Two Quigleys, a Brick, and a Chud arrived in Istanbul on the afternoon of November Fifth. We hugged in the lobby of Sari Konak Hotel and shared a few words before the jet lag hit and the lot of them passed out in their rooms. We began our two-weekend tour of the city when they awoke. Trying to see Istanbul in two weekends is like trying to watch the entire Netflix catalog in just as long, but we made a good dent.
That night, we walked down the street to the most impressive meal I have had in Turkey to date. The cheap, fixed-price meal at Giritli began with our first glass of unlimited wine and roughly twenty meze plates that completely filled a six person table. We finished about a third of it before telling the waiter we couldn't eat any more. Next, a plate with a piece of pide, a large calamari, and an eight-inch long octopus tentacle arrived. When we finished that, our fish entrees came. Finally, we had to make room for dessert and complementary shots of a sweet raspberry liqueur. It wasn't hard to fall asleep afterwards.
In the morning, we knocked out Sultanahmet and Ayasofya since we were staying two blocks away (see my "Arrival" post for more about these). We then descended underground to Basilica Cistern, a sixth century, thirty foot high water chamber held up by over 300 columns. My parents listened to the audio tour while Ryan, Laura, and I worked on my phone pinching portfolio.
We wandered around Eminönü on what my dad called the "dark alley tour" before finding our dinner spot: the Old Ottoman Cafe & Restaurant. The highlight of this meal was the famous Testi Kebap. We asked the waiter how the dish was prepared and were told that it is a two day process involving a long marinade and slow cooking in a clay pot. When it finally arrives at the table, the waiter takes a small metal pole and bashes the pot until the internal pressure pops the top off and the stew-like dish is poured over rice.
On Sunday, we spent most of the morning and afternoon at Topkapı (again, see my "Arrival" post for more about this). We then strolled through the Spice Bazaar, scoping out the purchases we were considering for the next weekend. After, we walked back to the hotel so that they could catch a cab to the airport for a week of Turkish exploration.
They visited Ephesus and Cappadocia during the week while I studied and finally got around to the gym. Their reports differ by generation - the parents liked Ephesus better, but the children preferred Cappadocia.
Some other visitors touched down just as the family made it back for their second weekend. Although Istanbul isn't exactly a staple on the international concert circuit, my current favorite band stopped here in between shows in Poland and France. At Şişhane's Salon Iksv venue, my friends and I squeezed our way to the second row, inches in front of lead singer Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote. Laura and Ryan joined later for a night out on Istiklal Cadessi.
On Saturday, we jumped on the Tram to the Beşiktaş district. Our first stop was Dolmabahçe Sarayı, the palace used by the Ottomans during their modernization and westernization period. I had seen the gargantuan gates of the palace from the street before, but they were hardly a precursor to what lay inside. Among the Ottoman spoils meant to impress foreign diplomats were a 4.5-ton Bohemian crystal chandelier, two Russian bear skin rugs (heads attached), and 300+ sq. ft. ceilings covered wall-to-wall in gold.
From the palace, we grabbed some stuffed mussels on the street and made our way to Tophane, an artsy neighborhood known for its coffee shops and street art. We window-shopped and napped before some friends met up with us for dinner in Karaköy. The rowdy twelve of us occupied the entire upper floor of Mare Karaköy, an "International" restaurant with a view of the Golden Horn. Hopefully the hefty bill made up for the commotion we made.
I am ashamed to say that, after two months in Turkey, the first time I made it to Asian Istanbul was that Sunday morning. We walked through the Kadıköy Markets down to the Moda neighborhood to look across the water and get some lunch. When we returned to Europe, we realized that our plans to nap were doomed as we approached the empty tram stop; it was closed because of the marathon that had taken place hours before. The alternative was a stop in the Spice Bazaar and a trip to the Süleymaniye Hamam.
We ate our last dinner at Neyzade in Sultanahmet. Although they would wake at five in the morning for their return flight, we closed the restaurant at 11:30 - we had had a lot of final thoughts (and wine) to share.
My family's visit marked a sort of "hump" in my experience here. Although I have more big adventures planned, I am confronted with the end of the semester. Dismal as it seems, I'm glad that my family arrived at just the right time to remind me of what awaits me across the ocean.