“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”
– Alphonse de Lamartine
My esteemed audience,
I am thrilled to welcome you to the final part of the discovery journey delving deep into the fullfiled wishes of the mesmerizing city of Istanbul – I promise this enchanting post to be a delight for the sight and food for your souls. Given my latest tendency to sprinkle wits and bites of conscious shopping over my Royal Endeavors events, while still promoting chic means of sustainability one can easily afford, I made the commitment to deliver an exclusive www. episode on the Ultimate Guide of Shopping, dedicated to the art lovers and thrill seekers willing to expand their horizons and beautify their homes.
In a world struggling to overcome the last bursts of consumerism shoved down our throats through aggressive media and misinformation, the art of making conscious choices becomes a gift, a blessing and a purpose.
I honor the difference of opinions and perspectives but that doesn’t have to lead to a lack of personality while emphasising a casual taste just to fit into a predefined mould, therefore I am willing to promote handicrafts which will definitely capture everyone’s attention, rich in aspects regarding tradition and symbolism.
I believe an elegant manner to support the countries we are visiting is to invest in their local services and manufacturing, as means to keep traditional art alive and solid. I kindly advise you not to settle for the Chinese cheaper souvenirs, when you can make memories count with handcrafted ceramics and luxurious textiles.
Every choice matters and traveling certainly opens the universe of self-awareness, deepening senses, refining tastes and strengthening cultural awareness and diversity, thus contributing to a country’s sense of sustainability.
Once you witness the beauty of Turkey in all its glory, it will be hard to leave the sweet memories behind without purchasing some Turkish souvenirs to spark conversations and act as a magical portal that is reminiscent of the wonders you had experienced.
Please remember everything is negotiable to an extend of -50%, unless clearly specified otherwise.
“All other cities are mortal, but I think Istanbul shall be eternal as long as mankind exists.”
– Petrus Gyllius
“There’s different shopping in Paris than there is at a bazaar in Istanbul, but they’re all wonderful.”
– Iris Apfel
Turkish Coffee and Tea
Let’s start with my favorite treat – Turkish coffee – made unfiltered with finely ground coffee beans (so fine that they resemble the texture of cocoa powder), boiled with sugar and cardamom in a special pot called a cezve or ibrik. Turkish coffee is usually served in cafes accompanied by a delicious delight to sweeten the experience and a glass of water to relax the taste buds. I recommend you complete the ultimate Turkish Coffee Set by purchasing both the coffee, a beautiful ibrik and the traditional copper cup that is used to drink the beverage.
Tips: If you prefer sweetened beverages, you should mention fron the start you would like your Turkish with one or two teaspoons of sugar and not a minute later. Considering the coffee beans deposit in your cup, to add the sugar after it has been prepared would both spoil the taste and your smile. Also, expect an espresso sized cup and never an americano. My recommendation – do not mix Turkish coffee with milk.
On the other hand, the tulip shaped glasses filled with small portions of black tea probably rank top as the favorite souvenir in the country. Apple tea is also a delicious traditional treat, whether you buy it as powder or dried fruits.
I definitely recommend the last option, as it seems more natural and tasty. Keep in mind offering black or apple tea to guests is part of Turkish hospitality. Herbal teas are sold in loose-leaf according to each customer’s needs and tastes – they are usually used for herbal medication.
I have purchased a flowery blend of Hurrem Sultan Tea, dried apple tea and Jasmine Dragon Pearls tea, both little pearls and the large ones that bloom in the cup.
Carpets and Rugs
Turkey is recognized throughout the world for their magnificent hand-woven rugs. The problem is that carpets are like fine art: unless you really know what you are looking for, it is easy to be fooled or scammed into buying something that is not of real quality and turns out to be a bad investment. The consumer needs to know the region where the carpet was produced as one measure of value, as often Turkish carpets come from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Armenia and the Caucasus, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Prices for carpets can range from a few hundred, to hundreds of thousands of dollars and depend upon many factors.
