Flashback: the new Istanbul with old friends

ISTANBUL, TURKEY — This city survived a hostile Roman takeover, rebuilt itself after the Crusades and even endured the massive Ottoman conquest. But could it survive a Senour-Blatnik-Heigert weekend reunion?

Great Mosque If you triangulate a central point between Munich, Chicago and Moscow, you don’t arrive at Istanbul. But that’s where we met anyway for a friends’ reunion last spring. Marty and Sarah flew out from Chicago, while Mark and Katrina flew in from their new HQ in Moscow. And we came back to my favorite city straight from Munich. A meeting of west and east. A perfect storm of trouble.

The Senours arrived first, setting up camp in a rented home five minutes from Taksim square. We arrived on a early Saturday morning and led the way across this ancient metropolis.

First stop was lunch. And when you’re in the Taksim area, there’s only one place to go: the unlimited bounty of Durumzade. We followed Anthony Bourdain to this epic kebab purveyor during our first visit to Istanbul. Now it was time to introduce the Senours to the plethora of chicken, beef and liver bits, expertly grilled over a simple charcoal fire, that makes this tiny hole-in-the-wall like no place else on earth.

Smokin Massive meat ChestnutsDurumzadeTunel-Taksim trolley Roasting

SpicesHappy and sated, we set off for Uskudar on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. The Asian side is notably grittier, busier and real. We wandered through the afternoon drizzle, savoring the local markets and settling down in a cozy pub in one of the neighborhood’s back alleys.

Market Uskudar market Fishies BanjoJam sessionMusicBuds Blats

After a night out in Taksim, the next day we needed some fresh air and some fresh grub. That meant one place: the Golden Horn fish market sits at the edge of the Gulata Bridge. Our backdrop was Sultanahmet and the Blue Mosque in the distance.

Fish market Fried fishies Fried horse mackeral Fried fish Good eats Blats Posing on the Golden Horn Fishing on the Gulata BridgeFishing

That afternoon, Mark and Katrina had to take off. That meant it was just the four of us to explore the spice bazaar and markets. The Topkapi Palace sits on the peninsula where the Bosphorus and Golden Horn meet, looking down on city below.

Topkapi Palace Mounted police ArabicBosporous TilesDesignCity of water Buds at Topkapi Istanbul lovers NewbiesIMG_5998 IMG_6001

DLamps!inner that evening was at a location Molly and I found in our last moments of our last trip and always wanted to return to. Sarnic Restaurant is set in a former cistern that fed water to the legendary Aya Sofia cathedral above. A legendary location for our last dinner with friends.

We followed up dinner with cocktails at our favorite location in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. The Kybele Hotel is a relic from the days of the Orient Express, but the two thousand Turkish lamps that light its rooms and lounges are still glowing decades later.

Reunion complete, everyone scattered back to the winds. Where the next siege is on is yet to be seen.

At Sarnic Cistern Stairway Newbies at dinnerCandlelit Friends! Lamps at the Kybele New buds Lamps

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