Turkish Spice Market and a Snapshot of Greece

One of the most dramatic aspects of traveling to Istanbul were the flavors and smells of the city. Nothing about it reminded us of home and much to my delight (and relief) this was a thrill for the boys. I was a little nervous about starting our month long journey in Turkey. Everything I had read about traveling with kids said to start in a place that has things which are recognizable to them. Italy would have been a safer bet, all kids adore pasta and pizza. But, we ignored the advice and went to the place that resembled home the least. They loved it, perhaps best of all.

On our third day in the city we found our way to the spice and fish markets. Here is just a small portion of what we saw. I only wish this were Smell-O-Vision.

This pile of honey comb was taller than my son and smelled like a warm summer day. It makes sense that all the desserts we had were scented with honey, it seems to be in great supply.

Dried fruits all neatly stacked, mixed with confections made from them.

Teas are taken very seriously. My only regret during our trip was not bringing home a Turkish tea set so we could continue our brief tradition of drinking tea every day.

The breakfast at our hotel consisted of several types of cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and bread. This cheese was one of our favorites and when we saw it at the market we had to get past the fact that it is cured in the skin of a goat. You can see the peeled back darkish skin to reveal the cheese inside. It is not the most appetizing concept and yet who ever thought of this is a genius, the cheese it amazing.

The spices. Rows and rows of stalls selling spices. Each stall more packed and inviting than the next. I wished I’d had a kitchen to play in while I was staying so I could buy all the spices.

Then there were the nuts, pistachio in particular that got me all excited. There were big ones and little ones. Some were meaty and others were smoky. Some tasted sweet, while others were bitter as if they were just picked. All of them were delightful and I had no idea the variety that is available.

After we left the spice market we stopped for a snack of filo pastry stuffed with meats and cheeses. FLAKY and rich and just the pick me up we needed to walk the length of the city.

On the banks of the Bosphorus, right where it connects to the Golden Horn are the fish markets. You can watch the boats unload the fish into the stalls where they are sold and then fried up into lunch. We weren’t exactly hungry, but we couldn’t resist the scene and fresh fish. They pan fry it with nothing else in the way of preparation or presentation and it was perfection.

As people eat their fish they also have this colorful concoction, which we ignorantly assumed was a sweet, fruity drink. Nothing could be farther from the pickled vegetables that people were drinking like punch.

There was so much food to be had that we walked past dozens of vendors selling corn and chestnuts. On the last day we stopped and had some on our way to the Turkish Baths and wished we’d made it a daily stop.

After a powerful scrub down in an ancient Bath we were on our way to Greece. We flew into Athens and rented a car at the airport. All I can say about driving in Greece is that you have to be a card carrying Nascar driver to navigate the roads.

Thankfully my husband was willing to do the driving and I was put in charge of reading the map. We were informed at the Hertz desk that they’d run out of GPS systems and handed me a map, written in Greek! Oh yes, this was going to be an adventure.

We drove South through the Peloponnese peninsula, over mountain tops that only the Spartans were equipped to endure, on highways that not even goats will pass, until we hit the ocean. It was midnight when we found our way to Kalamata and the city was reflected on the waters. We fell into our beds after an exhausting day of traveling, windows open wide to hear the ocean just outside our door. At 5am the peace and quite came to an abrupt end

and this breathtaking scene turned to this…

Roosters should be announced in BOLD type when advertising a rental home, even if the view is this gorgeous.

Unfortunately the rooster was just the beginning of our folly in Greece. It was a record breaking heat wave, hovering around 100 degrees in Kalamata and my entire family fell ill, one at a time. We managed a few days out and about to explore the regions spectacular beaches and olive groves, which the town is named for.

The few meals we ate were simple and lovely. The feta alone was worth the trip…sans ROOSTER! 😉 Here is a short glimpse at our stay…

Crazy beautiful beach.

Lush grape and olive groves everywhere. The thought of being there at harvest time has me already considering a trip back.

More gorgeous crystal clear waters.

Sightseeing of ancient civilizations from Olympia to Athens.

