Turkish Hors D’oeuvres (Meze)

Turkish Hors D'oeuvres (MezeMeze is a generel term for appetizers, mainly to go with raki. These dishes are mainly olive oil based, and main ingredients are vegetables, yoghurt and sea foods. There are tens of different hors d’oeuvres, and you are presented samples on a tray before you order. Just choose a couple according to your taste.

My personal favorites are: Feta (beyaz peynir), mashed eggplant (patlıcan ezme) and salt-marinated fish (lakerda). You can try fried calamari (kalamar) or skewed shrimps (karides güveç) afterwards. Also I’d like to recommend melon with raki. Feta and melon are the two favorite sides with raki.

Istanbul: Galata Tower

Galata Tower is a 650 year old, 67 meter tall stone tower. Built by Genoese colony as the tower of fortifications around Galata, but eventually used as fire lookout tower during Ottoman Empire. It rises on the northbank of the Golden Horn. It has a fabulous view of Golden Horn, Historic Peninsula and Bosphorus. The tower is open to public, so you can enjoy the view from the top (there are elevators). You can reach the tower by walking down the Taksim Square through Istiklal Street for 2 kilometers, and turning left downhill when reaching the Tunel circus (Please see the map).

At the top of the tower, there is a restaurant, café and a nightclub where special Turkish and oriental shows are held. Click here to for more information and reservations.

You can get more information about Galata Tower on Wikipedia.

Galata Tower Map
Galata Tower
Galata Tower
Galata Tower Map

Turkish Raki

Turkish RakiRaki is a traditional Turkish alcoholic beverage. First of all, I would like to write about the sociologic role of raki. Raki is not just a booze. You don’t drink it in a couple minutes in a pub. It is an occasion for friends to come together, eat and chat for hours. It is generally consumed in dinner, together with special hors d’oeuvres (meze) and food for raki. There are two glasses per person on the table: one is for raki, and the other is for plain or mineral water.

Raki is made of grapes and anise. The smell of anise is very dominant. If you are not used to it, it may disturb at first; but after the first glass you would like it. Raki is 40% or more alcohol, hence it is strong and should be drunk diluted with water. Generally 1/2 raki and 1/2 water is preferred, but starters may dilute it more. Considering the second glass with water; some people prefer to drink raki straight. Raki is poured in the glass first, then water, and at last 2-3 ice cubes are added.

The major food with raki is feta (white cheese – beyaz peynir). Take a bite from the feta, and bread if you like, swallow and take a sip from raki and water at last. If raki is still too strong for you, eat more as you drink.

There are many hors d’oeuvres available, mainly vegetables with olive oil and sea food; the waiter would bring samples in a large tray at the beginning, you can choose as you like.

Then you may order hot hors d’oeuvres; calamari, stewed shrimps, etc.

As the main course, seasonal fish or kebabs are preffered. But some people prefer hors d’oeuvres only.

The dinner is generally finished with seasonal fruits and Turkish coffee.

Best places in Istanbul for raki are the restaurants in Beyoglu Nevizade, Cicek Pasaji, Asmalimescit and the ones under the Galata Bridge (on the Golden Horn).

Istanbul: Leander’s Tower

Leander’s Tower (aka Maiden’s Tower, Kiz Kulesi in Turkish) is a small tower on an islet at the entrance of the Bosphorus from the Marmara Sea. There are numerous legends about the tower, heroes of which gave names to the tower.

The tower was built on 408 BC, rebuilt and restored many times since then. It had been used as a lighthouse and a watchtower, and now is being used for touristic purposes where you can take a boat to the tower and have your breakfast or dinner.

