There are so many Istanbul attractions that it’s hard to know where to begin. Today we went to the Grand Bazaar—OMG it is ginormous! I was completely overwhelmed at first but I found an amazing clock in the first stall I stopped at and I knew I had to have it, so I totally didn’t do the whole haggling thing correctly because the guy knew how much I wanted that clock. In the end, I decided I don’t care because it’s so cool  and I love the pattern. It’s going to be the most interesting piece of home décor I own.

After I found my clock, I just browsed the rest of the time. Shopping is so different here! All the shop keepers kept offering tea and supposedly dropping the price just for me, but I only looked after getting my clock. I have to keep reminding myself to stick to my budget so I don’t come back to a mountain of debt (Donna’s so generous picking up air and hotel and some of the meals, but I’m still paying the rest). I can see how a person could go crazy in there though. I saw three leather jackets I wanted and it took every drop of discipline I had to ignore them.

Turkish Food

At 1:30 we all met at a small place called Burç Ocakbaş, a restaurant I had heard about from the internet. The miracle was that we all actually found it—I mean it’s not like there are any maps in there! Each of us had written the name down and we all just kept asking people until we ended up in the right place. Once we sat down, the others pointed to the picture of marinated beef (gross) with what turned out to be a garlicky yogurt purée (yummy). I ate a salad with chopped walnuts and zippy pomegranate molasses dressing and then we all shared the restaurant’s speciality: extremely delicious dolmas, better known as stuffed grapeleaves in the U.S., made out of dried eggplants and red peppers stuffed with a rice and herb mixture with yogurt on the side. For dessert we ate baklava and Beyoğlu Chocolate, the next type on our quest (We are going to try to eat chocolate in every city we visit).

Istanbul Attractions: The Cistern

After lunch it was on to the Basilica Cistern, an awesome suggestion if I do say so myself ;-)

The cistern was built way back in the 6th century so that the city could resist sieges, which I guess were pretty common back then. Anyway, the cistern still  holds a little water and we got to go underground and see it! I swear it felt like we were in the middle of a horror film. We entered through a little door and then climbed down a set of stairs. I could tell the others were totally thinking “NO WAY!” but it was my turn to pick what to do and this was it! I honestly don’t know how they built something that gigantic more than a thousand years ago because they sure couldn’t get it done now.  Above ground, you can’t tell you’re actually walking on a roof held up by huge stone columns, two of which rest on the stone heads of Medusa, the female Greek monster. The whole place is bathed in this weird orange glow and you can hear the water dripping and see fish swimming. It was awesome!

Next: Instanbul River Cruise and Sheep’s Milk Ice Cream