Three weeks earlier, Rebecca and I enjoyed the loveliest of days in Istanbul. At the end of our trip, we were excited to spend a few more days in beautiful Istanbul. After an overnight bus ride from Fethiye, which involved becoming contortionists for the night to find a comfortable sleeping position, we slowly made our way by bus through the mannequin district (seriously, every store sold mannequins in varying positions and representing various species) and past Dolmabahçe Palace to Beşiktaş. Once there, we walked for a bit in search of another bus, until we elected to take a taxi instead to Charlotte’s apartment. Our drive took us along the Golden Horn, and from the cab we admired adorable apartments, fancy yalı homes, and giant shows of football fandom in back alleys.
Once settled again in Charlotte’s apartment, we dreamt up a master To Do list, filled with all the things we wanted to do in Istanbul before having to leave. If you know us, it’s not surprising that much of the list centered around food. I filled up on lahmacun (pizza-like deliciousness), bought three bags of freeze-dried mantı (tiny dumplings, meant to be eaten with the most amazing garlic yogurt sauce), and looked admiringly at the wet cheeseburger stand in Taksim (but couldn’t actually bring myself to eat one).
The highlight of our massive food consumption, hands down, was the Uyghur food. We took the tram to Aksaray, a strange neighborhood with giant neon signs advertising various foreign cars. It was unsettling getting lost in the back streets, because street corners adorned with neon and fruit stands can only look so different from each other. Just as we were ready to give up the search and go back to McDonalds for Toblerone McFlurries…. Charlotte found it, the holy grail, the Uyghur restaurant.
We ordered a feast: eggplant, mushrooms, a single kebap, and spaghetti. Don’t be fooled: this was no normal spaghetti. The noodles were thick and hand-formed, doused in oil and meat sauce, vegetables everywhere. We devoured the food, splashing oil on our shirts, chop-sticks slipping between our fingers. It was the perfect state of fullness – content, but not nauseous; a food baby in the making. We made our way slowly back to the apartment, stopping for cocktails in Beşiktaş.
Ah, Istanbul: I’ll be back for you and your lahmacun and Bosphorus and Efes and loaves of bread and graffiti and çay and stores filled with old junk as soon as I can.