Istanbul is one of my favourite cities visited so far, and is actually on my list of places I’d like to live, and enjoy at least 3 months of slow travelling that baby. With tons of deeply rooted cultural and historical attractions, the endless traffic jams, shops that stay open until 10:00 pm every night and restaurants even later, street food vendors, bootleggers, bustling bazaars and a never ending parade of stray cats willing to pose for the camera there really never is a dull moment in Istanbul.
In the spirit of adventure and trying to do more things that I’ve always wanted to do, I not only tried Couchsurfing for the first time, but I also signed up for a cooking class with Turkish Flavours, and let me tell you it was 90 euros well spent in my opinion.
Your day starts at 9:30 am at the entrance to the Spice Bazaar where you meet up with Selin your teacher and your fellow classmates. Selin’s experience as a tour guide lends well to the overall experience because she was able to give us some history on the Spice Bazaar and the surrounding area and buildings. We window shopped (figuratively speaking ) as we strolled through the Spice Bazaar passing stall after stall selling spices, dried fruit, nuts, and other Turkish delights. Despite the Bazaar’s name you can also find knock off clothing, jewelry, accessories and beauty supplies among other things. The place definitely was a treat for the senses and gave me a feeling of being transported back in time with vendors standing outside their stalls, yelling out to no-one in particular to come in and sample some treat or another. The vibrant colours of the spices, and candies displayed for all to be enticed pulling your attention from one direction to another. I LOVE IT!
We arrive at Ucuzcular, stall No: 51 at the Spice Bazaar. Selin uses this place exclusively as part of her Spice Bazaar tour. Bilge a 5th generation owner of the shop was our gracious hostess. She offered us tea, (get used to that in Istanbul) handed each of us a tiny spoon and a card with the names of about 30 different spices on it. She delivered a fab presentation on the spices that were on the list allowing us to sample each one. Their own unique blend of Ottoman spice and smoke spice were my favourites. At the end of the presentation they vacuum pack any spices you marked off as yummy on your card. Bilge also sells some top quality beauty products, argon oil infused shampoos, conditioners and skin creams, pure essential oils, natural soaps. Anyone who knows me knows I went crazy in this store. I LOVE essential oils and all things natural (or as natural as possible) when it comes to beauty products. I stocked up on some spices for the cooks in my life and beauty products for myself.
From there we hop a ferry over to the Asian side of the Bosphorus (which Selin pays for), where we get picked up by a mini van and dropped off at Selin’s apartment. I love the fact that the class takes place in her apartment, it really enriches the already cultural experience.
If I could describe Selin’s apartment in one word it would be COLOUR. Colourful paintings and ceramic plates hanging from her walls, colourful Turkish area rugs throughout the apartments, even the coloured spines of the books seemed to really stand out against the contrasting white bookshelf. Every surface seemed to be covered with decorative vases, lamps and/or knick knacks but somehow it just works, the apartment has a welcoming, happy feel to it.
The next couple of hours are spent cooking, you get an apron, take a spot at the huge island in Selin’s kitchen and get cooking. With Selin’s direction and the help of her lovely assistant we create a six course Turkish meal from scratch. Selin always makes sure to involve everyone in the process so no one is left out. And with cooking being a great ice breaker as working together to reach a common goal often does, when it came time to sit down and eat together the conversation just seemed to flow effortlessly, laughing and joking over a delicious meal and a glass wine like we hadn’t only met each other just 6 hours ago.
This positive class was such a positive experience for me that I now would actively seek out cooking classes in other cities I visit but I would even return to Turkish Flavours again. Thanks Selin!