My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Food and Drinks of Istanbul

Dec. 2012-Jan. 2013

While on vacations, we try to eat as much local food as possible, but at times must admit that we miss some of our favorites from home.

IMG_2391 trays of food, red peppers, a yogurt dish etc. you picked what you wanted.
IMG_2392 veggies, grape leaves wrapping rice etc.

We had read a lot about the food in Turkey and we were excited to try many of the dishes.  One of the things we read, but did not sink in until we actually were eating it is that food is served luke warm to cold.

There are different kinds of places to eat in Turkey, small little specialty types (kebab’s, pizza boats, crepes), cafeteria-style places and then sit down restaurants.

The best kabob I had was the first one we tried.  It was a chicken one, with some veggies and then some yummy red (tomato?) sauce on it, then put in a griddle to crisp up the pita.  After that one, I found most kabobs dry and not nearly as good as the ones in Greece.  There was not tzatziki sauce or any type of yogurt sauce to put on them, OR if there was we did not know how to ask for it.  One other thing about the kabobs is that they were always stuffed with greasy semi cold french fries, we learned quickly to ask for them without fries.

We ate most often at the cafeteria-style places. You walked in, grabbed a tray and pointed to what you wanted.  Often times chicken stew type dishes that were good and warmer than most dishes.  There were a lot of eggplant dishes that for the most part were sadly cold, but always tasty.  Easily the best dishes at any of these places were the lentil soup and the beans.  Lentil soup was hot J and so were the beans.  The beans were typically cooked down with a tomato based sauce.  Yummy.  We could eat, including drinks for about $12 total.210

IMG_2313 samples of our dinners
IMG_2177 I called these boat pizzas. That is a fried egg, not cheese on the top of one of them.

I loved the bakeries that had spinach stuffed pastry that was a great thing to eat mid day.  Sometimes they had cheese, other times not.    I also loved the pizza boats.  These came in a variety of sizes and an equally large variety of toppings.  They typically had an olive oil base, some cheese and then different toppings, including meats, veggies, or even eggs.  Cost about $2-4 a piece depending on size.IMG_2595 IMG_2596 IMG_2685

IMG_2232 spinach wrapped in filo dough, my favorite daytime snack

The grilled mackerel sandwiches that we got at the base of the bridge were also a favorite.  We had these a few times.  They cooked the fish right in front of you, opened up a rustic roll in which the fish was placed and finally topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and some great seasoning.  These ran about $2.50 a piece!

IMG_2306 Our ‘friend’ was happy to see us come back for more. He liked practicing his English, as we found very common in Istanbul.

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IMG_2546 fried cheese with syrup over it!

By far the best food in Turkey were the desserts!  An unusual but yummy treat was a grated cheese that was grilled over fire, once grilled syrup was poured over the dish and then it was topped with copped pistachios.  Of course there was also a lot of baklava displayed in a variety of ways! It was fantastic, especially when it was warm.  Cost, $2-$3. IMG_2547

IMG_2312 tower of baklava


Lastly, my favorite food: the deep friend anchovies.  We’d seen people eating these during our nights near the bridge, and finally decided to get a tin; we were NOT disappointed, though the tin was plenty for the 2 of us… you can’t eat too many at once.   Total cost $3.

IMG_2550 anchovies! YUMMMMMY


While walking through town we’d occasionally get some snacks from street vendors including roasted chestnuts, and yummy rolls.  We really grew fond of the drinks that we could buy from street vendors, including fresh squeezed orange OR pomegranate juice.  But the biggest surprise was the Sahlep.  It is a hot drink that is made from milk, flour, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon as well as other ‘special spices’.  It is a thick drink that is served HOT.

IMG_8966 Sahlep was sold by street vendors!

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funny things also included bright sugary candy that was rolled onto a stick and the fact that McDonalds AND Burger King delivered (NO we never ate at one of them OR had them delivered). IMG_9316 IMG_9284IMG_2697IMG_2599

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Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace1/2/13Dohlmabahce Palace was built between 1843 and 1856 as the Sultan wanted to keep up with the rest of Europe and have an even more elaborate palace than Topkapi.  The palace is large and elegant and well worth touring, though a bit frustrating.  We first came by on Tuesday, (New Year’s Day) as it was NOT listed on their website that it was closed that day, and we knew it was closed on Monday’s and Thursday’s but no indication it was closed other days.  Sadly we had to return the next day.


clock tower outside of palace


entry gate


yep the sunshine was wonderful


the entrance to the palace


outdoor window covering


this is from the inside looking out and the pic beside is the same window outside looking in.


the window from the outside looking in

Once we got there on Wednesday, the first line just to get tickets in was ridiculously long and slow.  It took over an hour as they only had one window open selling tickets. Once inside you must go on a “tour” so we had to wait in another line to join a 50 person tour.   We opted for the longer tour that would include a tour of the state rooms, where you get to go through the large and ornate rooms where the Sultan entertained his guests.  Then we toured the harem, which are the rooms where the Sultan’s family, his concubines, and their servants lived. The harem’s rooms are nice, but not as spectacular as the state rooms.  They do not allow any photo’s to be taken inside either, so any pictures you see here I got off their website.  We did take the outdoor pictures, as that is allowed.

