Well, for one thing, I get a free layover of about 18 hours, between my connection from Munich to my flight home from Istanbul to SFO. So, why not take advantage of this layover, spend the night in a decent hotel, instead of spending the night in the airline business class lounge?
I was just here in May, 2019, just before the pandemic hit in early 2020. I spent about a week here, with a local guide. He was a friend of a friend, of Mr. Mike. And he was excellent. I was able to hit all of the highpoints of Istanbul, as well as take the harbor cruise throughout the Bosporus.
But the real reason for returning is simply for the Turkish Delight. I brought back a kilo last time, thinking it was too much. It was not. We enjoyed it immensely.
What is the origin of Turkish Delight or lokum? It is claimed that the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdulhamet I, craved a softer candy than what was available at the palace. So, naturally, he summoned his royal confectioners and demanded a soft candy to satisfy his sweet tooth. Turkish Delight was born, though many versions now exist.
Another theory is that an independent confectioner named Haci Bekir Efendi invented lokum around the same time in the 18th century. His candy store became quite famous in Istanbul, Sultanahmet II made him Head Confectioner to the Ottoman Court. Later, after refined sugar and cornstarch were invented, Effendi changed his original recipe. Cornstarch is the binding agent that gives lokum its distinctive chewiness.
Fast forward a bit, and soon unsalted nuts, like pistachios and various flavorings were added. The above photo shows some of the many flavors and combinations available. I like the one with the white nougat encircling the nuts.
Now the trick will be for me to find the exact vendor I bought my Turkish Delight from in 2019. The store is located in the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s largest markets. And the Grand Bazaar was one of my favorite places in Istanbul. I think I left some breadcrumbs, just like Hansel and Gretel. Wish me luck!
Please realize that I also enjoyed much of Istanbul, particularly the lamb and fish dishes. I visited all the famous landmarks. The most difficult adjustment is the eerie call to prayer, heard throughout the day and evening, everywhere in the city. And I do mean everywhere.
For this short visit, I will focus on the Grand Bazaar, and a fabulous meal.
Can you believe Istanbul has 3,113 mosques? After all, 88% of the population is Muslim. And Istanbul has never hosted the Olympics. During the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul had over 1,400 toilets! Only 15.1 million people live here. There are 237 hamams, but only 60 still in use today.
Tulips are from Turkey, not the Netherlands. The first bulb was sent from the Ottoman Empire to Vienna in 1554. Later, it was redistributed to the Netherlands. The Dutch loved them so much, they grew tulips everywhere!
Agatha Christie wrote one of her most famous novels here, Murder on the Orient Express” at the Pera Palace Hotel in 1933. The Orient Express traveled between Paris and Constantinople from 1883 to 1977. Likewise, the city was an inspiration for writers like Hemingway, Paul Theroux, and Orhan Pamuk.
People here do not seem to be overly concerned about their President Erdogan but were quite worried when we had The Naranjado for Prez.
Everyone thinks Istanbul is the capital, but it is Ankara.
Istanbul is always a great visit!