A Final Day in Istanbul

I woke up today unsure about exactly I would accomplish on my last full day in Istanbul.  Some part of me wanted to push on, and see as much as I possibly could, but another part of me wanted to take it easy, and enjoy every last moment that I had here.  In the end, the latter won out.  I took a nice stroll through the bazaar district, and stopped at one of Sinan’s great jewels, the Rustum Pasa Mosque, before heading across the Golden Horn to Istanbul Modern (the other contemporary art museum in town).

I had a great time at the museum, which featured many of the usual suspects of the contemporary arts world.  Some highlights included a typically whacked-out, but amazing Pipilotti Rist installation/video, some Rivane Neuenschwander videos, an Olafur Eliason installation, and a video of a movie being projected onto Nina Katchadourian’s tooth.  After being immersed in history this trip, it was nice to linger around the museum for a while.

In keeping with my plan to thoroughly enjoy my last day here, I changed my mind at the last minute, and decided not to hop on the ferry to Uskudar, on the asian side, to look at some more mosques, and instead decided to treat myself to a terrific meal.  I found a terrific place near the museum that was very highly recommended to me, and sat down for a final Turkish feast before leisurely walking all the way back to my hotel.  All in all, it was a great day.

I’m off to Venice tomorrow afternoon, where I have absolutely no idea what kind of internet access I’ll have (I foresee difficulties), so I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be able to update.

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

I climbed up a staircase to nowhere in an alley off the bazaar, and got this view over the district.

Pide, or Turkish pizza, tastes much like regular pizza. This had an egg on top, though.

Pide sit in the window, beckoning hungry shoppers.

The Rustum Pasa Mosque is only accessed by one of two narrow staircases in the bazaar district. Upstairs, is a small forecourt overlooking narrow alleys in the bazaar.

Designed by Sinan for a wealthy merchant, the mosque is small, but striking.

Supposedly, the benefactor was a real jerk, but somehow, he managed to marry one of Suleyman the Magnificent's daughters, proving that magnificence skips a generation.

The blue tilework is as intricate as some of the ornamentation that I saw in Samarkand.

Istanbullus have a wide variety of sweets from which to choose. They're definitely not good for anyone with a nut allergy, though.

They like things sweet here, and they even stuff apricots with more sugar and nuts.

After visiting Istanbul Modern, I took a stroll back to the Galata Bridge, passing one of my favorite decaying mosques.

I went all out for my last dinner in Istanbul. Here, the meze portion of my meal included octopus salad, seaweed, and olives.

I know this looks suspiciously similar to a meal that I had on Tuesday, but the waiter told me that sardines are the best seasonal fish, so I took advantage. Luckily, I've developed a real love for sardines over the past couple of years, and nothing beats fresh-caught sardines.

Fortuitously, the restaurant where I had dinner was just down the street from one of Istanbul's most famous baclava cafes. I indulged in a portion of pistachio baclava, which turned out to be five pieces. I've never been much of a baclava fan, so by my standards, this was great baclava. Also, notice the tea cup. I've been meaning to post a picture of one. The tea is served piping hot in a thin glass with no handle. Turks must have calluses built up on their fingers, because the glasses are incredibly hot to the touch. The tea's ridiculously hot, too, and unlike in asia, it's impolite to slurp.

I watched these folks fishing for a while, but didn't see anyone catch anything.

I am amazed at how much corn on the cob is consumed in this town.

I almost hopped on a ferry for a last trip to the asian side, but decided against it at the last minute.

With doors like these, this bank must do honest business.

There's a fish market on the docks on the Karakoy side of the Golden Horn from which you can pick out a fish, and have it cooked up at a neighboring outdoor restaurant.

At a totally different pier from the last time I showed an image like this, on another continent, with completely different performers, this was the main attraction, again. In the west, people have often been accused of orientalist fetishization, but clearly Turks have a similarly exploitative fascination with North American indigenous cultures.

A would-be fisherman takes some time out to mug for the camera.

This is a popular plaza for hanging out with some fish sandwiches or ice cream.

This doner joint was just picking up for the evening, although I would have thought it more of a lunch thing.

It's never too late for baclava.

This place was blindingly bright in an otherwise dark neighborhood, but there seem to be a lot more waiters than customers.

Backgammon is the great Turkish passtime, especially when played over tea. I once had a professor who claimed that backgammon is the "least intelligent" game. I would have liked to see her say that in Istanbul. I thought about playing a few games with these guys, but I would have felt really bad about taking all of their money.

3 thoughts on “A Final Day in Istanbul

  1. The fishermen here are making me look good–I only caught one fish so far this summer!!
    The baclava looked good but the octopus salad, seaweed, and olives looked really good, my favorite.

  2. I didn’t know that Nina Katchadourian is a graduate from Brown. Your trip to the museum sounds like it was interesting. Can’t wait to hear about Venice.

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