Monday, December 15, 2014

Mall of Istanbul vs The Grand Bazaar

Every trip to the airport, and there have been quite a few this year, has taken us past the Mall of Istanbul which opened for business at the end of May. Malls are a relatively new thing in Turkey. There is some concern that malls will eventually mean the loss of local markets.  Based on our experience over the past weekend, I doubt that will be the case any time soon.

We spent Saturday at the "Grand Bazaar".  This Istanbul institution was going strong, crowded with tourists, shoppers and even a few folks like us who arrived with a list of things to buy. We watched a couple of Estonian men, with the help of a local guide, buy diamond/gold rings which cost in the thousands of Euros. We were served tea, but the vendor brought out a bottle of Raki and paper cups from under the counter for these fellows.

As usual we stayed near the airport and took taxis to the Grand Bazaar.  Depending on your airport hotel the fare to the Sultanahmet is about C$25-40 one way and can take 20 - 40 minutes depending on traffic. Parking in the old city is impossible and means you must walk back to your car when you are finished, if you can find it!  Hotels near the old city have limited parking.

We spent Friday afternoon at the Mall of Istanbul finishing our Christmas shopping and returned on Sunday to enjoy some family friendly activities.  None of the Turkish movies interested us, but we did enjoy 10 pin bowling, air hockey and the MOIPark amusement park.  There are rides for small children and a whole floor of rides more suited to teens and adults.  The rides are well staffed, and clean. The staff don't speak much English but even so, a couple of them convinced Nicole and I to go on a ride which swung us up into the air and tumbled us upside down.  We lived and we laughed, but it was the scariest ride there. Even when it was crowded the line ups were short. We rode all the rides we wanted (about 22 total) and spent about C$100.00.  There are lots of access points for MOIPark throughout the mall.  In addition to rides there are arcade games and a small stage for little children to dance on.






Sam and Nicole!

By four o'clock Sunday afternoon the mall was a mad house.  It was noisy and crowded. I spent about 90 minutes finishing my shopping. My patience by the time we met for supper was worn thin.  The food fare was bedlam.  There are a few restaurants in the food fare where you are treated to table service.  We had supper at one and headed back to the hotel.
Cam, Nicole and Johanna.

Cam drove to the mall both times we went.  Parking is free and underground, and it was easy to find a spot near the escalators. Like other underground parking garages we've used in Turkey, the underside of the car was inspected with a mirror and the guard opened the back hatch.  Not sure what possible use this inspection was since it was hardly thorough but perhaps it serves as a deterrent.



The purple/blue track is for the roller coaster which I went on TWICE!
(I was afraid both times.)
In celebration of the new year, many malls are decorated with lights, tinsel and even "Christmas" trees, but the Mall of Istanbul had no decorations.  Never the less, lots of the shops were selling lights, tinsel, Christmas trees, ornaments, door wreaths and Santas.  Perhaps Christianity will come (back) to Turkey the way it has arrived in other cultures, piggybacked on other festivals.

Turks certainly seem to share the North American passion for shopping. Our weekend in Turkey was a great change from our everyday existence.  Sam said on the way home "I forgot I was in Turkey".

Monday, December 8, 2014

Happy Birthday Johanna!

Cam, Sam and I were on the road to Corlu by 7:30 a.m. on Johanna's birthday.  Cam had a service appointment booked for the car and Sam decided it was a great day to spend at the mall Christmas shopping. Cam dropped us at the mall shortly after 9 a.m so we waited inside the entrance until the mall officially opened at 10 a.m. We managed to walk the mall by the time Cam came to pick us up about noon, but didn't buy much.  We had lunch in Tekirdag on the way home.  When we got home, Johanna got to open her presents and we enjoyed supper together and the Oreo Cheesecake birthday cake Nicole made at Johanna's request.









Nicole's Yummy Oreo Cheesecake

250  grams  Oreos
75  grams  soft  unsalted butter
1 x  400  grams  jar  Nutella  (at room temperature)
100  grams  chopped toasted  hazelnuts
500  grams  cream cheese  (at room temperature)
60  grams  icing sugar  (sifted)

METHOD
Separate the Oreos into cookies and filling.
Break the cookies into the bowl of a processor, add the butter and a 15ml tablespoon of Nutella, and blitz until it starts to clump. Add 25g/3 tablespoons of the hazelnuts and continue to pulse until you have a damp, sandy mixture.
Tip into a 23cm/9inch round springform and press into the base either using your hands or the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill.
Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth and then add the remaining Nutella to the cream cheese mixture, and continue beating until combined. Nicole adds the Oreo filling to this mixture. (The first time Nicole made this she decreased the icing sugar because she added the filling and the second time she didn't add any sugar at all.  Both times it was yummy!)
Take the springform out of the fridge and carefully smooth the Nutella mixture over the base. Scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top to cover and place the tin in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Serve straight from the fridge for best results. (Our springform pan is at home in Canada, so Nicole put it in one of the multipurpose round pans we own.)
Additional information - for vegetarians make sure the cream cheese does not contain rennet.