Monday, September 30, 2013

Once again, I found myself spending a few hours at a Turkish pazar with my friends here in Istanbul.

This time my trip coincided with a visit to the Ulus pazarı (held every Thursday) located off one of the main streets in Ortaköy, called Dereboyu Caddesi. This market also is known as the “Ulus sosyete pazarı” because of the namebrand clothing you sometimes find here. One of my longtime expat friends here told me the pazar was closed for about five years and only reopened in the last few years in this new otopark location under the first bridge.

Prior to my trip, I had emailed several friends in the area to see if they wanted to meet up for a pazar stroll and perhaps a gözleme lunch. This is the same gözleme seller that I mentioned in this post: Visiting the 4Levent Pazar in Istanbul.

I hadn’t planned to spend nearly four hours at this pazar, but I couldn’t help myself. I visited with a couple of my girlfriends over çay, then a second glass of çay, ate my spinach and cheese gözleme, strolled through the familiar sights and sounds of Istanbul and just soaked up the atmosphere. I miss this! (I am enjoying the markets in Warsaw, but they aren’t quite the same as this.)
Turks love to pickle everything! Yum!
My Turkish gözleme at the pazar. 
I also stocked up on some Turkish ingredients such as dried currants, freshly, sundried apricots from Malatya, olives, pickled veggies and more. As you stop by the different vendors, you can taste test everything and basically are encouraged to do so – a bite of beyaz peynir or tulum peynir, a couple different olives, nuts, etc. You could practically make a mini meal off just these items.
These sundried apricots from Malatya, Turkey, tasted like sunshine. So sweet and good!
Until next time, enjoy the photos from my pazar visit!
Of course, there's something for everyone at the pazar.
How to get there:
The Ulus pazarı is held every Thursday in the Ortaköy/Ulus neighborhood on Dereboyu Caddesi. See map. 

The DT1 bus from Taksim will stop nearby or the pazar is about a 15-minute walk from the shore road in Ortaköy. There’s also a free shuttle bus that leaves from the Akmerkez Mall in Etiler to the pazar.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It only seems appropriate that I post about Turkish food today as I’m headed to Istanbul this afternoon.

I know it’s only been two months since my last visit when I enjoyed my Breakfast by the Bosphorus, but I simply cannot stay away! Like a first love, Istanbul completely stole my heart when we lived there, and I miss my friends.

Funny enough, I probably have cooked more Turkish food at our home here in Warsaw than I even did in Istanbul. I no longer can call up Ali Baba and get a quick dinner delivery or stop by the kebab vendor down the street. If I want Turkish food, I best make it myself.

Sure, Warsaw is full of döner kebab vendors all over the city, but it’s definitely not the same. I don’t want some strange tomato or yogurt sauce in my döner.

I’ve always loved Turkish mezes! So a few weeks ago, I invited a new couple over for dinner and decided to make kabak yoğurtlu (zucchini with yogurt), patlıcan salatası (roasted eggplant with yogurt) and Turkish shakshuka/şakşuka (fried eggplant with tomatoes and yogurt). Luckily, I’ve found several brands of thick Greek yogurt here that works quite well to substitute for Turkish yogurt.
Here are my meze dishes of  patlıcan salatası and kabak yoğurtlu.
I turned to three of my favorite Turkish food bloggers for my recipes and inspiration – Claudia of A Seasonal Cook in Turkey, Ilke of Ilke’s Kitchen and Ozlem of Ozlem’s Turkish Table. Luckily, I’ve met all of these lovely ladies in person when I lived in Istanbul and love reading their blogs from afar. I highly recommend checking them out for delicious Turkish recipes!

I used a combination of recipes for the shakshuka/şakşuka from Ozlem and Claudia. Check out both recipes here: Fried aubergine eggplant, courgette and peppers with tomato sauce and Shakshuka Aubergine Meze.
Be sure to serve plenty of bread with this meze as you'll want to eat every last drop of it!
We can find decent eggplant here in Poland so I’ve used Claudia’s recipe several times now to make my own patlıcan salatası. So simple and so delicious! I use a mortar to crush my garlic with salt before mixing in with my yogurt.
My market haul to make to make this Turkish meal at home.
For the third meze, I used Ilke’s recipe for kabak yoğurtlu. This is another simple, but delicious recipe.

For a salad course, I made this summery Turkish tomato-pomegranate salad called gavurdağı salad. I realize we also tried this yummy salad when we were on our southeast Turkey road trip last year in Gaziantep.
Finally, for our main course, I made stuffed peppers Turkish-style…otherwise known as biber dolması, which is my version. I’ve made these dolmas so many times now that it’s easy enough to make vegetarian versions as well as differently spiced ones depending on what I have at home.
Looks like no matter, where I live, I’ll always find a way to make some of my favorite Turkish recipes too.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Warsaw continues to surprise us!

