Before eating lunch, we visited an amazing rug shop, where we watched a woman hand-tying the knots of a silk rug that will take her 2.5 years to complete. And, this wasn’t a huge run – only one meter by one meter! The owner explained the process and took us upstairs to see an assortment of rugs in silk, wool, cotton, and a mix of wool and cotton. There were traditional designs, different from each area of Turkey. The kilims were my favorite and sometimes are used to make handbags. (Just what I need… another purse!) There were beautiful ceramics and cashmere shawls in the building, as well. Tours love to take you to these places and if you buy something, I imagine the tour guide gets a commission. Not this time, sadly for her.
It was time to have lunch. We went to a Halal restaurant (kind of like kosher) and had an amazing sampling of typical Turkish cuisine. First, we had lentil soup, a mixed salad with pomegranate dressing, and a plate of the tastiest array of shwarma, kebabs, two kinds of rice, a Turkish “pizza” of meat, and cheese, and their version of pita bread. We ate too much, of course, but enjoyed it a lot.
We wandered through the Grand Bazaar, which was like a gussied up version of the Medina in Morocco. You could get lost very easily because the various aisles took you in all directions. There were hundreds of shops displaying gold and diamond jewelry, leather and fur coats and jackets, knock-offs of every designer bag and shoe you could imagine, scarves and shawls of all kinds, rugs, spice and candy shops, and so much more. It can make your head spin. I actually forgot to take pictures of the bazaar, which gives you an idea of how crazy it was.
Time to return to the hotel for a Turkish version of a siesta. It was well earned, not to mention a bit of jet lag.
In the evening, we ventured out to check out the Old City neighborhood near our hotel. What seemed quiet during the day turned out to be bustling at night. There were tables and chairs set out on the sidewalks and in the street. People were sipping tea, enjoying a beer (EFES is one of the local brands and really good), shopping at all the amazing shops, and having a gelato. It seems that Turkish ice cream and gelato shops and kiosks are everywhere. There are amazing flavors and wonderfully creamy.
Still hungry, I really wanted to try baklava, the famous Turkish treat. what I found was that there are at least ten kinds of baklava, with different kinds of nuts, some with honey, some without, all made with filo dough. I have made it before and believe me, it is a challenge to keep it from drying out while constructing the dessert. We had one of several kinds, just to test them out. The sweetness is overwhelming, which is why they are served in small pieces.
It was finally time to go back to the hotel and get some sleep before tomorrow’s excursions.