I have to love recommendations by friends. I get a message from Ruben that one of his favorite spots in Istanbul is Ortakoy. He also asked his friend for recommendations for us. She provided a great list, more than what we had time for during our first visit to Istanbul. In addition, our friend Aykut also gave us some tips and connected us with Turker. We’re waiting for him on the Asian side of Istanbul as I write this.
Based on their tips we set off on a mini adventure! It was recommended that we take a ferry on the Bosphorous at Eminonu. Were walking on the pier as we hear an annoying chant: “Bosphorous, Bosphorous, Bosphorous” it reminded me of the time we were stuck in Peru’s bus station where someone was yelling “Arequipa, Arequipa, Arequipa”.
The cruise is 2 hours long and only 10 TL (that’s like $5). We decide to hop on the ferry knowing that’s probably not the one that was recommended. We were lucky that there weren’t that many people and we got nice seats on the second deck. What can I say about the tour? It was great, water side palaces, skyline views of Sultanahmed, and we got to meet a nice gay couple from London. I’m glad we listened to the annoying chant! 😉
After our tour we were pretty hungry and decided to eat a grilled fish sandwich near the Galata bridge. It’s a great scene: canopies with small tiny tables in front a boat rocking like it’s about to tip the 40 fishes grilling on top of it, people screaming, and the delicious smell of seafood. We order two and devour them. We walk the Galata bridge, a two story bridge with stores on the ground floor and cars/trams on the first floor. It is here where I transform from a bushy haired Guatemalan to a short haired Turkish guy. I get a haircut Turkish style for 10 TL, and I was close to just shaving it all. 🙂
As soon as we walked out of there, the people selling stuff as well as waiters and others started speaking to me in Turkish. Too bad we’re not part of the matrix so I could just install a language on my brain.
We head over to Pierre Loti Cafe, a cafe serving tea with a great panorama of Eyüp, Great Horn and the surroundings. Eyüp is about 6 km from Galata bridge and we decide to take a local bus. It is here where I learn about the honesty of people in Istanbul (maybe Turkish in general). The bus is packed as if it’s a can of sardines. Some people load the bus from the back since the front is totally full, but you have to pay at the front. Instead of avoiding to pay, they give their Istanbulkart (similar to the Clipper in the Bay Area) to people in front to swipe it as paid. Here there are two levels of honesty: the person that wants to pay, and the people that will pass along the card all the way from the back of the bus to the front, swipe it and hand it back. If this happened anywhere else, SF, Guatemala, or even Paris, either people would not pay or their Istanbulkart would have been “lost”.
No one on the bus can explain to us the stop for Pierre Lori. We say Eyüp and they say we need to get off. We get off and try to look for the funicular or trail to hike up but no luck. We start walking in the direction of a hill and eventually we get to the top but we ended up coming from the long route. Once at the cafe, we order Turkish tea and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
We learn that the next ferry to Ortakoy is within 20 minutes and we rush down the hill to catch the ferry! The ferries in Istanbul are great! Not only they’re less than $1, but they’re comfortable and you have a great panorama of the city!
We get to Ortakoy and we are starving! We opt out of the typical baked potatoes served on the street [even though they were recommended] and went into a clothing store to ask for a recommendation. Unfortunately they don’t speak English but the two young girls try to understand me.
Me: “Can you recommend a place for dinner?”
Girl #1: “Dinner?”
Me: “Yes, I’m hungry, a great place for dinner. Not touristy”
Girl #1 and #2 look at each other and they say: “Itke Cafe!”
Me: “Great!! Where is it?”
Girl #2 makes a sign to go straight and left.
Sara and I listen and start walking excited about the good recommendation! In San Miguel De Allende we did something similar and had amazing food where only locals went!
For the next 10 minutes we circle the whole neighborhood close to the sea side with no luck. We even go into a hotel to ask if they know of a place called Itke Cafe … nope!
I decide to go back to the clothing store because they were so excited to send me off. I tell them I could not find it if they could please write down the name. To my surprise they write: “Internet Cafe”. I start cracking up.
Me: “No! Jajajaja! I meant food!”
Girl #1 & #2: Jajajaja! “Burger king!”
Me: “NOOOO! Turkish food! Jajaja”
Girl #2: “Ah! Good food: Kirçiçeg”
Me: “Ok! Thank you!”
We head over to Kirçiçeg and realize that the place looks like a chain equivalent to an Olive Garden in the US. We decide to go in because it’s full of locals and I really like the unlimited meatball soup Olive Garden has!
It was very good! We ordered a mixed grilled plate and had a feast with chicken, lamb, and beef.
We ended the night at a nice café overlooking the bridge and drinking some Salep!
Thanks Ruben, Ilka, and Aykut for the recommendations!