Turkish Delight!

On our second day in Istanbul we took in the colors and history of the city, which included a considerable amount of Turkish Delight and ice cream that is both a theatrical event and a rather elastic sensation (video below, yes that is me snorting with laughter in the background).

The Blue Mosque (above) is quite majestic in its size from the outside, but completely breathtaking from within. A very friendly man offered to give us a personal tour of the mosque, IF we agreed to visit his carpet showroom after. When in Istanbul there are thousands of opportunities to view carpets, and since we were on an adventure we decided to go along.

He gave us a very thorough tour of the mosque, which is filled with intricate blue tile work covering every surface, hence the name.

The colors and textures seem as vibrant as they must have been in the 1600s when the mosque was built. I was in awe of the scale and beauty, but I have to admit my mind couldn’t help think how gorgeous some of these designs would be on a wedding cake.

As promised we visited our “brother’s” showroom and were again given a thorough tour, this time of the history and culture of Turkish carpets. We were served tea and showed about a dozen gorgeous rugs, but much to his dismay we didn’t bring any home.

Instead we stopped in at the candy store and bought a variety of Turkish Delight. Thanks to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe we have all heard of this confection, but until traveling to Istanbul I’d never eaten it. It tastes a bit like a giant perfumed chewy jellies, with a powdery finish. It comes in the more traditional flavors of pistachio and rose water, which were hands down my favorite, but there is something for everyone. Despite its gum-like texture it contains no gelatin and is actually made with a mixture of sugar, cornstarch and flavorings.

It is most commonly found in little squares, but we also sampled it in these spiralled rolls. I can’t say that we fell in love with it, but just like Edmund in C. S. Lewis’s tale we couldn’t stop eating it.

After we refueled with a bit of candy and some simit we headed to the Hagia Sophia which is a layering of the religious history of Istanbul since it was first built in 360AD.  Originally it was an orthodox basilica and remained a church until 1453 when the Ottomans took over the city and turned it into a mosque. That is why the Virgin Mary is sitting over large round plaques adorned with Islamic calligraphy. The basilica turned mosque was made into a museum in 1935 and just recently they started to rip down some of the plaster that was put up over the original art from about 1500 years ago.

The Hagia Sophia is also home to the “sweating column” that has the reputation of granting wishes. All you have to do it stick your finger in the hole and turn it, if your finger comes out wet your wish will come true. Hmmmm, a wet hole that several thousand people have stuck their fingers in…good idea? Well the boys did it and claimed their fingers were wet. I think they wished we would leave the get ice cream.

A wish come true. Just outside were several Ice Cream vendors, all with bells ringing and fanciful tricks done with ice cream cones. As you can see in the video I’m game for a cheap laugh. The Ice Cream is made with a ground up root called salep, which is derived from orchids and makes the texture thick, elastic and chewy. Think frozen creamy Turkish Delight.

As we ate our Ice Cream we decided to take a break from all the cultural intensity of the mosques and go shopping. Where else but the Grand Bazaar, which is truly enormous and bizarre. A maze of stalls selling everything from apple tea, linens, swords, leather everything and football (soccer) jerseys.

By the time we made it out of the Bazaar we were starving and exhausted, so when I saw these women rolling out this impossibly thin dough for Gozleme in the window of a restaurant I looked no further.

Luckily the seats were just giant pillows spread out on the floor, which served our tired bodies well.
As we sat and ate wonderful kebap and drank cold beers I got more relaxed. Charlie fell fast asleep and my eldest got his first job!

As was true all over Istanbul the waiter took a liking to Henri and decided to put him to work as his assistant. Here he is making menu recommendations, based on his vast knowledge of Turkish cuisine and the language. 😉
All he needs is an apron! Another incredible day in Istanbul and we haven’t even been to the spice market yet.

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22 thoughts to “Turkish Delight!”

  1. Gorgeous views! After visiting Istanbul, you may enjoy reading _The Historian_ (if you’re a fan of scary historical fantasy) — some really lovely descriptions of that city.

    P.S. Zoe, I love your glasses — they are just perfect for your face! So cute.

  2. Your travel posts are so exciting to read, keep posting! I have always been a fan of your site and now it is just as fun to read about your travel experiences as it is to try out your wonderful recipes! Thanks!

  3. I’m loving your updates, Zoe! Everything is so beautiful there, isn’t it? I’ve always wanted to try Turkish Delight, too–just like Edmund!

  4. Thanks for your wonderful posts. It’s fun to see your family enjoying Istanbul with you! Can’t wait to see what ideas you create when you come back.

    Write soon!

  5. YEA! I have been waiting for another post from your vacation! Loving all the wonderful photos and explanations. Looks like you are completely enjoying yourselves – can’t wait to hear and see more!

  6. Zoe, what a fantastic trip~! I hope you picked up some great recipes to share~! Super pics~!!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing, Zoe. After India and Greece (home of my grandparents), it is Turkey that I so yearn to visit. The photos you’ve shared with us, as well as the little anecdotes (especially about the blue mosque and your rug-selling tour guide) are wonderful glimpses into such an amazing, breathtakingly beautiful part of the world. I look forward to more posts – can’t wait for the upcoming one when you’re perusing the spice markets. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you all for indulging my memories of the trip! I am ready to hit the road again…but the realities of life are getting in the way! Until I can manage it, I’ll just cling tight to my thoughts of this trip. Not to mention all the recipes I have to develop as a result.

      Greek Girl from Queens, how lucky to have ties to Greece. I NEED to go back there some day soon.

      Zoë

  8. I haven’t been there, but my parents made 2 trips to Turkey. They really loved it there. Like you, my parents couldn’t pass by the vendors with the simit.

  9. Zoe, Remarkable that you should be showing photos of the Hagia Sophia, I was just going to look it up because I was photographing inside the Lakewood Chapel on Friday and can’t get enough of it’s beauty. It is modeled after the Hagia Sophia! So when you return home to Minneapolis you can visit your own Hagia Sophia. Read it here: http://www.lakewoodcemetery.com/History_Chapel.html
    “The Memorial Chapel at Lakewood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as the architectural focal point of the cemetery. The building was designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Harry Wild Jones and was modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.”
    Love to see more of your images too. Thanks for taking us along. Aside from the food making me crazy hungry, the boys are over the top sweet to see.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      I remember visiting the chapel years ago and reading that it was based on the Hagia Sophia. I am so excited to see it again having visited Istanbul.

      Thank you for the reminder! Zoë

  10. The ice cream video made me laugh out loud. Thanks so much for sharing your travels and your pictures. So amazing!

  11. That is the best video, ever.

    Yes, I am hooked! Living vicariously through your lens and words. And, I have to say, those are the cutest boys! I am so impress with all of yours (??) stamina! Wow.

    Thank you for sharing with us!

  12. Oooh I loved Turkey when I visited there several years ago. And I have a thing for Turkish Delight, which is a little weird. I agree; you can’t compare it to, say, a homemade profiterole, yet you can’t stop eating it. Thank you for sharing your lovely photos.

  13. It’s been decades since I was in Turkey, where I was first an exchange student, and then visited once later for a few months. Yours is definitely the best and richest travelogue I’ve seen since then, showing so many of my favorite foods and sights. I tried to get the amazing Turkish ice cream again on my second trip, but in December and the shops were closed down….
    I came to your blog on the tip of Pinch my Salt, for the caramel apple pear cake, but when I saw the Turkey blogs, I had to stay longer.

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