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4 Great Non-Touristy Places To Eat In Istanbul

istanbul turkey tea cat

Istanbul is a massive, sprawling city, whose area and population make it better to break the city down into its neighborhoods. It should actually be 10 smaller cities but since it’s not, rather than focusing on specific parts of Istanbul (which would make this a much longer post), these are some foods that will take you a bit off the typical tourist trail.

1. Ev Yemekleri Lokanta

These home-food restaurants are local, canteen-style restaurants where you can choose from a variety of home-style dishes. It’s a great way to try more traditional foods served quickly, without the need to speak Turkish (just point and choose) – not to mention lokantas are almost always very inexpensive.

You can find one of my recommendations in the video below.

2. Vegan Istanbul

Canteen style lokanta are a good way to try various meat and vegetarian dishes. Many Turkish home foods are vegetarian or vegan naturally but if you want to try some meatballs or kebab dishes, Veganarsist in Nisantasi is a good choice. The restaurant is small (they serve takeout as well) so larger groups might want to reserve in advance. Veganarsist’s meat-substitute choices are surprisingly flavorful plus the cute balcony view is nice to if a seat’s available.

veganarsist instagram istanbul

3. Borekci

Every culture has a borek – stuffed dough with good stuff in it. In Turkey however, borek is borek, and there are places dedicated to selling only borek. Borekci translates into “borek place” and they’re pretty common in Istanbul. More of a snack-stop with tea as opposed to a full meal, Gundogdu Borek vs Kunefe (Osmanağa, Rıhtım Cd. No:14) in Kadikoy is a good choice. If you’re not venturing out that way, meander through some residential side streets and you’re bound to find one.

istanbul borek

4. Cig Kofte

Raw meatball that’s not meat at all, cig kofte isn’t a taste for everyone nor can everyone handle its spice. (Non-spicy is a bastardization of the whole thing, you might as well not try it.) There are a few places to try cig kofte in Istanbul but although he’s no longer there, Orhan Usta is worth mentioning. His stall outside of the Egyptian Spice Market represented an endangered tradition of independent artisans in Istanbul.

orhan usta istanbul

Serince Cig Koftecisi is a good choice down from Istiklal Street.

A Few Other Options

In most cases eventually good places to eat in a city are found out by tourists. The beautiful views from Ortakoy don’t hurt either but it’s still a good place to visit for kumpir. You can see how to order and some of my recommendations on the best stalls in the video below.

None of this is to say touristy areas aren’t worth visiting, the Hagia Sophia doesn’t look a day over 1,000 (do it for the gram). But a lot of touring around will make you hungry and possibly thirsty as well, in which case you should learn how to drink raki like a Turk.

Destination Star Trek Birmingham Review: Stuck At Impulse

Having recently attended Europe’s official Star Trek Convention Destination in Birmingham, it was hard not to compare it to Creation’s Las Vegas convention. These two events regularly trade places as the world’s largest gathering of Trekkies worldwide but Destination can learn a lot from its more mature competitor.

You can watch my full review and see some of the best cosplay from Destination Star Trek in the video above or read on. (For non-fans, here’s why people go to Star Trek conventions at all.)

Good Start

Despite thousands of attendees gathering in a massive convention hall, Destination Star Trek felt more like a smaller fan-run show. Having a huge wide open space in the National Exhibition Center (NEC) meant never feeling cramped and it was easy to get around. Unfortunately, this also meant that the speakers from various talks would often overlap, making them difficult to hear. Talks which were mostly not free to enter either, something you would have to have known weeks in advance to even see the most popular actors.

birmingham england

For some, the option to have weekend tickets, day tickets, plus have tickets that include some talks might be desirable. Generally though a more straightforward all-inclusive set of options would be less confusing and expensive overall. Hate luggage fees? Destination Star Trek’s ticket model feels too similar.

Space Seeds To Improve Upon

Like the paragraphs above show, the good parts of Destination Star Trek invariably lead to revealing its poor execution. Large open space? Great. Places to sit and take a break? Not many convenient ones inside. Cosplay? Enthusiastic but contest showing was obscured. Side events? A few. Where are they? Not clear nor are what the entry tickets include.

destination star trek 2019

Destination was very much more like a Star Trek trade show, rather than an immersive Comic-Con style weekend. Sci-fi television is what brings people through the door but meeting other fans, having drinks, and all the other reasons people people socialize is what keeps everyone coming back.

