A highlight of our time in Istanbul was to be the foodies tour – Twilight in Taksim, run by Istanbul on Food. We had covered the city highlights on our daytime tours but wanted something different and more authentic to the culture for our unscheduled evening. This tour received all 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor so it was a must-do. Booking the trip was simple. We reached out to the company through the website and got an immediate reply.
We stayed at the Pera Palace which was walking distance to our meeting spot in Taksim Square. Korhan, our affable tour guide, bought us a cup of tea while we waited for four people signed up for this evening’s tour. Korhan limited the numbers in the tour so we could visit small shops and get an authentic feeling for the Turkish eating experience.
Our first stop was in an alley where we had a favorite Turkish street food – tantuni, a wrap filled with meat and spices. We watched it being made through the store window. The chef boiled the meat all day, occasionally sopping up the juices with pita bread. Delicious!
Next we went into a traditional restaurant where we were served three bread based dishes. Korhan explained that The Turkish diet is based on bread with very little meat. He said that Turkey was/is quite poor, with no industry to speak of. He knows no Turkish vegetarians as he believes that is a luxury lifestyle. (Maslow Hierarchy of Needs) We loved all the selections here.
From here we wandered down alleys, in and out of neighborhoods, to a spot where we got Pide -a pizza like meal we all loved. This was accompanied by the universally disliked ayran-a drink of yogurt, water and salt.
Next stop a pilav shop still operated by the family that was the rice makers for the sultans. The rice was indeed delicious, cooked in bone marrow and flavored with homemade butter. It was served with white beans and some beef.
Korhan took off his tour guide badge and took a shortcut through an alley of transsexual prostitutes – we saw the ‘ladies’ sitting in the windows looking for customers. This was an unofficial brothel, apparently there are legal brothels in Istanbul where the women are health checked, taxed, and receive a retirement stipend.
In the next alley we stopped for raki- the anise flavored alcohol which the mix with water to make Lions Milk. Quite good.
We saw several beggars on the streets as well as garbage pickets pulling huge vats of recyclables. According to Korhan most of these people were Syrian refugees. Turkey is being overwhelmed with the refugee crisis.
More alleys-more cafes – kebab meat wrapped in pita, mussels, lamb intestines !!, soups, anchovies, moussaka. Though we ate very little of anything, we were getting stuffed.
Our last stop was for dessert. Korhan took us down the funicular to the waterfront. The food was excellent but we didn’t understand the need for the long walk and tram. We returned by tram to Istikial street, wandered a bit enjoying the festive nightlife, and headed back to the hotel.
26000+ steps today including 70 flights of stairs!