Istanbul is one of those cities that instantly wows you with its crazy energy and seemingly contradictory mix of east and west, old and new. Nowhere can you feel the heartbeat of this great city more than at its many bazaars. They are truly spectacular places that make you wish supermarkets were never invented. People come to socialize as much as they come to shop, and even if you don’t want to buy anything, browsing and people watching are so fun, you’ll never want to leave. At least, that’s how I felt.
My favorite were the food bazaars with their sheer endless amount of delicacies. If you lingered for a second admiring the goods on display, someone would usually offer us a little sample – an olive, a piece of cheese, a dried fig stuffed with walnuts, a pickle, or a slice of pastirma (air-dired, cured beef). Spending the morning or afternoon getting lost among the hundreds of little shops around the Spice Bazaar, sampling the plumpest dried apricots, nibbling on crunchy hazelnuts, stopping for tea and some baklava, and enjoying a simple lunch at a Börek shop was inspiring, relaxing, and exciting all at once.
We had heard a lot of people raving about the famous Spice Bazaar, but it didn’t take us long to figure out that the real market takes place outside of the covered bazaar area – that’s where the locals shop. Even better were some of the small street markets on the Asian side across the Bosphorus where I bought a bag of beautiful dried sage. It makes the most delicious cup of tea, and I wish I would have bought at least three times as much!
Now that I’m back home, I frequent the Turkish neighborhood bakeries and döner stalls a lot more, but it’s just not the same. And I’m on a quest to find Sarelle pure hazelnut spread, which (as impossible as it may sound) puts Nutella to shame. I first discovered it at a delicatessen shop around the Spice Bazaar, and then later bought it in a supermarket on Istanbul’s Asian side. If I’m able to find it here, I’ll make sure to purchase a few jars and dream about our next trip to Istanbul and beyond…