While authentic carpets and rugs can be expensive and difficult to find, the effort will be completely worth it. Remember that good carpets last for a very long time and can be a lovely addition to your home or office environment and décor, as well as a good investment.
I have come across this useful material on Forbes for those who are seeking to make a bold choice for their homes but are missing the expertise.
The less dangerous option is to purchase decorative pillowcases made from old traditional rugs at fair prices. Mine looks stunning and given its vintage appearance, I am confident it comes from a very old Turkish rug. Nevertheless, feel free to expand your knowledge and deepen your expertise by visiting the fine Carpet Museum in Istanbul, very close to Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
“The General Directorate Foundations Carpet Museum”, one of the richest carpet collections in the world, includes carpets having great historical and artistic value that were donated to mosques and mescids as part of old Islamic tradition.
Carpets and rugs were donated to to allow the donors and the deceased to acquire merit in the afterlife; therefore, such carpets and rugs, along with their refinement and aesthetic and artistic qualities are of great importance.
If there is another recommendation I would make, is that I encourage you to visit Troy Rug Store at Arasta Bazaar, a charming outpost specialized in classic floor coverings, tapestries, pillows and seat cushions.
Mr. Mustafa Cesur sells handknoted and hand wooven carpets, Kilims, saddle bags and other items of Tribal art.I was fascinated by the stunning colors and tassels of the tribal salt and spice bags he kindly showed to us.
This lovely little place is definitely a must see for afficionados, as I am confident it will charm anyone with its stunning treasures.
Gorgeous Iznik Tiles cover the city of Istanbul, and cheap replicas have long been popular souvenirs. But a recent revival of the centuries-old, traditional techniques for creating these lovely ceramics is proof that, when it comes to Iznik tiles, beauty is more than glaze deep.
The intricate production process is more than just craftsmanship; it also draws upon a rich cultural heritage.
A craft that has its roots dating all the back to the 8th century, you can find intricately designed plates, bowls, and vases, all made with ceramic on display at a number of places in Turkey. These wares come in vibrant colors, shapes and sizes, and it is said that they even built mosques with ceramic tiles!
I have bought a splendid ceramic hand-made, hand-designed and hand-glazed tile depicting a pomegranate from Iznik Classics shop in Arasta Bazaar.
Besides hanging it on a wall or something, I am confident it can be used as the main decoration for a future made-to-measure coffee table.
Jewelry and Mother of Pearl Encrusted Handicrafts
Another brilliant idea is to treasure hunt for the perfect gift in some of the boutiques from the Grand Bazaar, easily spotted due their refined display of hand-painted souvenirs, artisan jewelry and mother-of-pearl encrusted board games. I recommend the shop of Mr. Serkan Almaz on Kavaflar Sokak No: 6-8 in Grand Bazaar, where I was thrilled to discover many treasures while I was waiting for my parents to negotiate theirs. I bought a gorgeous large shell finely hand painted with a scene depicting a Turkish couple in love for the sake of beauty.
Spices and Dried Fruits
Istanbul’s Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul are two spice havens where you can find the best of Turkish spices. I particularly recommend the Ottoman spice mix to add that extra oomph to your dishes. Saffron is also a wise investment, if you can tell the top quality one from the fake of yellow coloring.
All spices should be stored in a copper container, which will act as a reminder of the delicacy it once held.
Baklava and Turkish Delights
After the mesmerizing aromas of soul-uplifting spices, choosing some delicious sweets as the world famous Turkish delights prove to be the natural choice for authentic souvenirs. Premium varieties consist largely of chopped dates, pistachios, and hazelnuts or walnuts bound by the sugar gel; traditional varieties are often flavored with rosewater, mastic, Bergamot orange, or lemon. The origin of the confection is not precisely known, but the candy is known to have been produced in Turkey as early as the late 1700s; hence its name.
You’ll find packaged boxes of all sizes selling this extraordinary, yet simple sweet dish all across the country. If you are searching for a refined presentation as a gift, always search for the luxurious present boxes which can be long kept after the dessert is gone. Turkish Delight should last 8 to 10 months.
