Monday, January 30, 2012

No Reservations

Last Friday, we headed down to Taksim to get a final fitting on Paul's custom suit.  We had talked about trying out an Indian food place with friends, but after getting proded and measured, we trekked back out to find that it was snowy and windy again.  That put us in the mood for a nice fire inside, so we decided to hurry home.

On the way back, the guys were talking up a storm about "soggy burgers." Sounds appetizing, right? But, they swore they were much better than they sounded, so we ducked into what I expected to be a hole in the wall shop off Iskital in Taksim.

Kizilkayalar - home of the 'wet burger'

When we found the shop (close to the Metro station so we could still make our quick getaway), I still had that thought of hole in the wall.  There's the doner guy out front and a sign that says burgers.  You go inside and there are no tables, standing stools only and no cash register, just a guy walking around taking orders, handing out food and taking up money.  Apparently, there are two options, doners or 'soggy burgers.' I go for the soggy burger.

After taking my 2tl burger (sweet! it's like the dollar menu at McDonalds - same size too, so order a few burgers), I find a spot to stand out with a stool and a little bit of counter space.  I glance around while I eat and see right on the wall an article - it's Anthony Bourdain at this restaurant!

Me and Anthony, bonding over our shared love of wet burgers

After this, I no longer feel like it's a hole in the wall even if it is by some standards.  However, I can say, I felt pretty excited to have stumbled upon this little gem.  And the soggy burgers were pretty good too (note: apparently, the correct name is wet burgers, but I still like soggy burgers better).

New goal for 2012 (okay, my FIRST goal of 2012) - find more great Istanbul restaurants. I've been enjoying learning the art of cooking with all my new found time in my new Istanbul life, but with that, I have missed out on chances to explore my new city.  Hopefully by the time we get more visitors, we will have more of these great gems to take them too!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


First off, I spent some time this week updating the blog - hope you enjoy the new look!

Secondly, I also spent some time this week doing a bit of makeover for the apartment.  We had some water leaks in our apartment complex over the last few months which caused damage to our hardwood floors (boo!), but because of that, the landlord arrange for some guys to come sand them down and re-finish them (yay!).

After a week of living and working out of what is usually our laundry room, we were so happy to get the apartment back to working order.  Oh, and buy some more stuff for the apartment, of course.

We made a trip to the Cehavir mall since Paul had never been before.  I also decided to take the subway; I have used the metro system a ton, but Paul's still new at it, so I thought it would be a good chance to get more familiar with it.  Mistake.  After paying the subway fare, we run down to catch the subway.  There is one sitting right there on the right, which I thought was headed in the right direction.  Paul dashes onto the train, but the door closes before I can get on.  As the train pulls away and I can read the directions behind it, I realize I have sent Paul off on the wrong train and he doesn't have any idea where he is going and can't get cell reception.  Whoops.

Luckily, Paul asked someone who just so happened to be going to the mall and he was able to find his way.  Now, shopping time!

Stop #1 - Zara Home.  I love this store - I shouldn't because I should not buy anything here, but there was an Indirim (Sale) sign that just called out to me.  Success! I found a new duvet cover, some pillow cases, dish towels and about 50 other things I wanted to buy, but self control stopped me.

 Ignore the decorless bedroom, but do admire the new duvet.  Oooh, ahh!

Stop #2 - Koctas. This is the Turkish version of Home Depot mixed in perhaps with Big Lots.  You can get everything from home renovation stuff like cabinets, AC units and sinks, to bedroom furniture, decorative boxes, curtains and potted plants.  Really, a jack of all trades store. We found all kinds of things, but what I was most excited about was our new indoor plant! I do have a bit of a black thumb, so let's hope that Paul can help me to keep it alive.

 According to the tag, this is a Yucca plant.  That sounds desert like which hopefully correlates to me not killing it.

Paul was happy that I let us take a cab back home instead of trying the city buses for the first time.  Probably a wise choice considering the haul that we brought back.  To reward ourselves for a day of successful shopping, Paul started our first fire of the winter season!

Next shopping obstacle - IKEA.  I have been warned, so be on the look out for some interesting tales.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter Wonderland

As a Texas girl, summers in Turkey were not a concern to me moving over here (you call 40 degree C hot?!).  I was worried about the winter - with no car, no seat warmers (I definitely miss these on rainy days) and only our radiators to keep us warm inside!

In true Urban winter fashion, the last few weeks have been cold and rainy - the worst kind of winter weather.  Poor Belle probably misses the outdoors because on these kind of days I venture out only when she needs to go.

