You see stray cats and dogs everywhere. Some cats are so funny – they want to stroll into shops, walk around the sites and strut around the city. We saw lots of dogs chilling out and resting on the grassy patches of the city, which was quite strange. In England we see cats wandering around all the time, but not stray dogs.

As we crossed one road we saw two things – a man making a small fire for no apparent reason, and a man offering us his gun to shoot balloons and bottles. It’s so funny when you think about these things ever happening in the UK.

We went to a few markets, and they were buzzing. I absolutely loved them! Grand Bazaar was a little samey, with the same kind of stalls over and over again, but I couldn’t get enough of all the colour and beautiful food. I even haggled!

On Sunday we visited Hagia Sophia, which was quite beautiful – some parts date back centuries and centuries, and there are the most beautiful chandeliers throughout.

Standard selfie-in-a-lift photo. Look at Trout’s tiny head in between us!!

This is one of my favourite photos – not because it’s particularly amazing but because it captured such an authentic sight. Dozens and dozens of fishermen, casting their rods over the end of the bridge to catch fish while it rained down on us. Pretty stunning, even as a vegan I can appreciate this humble sight.

The tiles! Oh, the tiles. My phone is filled with photographs of them, they were all so beautifully coloured and detailed. This was from Topkapı Palace, which had so many different patterns and prints.

Now, onto the food ;) We didn’t have any problem finding vegan food. There are so many dishes that are vegan anyway, that it meant we could eat local food, rather than western vegan options. I was really disappointed that we only found one place, in the last 30mins of our trip, that sold vegan-friendly baklava. And here’s hoping it actually was vegan. There are loads of places that serve baklava without honey, but they all had butter in, which was a shame. We found some other sweet treats, though – like Turkish delight. As long as you avoid pink  or red they were pretty much all vegan. We had some lovely pistachio Turkish delight, and some crazy ones that had a thick sugar coating around them. If you eat meat you should totally try a strange street food we kept seeing – a pan with different sections, each with fluorescent coloured thick marshmallow. It looked amazing! I spotted another seller that served an incredible drink of warm milk with cinnamon and other spices – it smelt so good.

One of the things I was looking forward to trying was a simil – a Turkish bagel. They were a fun snack to share while we walked around.

Our Anniversary meal…! After we had come back to the hotel after a long day, we headed to the pool for a swim, followed by time spent in the sauna and the steam room, and another room called the hamam. It was so relaxing – I’ve never really spent time in any of these rooms before, not when they are built into a spa, and it was lovely. By the time we had finished and were ready to go out again it was 10pm, so we settled on visiting a local kebab shop for dinner. It was so funny, sitting down for a meal like this, but it’s normal there. When our falafel wraps arrived I tucked in before checking it was definitely vegan, while Trout erred on the side of caution and pointed out the yogurt. Hmm. You can’t win every time, eh?

We had a great meal was at Hünkar. We met the chef and she talked us through all of the dishes that were vegan, which was really kind of her. We picked a few dishes to share, and everything was pretty good. These battered courgette strips were particularly delicious, I could have eaten a few platefuls of those! Randomly the rice with chickpeas and the cauliflower were both really good, too.

Black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love.
The Turkish coffee was so good. Syrupy, rich, dark, strong. Amazing. Perfect with a chocolate brownie ;)

Not the greatest photos but this was our meal at Parsifal, a veggie cafe in the Taksim Square area. I had a spinach filo pie and Trout had this kind of mezze. The food was really good, I would definitely recommend a visit, as long as you can ignore the gentle ping of the microwave in the background ;)

I had a chocolate brownie for dessert, and it was really good. Trout squeezed the orange over the top and turned it into a chocolate orange brownie, yum. It came served warm, and I had it with a Turkish coffee. Perfect.

I loved having some time away with Trout to celebrate our anniversary. It was fun to explore a new city, although we probably could have done with another day – we got to the hotel on the Friday at around 4pm, and left on the Sunday about the same time. Then we missed our flight, but that’s a whole other story. The main thing is our friends and family got baklava as souvenirs. And FYI don’t miss your flight it’s really expensive to get onto another one.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2014 8:58 am

    Ahhh it looks amazing! xx

  2. March 14, 2014 11:20 am

    Wow I feel like I’ve just been on a mini holiday over breakfast!! This looks awesome, I love your trip posts :)

  3. March 14, 2014 12:46 pm

    it looks so wonderful! beautiful places and delicious food seems pretty much perfec to me. happy anniversary!

  4. March 14, 2014 2:20 pm

    Eeek, missing your flight is never good!! Istanbul’s been on my must visit list for such a long time, I really hope I can make it there either this summer or next. The battered courgette strips look amazing, I would eat hundreds!

    • March 18, 2014 10:13 am

      It’s a really nice place, I always have a soft spot for places that have so many dishes that are naturally vegan, rather than eating western or junk food because that’s vegan. Although I can never resist a burger…

  5. March 14, 2014 5:47 pm

    Looks like you had SO MUCH FUN! Instanbul looks Amazingggggg! I feel like such an idiot now, there was me googling “instanbul Brighton”, duhhhhhhh, and you even mentioned you were going the week before too! Please excuse my blondness/complete stupidity! Hahahaha. Cant wait to hear about your trip in person! =]

  6. Barbara permalink
    March 15, 2014 4:30 pm

    Hello, my niece in England sent me this. I am going to Istanbul in October and your blog was great and so are the pictures. Thanks for the U S

  7. March 15, 2014 5:10 pm

    Hi – i’m always struggling to find vegan desserts when travelling abroad – was the brownie vegan or vegetarian as would def visit the cafe during when visiting Istanbul later this year – the food looks great too

  8. March 16, 2014 10:59 am

    That looks like a fabulous trip, I would love to visit sometime. The food looks amazing and I must try that coffee!

  9. makedospend permalink
    March 16, 2014 11:22 am

    Beautiful photos, I especially love the colours in the first shot. Istanbul is definitely on my list of places to go, food looks amazing too!
    -E

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