Having had no plans for Istanbul, I decided to try some touristy spots. After a typical Turkish breakfast, which was delicious, I went to chat up the receptionist who gave me a map and sent me on my merry way. Ali, a very nice gentleman, was headed in the same direction and so I had a walk buddy.
Our first stop was the Cağaloğlu Hamami, a wonderful Hamam (traditional Turkish bath), established in 1741. It was one of those places that draws you in and gives a calming sense of peace- perhaps it was the dim lights or the aura, I don’t know. I thought Kenyans love tea but these guys are giving us a run for our money. Tea was served at the Hamam and boy was it delicious.
As you exit, there’s a mirror on your left and on the right a board with pictures of famous people that have visited the Hamam. There’s a bowl that had what looked like decorative stones to me until Ali told me to pick one. In my head I’m wondering ‘ what do I do with one stone? Throw it up for good luck?’ until he informed me that I should eat it.
Now tell me these don’t like decorations to you. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thought so at first, especially with the white dust covering them, which you may not see from the picture. You pick one with the toothpicks provided. They were quite tasty.
After the Hamam visit, Ali walked me to the Grand bazaar and left. Time to explore began.
A little history – Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and biggest markets in the world. It lies in the district of Fatih and has covered streets with over 3000 shops. The bazaar receives close to 400,000 visitors on a daily basis. It can be accessed by tram from both Sultanahmet and Sirkeci. Walking around, one can see that it provides a wide range of products for sale from jewellery, furniture, souvenirs to carpets, leather goods, clothes and much more. I spent over three hours walking around, checking out stuff and being a tourist.
Next stop was the Spice Bazaar, which is within walking distance from the Grand Bazaar or one can take a tram to Eminönü, walk across the square with the new mosque on your left, and head down the narrow street of food vendors, then turn left into the bazaar. This is one of the most exciting markets I’ve visited so far.
You may have noticed that I like history so here’s some bit of it. Spice Bazaar is one of the biggest in the city. Built in 1664, it has a wide range of spices, Turkish delights, caviar, cheeses, teas, dried nuts and more. It exudes vibrance with the colourful display of spices and lokum that look like pieces of jewels or decorations. It was and currently is still the centre of spice trade in Istanbul. Spice Bazaar is also known as Egyptian Bazaar in Turkish, owing to the name Mısır Çarşısı which translates to ‘Egypt’ or ‘Maize’ so it also wrongly translated to ‘Corn Bazaar’. Also, a majority of the products for sale were coming from Egypt during the era Ottoman eyalet of Egypt in the 1600s and it was built using revenue from the era, hence the name.
The foodie in me was jumping with joy at the offer of ‘sweets’. These particular ones I was told are made with honey – yes I asked.
These almond hazelnuts cream paste were my favourite.
A healthy option right here.
One of the vendors called me into the shop and gifted me this lovely bowl of chocolates to eat to my fill and carry home if I please. Who would say no?
They wouldn’t call it spice bazaar without the actual spices.
I had some delicious apple tea, jasmine tea, apple + pomegranate tea and love tea from this store. I know it sounds like a lot of tea, and it was, but who’s complaining?
The love tea, I’m told, is supposed to attract love in your life so if you’re looking for ‘the one’ or have found and want to reconnect with them, then this is your go-to kind of tea. They also had what they called ‘Winter Tea’ that I found interesting. A tea specifically drank during winter, how strange! I could say it’s because I come from a tropical country where tea is just tea and can be taken at any time of the day throughout the year.
It turned out to be a great day of exploration and sampling different teas, delights, spices and foods.
Look out for Day 3 adventures.