Learning From Vegas

The Las Vegas Convention despite its largest variety of talks and vendors, is ideal for hanging out. It’s what brings Star Trek fans back year after year, to hang out with the friends they’ve made at prior conventions. All the talks are included with the price of admission and there are plenty of seats to sit with several bar/cafe areas close to the action.

It has taken Creation’s Las Vegas Star Trek Convention a few years to recognize the need for these elements. Destination has a few other good starts like professional moderators (Las Vegas’ Convention co-founder shoehorning himself into insufferable fan-gushing over actors derails far too many talks.) Destination Star Trek’s Birmingham NEC location also had a good food selection (Las Vegas’ options are terrible and terribly overpriced) plus the staff were very friendly and helpful.

In the closing remarks the founder of Destination Star Trek mentioned his desire to improve the young (8 year old) convention year after year. Hopefully attendees will respond to their feedback emails and share this post as well – Destination has a lot of potential that will hopefully be realized before warp drive.

Asen’s Fortress Is A Hidden Day Trip In Bulgaria

asen's fortress

More than a few visitors coming to Sofia or Plovdiv tend to miss Asen’s Fortress, an easy day trip from either city tucked away in Bulgaria’s mountains. Likely built by the Thracians roughly 2500 years ago, its unassuming remains obscure the fort’s interesting past. Only two hours away from Sofia and less than 30 from Plovdiv, there are several tour operators running shuttle buses here but if you’re up for it, renting a car gives you more options with fewer crowds.

asen's fort bulgaria

During the fall, winter, and colder days of spring you’re likely to be the only visitors around, having the entire fort to yourself. Walking around the grounds though might not be for everyone, there are a lot of stairs and steep climbs to be aware of. Even so, just stepping out to the front entrance can give you nice views of below.

asens fortress church

Well preserved and restored if you do make the climb up you’ll see the Church of the Holy Mother of God. Built in the 12th or 13th century, it was the only remaining part of Asen’s Fortress which was mostly destroyed in the 14th century.

asen's fortress

Asen’s Fortress was strategically located close enough to the Ottoman capital Istanbul to be a viable staging ground for competing brothers warring to become sultan. Fratricide was common through this era of Ottoman history meaning brothers would murder one another to become sultan.

Church of the Holy Mother of God

Seeing the obvious issues a place like Asen’s Fortress might cause, it is thought Sultan Suleiman destroyed it to prevent a figurative thorn in his western side.

bulgarian flag

You can often catch wonderful views, even on a cloudy day as the winds tend to carry breaks in between the mists of the mountainside below.

asens fort

Asen’s Fortress is open Wednesdays through Sundays from early in the morning through later in the day (8am-5pm). There’s a nominal fee to enter this beautiful place to explore. During the colder months remember to wear good shoes, watch your step, and make your plans around any potential snow.

Further north you can find Belogradchik, a fort built into the natural rock formations, climb Vitosha if you’re staying in Sofia, while all the time keeping in mind they nod backwards here. So when ordering one of these local dishes at a restaurant, they will be bringing you a coffee – unless they’re nodding up and down.

Scottish Highlands Photos Are Why You Need To Visit Right Now

scottish highlands

Scotland as a people and a nation is seductive in all the varieties of that word. The northern reaches of the country it’s mountainous Highlands have an effect visitors so common it may be telling the story of the human heart. Perhaps I’m overly romanticizing but spend as much time over as many visits to Scotland as I have – and the rain, stories of honorably hopeless battles – plus lots of whisky will do that to you too.

