A nighttime view of a mosque lit up

Intro to Istanbul: It’s mostly about food, of course

posted in: Turkey and the Caucasus 2022 | 4

I’ve been hearing and reading about how wonderful the food in Istanbul is for months. Today I had my first chance to find out for myself. And now, after looking forward to this trip for months, my first day in Istanbul is now something to look back at.

Based on today’s samplings, I can attest to the fact that food in Istanbul is indeed wonderful.

Turkish Airlines Business Class

I splurged on Business Class to get here. There’s something to be said for lie-flat seats, though I still didn’t sleep nearly as well or as long as I wanted to.

But the meals on the plane served as a fine introduction to food in Istanbul. Everything was delicious, even the steak that was almost impossible to cut with the dull knife they are allowed to provide passengers on planes nowadays.

I’ll allow the photos to tell the story.

Arriving in Istanbul

I love being able to be one of the first to get the hell off the plane!

It was a lot of walking to get to Passport Control, and the line was long, but it went very fast. Since I flew with carry-on luggage only, I walked right through the baggage claim area. Customs consisted of being waved through to the exit. (Not everyone was so lucky. There was a woman deciding (either randomly or based on some kind of profiling) who had to go through and get their luggage x‑rayed.

My instructions from Zerrin at Turkey Insiders were very clear. I checked in at the By Coach Travel counter, and they had me in their system, so I waited until the driver arrived, and within ten minutes I was in a large van heading to my hotel. I was the only passenger.

Traffic being a mess, it took a full hour to get to my hotel. I was offered a beverage and a seat in the lobby while Ahmed, one of the owners (it’s a family-run hotel) verified that my room was ready. He also introduce me to Mr. Osman, the cat who guards the hotel against intruders.


Fortunately I like walking. Today I did a lot of it.

After a long shower and shave, I set out to get my bearings, explore a bit, and find an ATM to get some Turkish Lira (TL). My bank has branches in Istanbul, and according to Google Maps, it was just a 17-minute walk from my house to the nearest location. I figured a withdrawal at my bank’s ATM would be cost efficient.

But when I got to the target destination, there was no bank.

I checked Google Maps again. There was “another” branch near Taksim Square, another 13-minute walk. But I didn’t mind, because I got to walk through İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Street), Istanbul’s main pedestrianized shopping thoroughfare.

This time the expected bank branch materialized exactly where Google Maps promised, and I acquired some TL.

Walking back down İstiklal Caddesi, I was getting hungry, but I didn’t want to eat much since I was going to be heading out on a food tour later. I eventually settled on what turned out to be essentially a sesame bagel.

Next on my self-guided walking tour was to find the location where the food tour was starting, the Kariköy Ferry Terminal. And from there, I went back to my hotel, where I promptly conked out.

After an hour-long nap, I retraced my steps back to the ferry terminal, met Didem, our guide, and the four other people on the tour, and we set out to eat and walk some more.

Once again, I’ll let the photos do the talking. It’s now 1:00 am, and I have more on my itinerary tomorrow. Good think I had that nap earlier, or I couldn’t have stayed up so late to finish this.

4 Responses

  1. Abby

    What a fulfilling day! When I was there 20 years ago, there were cherry juice vendors all over the streets. They wore huge tanks on their backs and poured juice into a single shared glass. I can still taste how delicious it was!

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