On Saturday, we went to another open-air market I found while looking up to see whether Targ Śniadaniowy (Breakfast Market) in Zoliborz was open or not. Koszyki (Baskets) is conveniently located in downtown Warsaw in the former space of a demolished market called Hala Koszyki, hence the name. The old market started out producing farm baskets in the early 1900s, turned into a market space at some point, fell into disrepair and unfortunately was demolished in 2008. (You can see old photos of Hala Koszyki here.)

But now under tents in an open parking lot, Koszyki is home to a wonderfully quaint (and totally hipster) farmer’s market cum food truck scene. One minute we were watching a DJ spin tunes and the next minute I was speaking broken Spanish with a Mexican lady and her Polish husband, owners of Hola Lola, a Mexican food stand. My Spanish is definitely better than my Polish!
Hey, Mr. DJ, can you put a record on?
Would you like some fresh fruit and veggies or a pulled pork sandwich?
We perused the 30 or so stalls selling seasonal fruits, veggies, flowers, imported Italian wines and cheeses and prepared foods such as local cheeses, cured meats, jams and salsas. Koszyki even has a stand selling mojitos and proseco and a permanent on-site espresso bar that doubles as a bar at night, offering drinks until the wee hours.  
We bought 200 grams of a Truffled Pecorino Cheese from this stall. Delicious!
I never would have expected to find a market like this in Poland! And I can’t imagine ever seeing a scene like this at my Turkish pazar in Istanbul. Can you imagine what the teyzes would think?

Apparently, Warsovians are wholeheartedly embracing the food truck scene as well as farm-to-table markets and restaurants. And I for one have no problem eating my tacos paired with a freshly-made juice at one of these markets.

Chicken tacos from Jakie Taco?! and a sinfully-decadent cookie from So Sweet Project.
I bought a good handful of these Polish mushrooms. Now what should I make?
Little hipsters in the making!
Handmade children's toys and stuffed creatures.
Would you like some popcorn or homemade bread with "bacon butter" on it?
ul. Koszykowa 63, located in the Śródmieście neighborhood
Hours: Open Tuesday-Friday 10:00-20:00; Sat. 9:00-20:00; Sun. 9:00-17:00 Closed Mondays. (Please double check the hours on the Koszyki Facebook page. There’s a permanent coffeeshop on site and I can’t tell if the opening hours are for it or for the market itself. I doubt the market section is open until 20:00.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

At some point while I was jogging past the National Stadium, I found myself wishing I hadn’t had that last beer the night before.

I thought my group had agreed to walk during Sunday’s colorful ColorFun 5K Run in Warsaw. (This local run is a spin-off of the international Color Run™.) But no…once the music started pumping, so did everyone’s legs. The next thing I knew, I was moving with the flow and was jogging with the more than 4,000 participants nearby.

Running is NOT my favorite activity, but I’ll do it now and then like last year when I did the 8K as part of the 2012 Istanbul Eurasia Marathon. This particular (untimed) run I did last weekend was unique because you get doused in colorful powdered cornstarch in three zones along the race route. By the time, my girlfriends and I finished the run, we were covered from head to toe in blue, orange and yellow. We made sure to wear white shirts that we wouldn’t mind getting ruined.
As we went through the color zones, we stopped briefly to scoop up handfuls of the colored cornstarch and throw it at each other. It was a blast! Be sure to wear goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes though!
People wore all sorts of festive costumes, including pink wigs, Hawaiian grass skirts and ballet tutus, and one woman even sported an old wedding dress. Next year, we are definitely wearing costumes!
After the race, when I shook my head, blue powder rained everywhere. I tried “hugging” my husband, who took some photos for me, but for some reason, he pushed me away! I didn’t dare sit on the tram back home as the color wouldn’t have gotten everywhere. People stared at me, but most couldn’t help but smile at the silliness of it all.
This photo of me after the race is courtesy of my friend's husband.
Next year, I’ll lay off the beer the night before the ColorFun Run, and I’ll wear a cool costume!

(NOTE: I would normally have posted this blog post on Monday after the race, but we have U.S. friends visiting us this week in Poland. Hope you don’t mind!)
Here's some of our group, including me, just about to cross the finish line.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Our next round of visitors arrive on Monday, but I think I’ll have to pass on visiting Warsaw’s Royal Castle for the sixth time!

Don’t get me wrong – the castle IS impressive and IS a must-see for any tourist visiting Warsaw.

