Next stop in the Istanbul tour is every Filipino’s wet dream: Shopping! For spices, that is.
Located at Cami Meydani Sok, it’s close to the exterior walls of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Museum. It’s one of the must-visit places in Istanbul. Why?
Our tourguide recommended we visit Cikita store because they sell different items for souvenirs. I was heading to Los Angeles after my EuroCruise so I had to get some goodies for my relatives and friends.
But the one thing that every tourist leaves with from Turkey, has got to be Turkish Delight. a chewy sweet treat usually made from nuts, honey and marshmallows. There are many variations of this dessert, and the quality can vary by the Euro. This is the Turkish equivalent to Greek baklava.
Locally known as Lokum, Turkish delight is usually made cheap with sugar and starch and covered in powdered sugar. But the premium type is mostly made purely from honey, pistachios, dates and then flavored with rose water or cinnamon. One taste of the premium Turkish delight sent me to a sweet spiral, and I had to get some of it, even if it cost a little bit more.
I filled up two boxes, one for my aunt, and the other for my business partner/good friends. I had informed the guy that I was to travel to America and he knew what to do instantly. He packed several kinds of Turkish delight, with hazelnuts, coconut, walnuts and spices, and placed them in a box.
He then vacuum sealed it with the CromPack machine, which seals the flavors and freshness in the box and makes sure its ready for Customs declaration. One mistake I did was ask for the price beforehand, because 2 boxes of super premium Turkish delight set me back about €90!!! I had to haggle it down to €70 for 2 and then kept mum when my mother asked me how much it cost. My aunt loved it, so i guess it’s worth the hefty price tag. The cheap ones can go as low as €5 so don’t think that this treat is super expensive. My taste was just too demanding.
After Turkish Delight, one must stop by for some Turkish Saffron,which gives food a sweet and exotic flavor while coloring it a lovely yellowish hue. But be wary in the bazaars because most will sell you Safflower seeds as Saffron. It might look the same, but the flavor is not there. I knew that tip beforehand and asked the dude if he had some real ones at the back of his display, where most shopkeepers hide it so it won’t get nabbed. Good quality saffron doesn’t come cheap, so don’t expect it in the forefront of a bazaar display.
Also, they have a plethora of Matis, or Evil Eye, in all different forms, and much cheaper than in Santorini or Mykonos. So I suggest you stock up here if you want to give these lucky charms as gifts for your friends and family. Be ready to haggle ala Green Hills style, since they might possibly hike up the prices for tourists, especially meek looking Asians such as ourselves with mothers clutching multiple Chanel purses.
He was very animated and kept on asking for pictures, I also was excited because their Chicken Kebab cost 1.5YTL or Turkish Lira. Turkish Lira is weaker than the Euro, so things in Turkey are relatively cheaper than in the European Union countries.
And when I passed one spice shop, they guy tried to sell me his Turkish Saffron by sprinkling some on my kebab. I just realized, he was holding money the entire day and now I’m eating food spiced by those money fingers… Good thing I have a strong Filipino stomach!
And for dinner, we decided to stay on the ship and go to the buffet, and lo and behold, it was Turkish Night!
I went up to the Lawn Club deck and saw a better view of Istanbul. I had to have a cocktail.