The weather forecast here should be given in quarter hours, otherwise it’s like a 12 month forecast most anywhere else.

eilean donan castle

It will rain, it will be windy. Chilly but just warm enough after a short walk to make your armpits sweat. Maybe all of this. Maybe none of it. Likely all at once or not at all.

scotland highlands

I could tell you of the history here. There’s a lot of it. But just look up and know that to have lived here the Scot’s ancestors had to be crazy, tough, and carry a good sense of humor.

eilean donan castle

Fighting off the world’s best armies, Nordic psychopaths whose descendants would later give us Dancing Queen, plus each other at times probably meant you had to enjoy the moment in between.

scotland mountains

Got 10 minutes of sun? Take advantage of it then when the rain hits, drink the night away. The same is still true today for locals and tourists alike.

scottish mountains

The Scottish Highlands are one of the least densely populated areas in Europe (roughly 8 people per square kilometer) which comes with its own gruesome history.

scotland waterfalls

When you arrive you’ll be welcomed. A Saturday night drink in a local Portree pub will have you talking with locals, in between singing sessions.

portree isle of skye

More people should come here you think. But not too many, they’ll just muck it up.

scottish mountains

The Highlands are a geography that are unforgiving. Welcoming too. If tales of warriors fighting to the last person against hopeless odds to defend their land makes you nostalgic for centuries when you (thankfully) weren’t alive… or cows that look like they smoke weed all day make you say “aww” – or both – then you’ll love this part of Scotland.

highland cattle

The landscape and culture here speak to many parts of the human experience which is why it’s so alluring. Scotland’s Highlands are endearing but like the weather, for reasons that are unpredictable. It’s a region with a rolling story across seasons that are just as varied.

eilean donan castle

I’ll have more practical information for you in the coming days on visiting Scotland’s Highlands but why you should visit is where you can start. The reason is somewhere in us all, which is why you’ll love it too.

Should You Upgrade From The GoPro HERO7 Black To The 8?

The GoPro HERO8 Black is the latest, most advanced action camera you can currently buy – but if you already have the HERO7, you might be wondering whether an upgrade is worth the effort. For those of you shopping for an action camera but have anything older than the HERO7 (or this $40 knockoff) an upgrade to the HERO8 would be a noticeable improvement.

This post however is not for you – it’s for HERO7 owners worried they’re stuck with a dinosaur of a camera compared to the 8.

Three Main Differences

Compared to the HERO7, the 8 brings with it 3 significant changes most relevant to whether or not you should upgrade. The first of those changes is the hardware. The HERO8 is a slightly larger camera, with a different lens size than the 7. These differences in the physical hardware of the HERO8 mean most of the accessories you already have for the 7 won’t transfer over.

You’ll have to not only pay for the cost of an upgrade (the 8 is on sale for $399 while the 7 still sold new is $329) but also invest in a new GoPro accessory ecosystem. For vloggers this is mixed news since any external microphone setup you have now won’t work on the 8 – but come December GoPro will introduce external components to turn a HERO8 into a more elegant vlog solution.

Unfortunately at the moment those options – mainly an external microphone, light, and flip view screen, aren’t on sale yet. Not knowing how well they’ll perform (compared to a Rode VideoMicro setup in the video below) I’d suggest waiting to jump into the HERO8.

Slick Forecast

Another small but significant design modification is GoPro integrating mounting clips directly into the frame of the camera. Having a folding clip system in the GoPro eliminates the need for an external mount, an elegant and long needed modification. Another great improvement on the HERO7 but not exactly worth a complete re-haul of your action camera setup.

gopro hero 7 black

The form factor is new and the accompanying accessories to fit it aren’t out yet (not to mention, expensive) meaning a HERO8 upgrade is probably premature. Remember these are essentially all first generation products – a phase where electronics tend to evolve rapidly.

Hypersmooth For Action

Unless you really want to be an early adopter a move from the HERO7 to the 8 isn’t worth the time and cost for most users. There is though one feature which makes the HERO8 a decent upgrade choice from the 7 – Hypersmooth 2.0. The HERO7 has the first version of Hypersmooth, a feature that kicks in to stabilize shaky camera footage to make it look beautifully smooth. GoPro has introduced Hypersmooth 2.0 on the HERo8 and it will all but remove the need for any gimbal.