But the situation is comparable to when I lived in Istanbul; and after taking friends through the Ayasofya for the 10th time, I started waiting for them at a nearby café. Next week, I’ll enjoy drinking my latté and reading a book while my friends tour through the opulent castle without me.
Last weekend, we took our visiting friends from Istanbul through the Royal Castle. A castle has stood here since the Mazovian dukes built a wooden version in the 14th century. Over the years, the castle was home to several Polish kings and the president of pre-WWII Poland as well as the parliament of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest countries of 16th and 17th-century Europe.

Of course, like everything else in Warsaw, the castle was destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. If you pay the extra admission to visit the  Rembrandt paintings and royal art collection in the castle, you can see a portion of the original brick wall with drilled holes where the Nazis placed the dynamite.
This photo of the Royal Castle in 1947 greets you in the foyer as you start your tour.
Pretty shocking, isn't it?
Rebuilding of the castle finally began in 1971 – thanks to a long delay by the Communist authorities. In 1984, the castle reopened to the public – just about 30 years ago! Luckily, many of the gorgeous furnishings and paintings are original, which the Poles hid away in the mountains when they realized the city would be destroyed by the war.
The Great Assembly Hall
The Knights' Hall features the Polish Hall of Fame with massive paintings of great events and busts and portraits of important Poles.
The rebuilt castle harks back to its historical Baroque and Classical styles as you can see as wander through the king’s old rooms and the Senator’s Chamber, which is where the first constitution in Europe was adopted and signed in 1791.
The Senator's Chamber - a rare moment without any other tourists in it!
You easily can tour through the castle in a little over an hour by yourself or with your companions. There are signs in English in each room pointing out its importance. If you want a more in-depth history lesson, you can rent an audioguide for a nominal fee.

As you admire the castle’s luxurious furnishings, marble and chandeliers, you can’t help but wonder about all the people that once roamed the halls.
The King's bedroom - Was the king really that short? And where is the Queen's bedroom?
The Green Room
A painting of Warsaw circa late 1700s, I think.
The Old Town walls near the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
This room features paintings of Poland's kings and other Polish monarchs.
Strolling behind the Royal Castle with our friends.
Royal Castle
Plac Zamkowy 4
Warsaw, Poland
Cost: 22 PLN regular tickets, 15 PLN for reduced tickets and 1 PLN for children under 16
Audioguides cost 17 PLN for the regular rate or 12 PLN for the reduced rate.
Admission on Sundays is supposed to be free.
Tel: 22 35 55 338

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I love being by the water!

Every place I have called home has been next to bodies of water – the Platte River, Hudson River, East River, the Inner Harbor of the Chesapeake Bay, the Bosphorus and now the Vistula River in Warsaw. I find the water peaceful and relaxing. It’s no wonder that we often end up riding bikes or drinking a beer along the Vistula on the weekends.

During the summer months, you also can take a river cruise along the Vistula by a water tram (riverboat) nicknamed “Wars.” This 90-minute cruise is an interesting experience for all tourists and locals alike. From the deck of this boat, you can see the panorama of the Old Town, the Palace of Culture, the Copernicus Science Center, the National Stadium and a couple unique bridges as well as ducks, seagulls and fishermen.
View of the Palace of Culture, left, and the rear of the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
Unfortunately, the cruises have ended until next May. The weather is still decent right now, so I don’t understand why the city stopped offering what seemed like quite popular river cruises. Luckily, we caught one of the last cruises in late August, which departed from the marina just north of the Łazienkowski bridge.
While the boat was crowded and the cue for tickets a bit disorganized, the cruise itself was enjoyable. I liked seeing the city of Warsaw and its highlights from a different perspective. It was a great picture-taking opportunity!
On the left, you'll see Stacja Balon, a tethered helium balloon, that goes up 130-150 meters. Tickets cost 40 PLN per person. On the right is the Świętokrzyski Bridge - the first suspension bridge in Warsaw. 
Originally built 1904-1914, the Poniatowski bridge was destroyed during both World Wars and rebuilt afterwards. 
The only negative thing I have to say is that the Vistula seems awful dirty and murky. A Polish friend told me it’s because the river is fast moving so a lot of dirt is stirred up. However, I’m still not sure if I’ll be dipping my toes in the river any time soon or EVER. To be fair, I also wouldn’t be caught swimming in the Hudson River back in NYC either.
Next summer, if you want some wonderful pictures of Warsaw, do remember to take a relaxing ride along the city’s Vistula River.

This is the part of the Old Town, established at the turn of the 13th and 14th century, as seen from the Vistula River. The Old Town almost was completely destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in its 18th century form. In 1980, the Old Town was placed on the world heritage list by UNESCO.
2013 Warsaw Riverboat schedule.
NOTE: Times may change for 2014, but I'm posting this helpful map as a guide.

The Vistula River cruises are operated by the Public Transport Authority of Warsaw.
Cost is 18 PLN for adults and 9 PLN for children. You also can purchase discounted family tickets.