February 3, 2012

3 Feb

ISTANBUL — The 360 Experience

I got into Istanbul in the middle of the night after taking a late flight from Amsterdam, to find that the hotel that we had found on hotels.com was apparently located right in the middle of the clubbing district and directly on top of a night club booming with loud techno music.  A chill of excitement ran through me – I felt at home.  It took me back to my middle school days when I first fell in love with clubbing in Mexico City.  My college roommates know techno is my comfort music – I used to study to techno, go running to techno, and sleep to techno.  I slept like a baby that night, with the lively Turkish nightlife booming through our hotel windows.

I was greeted by M&W the next morning, who hated the techno music and hated our hotel.  They got zero sleep.  Sleep deprived or not, we were all ready to start our day early with a full itinerary of activities during our 6 days in Istanbul.  We had so much on our agenda – Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Taksim Square, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market, etc etc etc.  Honestly, how did one city have so many tourist sites.

To summarize our Istanbul trip, M&W and I compiled a list of 5 key learnings.

Let’s start with #5: People only eat lamb here.

We soon found out after Day 2 that in Istanbul, people eat one thing, and one thing only: LAMB.  Lamb kebob, lamb chops, lamb stew, lamb curry, lamb meatballs.  Literally every single restaurant in the entire city carries the exact same lunch and dinner menu – the same set of mezes, or appetizers, which included things like hummus, tzatziki , eggplant, etc, and then lamb 4 ways with the exact same side of 1 grilled green pepper, 1/2 slice of grilled tomato, and 5 french fries.  Yes, exactly 5 french fries.  Everywhere we went.

Mezes #1

Mezes #2

Mezes #3

Mezes #4

Lamb Curry

Lamb Meatballs

Lamb Meatballs Again

Lamb Chops

Lamb Stew

I thought this was some dream come true when I first arrived.  W literally ate lamb meatballs for every single meal for the first 4 days of the trip.  But after Day 5, all we wanted was a fucking salad.  Seriously.  I thought I would never say that.  I mean does anyone in this entire country eat anything other than lamb jesus fucking christ.

On our last day, we even tried to go to an American diner to get a burger or something different, and what came out on our plates was a lamb burger.

Lamb Burger

Sick.

Lesson #5 learned.  And lessons #4 through #1 to come.

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