Hypersmooth 2.0 in the HERO8 is the largest technological leap from the 7, not to take away from its own Hypersmooth. For those of you who aren’t necessarily filming extreme sports all the time on your 7, you’ll be happy with what you have. The select few of you who do shoot a lot of action camera footage – biking, running, weird flippy-stuff – then Hypersmooth 2.0 puts you in a select group of videographer who would be happy exchanging a HERO7 for an 8.

Where To Find The Best Street Food In Berlin (Vegan Options)

Being a crossroads of creativity and culture, Berlin has quietly been cultivating one of the best street food scenes in the world. For years craving the tastes of nonconformity, Berliners are open to many things, including food from around the world. Spice does not scare locals here, uncharacteristic of many other parts of Germany.

In a city where anything goes, finding an option for your particular preferences or dietary restrictions is easy enough. Starting with some of Turkish street foods that are unintentionally vegetarian and in many cases, vegan.

Breakfast Options – Akin Simit

There are two places in particular I would recommend visiting during the morning hours. During the week, if you’re in the Kruezberg area Akin Simit Fruhstuckshaus serves a variety of Turkish pastries. Straightforward and vegan, you can have a simit (a sort of Turkish bagel) or vegetarian pogaca (baked dough ball of butter and happy thoughts).

akin simit berlin

Sunday Mornings – Klas Backerei

On Sundays though, if you’re looking for Turkish breakfast, it’s better to head to Klas Backerei. They’re open all other days of the week (except Saturdays) which is a shame since Sunday is when they expand their breakfast menu. Before you walk in though if you’re just hungry enough for a quick snack, there’s a window where you can pick up gozleme. Those sell out very quickly and it’s the best place to find these flat hand-rolled flat dough pies stuffed with spinach, cheese… it varies.

klas backerei

Further inside, Klas Backerei has lentil soup, menemen (Turkish omelet), olives, strong tea, Turkish coffee plus a few other morning staples. Meat eaters, it’s worth getting a sucuk omelet, which is a greasy beef sausage that’s slightly so spicy on top of runny eggs. Gozleme on the side and some soft white bread to soak up what’s left is a small secret near Gorlitzer metro station.

Raw Meatball Without Meat. Also Not Raw

Cig kofte literally translates into raw meat ball in Turkish but these days it’s actually cooked bulgur wheat kneaded into spicy bites. Originally the spice was used to eliminate bacteria from raw beef – a version that still exists – although in a place like Berlin, going vegan is a smart business move.

  • Cigkofte Berlin (Herrfurthstraße 32) – you can find several other Turkish foods that have been made vegan, like icli kofte (kibbeh).

There are a lot of good options at Cigköfte Berlin with a vegan or vegetarian plate option – either are a good choice. You’ll get a variation of cig kofte (you can wrap in lettuce leave or flat bread), stuffed grape leaves, and other veg items you can choose from.

Curry 61

Honestly it’s hard to get a bad currywurst in much of Germany although many would argue it’s hard to get a good one. A large pork sausage covered in cheap ketchup with a sprinkle of curry doesn’t leave a lot of room for culinary expression. I’m highlighting the rather popular Curry 61 since they also have a vegan option of the otherwise meaty street food.

currywurst

Markthalle Neun – Thursday Only

If you’re in Berlin on a Thursday night, this is where you need to go. A large street food festival happens in Markthalle Neun every Thursday from around 5pm-10pm. There’s street food from all over the world – momo man is also there! – lots of German beer, and a wonderful atmosphere. It’s impossible not to be happy here as you try snacks from Uruguay, Syria, Japan and more at close to 100 food stalls.

Keep It Going

One of the nice things about Berlin is that many traditionally meat based dishes have their vegan counterparts but the reverse is also true. Meat lovers will love Berlin but if you’re traveling with a mixed crowd of herbi-omnivores, in most cases you can all enjoy a meal at the same place.

A few other restaurants that are a good examples of this are Heimweh in Kreuzberg where you’ll find kumpir – a massive baked potato you can fill with over 30 ingredients. Vegan, vegetarian, regular person – it’s all about the toppings you choose. Finally, across much of town doner kebab stalls like Tekbir Doner will almost always have a hellim (halloumi cheese) option. A native cheese of Cyprus that’s found a home in Berlin for its growing vegetarian population.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More


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