FAVORITE FIVE [ISTANBUL EDITION]

From time to time, I just want to inform my limited readership about some really awesome things! In this episode, you all can sit back and ask yourself what it is you are doing, wherever you are, and why you can’t be doing it in Turkey.

İSKENDER KEBAP

My mom informs me that I had my first iskender kebap when I was six and a half years old. I believe I also had chicken pox during that time. My dad informs me it was at a joint called Uludag in Ankara. In my brief time in Istanbul I’ve eaten this ish upwards of ten times. It’s composed of thinly sliced lamb (yes.), tomato sauce (yes!), served on top of stale bread (yes?), with a hefty side of delicious yoghurt (YES.). I realize this description does not do it justice. Eat it to believe it, I guess? It’s that particular blend of textures that really makes it melt in one’s mouth, and I should also note that in the real serious spots, they pour warm butter all over it (YES YES YES!) before you eat it. Thanks to a good friend of mine (Google) I figured out that a pretty decent spot is a mere ten-minutes walk from my present abode, so I went with my girl Anna, alias Yolanda Be Cool, and was anything but disappointed.

YOLANDA BE COOL VS DCUP – WE NO SPEAK AMERICANO

I heard this jam almost upon immediate arrival. When I was basking in resort-ville down on the Aegean, I was like, “Man, what is this dumb jam?” While we were walking around Kadıköy last night, Anna and I were like, “No, seriously, what IS this jam?” Anna had the cojones to ask a record store clerk, who was displeased that we did not buy the TOP DANCE HITS CD he was proffering. Thank heavens she did. Breakout Summer Dance Jam of 2K10. Also, I think it’s making fun of Americans, which is maybe why it hasn’t caught on in the U S of A yet. Apparently we aren’t really into foreigners right now. (Zing!)

EFES PILSEN

Efes is such a reasonably priced, reasonably delicious Pilsner. It’s an excellent summer beverage, too. It’s great whether you knock down a few from the corner store while you’re sitting on the Bosphorus, or whether you’re stuffing your face with eight varieties of mezze. I actually see no reason not to place it in my top five beers, though this is no mopey winter brew. You need to drink this thing on the beach, or on an al-fresco patio (of which there are millions to choose from in Istanbul. I’m a lucky gal!).

FERRY RIDES

Of course all the guidebooks and visitors insist that you ride the ferry, and I’m not going to nay-say that for a minute. Istanbul public transit is a marvel unto itself (Cairo ought to take note), in that, within this one large metropolitan space, there are at least five forms of public transit that operate quite cheaply and efficiently. My runner-up in the transit awards would go to the dolmuş, that speedy little microbus that manages to be so much more efficient than, say, its Egyptian counterparts, but this whole ferry thing so clearly takes the cake. At any time, no matter the crowd, you’ve got a sea-breeze, and çay to drink if you want it, and it’s always cheap and always beautiful. I know that at some point I’ll relocate to Istanbul permanently, and I’ve been wondering on my daily ferry-rides if I could ever possibly get sick of it. (I’m also residing on the Asian side, and I did that in no small part due to the anticipated ferry-rides.)

ISTANBUL LIGHT

I feel like this is a good continuation of that gushy ferry talk, mostly because at any time of day you look out over the Bosphorus and see the way the light hits these hills. Somehow Istanbul’s landscape is rife with this chiaroscuro, which is really crazy to see in an urban setting because I’ve only ever seen such a beautiful light contrast when I’ve been, like, driving through winding Arizona canyons at sunset, or in Vermont on a sunny October day. This thing literally happens from sunrise to sunset, and I thought it was an Istanbul thing until I went to some pretty ugly cities and still saw this effect. I don’t know. I can’t really adequately describe it, or the way it makes me feel. It’s just something to marvel at; the way that light and that sun and clouds and hills and buildings and minarets manages to have this effect. It manages to invoke this weird nostalgia, and it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt.

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