This is probably one place that has not been overrun with english for the sake of tourists. very hard to get around alone if you can't speak some turkish i feel, but that did not dampen the magic at all! we stayed with friends on the asian side of istanbul, all of the tourist destinations are on the european side so it was great to see how people live their everyday lives on the quieter side.
street food is massive in istanbul. a personal favourite were the mussels. they are stuffed with spiced rice and lemon, then closed back up and cooked. the flavour is phenomenal and all for less than a lira. there were old ladies stretching out dough for gozleme, their arms were like those of a body builder ha! a specialty on the rotisserie is beef intestines which have been laden with spices (this tenderises them and adds flavour) and wrapped around the rod into a pinwheel. once it's crispy, you slice a piece off and put it in a roll. apparently it's the go-to after a night on the town. i was skeptical but it tasted amazing and i could have happily eaten a whole roll to myself.
the best thing? cig kofte. i was so bloody scared to eat this because it's raw mince meat kneaded for HOURS on end with a bucket load of spices and bulgar wheat. i was convinced i was going to have food poisoning because well..food handling isn't quite the same as in melbourne. once it's kneaded, it's kept on a bench in a big pile until people order it (hence the apprehension), it arrives in little balls with finger indents in them and a pile of lettuce. you wrap the meat ball in the lettuce and every bite is like a flavour explosion! the texture is beyond words and lettuce suddenly becomes the most amazing ingredient ever! heaven in bite-size. MUST TRY.
and there's kitties everywhere! i think i probably petted the entire population of istanbul..#crazycatlady.
all in all, i don't have enough words to tell you how fab istanbul is;
the history, culture, people, food, atmosphere, art, lifestyle - all effing brilliant.