Although you have limitless options from where to buy these little treats, the recommendation is the shop of Hacir Bekir Efendi in Istanbul, who is originally credited as the inventor of these little delights.
Also don’t miss the chance to taste the original baklava, a heavenly sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts, sweetened and held together richly with syrup or honey. One of the finest culinary experiences I ever had – tasting a freshly baked crispy baklava just popped out of the oven – happened at Corner Cafe, with a minor inconvenience of a twenty minutes delay. It was definitely worth the wait!
Known for its wealth of olive trees, Turkey is one of the largest producers of olive oil, making it a center for producing natural soaps derived from olives, which allows the country to produce some of the finest natural soaps in the world, which have been used for generations – the perfect choices for your health and eco-conscious friends.
What makes these bars unique is that they are usually made locally and by hand, plus they smell incredible, leaving your skin feeling revitalized and your bathroom smelling fresh like you have just stepped out of a Mediterranean spa.
Handmade soap production in Turkey has remained an authentic natural product over the centuries, and is almost always comprised of an olive oil base with natural scents. When looking to buy soap, one should make sure that the bars are a bit rustic looking, and should be olive green, yellow, orange, off-white or white in color, depending on the kind you buy. My choice is the luxurious Oud Soap.
Turkey is known for producing some of the highest quality cotton products in the world and the authentic Turkish Bath Towels (also known as hammam towels or pestemal) are as absorbent as traditional towels but take up less room and dry very quickly.
Using longer premium fiber cotton means fewer joins therefore Turkish towels are known to become even softer, fluffier, and more absorbent with successive washings. There is a wild variety of textures and colors available for these magical towers, which I strongly recommend to purchase for the obvious reasons.
I now have two of them – a fluffier pink one for a bohemian bath experience and a red and green one made from a more abrasive cotton, which I have been saving for Christmas. It is so festive that the seller confessed other buyers had used it for setting the Christmas table.
Once again, I recommend Arasta and Grand Bazaars for this particular purchase, as you will have plenty of store options – you only need to know the size, color, texture and quality you are looking for.
If you would like to enjoy the benefits of a traditional Turkish Bath – the ultimate Ottoman spa experience – I strongly recommend to go for the Luxury package from Cemberlitas Hamami, a historical Turkish Bath, built by Mimar Sinan in 1584. The Cemberlitas Bath opens its doors every morning at six o’clock and stays open until midnight to serve its clients, female and male, in separate quarters. As you walk into the complex, a Sinan building, you are greeted with the atmosphere of past times and so the traditional bathing process begins.
Once you’ve selected the service you prefer, you obtain your wash mitt at the entrance. The attendants welcome you into the cool area and will hand men a pestamal (cotton wrap) and ladies, a pestamal and a pair of disposable briefs – after this, you must pass into changing cubicle to undress.
You are now ready for the hot area, where you will stretch out on the central stone. A good twenty minutes of relaxation on the central stone is recommended. This will unwind the body, open the pores and prepare the skin for scrubbing.A masseur (for men) and a masseuse (for women) arrives after twenty minutes – the firm scrub is followed by a soap massage, which cleanses and refreshes the skin.
If you haven’t purchased additional services, now is the time to lay back down on the central stone and later wash yourself again at the washbasins. I also enjoyed an oil massage followed by a hot shower to mark this luxurious experience as complete.
Its benefits are well worth the price, as a traditional Turkish Bath is proven to alleviate stress, while keeping the skin young and fresh. The scrub exfoliates, revealing smoother skin. The relaxing experience increases the happiness hormone, dilating capillaries and regulating blood pressure. It alleviates muscle tenses and aches, aids the lymphatic drainage system, increases circulation, reduces sinus blockages, while sweating detoxifies the body. The high temperature of the central stone and water increases the number of leukocytes, strengthening the immune system.
Overall, taking the time to pursue a relaxation ritual is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy your own presence, which is definitely challenge most people struggle with. Given the speed and tension of today’s society, even the idea of relaxation might even piss some of them off, accustomed to fill the void of their ordinary lives with plenty activities which leave no room to indulge and unwind.
