the Istanbul tour is every Filipino's wet dream: Shopping! For spices, that is.
Located at Cami Meydani Sok, it's close to the exterior walls of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Museum. It's one of the must-visit places in Istanbul. Why?
It's the hub for exotic spices and other ethnic culinary delights.
The Spice Bazaar, or Misir Carsisi, is a major trading house for dried herbs, spices, and other foodstuffs.
Our tourguide recommended we visit Cikita store because they sell different items for souvenirs. I was heading to Los Angeles after my EuroCruise so I had to get some goodies for my relatives and friends.
Cikita has a lot of interesting items on the store, and if you are an exotic travel monger like myself, you'd be mesmerized and the various offerings they have.
They had dried flowers which you can steep as tea, or use as potpourri
Caviar, dried fruit, and spices filled the floor to ceiling shelves... At this point, all the flavors inspired me to learn middle-eastern food even if I'm not sure which items to mix.
But the one thing that every tourist leaves with from Turkey, has got to be Turkish Delight. a chewy sweet treat usually made from nuts, honey and marshmallows. There are many variations of this dessert, and the quality can vary by the Euro. This is the Turkish equivalent to Greek baklava.
Locally known as Lokum, Turkish delight is usually made cheap with sugar and starch and covered in powdered sugar. But the premium type is mostly made purely from honey, pistachios, dates and then flavored with rose water or cinnamon. One taste of the premium Turkish delight sent me to a sweet spiral, and I had to get some of it, even if it cost a little bit more.
I filled up two boxes, one for my aunt, and the other for my business partner/good friends. I had informed the guy that I was to travel to America and he knew what to do instantly. He packed several kinds of Turkish delight, with hazelnuts, coconut, walnuts and spices, and placed them in a box.
He then vacuum sealed it with the CromPack machine, which seals the flavors and freshness in the box and makes sure its ready for Customs declaration. One mistake I did was ask for the price beforehand, because 2 boxes of super premium Turkish delight sent me back about €90!!! I had to haggle it down to €70 for 2 and then kept mum when my mother asked me how much it cost. My aunt loved it, so i guess it's worth the hefty price tag. The cheap ones can go as low as €5 so don't think that this treat is super expensive. My taste was just too demanding.
After Turkish Delight, one must stop by for some Turkish Saffron,which gives food a sweet and exotic flavor while coloring it a lovely yellowish hue. But be wary in the bazaars because most will sell you Safflower seeds as Saffron. It might look the same, but the flavor is not there. I knew that tip beforehand and asked the dude if he had some real ones at the back of his display, where most shopkeepers hide it so it won't get nabbed. Good quality saffron doesn't come cheap, so don't expect it in the forefront of a bazaar display.
Turkish Viagra anyone?
Also, they have a plethora of Matis, or Evil Eye, in all different forms, and much cheaper than in Santorini or Mykonos. So I suggest you stock up here if you want to give these lucky charms as gifts for your friends and family. Be ready to haggle ala Green Hills style, since they might possible hike up the prices for tourists, especially meek looking Asians such as ourselves with mothers clutching multiple Chanel purses.
He was very animated and kept on asking for pictures, I also was excited because their Chicken Kebab cost 1.5YTL or Turkish Lira. Turkish Lira is weaker than the Euro, so things in Turkey are relatively cheaper than in the European Union countries.
We kept telling Kebab Man #2 to add on the chicken.
Kebab freaks with the Kebab Man
Kebab #3 Chicken
And when I passed one spice shop, they guy tried to sell me his Turkish Saffron by sprinkling some on my kebab. I just realized, he was holding money the entire day and now I'm eating food spiced by those money fingers... Good thing I have a strong Filipino stomach!
Bro thinking if he should be a Turkish flag... but why?
ToT and my loot!
ToT family tourist shot by the Blue Mosque
Right outside the Spice Bazaar is a spacious area where shows, exhibits and art installations happen, much like this one. Very interesting.
When we got back on the bus, everyone was exhausted from all the sightseeing but also very happy that we got to see another part of the world that we never imagined.
And for dinner, we decided to stay on the ship and go to the buffet, and lo and behold, it was Turkish Night!
Since we were spending the night in Istanbul, the ship was parked on the port and we had the opportunity to watch the sun set on this amazing city.
Next up on the next day: More Istanbul!
Do you want some Turkish Delight? Head to Cikita!