Delicious, with a big pinch of salt

There is a filet of sole in there somewhere.

Jake’s Sunday post challenge suggestion this week is delicious. That was easy to find because it was one of the few pics in my flickr stream tagged with the word.

I thoroughly enjoyed this last March at a restaurant in Istanbul – sole baked in salt. Succulent, perfectly cooked, with just the right hint of saltiness. Delicious! This was the first time I tried it, but it’s not a process unique to Turkey. I’ve seen it on menus in Spain, Italy, France and Greece. Jake: Anything similar in or around Manila?

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#FriFotos: For Sale – Encounters with Commerce

Taking a break for an inning or two. Municipal baseball stadium, Teustepe, Nicaragua, April 1994

I haven’t been around here much for the past week, which is more or less par for the course during the hazy summer months. Missed me? ;)

For Sale‘ is this week’s #FriFotos theme on twitter, affording this quick glance back into when my camera met commerce head-on in various parts of the world. I’m unapologetically anal about tagging photos in my flickr stream but the ones I decided to include here weren’t found that way.

Rather, they were all snapped fragments of memory of buying, selling and browsing that immediately popped into my mind when the theme was announced. Some quite vividly. I was particularly pleased to recall the few shots below taken in Nicaragua –the bottom one, 22 years ago– now that I’m beginning to read up on the country again, trying to catch up on a lapse of nearly a decade-and-a-half. I visited there five times since 1990; my planned return sometime next year will be my first since 1999.

Enjoy, and I hope you’re making the most of whichever heatwave you’re currently a part of.

Lottery ticket seller. Near Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul, 14-Mar-2012


Piraeus train station. Piraeus, Greece, 13-Nov-2008

Cigarette seller, Istanbul

Evening shoppers. Nanjing Rd. Shanghai, 24-May-2010

At a bus stop near Mtito Andei, Kenya, along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, 30-Mar-2007

Shop keeper and his daughter, Teustepe, Nicaragua, 23-Feb 1990.

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Shoes ( #Frifotos )

How strange, when your father’s wearing women’s clothes and platform shoes, that a pair of loafers looks incredible.
- Moon Unit Zappa

I’m the most utilitarian shopper and consumer when it comes to shoes. But these, resting peacefully in a large crate in a small bazaar near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I found oddly appealing. These boots below, from the Grand Bazaar, not so much. But they’re all colorful, which is this week’s #Frifotos twitter theme.

The quote? It just brought on a chuckle since I couldn’t remember the last time I thought about Moon Unit Zappa. I hope she’s doing just fine.

30 Minutes in Istanbul’s Spice Market

Love Tea

The Love Tea immediately caught my eye. Can’t hurt, right? Unfortunately the 250g I bought was left in a bag in my hotel room. And so it goes. I can only hope the next occupant made use of it as it was meant to be used.

This, and the pics below, were taken last week at the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul, popularly and more simply known as the Spice Market. It’s a massive L-shaped arcade-style building with 88 rooms located near the waterfront on the Golden Horn, in the shadow of the ‘New Mosque‘ on Eminönü Square.

Like the Grand Bazaar, which I didn’t particularly care for (more on that another time), the Spice Market is quite the tourist attraction as well, but it’s also a place where  plenty of locals shop. “More than half,” one shopkeeper told me. From the sounds of the non-stop lively commerce, I had no reason to doubt him.

Obviously, piles and piles of colorful spices abound. The colors are blindingly delicious, the scents delectably delightful. But there’s plenty more besides tea and spice.  Like shoes, unfortunately.

And LOTS of sugar, too. About half the shops in the Bazaar sell sweets, primarily a countless variety of Turkish Delight, or Lokum. These items aren’t as ‘gourmet’ as they appear – they’re mainly flavored jelly and cornstarch. But they’re good. The huge blocks are nuts glued together with a sweet gel.

And if it’s not spicy or sweet, it’s nutty or fruity. None of it is particularly cheap, by the way. Prices for various nuts, dried fruit and figs, for example, were on par with prices here in Slovenia or in markets I’ve visited in various cities in France, Italy or Spain.

But just as interesting to me was what was outside, mainly the handful of stalls with a nice variety and selection of fresh fish. But to get to them you first have to walk past a stalls where you could buy a machine to roll grape leaves…

.. and this display case full of hooves.

