From the ancient buildings of the Sultanahmet area, we traveled across the inlet called the Golden Horn to the so-called New District. If you recall the protests that rocked Turkey a few years ago, you probably remember that Taksim Square was the site of demonstrations and police crackdowns. That square is at the end of Istiklal Street, where we took our tour of modern Istanbul.
Looking down Istiklal Street from the comparatively quiet square, we saw a river of people. This river only grew denser as the day progressed, reaching flooding point after dark. Occasionally, a trolley would part the crowd, but usually pedestrians packed the entire street. Clearly, Istiklal Street is the place to be on a Saturday. With the exception of a sartorial detour to a silk shop where I ended up with a green shawl, our walk primarily gravitated toward sweet shops, including Haci Bekir, which has apparently been in business for as long as the US has been a nation. There, we sampled pastries and stocked up on mini pizzas and, more importantly, Turkish delight.
Now, I haven’t always harbored much love for this cubic dessert, which has a chewy, gummy texture and traditionally features double-roasted pistachios. But there ain’t nothing like the real thing, and the stuff we get stateside is a mere shadow of actual Turkish Turkish delight, which the Turks call “lokum.”
After that, we tried Turkish ice cream, made with goat milk and some orchid product that is probably the same that goes into salep. Then we sampled almond paste and rose-flavored hard candy. Then we had to go to the dentist (kidding!).
Our healthy lunch completed, we finished Istiklal Street and walked further to see Galata Tower, which was constructed by Genoese merchants to assert their tower-building powers. Finally, we ended up beside the Golden Horn, where fishermen flicked their lines in and out of the dusky water.
The next day, we were able to get to know these waters even better.