Our ferry to Italy. Just look at those storm clouds brewing.

Related posts:

Turkish Feast Day 1

Turkish Delight Day 2

Baklava A twist on the classic

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32 thoughts to “Turkish Spice Market and a Snapshot of Greece”

  1. Oh, these photos are gorgeous! How I wish I was there with you. The markets are amazing, and if I close my eyes I could definitely take in the gorgeous aromas of all those spices, teas, cheeses and baked goodies…not to mention the honeycomb! WOW!

    I’ve never been to Greece, but it’s where my grandparents are from (Ioannina), so it’s been a long-time dream of mine to one day travel there, along with Turkey, on the way further east, eventually to my ultra big-dream destination – India.

    But I digress! You’re all having a fabulous time, and these blog posts, along with the photos you’ve taken, are brilliant. Thanks very much for sharing all these wonderful travel adventures with us. More please! And enjoy Italy!

  2. Greetings from VT, where we have a neighboring rooster (6:15) too. Ate another “Taste of Anatolia” pizza at Depot 62 in Manchester on Monday. Yum! Love your Spice Market pics. Will share with my two sons and hubby.

  3. I am greek, i live in Rhodes-it’s an island. I am sorry for the problems you faced in my country 🙁 …Anyway, next time you visit Greece just send me an e-mail.

  4. Its almost like we are taking this trip with you Zoe….

    The dried fruit and varied nuts..all the pix make me super hungry each time I look at ’em!What a spectacular place this is!

  5. Your trip looked wonderful. Istambul is a unique corner of the world. You captured the best pieces from your trip that have brought memories back to me from past layovers. The food was incredible…especially at those seafood places right on the Bosphorous..they love their mezze more than anything. Eating Mediterranean style is an exercise in taking your time with each tasty course, of which there are so many..the fish was outstanding..
    Tell more about the pickled veggie beverage…very curious thing..Bonnie

  6. Zoe – your photographs are so stunning! And your writing so evocative of what you experience. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for always being so gracious and kind. You are something else.

  7. Very cool blog (just found it by link from ABin5) and totally enjoying your posts, especially pics with your family. Look forward to checking out your new cookbook with these awesome looking breads – what a great idea. My personal favorite here was your role of guide with a map in a foreign language… “It’s Greek to me!” Very fun and enjoyable.

  8. Love Greece. My father is Greek so I head there every other summer. Love hopping on the Vodafone 4 and island hopping. We went to Milos and Antiparos this summer… both were AMAZING… we are planning to go back next summer.

  9. I happened to randomly find your site and this was the first post I saw. I’m Turkish, but living in the USA and haven’t been back home for a long time – what a lovely post to remind me of my roots 🙂
    Note1: I wouldn’t feel too missing out on not getting one of those tea sets – the ones Turkish people use on a daily basis at home and work share only the shape, but they would be made of plain glass. Some households have the fancy~ sets for guests, but they’re definitely not for regular use!
    Note2: I’ve loved that cheese you posted ever since childhood – but first time I saw it being sold wrapped in sheep skin! 🙂 We get it in little blocks from the supermarket, I guess that’s how they’re originally made… Interesting.

  10. Yes, those roosters will get you every time! Looks like you had a lovely trip! Thanks for sharing the photos and vid. And yes, the Feta one gets in Greece is orders of magnitude more flavourtful than the ersatz cow’s milk “fetas” that are being sold in the international marketplace. Nice post! BTW, I just finished baking my first boule style bread from your book Abin5 and it turned out perfectly! I’ll be letting my peeps know all about it. 🙂

  11. I am so happy to see your blogs also about your travels. Turkey is certainly top on my list which as of yet I have not managed to get to and yet one I am so obsessed with ( part of my family is greek and some turkish among other things )
    Athens is insane and kudos to you both for attempting to drive it! Its very dangerous for one who isnt familiar with the traffic and roads. Personally I recommend getting in with the tour groups and venturing out or using taxis ( be sure they reset their meter ) My favorite place in Greece on my time there is Santorini, if you didn’t get the chance to visit it next time give it a shot.

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