This is our last day in Istanbul, we fly out at 7.30 tomorrow morning, so we will be up very early - let the morning muezzin wake us (4.30am!).
Last breakfast on the roof terrace of this lovely hotel
plus scrambled eggs and tiny frankfurts in the bain marie behind the juice, for those westerners who can't live without a cooked breakfast (like me!). The fresh apricots (left, behind the kiwifruit) are small and don't look ripe but are so sweet and juicy!
Here's a few shots of the terrace and the view
and the blue mosque right over one's left shoulder!
So we left the hotel and went to Sultanahmet Park, where we usually start every day with the obligatory photo of the Blue Mosque
and Ayasofya also
The building on the lower right of the photo is a bathhouse, segregated though, but looked fabulous and only sorry I never got a chance to try it.
We had often passed the Yerebatan Cistern, and scoffed at visiting it. It's in a small and rather unprepossessing builidng, and there's always lots of queues, cos the guidebooks say 'not to be missed'. But this morning we were early enough to beat all the queues so we jumped straight in. Well!! Probably one of the loveliest things we ever saw in Istanbul - and that's saying a lot!
I really felt, deeply, the sense of age and history right here under the ground, amidst this engineering marvel.
It's a deep large cistern, built in the 6thC, to hold all the water for the city - remember this is a huge walled city in Constantine's time, at least 12km across, enormous for its time. It is regarded as a feat of Byzantine engineering. (There are lots iof cisterns under the city of Istanbul!)
One goes down a set of stairs with constant admonishing signs not to stop but go straight to the bottom - and we could understand why. One just wants to stop and stare from about halfway down the stairs.
The cistern has 336 9m high columns, sourced from around the empire, so they're not all the same. It used to hold 100,000 tons of water but now is traversed by walkway and the water is about a metre deep. The water came via the Valens viaduct (which we saw in the distance and photographed, but never got to actually see it up close and personal) from the Belgrade forest 12miles away.
At the furthest end of the cistern are 2 medusa heads - one upside down and one at a 45o angle. No one knows why...
there are fish living here and people throw coins to make a wish - I did!
It really is most amazing and worth a visit. I didn't want to leave.
But we did, and came out to the beginning of the day's queues.
We were off to the Spice Market, which we'd missed somehow, and decided to go via the Grand Bazaar but this time to try and walk straight down to the water! Hah!! Again we got lost and spent almost an hour trawling through tiny streets selling everything known to man and then some.
But finally we reached the Spice Market. We'd been told that there were amazing kitchenware shops around the Spice Market and I was on a mission to buy a rocking knife, of the type we had used in the cooking school but smaller. And maybe a meat pounder. And definitely some of that chilli powder that doesn't have seeds in it. And absolutely some of that red pepper paste that the Turks use for everything. And maybe some saffron...
The Spice Market is like a tiny version of the Grand Bazaar. It's down by Galata harbour behind the New Mosque and the bus depot. One sort of falls into it from the kitchenware shops...
It has a main alley and then one running off at right angles near the top. Spices and sweets are sold inside, with fruit, fish, cheese, coffee and deli items sold on the outer wall and in the long street that runs behind the market, the one where the kitchenware shops are.
I could live here, right inside the market ;-))
We were hunting for the red chilli powder and the red pepper paste. Found the powder - this fella has about 5 different types of powder, all different strengths. At the cooking school we'd used the one that has no seeds, which gives a pleasant kick without damaging your taste buds. It's so mild you can eat it from a spoon.
We found the *bestbestbest* deli. So good I'm posting the name and the front of the shop before the aggregate photo
Here is some of what they sold. Note the red pepper paste in the bottom centre of the above photo!
They told us they had a cafe upstairs, so we marked it down for later!
After a few more photos of cheese and fish mongers, more chillis, and buying some saffron, we went looking for the Rustem Pasa Mosque, which is around here somewhere and is reported to be a tiny architectural delight, built by that great and very busy architect, Sinan. It is tucked away above the shops and was reputedly funded by the local tradespeople, in 1560.
We finally found it by being brave enough to go up an open stairwell in the general vicinity and coming up on the open terrace. I think there is another entrance but (like sooooooooo much in Istanbul) it's undergoing work.
After the heaving bustle of the street below, it's a relief to come out on this lovely spacious terrace. One of the reasons this mosque is so famous is that it is lined entirely with Iznik tiles. Rustem Pasa was a Grand Vizier to Suleiman the Magnificent, and was married to one of his daughters. Although he had immense wealth, mainly through bribes, a common currency in those times, he used his wealth to build mosques, hospitals and schools and do charitable works. The mosque was built after his death.
Here is the mihrab and the minber
and walls and part of the dome
and a montage of the Iznik tiles
Here's a fireplace on the outside terrace covered in the tiles
They are so beautiful, and the patterns so varied. I could make a few montages and not repeat myself, from this mosque alone!
We went back out into the street of the Strawmatmakers, the main street behind the Rustem Pasa Mosque
and back to Namli Pastirmaci for lunch. We were hoping to get some of the lovely antipasti for lunch, but when we went upstairs there was a self-serve buffet. All the menu was in Turkish, and we were the only non-Turks there. We had to eat what we could see, but the staff were very helpful. If only we'd known there was a hot dish heated to order - looked like a lamb stew with fat chips and vegies. We ate
a cold salad of pickeld vegetables, cold cooked carrots and potatoes and feta and the turkish cheese Kaskavar, rather like Kefolagravia, cheddar like but much softer, and tomatoes and cucumbers and walnuts; a dish that was an artichoke heart with warm vegetables - potatoes, carrots and dill - in a flavourful stock; and a really tasty spinach and rice dish served with yoghurt. If only we'd discovered this earlier we could have come every day!! It was the most different and un-touristy food we ate in Istanbul!
And then some people started coming in with food from downstairs!! First, a roll stuffed with salad and pastirma - the shop downstairs has a whole section where there are piles and piles of freshly shaved pastirma and the whole leg is there with the knives just waiting for more to be cut! Then, 2 people came up with plates loaded with delights from the deli section - see the photo above - all those lovely things from the lower left!! Sigh!! If only we'd known you could order anything in the shop and eat it upstairs!! But NEXT TIME!!!
Please, everyone who reads this blog - if you are going to Istanbul go here to eat and don't be afraid to ask about the food!
We left and wandered up to the Suleymaniye Mosque, but the muezzin had called and it was full of men going in, so no visitors
So we left and wandered through the University towards the Sultanahmet.
We decided to visit Kariye Museum - so that's the subject of the next post!