This week though, much to my surprise, we got a special treat - SNOW! Not just once, but twice! From what I have heard, snow isn't too frequent in Istanbul and doesn't stick (sounds a lot like Texas, huh?), so this is really something extraordinary.

And to sound completely not like a Texas girl - I liked it.  At least if it's going to be cold, we get something beautiful out of it. 

Snow #1 - daytime snow.  Big beautiful flakes that fell for hours.

Snow #2 - evening snow.  Teeny little flakes that didn't seem like much but accumulated pretty quickly.

Enjoying the beautiful snow while it lasts - before it turns into icky urban slush!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Our First Visitor

After Christmas, my sister Jenny was able to come to Turkey for almost two weeks - making her our first visitor!

We loved having her here. The weather was working against us (cold, although not too cold for January, and rainy for quite a few days).  However, we still were able to get out for some leisurely sight seeing.  We were able to see just about all the sites in Istanbul and had a weekend trip (see this post) to the Gallipoli peninsula.

A few highlights from her visit:
  1. Visiting the Grand Bazaar - apparently Jenny or I look like Lady GaGa according to one Turkish person.  I will also say that Jenny is quite the bargainer (at least compared to me - I always leave whenever Paul starts bargaining!)
  2. Topkapi Palace - I had not visited here yet, it was beautiful.  I can only imagine it in the summer with all the flowers blooming.  However, after waiting in line in the winter, I think I will leave it to the tourists in the summer! Oh, Jenny also met a friend on a shop nearby who wanted her to move to Turkey and be his girlfriend (or something like that!)
  3. Gallipoli Peninsula - Jenny was our heroic driver throughout Turkey.  At least she can mark it off her bucket list and she wasn't afraid to honk like a true Turk.
  4. Food - we fed Jenny Turkish food til she (okay, maybe it was me) was tired out of doners, kebaps, fish (for Jenny and Paul) and Efes.

Here are a few pictures from her visit - we can't wait to have her back in the summer so that she can get some Turkish sun!

 Cisterns across from Aya Sofia - definitely need a tripod to get good pictures here

 The courtyard at the Blue Mosque

 On the ferry back from Troy, crossing from the Asian to the European side of Turkey

 Follow the signs to Istanbul!

 Self portrait - pretty tiles at Topkapi Palace

 Bosphorous cruise - one of the bridges to cross the Bosphorous in the background

 Drinking mint lemonade at House Cafe - one of my favorites

Monday, January 9, 2012


We have gotten the chance to skype with some of you, but for those who have not gotten a view of the apartment, we wanted to share this with you.  We still have some way to go to get it feeling homey, but it does already feel like home.

Feel free to pass any inspired decorating tips my way :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Belle - World Traveller!

When we decided to move to Turkey, we knew we couldn't go without our lovable golden retriever, Belle. However, when I tried to bring her overseas in November, we had some major problems with American Airlines and had to live without our pup for awhile.

We were so happy to see her when we came home for Christmas and even more excited to have her here in Turkey. Luckily it worked out for my sister to bring her AND visit for a while.

Belle and Jenny safely made it here last week (thank you Lufthansa!!!) and this weekend we decided to bring the dog along for some Turkish explorations.

Belle, Jenny and I in front of some of the ruins in Troy (yes, apparently dogs can also blink in pictures)

One of Paul's coworkers loaned us their truck for the weekend, so Paul, Jenny, Belle and I went out on a drive to the Gallipoli Peninsula. This is the area Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand tried to capture in World War I to gain control over the Dardanelles and Bosphorous Strait for easy access via sea to Russia. The attacks lasted 9 months with over 500,000 casualties on both the Turkish and allied sides. We visited the various cemeteries and monuments.

Lone Pine memorial in Gallipoli - memorial for the ANZAC soliders who died.  The pine tree has an interesting story too - the brother of a solider who died sent home a pine cone to their mother; about 20 years later when the memorial was built, she sent a cone to be planted on the memorial)

We rang in 2012 with a seafood dinner (at least for Jenny and Paul), Raki (a traditional Turkish liquor, like Ouzo from Greece), cake and sparklers :)

Sunday, we drove across from Gelibolu and Eceabat to Cannakkale and Troy. All of us, including Belle, were able to walk around the ruins of Troy. It was city, built upon city, built upon city, literally! It also had a mock Trojan horse like the one the Greeks used to deceive them and burn down the city of Troy. Cannakkale even had the Trojan horse from the movie Troy at the harbor. It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the history of my new home, and man, there is a lot to learn.

More as Jenny and I explore Istanbul - Mutlu Yillar (or Happy New Year to those English speaking folk) to everyone from Turkey!