Spent the morning wandering the streets around Sultanameht and the Grand Bazaar. We stumbled upon a modern shopping area with a bit nicer cafes and restaurants, was quite nice but I think I like the older, dingier ones better. Not to.mention they're not full of grey haired, khaki wearing German tourists drinking beer at 10:30am. There were some interesting people to watch on the street
We made it to the Grand bazaar, and while it wasn't quite as grand and traditional as I had always envisaged, it was a lot of fun. It's a hive of all sorts of stalls and shops undercover, seemingly selling anything you can imagine. It's the kind of place you stand on a corner and just watch the people go about their business. There are narrow corridors stuffed with men yelling into cordless and mobile phones and at each other, we presumed they were doing trading or betting.
Another thing I have noticed is people shouting to coffee bars from their gaming house or business across the street and ordering. A few minutes later a guy will run across carrying a hanging tray with coffees or chai teas. In the bazaar these chai deliverers would zip from in and out of sight between corridors, delivering drinks and picking up cups. The shop owners generally stand outside their shop talking to people, having a smoke and a chai.
Abdullah had also recommended the best baklava in Istanbul so we fought our way on busy streets in the rain to a shop called Seyidoğlu. Noticed people who push around carts delivering goods everywhere, including on the road heading opposite to traffic. They seemed to get right of way and noone was upset and not a horn honked. Loosen up, Sydney.
At Seyidoğlu we stuffed ourselves with Şöbiyet, baklava and fıstıklı kadayıf and it really was the best I've ever had. It was empty when we walked in but quite full when we loft, most people had about 5-8 pieces on their plates to start with, and definitely nothing left at the finish.
Next stop was Aya Sofia which should probably just be Wikipedia'd for info, but it is a huge building and very old with a lot of cool artwork painted on its walls. Had a chuckle with dome Japanese tourists when they were taking shamelessly close photos of anyone with blonde or light brown hair.
Down towards the water we had a Cağ (char) kebab, and it was the best I've ever had, hands down. We people watched from undercover as it rained and of most interest was an umbrella seller who must have been all of 65 and barely 5 foot tall. He was having a chai and a smoke at the kebab place and as it started raining he was over on the street in no time to do business. Chai in one hand, cigarette in mouth, umbrellas on one arm and holding his own umbrella with the other hand. I wondered what he would actually do if he got a buyer, but he finished his tea quickly and offloaded a few umbrellas to wet buyers in no time.
Went out in Taksim at night and the streets, restaurants and bars were absolutely packed. It was like Sydney on new years eve, but it was just a normal Friday night. Had an awesome Turkish dinner of kofta, pilav, mushrooms and eggplant at a communal table with as much bread as you can stomach. We were stuffed and it only cost $10aud. Had a Rakur (aniseed spirit) and a few beers sitting at a table on the street with locals. Highlights were more people watching, street vendor politics and a girl with a turtle in her handbag. What a city!