Experiencing a city from someone who knows it inside out is the best way to find out first hand what it’s really all about.  Sure, there are amazing tourist attractions that are worth checking out, but it’s always nice to get the real deal.  My brother-in-law is practically the mayor of Istanbul.  The man knows it like nobody’s business. Where to eat, where to shop, where to drink beer, where to buy old records, which vintage stores to hit up, where to buy the cheapest light bulbs — you name it, he knows. We didn’t walk down the street for 5 minutes before he spotted someone he knew, and vice versa.  Most of the photos below were taken while exploring the city with Dano, right before the rest of the crew started to arrive from various parts of the globe and another adventure started to brew.

There are so many random alleyways, staircases, and passageways in the city.  It’s like a labyrinth.

This man was selling glass and plexiglass

I’m thinking pink and blue are my glass colors.

Love these doors

Nearly every morning in Istanbul, Darryl and I would have borek for breakfast. Borek is a flaky pastry that puts all other pastries to shame.  It’s served warm and the consistency is a cross between pasta and filo dough, and it’s stuffed with cheese. You can have it stuffed with spinach, potatoes, or meat as well.  This one in particular comes plain with a bag of powdered sugar.  It’s scandalous.

The borek spot is right around the corner from Dano’s apartment.  How convenient. You can also scoop up these scone-like pastries made with parsley and cheese. Notice the smurf packaging — amazing, no?

After breakfast before we would head out exploring, Ayse’s mom would feed us. Here, a pepper and eggplant stuffed with rice and served with yogurt.

Dano led Darryl and I down a passageway off Istiklal (busiest street ever) to this amaaazing old mini-mall filled with old books and records.  This was the door to a vendor that stocked records and random tchotkes.  I bought a few things from a vendor that I will show you later.

In the background is Darryl in heaven.

Speaking of books, this is a book cover that Ayse designed.

Strolling the neighborhood.  Some of the buildings remind me of San Francisco.

The top of this doorway reminded me of spider legs.

Walking down Istiklal Dano spotted his friend who owns a very cool vintage store. It’s the size of a small warehouse piled with loads of clothes and accessories.  You really have to dig, but I’m certain there are some gems hidden in there.  I found a dress!

Walking around the very cool neighborhood of Cihangir, I spotted this cute cafe’, Dai Pera, that looked like the perfect place to stop and have some tea.  Turns out it was just opened by Dano’s friend, Arzu.  This is the chalkboard menu.

This is Arzu.  She is absolutely lovely.

And she treated us to her mother’s dessert recipe made from gum paste.  I can’t remember the Turkish name of this dessert, but it’s very sticky and tastes like cinnamon custard.  It’s divine.

No other baklava compares to Turkish baklava.


Our tea and cookie

This fist pump graffiti is all over the city

We were greeted by it walking out of our apartment.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Bob Dylan in Istanbul.

Sesame bread straight off the cart

I want to bring this to the states, stock it with the borek I mentioned above, and give food trucks a run for their money.  Who’s in?

Pretty produce on the street

A beautiful wrought iron gate

An Istanbul must: the ice cream juggler

Hanging out on the street we spotted this tree growing on top of a building.  Crazy.

A spot in Galata that serves up…

Turkish pizza.  Insane.  As I’m sure you’ve noticed, nearly every post has pictures of food.  It’s all about the food in Turkey, and there’s more to come.

This hotel in Galata Square looked so beautiful lit up in the early evening.

Walking along the cobblestone streets at night