An afternoon at Uludag Mountain

While my friend Olivia was visiting from Boston, we spent a few days in Bursa, which is approximately three hours from Istanbul by car and even less by ferry if you go directly from Yenikapi to Guzelyali (Mudayna). On our second day in Bursa, we woke up early to have breakfast under Bursa’s famous 600 year old Cinar tree which is – hands down – my favorite breakfast place in Turkey. I like it so much that I even bring jars from home so that I can fill up on goodies in the restaurant’s kitchen before heading back to Istanbul.

On this particular day, we decided to drive up the mountain after our breakfast at Cinar. I hadn’t been to Uludag in a couple of years so it was also a nice treat for me. Plus, March is the perfect time to visit because it’s not so cold and when you get tired of the snow, you can just drive back down and voila! the snow is gone. With Gurkan behind the wheel, Olivia in front to see the view, and Meral (my former flatmate, friend and abla) and I in the backseat, we were soon off on our mountain adventure.

Here a few highlights from our afternoon at Uludag:

The weather was overcast but the views were still breathtaking and the scene on the mountain was lively.

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Sledders on the mountain

Children throwing snowballs at themselves – this little girl even aimed one at me when her mom wasn’t looking!

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Forest hikes out to the rocks (not only am I afraid of heights but Gurkan even mentioned there might be wild hogs. I am still not sure if that was a joke or not…).

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Forest hikes with Gurkan, Meral and Olivia

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Out to the rocks

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More mountain views from the rocks

And last but not least, impromptu dance circles!

We would have stayed a bit longer had the snow not started to come in. We made a mad dash to the bottom of the mountain.

On my next trip to Uludag, I’d like to eat at Palabiyik. I took a peak inside and the food smelled and looked excellent, a sort of grill your own meat restaurant. A few years ago, friends and I had stopped at Palabiyik for a very tasty semovar of tea (must be the mountain water!).

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Grill your own meat at Palabiyik restaurant! On the checklist for next time.

Palabiyik tea at Uludag

The taste of mountain water tea

Oh, and don’t forget to wear your sunscreen. You don’t want to come down looking like a tomato.

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Exploring Çengelköy on a Sunday afternoon

This Sunday we decided to explore Cengelkoy, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Neither Gurkan nor I had been there before, so it was a first for both of us. All I knew was that Cengelkoy was famous for cucumbers and borek.

The trip there was frustrating. After landing in Uskudar via the Besiktas ferry, we got on a bus and found ourselves in bumper to bumper traffic all the way to Cengelkoy. After getting off the bus in the wrong place and walking in the rain, we managed to find Cengelkoy Borekcisi. And that was when the day took a turn for the better.

At Cengelkoy Borekcisi, we ordered cheese and minced meat borek. Although we couldn’t find a place at the Tarihi Cengelkoy Cinaralti Cay Bachesi, we snagged a bench by the seaside instead. The borek was hands down the best I’ve ever had in Istanbul. Not only that, it was much cheaper than anything we could ever find in our neighborhood.

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Cengelkoy Borekcisi at the entrance to the Cinaralti Cay Bahcesi

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Meat and cheese-filled borek

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The view from the Tarihi Cinaralti Cay Bachesi

Afterwards, we walked along the coast up to the military high school and back. The sun was out by then and so were the fishermen. We watched a few reel in some fish and admired the wooden fishing boats.

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Wooden boats

Back in the main part of Cengelkoy, we had dinner at Cigerci Cengelkoy. Gurkan had the Arnavut Cigeri and I chose the Edirne Cigeri (fried sliced liver). It was only my second time eating Edirne style liver and the first time eating it outside of Edirne, but it was quite good. As for the Arnavut Cigeri, I am not sure what makes it special because it just looked like cubed, fried liver to me. Anyways, we were pleased. The service was great.

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Serving up liver at Cigerci Cengelkoy

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Edirne Cigeri (front) & Arnavut Cigeri (back) with piyaz (bean salad)

The dogs of Cengelkoy are also much cleaner and nicer than most of Istanbul’s stray dogs. According to the waiter, this one (Cakir) really likes liver, too.

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Cakir begs for liver

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He got a head scratch instead

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Sunset over the Bosphorus

A day excursion to Boğaziçi University and Rumelihisarı

A few weekends ago, Gurkan and I decided to take a trip to see Bogazici University. Everyone had always talked about how beautiful the campus was, and I had never had a chance to visit. The closest I had came to visiting was meeting with a Bogazici professor in a nearby cafe to discuss my Fulbright application which I, sadly, never submitted. Most know Bogazici University as the most sought after public university in Turkey. Outside of Turkey others may know it as the first American institution of higher education founded outside the US. The year was 1863, and the founders were Christopher Robert, a philanthropist, and Cyrus Hamlin, a missionary and author of ‘Among the Turks’ (1878), a book I’ve never had a chance to read, but hope to get my hands on a copy soon.

I was surprised to find that the campus was not all that far from our apartment – we hopped on a bus on Barbaros Boulevard and since the traffic wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t long until we arrived at the gates of Bogazici University. We walked inside and the first thing I noticed was the view overlooking the Bosphorus. I told Gurkan I’d do a PhD there just for the view alone. Once we got to the main campus, I was surprised to see a campus that looked like it could be anywhere in the U.S. Ivy growing on buildings, a proper quad, and students hanging out on campus on the weekend? Certainly, not like the other Turkish universities I had visited.

The next treat of the day was when we exited campus and found ourselves at the foot of Rumelihisari, an Ottoman fortress, that I had passed many times while on Bosphorus boat tours, but never had seen close up. After asking the Bogazici University security guard for directions, we found ourselves wandering around the surrounding neighborhood, and finally, we arrived at the entrance of the fortress, now an open air museum with a nominal entrance fee of 5 TL (10 TL since April 2014).

Once we got our tickets and entered, we were completely on our own to explore the fortress, and I was amazed at the lack of concern for safety. The stones were old and slippery, the stairways steep and narrow with no railings to hold onto, and the two security guards were oblivious to what was going on. Being the adventurous person he is, Gurkan climbed until he was at the top, and yelled me for me join, but I firmly stood my ground on the main level. At one point, I was persuaded to climb one flight of stairs, but quickly came down once I got to the top and saw the drop below.

We certainly had a great time exploring, and the views from the fortress are without a doubt breathtaking – it’s definitely a place worth visiting but I am not sure I’d hurry back (fear of heights!). Bogazici University, on the other hand, is a place I’d like to return to one day 🙂

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The view from Bogazici University

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Stray dogs at home on campus

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The quad

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Campus buildings

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A cat spies on us as we explore the surrounding neighborhood

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Rumelihisari

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Notice Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge in the background

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The treacherous stairs

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Turkish flags flying opposite each other on the Bosphorus

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Gurkan peering out over the Bosphorus

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Walking back along the Bosphorus

For more on the history of Rumelihisari, click here.