Click here for the official web site of the Leander’s tower and for reservations

Leander's Tower Map
Leander's Tower
Leander's Tower

Istanbul: Beyoglu, Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

What is there in Taksim? Simply everything! History, culture, art, shopping, entertainment of all kind, Turkish food, all kinds of people, rich and poor, cosy and posh, anything… It is where you should not leave Istanbul without seeing. Taksim (a.k.a Beyoglu and Istiklal Street is the main part) lies on a historic region. The region is alive nearly for 24 hours. There are many opportunities for different tastes for entertainment.  I recommend you to lift your head up in the street once in a while not to miss the historic buildings all around. The old buildings mostly host modern venues. You may be surprised to see a fancy venue in a very old and neglected building or in a backyard. I’ll be writing about my favorite places and places you may like to see in Taksim area (mainly on Istiklal Street):

Taksim Square Map
Istiklal Street

Cicek Pasaji

1. Cicek Pasaji & Nevizade (Çiçek Pasajı & Nevizade): Cicek Pasaji is an arcade hosting Turkish cousine restaurants, mainly for dinner, traditional Turkish alcohol “Raki” (Rakı). Raki is a strong booze (45% alcohol) with a dominant anise taste. It is diluted with water and drunk slowly, together with cheese, melon, appetizers (meze), etc. Nevizade is the street by Cicek Pasaji with open air restaurants similar to the ones in Cicek Pasaji. I personally prefer the ones in Nevizade street.

St. Antoine Cathedral

2. St. Antoine Cathedral: It is the largest cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Istanbul. The original cathedral was built in 1725 by the local Italian community of Istanbul, but was later demolished and replaced with the current building which was built between 1906 and 1912 in the Venetian Neo-Gothic style. The cathedral is run by Italian priests. Saturday mass is in Italian and begins at 19:00, Sunday mass is in English and begins at 10:00, and Tuesday mass is in Turkish and begins at 11:00.

360 Istanbul

3. 360: 360 is a fine dining restaurant – bar – club on the roof of a building on the Istiklal Street (next to the St. Antoine Cathedral). It has a magnificent Bosphorus and Golden Horn view. Special events are held in the club as well. I recommend you to visit their web site and make reservations beforehand: Click here to visit official web site

NuTeras

4. NuTeras: It is another roof-top fine dining restaurant – bar, with fantastic Golden Horn View. It is on Mesrutiyet Street (Meşrutiyet caddesi) (parallel to Istiklal Street) and next to Pera Museum. Click here to for more information and reservations

Beyoglu Hayal Kahvesi

5. Beyoglu Hayal Kahvesi: It is one of the best live rock music bars in Istanbul. Famous singers and bands perform here every night. Quality music and audience guaranteed. You may run into a celebrity among the audience any time. It is on Buyuk Parmak Kapi street (Büyük Parmak Kapı sokak) (On the left when going down along Istiklal Street). Click here for more information

Galata Tower

6. Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi): Galata Tower is a 650 year old, 67 meter tall tower. It has a fabulous view of Golden Horn, Historic Peninsula and Bosphorus. The tower is open to public, so you can enjoy the view from the top (there are elevators). There is also a restaurant, café and a nightclub on its upper floors where special Turkish and oriental shows are held. Click here to for more information and reservations

Asmalimescit

7. Asmalimescit: Asmalimescit is a bohemian region with cafés, restaurants and art galleries on the streets. Generally preferred by artists and intellectuals. You can find all kinds of cousines (Italian, Far East, American, etc.) along with Turkish cousine (“raki” & “meze”). I suggest Asmalimescit instead of Nevizade for raki & meze.

Babylon

8. Babylon: Babylon is a multi-purpose performance center and live music venue of Istanbul. It hosts local and international jazz, latin, brasilian, reggae, world music and electronica scene. You can listen to world-famous bands in Babylon. Click here to visit official web site

Taksim POI
Of course there are many more, and I’ll be adding new places in time. One last word -a little warning- about Taksim; as it is a very crowded region, I advise you to keep an eye on your personal belongings. Also I’ve heard some incidents where tourists had been deceived and accompanied to some shows where large amounts are charged. So be careful about strangers approaching friendly (Turks are generally hospitable, and some people may approach with true feelings; but it is better to be safe than sorry).