Dolmabahce Palace is closed on Monday and Thursday!

IMG_2572 IMG_2573 IMG_2583IMG_2584  IMG_2586  IMG_2588

The palace was built in 19th century is said to be one of the most glamorous palaces in the world.  It has 285 rooms and 43 large salons.  The tour of the Selamlık begins with anterooms, then a climb up the crystal staircase.  There are lots of decorations, LOTS of gold painted items.   There are also many large chandeliers in the palace, but the largest is made of Bohemian glass and weights over 4.5 Tons, it has 660 light bulbs in it. This Bohemian chandelier was given to Ottoman Sultan as a present from Queen Victoria.574754_521708122401_994605398_n 531185_521708157331_2035160561_n 384184_521708137371_297665151_n 150646_521708147351_543117181_n

After exiting the palace you go outside and around to the harem.  Shockingly, we had to wait in another line to tour the harem!  The harem is where the family and help lived and is certainly more moderate than the palace.  6 sultans and 2 presidents lived in this area over the160 years before it became a museum.4601824-Sultans_Room_in_the_Harem_Dolmabahce_Palace_Istanbul  4541392-Istanbul_Turkey_Istanbul 4541211-Istanbul_Turkey_Istanbul 4541210-Istanbul_Turkey_Istanbul 4534225-Istanbul_Turkey_Istanbul 4180049-Dolmabahce_Palace_Istanbul

Dolmabahce palace is very important to the Turkish people because the supreme leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, used the palace as a residence until he passed away in 1938 at 9:05 a.m.  All the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time to honor him.

It is easy to get there from anywhere in Istanbul by taking the blue line tram to the Kabatas end and walking about ¼ mile. You will see the clock tower first then the lines begin!   It is about $15 for the palace and another $12 for the Harem.   Before you go in you have to put plastic bags over your shoes so to not damage the floor.
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Diving through the Kourtaliotiko (or Selia) Gorge ~ From Rethymno to Hora Sfakion to Chania, Crete!

Dec. 24, 2012

I’d have to say that this was one of the highlights of our days on Crete.

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 4.30.24 PM this maps out the route we took. Highly recommend going through one of the gorges on the island! Well worth the trip.

It would surprise no one that knows us that we ‘happened’ up a brewery while on Crete.  We literally were driving down a road and saw a sign for it.  I immediately pulled over anxious to let Harry try a micro brew while in Greece.  However to our disappointment this is what the sign read when we got to the front door:

182 so sad that we could not go on a tour!

Brewery tours are possible every first Saturday of the month between 10:00 and 12:00 in the morning.   As you can imagine, that is now when we were there  so no beer tasting for us!

239 we could see that there was sunshine on the south part of the island and we were excited to get to it!
250 hard for a picture to show the gorge but it was incredible.

We drove from our place in Almyrida towards Rethymno and then turned inland.  We proceeded to the village of Alikianos and Aghia Irini.  This was the Gorge of Kourtaliotiko

188 the river running out of the gorge

(or so we think that is the one, there were not a lot of maps, so this information comes from the sweet woman, Yarniss that helped us with our rental car).  It possibly could have been the Selia Gorge, but regardless it was amazing!

193 rainbow!
184 looking back on Mirthianos Plakias

We even picked up a few hitch hikers along the way.  They only rode about 5 miles with us, one of them was Greek the other from England.  We took them to Mirthianos Plakias their final destination and we continued to Hora Sfakion a BEAUTIFUL coastal town.

262 looking towards the west
274 though we loved Crete it did rain many of the days we were there, so the sunshine made us smile!

It was Christmas Eve and our last day on Crete.  We stopped for dinner at a delightful family owned restaurant where we were treated as special guests.  We had fantastic meals, one lamb with yogurt and one lamb with onions.  They also brought us the best garlic bread we’ve ever had and then Christmas cookies for dessert.

206 best garlic bread EVER

What a delightful experience. (see post on trip advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g2396903-d2362913-Reviews-Taverna_Nikos-Sfakia_Chania_Prefecture_Crete.html)

203 Hora Sfakion was a tourist town and for the most part closed down for the winter, but we had a nice time there and a great dinner!

We headed back through another gorge towards Almyrida and marveled at the drive once again.  There were many, many winding roads and a beautiful sunset as we got near the top.

We would highly recommend this drive to anyone that has a car and is interested in seeing some beautiful scenery.

190 look at those cuts into the mountain


up close view of the gorge
291 look at these winding roads, we did not think it was our road, but in the end it was!
296 amazing sun set

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