One of the things I most regretted about our previous visit to Istanbul was that we were unable to visit a Meyhane, what we would basically call a "tavern". Where small plates are served with the Turkish national spirit, the anise flavored drink called raki.
I wanted to rectify that omission and did a bit of research before we left. We also missed out on visiting the Beyoğlu area, which is considered by many to be the heart of modern Istanbul. Beyoğlu would probably be more familiar to folks like Ed from Yuma and the Greeks as "Pera". As I mentioned before, getting around Istanbul using public transportation is a snap. We simply took the tram to the last stop Kabataş, then the funicular up to Taksim Square.
Now just about every large city in Peru has Plaza de Armas, New York has Times Square, San Francisco, Union Square......Istanbul has Taksim Square, which seemed to be wall to wall people when we walked up the stairs to sunlight. There was also some large rally going on as well.
So we headed off down historical İstiklal Caddesi, once known as "Grande Rue de Péra". There are supposedly tons of historic buildings, many of which represented many different styles, from Neo-Classical to Art Deco. But the pedestrian street was just packed to the gills with people....and I mean just totally packed that we felt like little fish in a giant school being pushed along.
The side streets seemed like little peaceful oasis from the crowded avenue, though the masses had started to dwindle near the end. On this street was a meyhane mentioned by the New York Times and other sources named Asmali Cavit.
The place was empty except for one rather raucous raki fueled party when we arrived. We appeared a bit early, but the very nice gentleman running the place led us to the counter where all the mezes were to start us out. It seems that in spite of the menu, most folks here know what they want upon arrival.....something we saw several times as folks arrived when we were leaving.
A lot of stuff was not available and we'd had quite a large lunch. We stuck with some mezes and the guy behind the counter recommended the shrimp.......
Of course I recognized the "standards"....the saksuka was not my favorite, fairly bland. The ezme was smokey and spicy, with a nice touch of tangy and pungent flavors. The pickled items were nice and refreshing. The patlican saltasi, the eggplant puree, was smokey and delicious. The shrimp wasn't anything to write home about....I think the guy serving us were worried that our palates might not survive anything particularly challenging.
All the dishes were decent renditions, but we weren't wowed by them. I'm not a big fan of anise flavored spirits, but I took to raki....of course the more I drank, the more I enjoyed! Turkish raki is closer to ouzo than Greek raki (tsipouro/tsikoudia). Overall, a decent meal, with prices much lower than the old town.
After finishing our dinner, we headed back to Istikal Caddesi. By now the crowds had dwindled.
We decided to catch the vintage tram back up to Taksim Square and head back down that way. But when the tram stopped, it went out of operation. The conductor came out and announced something....one of the folks waiting saw us and very proudly announced in English, "there is big meeting....BEEEEG MEETING, track blocked, tram cannot go!" You know, folks here are really great. I'm guessing that the rally we saw earlier had gone into full demonstration mode and the tracks were blocked. Anyway, it's not something we wanted to get mixed up in. Instead we caught the Tünel (Tunnel), next to the London Underground, the second oldest underground rail line in the world.
It a very short trip just 600 yards or so.
Instead of catching the tram back to Sultanahmet we decided to walk back, which was the right choice as we got the chance to take in the sunset on the Galata Bridge which is where I took the first photo of the "Where the heck are we" post.
It gave us a chance to take in a nice evening.
While the "balik" (fish sandwich) boats were doing great business, the Spice Market was closing up shop for the day.
We stopped the Missus's favorite place in Sultanahmet Park to take in the Blue Mosque......
While we chatting about the next morning and our flight to Tunis.
Thanks for reading!