I had seafood in Istanbul six of the eight nights I was there, and couldn’t get enough. It’s reason enough to return.

Shopping tips? Just a few:

  • Taste and smell before you buy
  • Look for shops and stalls who clearly specialize in something
  • Go where the locals go
  • Avoid buying cheesy souvenirs here, and
  • Don’t leave your Love Tea behind.

By the way, I didn’t feel like fumbling around with my SLR, so these were all shot on my Sony HDR CX350VE video cam.


Last week I came across the travel blog Budget Travelers Sandbox which hosts Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday on twitter), and am delighted to join in this week. When you have few minutes to browse, check out host Nancie’s photos and those of others who take part. You’ll see some great photos and visit some wonderful places. The link to this week’s post and links is here.

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Previous Istanbul posts:

- 45 Second Cheap Hotel Advisor – Istanbul
- 60 seconds with the Bird Seed Sellers of Istanbul
- The Dandy Dozen – My 12 Favorite Mannequins in Istanbul
- 40+ Creative Commons Licensed Images of Istanbul now Available
- 1 min w/ skull & bones on Galip dede Caddesi, Istanbul
- Hotel Pic of the Day – Sheraton Atakoy Istanbul
- Light in Babylon – Istanbul Street Music Quickie
- Small Collection of Blocked Websites in Turkey

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45 Second Cheap Hotel Advisor – Istanbul

Sphendon Hotel
Akbiyik Degirmeni Sk no:46
Istanbul, Turkey

That is the view from one of the two small rooftop terraces. It’s taken with a zoom but yes, this budget hotel is really that close to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district. Pretty nice, no?

The rooms were a bit small but comfortable, there’s free wifi throughout, and the breakfast (included) was quite good, a blend of western and local, with the emphasis on the local. All that, plus a very hospitable and welcoming staff, for 35 EUR/46 USD/night (I booked through

What’s most appealing is the location, set on a quiet mostly residential street but less than a 10 minute walk from the Blue Mosque. Both the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market/Eminonu Square were a leisurely 20 minute stroll away. Nearest tram stop is Sultanahmet (2 TL per ride), roughly midway between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, is also a 10 minute walk. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants just a short walk away as well.

It’s a bit difficult to find initially, so be sure you give your cab driver the exact address. Taxi ride to the airport (40 TL/16.50 EUR/22 USD) took just over 20 minutes in mid-morning but you should probably give yourself twice that.

Oh almost forgot: the wall surrounding the courtyard is 1600 years old.

(I stayed at the Sphendon for three nights, 12-15 March 2012).

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60 seconds with the Bird Seed Sellers of Istanbul

Another shot for Vimeo’s 1 Minute Project, and yet another attempt at trying to capture a glimmer of beauty in the mundane. I wondered if the women learned patience from the birds, or vice versa.

This is at Eminonu Square in front of the Yeni, or New Mosque, on the Golden Horn near the Galata Bridge. As you can probably guess from the sellers’ wardrobe, it was windy and chilly, not the best conditions in which to hold my camera still for 60 seconds.

I forgot to ask how much a plate of seeds cost. Does anyone know?

1 Minute Project rules: the video must be exactly one minute long (the clip is), remain unedited, have no camera movement (ie panning, tilting, etc), and should only use original sound.

Istanbul, 14 March 2012, 11:48am.

A few more photos:

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The Dandy Dozen – My 12 Favorite Mannequins in Istanbul

If you’ve spent any time zipping through my flickr stream, you’d have noticed a regular and steady supply of mannequin shots. I snap pics of quite a few but I have no idea why. Maybe it’s just because they’re good at standing still when their photo is being taken. Like this one:

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that they tend to adapt varying looks and attitudes in different parts of the world – but not as you might imagine. Mannequins on Shanghai’s Nanjing Road shopping street don’t necessarily look like their ancestors were natives of the east Chinese coast. Just like those in the main bazaar in Rabat don’t have much in common with Berbers. I’ve also noticed that like most throwaway consumer products these days, many mannequins too are being produced with as little attention as possible to detail, craftsmanship or durability. They too are as trashy as the junk they’re trying to sell. Case in point:

Here’s the rest of my diligently selected dandy dozen I came across while strolling about the rain and chill of Istanbul last week. This one appears to be held together with every piece of stretchable medical supply that this shop sells.

Do people really do this to their children?

And the rest!

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