Beware the Raki

Trip Start Sep 21, 2010
Trip End Oct 07, 2010

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

The crack of 11:00AM came early and we were all slow to rise. We moped around the apartment getting ready and deciding how to spend the day.  Our friend from the day before invited us over for tea and lunch so we all loaded up our gear and headed for his store.

Many carpet salesmen here will invest time in befriending you prior to making a big sale.  This was not the case with our friend as he would only discuss carpets if we brought up the subject.  We did, and as our food cooked we walked on carpets and discussed which kind we liked the best learning about the culture, colors and weaving techniques.  The lunch was a lamb stew with eggplant complemented by a shepherd salad.  A simple, but perfect meal with friends.

4:00 pm had snuck up on us and we decided to head to the Grand Bazaar and to the Spice Bazaar.  We decided to split up in the Grand Bazaar looking at knock off sunglasses, jerseys, watches, t-shirts, perfumes, bed spreads, lanterns, ceramics… and on and on.  I will try to upload some video of tips and the overall hectic scene here.  A couple of quick tips would be, bring a map, and walk away from dealers when you want the price to drop. 

The Spice Bazaar was a similar experience but insert (what I hope is) real food.  The picture opportunities here are endless with the locals buying spices (obviously), meats, pastries and vegetables.  There were bright colors, fragrant smells and people everywhere.  So many people in fact that we briefly lost Chris G, and later found out he was only about 8-10 feet away from us.   The sun quickly set and we were off to the apartment to get ready for dinner.

We then trammed our way back to the carpet shop. The Tramway was jammed packed full of happy soccer fans (the team was Besiktas, pronounced Beezsheek-tesh) making it difficult to jam into the already crowded cars but fun as people were even singing soccer cheers since Besiktas had won in a last minute thriller!)  Wish we could have made it to the game!

Next was probably one the most amazing  and surreal dinners we will ever have. The entire experience is impossible to describe, nor will the pictures or video do it justice.   Our Turkish friend took us to Kumkapi, an old Armenian neighborhood.  We went to a pedestrian only street jammed packed with fish restaurants with almost family like seating. Probably 90% Turks and 10% tourists. A bottle of Raki on every table. Turkish bands at each small restaurant playing from table to table (think really cool Mariachi band that you are not irritated when they come by) and all the customers singing and dancing along with an intermittent belly dancer dancing to the music.  Our favorite guy was an older Turk who would stand and dance along with the music (mainly belly dancing moves) and then try to tricks with his Raki glass (balancing it on his head and trying to turn around.  Lots of Raki spilled with this trick!). We had tons of amazing mezze dishes where they brought over a tray and we picked which we wanted (eggplant, calamari, baked mini shrimp, yogurt dish, olives wrapped in some sort of anchovy fish, and more). The Chrises (pleural for Chris?) tried some sort of liver dish as well. We were all full and then realized the main dish had not even come out yet. Suddenly flames literally filled the street and we looked over to see our main course ablaze.  Not sure what the dish is called but it is a full fish that is baked in about 2 inches of salt. The salt hardens around the entire fish and literally has to be chiseled out. It is then cut up and plates passed around the table. It was very good and surprisingly not very salty.  It was truly cooked to perfection.

Now on to describe the Raki, we went through about a bottle and a half of it and the flavor goes great with everything.   It is poured in a unique way. First the Raki which is clear, then water which makes it turn a milky color, then lots of ice.  It tastes like liquorish but not as much as ozo (Greek booze) or sambuka .  We also smoked our second Hooka (strawberry flavor this time).

We then took a cab to Taxism square to walk down Istakaldi Street. The taxis have been much less scary on this night. We went to 360 bar which has amazing views of the city from its 360 roof top club and deck. Crazy club with Vegas like dancers dressed up in cat leather suits. Finally made it safely back to our apartment and in bed at 4am.   This makes rising the next day for early sight seeing next to impossible.  
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