Dan was still not feeling great for our last day in Istanbul, so we took it slowly again and scaled back our ambitions for the day. After breakfast, we walked over to Gulhane Park to help some fellow hotel guests find the technology museum. I had wanted to go back to this park to get some photos, and did this while Dan rested and recorded the call to prayer.
I was determined to see the Rustem Pasha Mosque, and Dan wanted to see the Yeni Camii (New Mosque), so we grabbed the tram at Gulhane to get up to Eminönü. It was still the time for mid-day prayers when we arrived, and Friday to boot, so we had to wait a while to be able to go into the Yeni Camii. We sat in the square and drank a couple of Cokes while we waited.
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On the way in, I was told to put on one of the visitor smocks, despite the fact that it was three inches shorter than the skirt I was wearing. I was baffled and slightly miffed when I saw other women entering in knee-length skirts and sheer scarves over camisoles. Nevertheless, the interior space was very nice, and to my mind the tile work was more restrained and effective than the Blue Mosque.
Next we walked across the square to the Rustem Pasha Mosque. The entire mosque building is surrounded by vendor stalls, and it was a little bit tricky to find the entrance. Once inside, it’s a different and calm world from the bustle of the market outside. The Iznik tiles on the interior and exterior were spectacular, and though this was the smallest mosque we visited it was also a very nice space inside.
After this, we needed some food and Dan finally felt ready to have something to eat. We walked through the market to find a small place that was highly recommended for chicken soup and sautés. Dan stopped to pet a very cute tabby kitten and it climbed straight up his arm! The vendor nearby encouraged us to take him home, and we were a little bit tempted.
The restaurant, Kısmet Muhallebicisi, was not too hard to find. It’s small and simple, with one cook in the front and a couple of young guys serving and busing. We were definitely off the tourist track here. The proprietor did not speak much English at all (nor did we expect him to), but he was very welcoming and brought us over to a photographic menu so we could choose what to eat. We both ordered chicken soup and chicken sauté.
The soup was simple, but with a very nice broth and a squeeze of lemon. Alongside it was a heap of fresh, fluffy bread served in a very no-frills rubbermaid box. The chicken sauté was very good – simply prepared with tomatoes, bell peppers, and thin slices of green chili for just the right amount of bite. It was served with a big bowl of yogurt for us to share, and that made a perfect creamy sauce for the chicken. The total bill was ₺27 (about $8) for the two of us, including tea on the house. Definitely on our list of best cheap meals.
From here we backtracked to Altan Sekerleme, a traditional candy shop, to picked up a stash of lokum (Turkish Delight*) to bring home: sour cherry, orange, and a variety with hazelnuts and pistachios. We had a nice chat with the proprietor, who was very proud of his goods. Another customer recommended the rose petal jam, which we passed on – but he was very enthusiastic!
We stopped again in the square in front of the Yeni Camii so I could get a photo of the chestnut vendor and his iconic metal scale. A friendly older man asked where I was from, and how I liked Turkey, and if we’d be back. And then, we retraced our steps back to the hotel for the last time, taking the tram back to Sultanahmet, then walking back down the hill to our hotel past a hawker chanting “Trip on ship, Bosphorous tour!”
As it got close to sunset, we went up to the hotel’s rooftop terrace to enjoy the panoramic view of the Bosporous, the Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. And then lastly we made one more circuit of Sultanahmet Square so Dan could record the evening call to prayer (and get some ice cream).
*If the only Turkish Delight you have tried came out of an ancient, wretched, shrink-wrapped box from an airport duty-free shop, it really is worth seeking out the fresh, homemade version. So good.