January 30, 2015
Yet another fun thing to do in Istanbul is to take the underground funicular up to Taksim Square. Taksim was not part of my original plan, but the husband prevailed. “No trip to Istanbul is complete without going to Taksim Square!”, he insisted. That’s what I thought about the Turkish baths, but oh well!
As we got out of the station, the first thing we noticed was the extraordinary number of armed policemen around the square. They were not patrolling the area, they had formed a ring around the square. I wanted to find out more, but language barriers and the husband’s don’t get us into trouble kept me from asking. From here we walked down Istiklal avenue to the Galata Tower. The idea was to enjoy the sunset over the city from the top of the tower. Istiklal avenue is one of Istanbul’s most popular avenues. Shops on either side of the road, street vendors and *musicians encroaching the sidewalks, teeming with people and with a tram running down the centre Istiklal avenue looked as crowded as Dadar station at peak hour. Although it looked packed, we quickly realized it was just an illusion, there was enough space for everyone to walk, and for tourists to stand and stare, and make pictures. Ours was an easy walk downhill. We took our time in taking in the sights and sounds, and reached the tower close to sundown. We thought we had timed it well, but had failed to account for the long line of tourists ahead of us who had clearly thought the same.
We decided to spend some time at the bridge instead and then head to Antiocha, where we had reservations for dinner. In Istanbul, it is wise to make dinner reservations in advance. Last night we were turned away from a meyhanesi for not having reservations. Luckily we found another place down the road from there. With arty looking patrons and cat wandering around, this local bar we ended up in looked more like what we expected the place we wanted to go to look like, and we quite liked it. Coming back to Antiocha, it was again nothing like I thought it would be yet it turned out to be a great place. We went in a little early and the place was empty, but as the evening wore on it started filling up and was soon packed. This was clearly a popular place. As the name suggests, they promise to serve authentic Antiocian cuisine.
Antiocha lies in Turkey’s southern Hatay region, wedged between Syria and the Mediterranean Sea. It was founded near the end of 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator. Seleucus I Nicator was one of Alexander the Great‘s generals, and those familiar with Indian history will remember him as the one who waged war with Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan empire. Chandragupta Maurya later married Selecus’s daughter Hellena.
Since we got in early, we had the waitstaff to ourselves, and they were more than happy to explain their menu and make suggestions. The food was delectable and very satisfying. While in Turkey, do try Ayran, traditional Turkish buttermilk. (Personally, I like buttermilk the way the **Maharashtrains make it best.) Also try their super thick gelatos.
Back in the hotel, we decided to go down to their Turkish bath. The husband was not too thrilled by the idea of a public bath, but was sporting enough to join me. Perhaps it was the late hour, but we had the bath all to ourselves, helping us get over any reservations we had about public bathing. Steam usually makes me feel dizzy, yet that was not the case here. The husband was quick to break into a sweat as always, and decided he was done with the steaming much before I was. The next step is to lather up with soap and wash down with hot water. You can book a massage in advance, but I travel with my personal masseur, aka the husband. The man has magic in his fingers. He knows my pain points and gives heavenly massages. Occasionally I will pretend to be in agony, just to blackmail him into giving one. We had been walking up and down slopes for two days; after my massage and bath I was good to walk for another two.
*street musicians on Istiklal Avenue – Click on the Instagram widget on the left and see video on our Instagram account.
**Maharashtrian – from Maharashtra, India
P.S –Check out the Istanbul, Turkey album our FB page to enjoy our journey through pictures.