Nevertheless, I came out from the Hammam with a glowing face, smoother skin and a renewed sense of confidence, as I totally love pampering time.
Turkish Cuisine Experience
“Street vendors are the songbirds of the streets, they are the life and soul of Istanbul, he said. Under no circumstances must they ever be banned.”
– Orhan Pamuk
It’s simple – God created man, man created Turkey and Turkey created cuisines for which gluttony can’t be a sin. Rich and savory, not particularly spicy – the delicacies among the Turkish Foods have been littering the menus of restaurants all over the world. Heritage of the Ottoman cuisine, a traditional Turkish food menu is famous for its meat-full skewers, but there is a lot more to it.
Imagine Turkish food is so great that everywhere you go, tasting resembles to an extrasensory experience. Freshness is honored at the top of every menu and everywhere you go you get a lot of attention from the restaurant staff, which is eager not to let you linger with desire while waiting, so they serve light appetizers to stimulate your senses with generosity.
As I am not a professional food blogger, I will skip directing your attention to a choice or another, therefore my only advice would be to feast on the Ottoman shish platter from the very start.
Just for the reference, I also adore a well cooked doner.
Even the picturesque street vendors offer a great variety of seasonal treats ranging from boiled corn and fried chestnuts to pickles and the famous fish shandwich at extremely affordable prices, which may vary from 3 to 15 Turkish liras for a portion. As everywhere around the world, a proof of quality is to follow the lead of locals and stick to their choices. The more of them crowding a dining place, the merrier therefore you’ll get the freshest food.
Another experience I recommend, especially for the view, is to enjoy a fancy dinner under the Galata bridge, at any of the restaurants serving fresh fish you can choose from and share. Crowdedness is again a rationale for picking a high ranked restaurant to satisfy the quest for tasty dishes and flawless services. Although internet services are far from affordable in Turkey, as applied to EU countries, it proves to be beneficial on the long run to do a little background search on tripadvisor for other tourists’ reviews.
“People were right when they say there is no other place on earth as beautiful looking as Istanbul.”
These being said, here are two of my favorite places not to miss in Istanbul:
This awesome cafe which serves freshly baked baklava and one of the most delicious Turkish coffee I ever tried should not be forgotten, especially since it is at a stone’s throw away from the majestic Hagia Sophia.
The location is perfect, everything looks very stylish, the staff is friendly and the service is fast – all stars are aligned for a delightful experience.
Everything we tried was top quality and affordable, moreover the place is pet friendly and has a relaxed vibe.
The smell of shisha in the air is charming. These being said, Green Corner is definitely the go to cafe during your stay as it was for us so don’t forget to drop by and feel it for yourself.
Sirin Kofte Doner & Kebap
Since we are talking about the extraordinary Turkish cuisine, I encourage you to try it at Sirin Kofte, the place we ate every evening during our 6 day stay – a restaurant we know way back since our last visit to Istanbul, years ago.
This place is truly food for the soul.
We had a warm welcoming every time and everything we tried from the menu was more than delicious. Not to mention the fact the food was extra fresh and cooked right in front of our eyes, while the service was outstanding as always. Excellent place, I truly recommend it. This is the top of the game from everything we’ve tried.
“If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
Thank you again, ladies and gentlemen, for keeping up with QueenP! I bet you had a fantastic journey walking by my side, discovering the magical thrills of Istanbul and its eclectic beauty. I hope all of us will have the opportunity to travel to outstanding destinations and invest in fabulous local treasures in the upcoming year, collecting precious souvenirs and everlasting memories which will enchant us for many years to come.
Don’t forget that choices determine destiny and I am praying each one of us makes the most of it. Santé!
To wrap up this masterpiece, here are some colorful pictures with an abundance of fresh fruits symbolizing “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22) and all my best wishes to follow you into the masterful 2020!
The One and Only,
Her Unique Majesty,