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Travel Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Travel

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.

How To Travel

new york city

There are a lot of ways to travel smarter but if you want the most straightforward advice on how to get started, this is your guide.

First of all, traveling is not that hard. At least not the basics in general, assuming you’ve got some disposable income, a bit of time, and of course the inclination to go somewhere.

Where To Go

Traveling can mean a lot of things but often the first thing to come to mind is some far off exotic place. Those can be great choices but you’ve probably never gone to the tourist sites in your own town. What about the next town over? Maybe you want to start a travel blog or YouTube channel, you don’t need to go very far to do either.

Since you can’t see the entire world in a lifetime, these places are good choices to start from. If you love street food, definitely go to these cities. Adventure sports? Las Vegas. Want to see how much it costs to fly from where you are to anywhere? Kayak Explore will show you.

Honestly though, most of us have a place we’ve always really wanted to see. Don’t let people talk you out of it. Get suggestions on things to do nearby (more ideas can’t hurt) but if there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, that’s where you should probably be headed. You might love or hate a place and that can change over time so aside from actual dangerous places, all you’re hearing are people’s opinions about a given point in time.

travel memes

And if someone’s never been to a place don’t listen to their advice about a place. It’s probably negative and definitely uninformed.

How To Go

Some places you have to fly. For others, taking a train is more environmentally friendly but also easier on your body than taking an airplane. Remember to add 4 hours at least to any total flight time – that covers getting to an airport on time, checking in, plus going through security. A 30 minute flight is really more like 4 or more hours of travel time.

Obsessing over flight prices isn’t likely to save you much nor is booking on a Wednesday. Check out multi-city flights. Travel savings are much more obtainable through choosing the right accommodation, where you eat, and by simple packing habits like buying a reusable water bottle.

What To Take

Recently I saw this tweet which is mostly true unless you’re a French horn musician. What you use at home is what you’ll use on the road. You shouldn’t pack more than you can use in two weeks and most specialized travel gear isn’t versatile enough to justify the costs (remember what I said about saving above?)

arthurs seat edinburgh

Learn these important phrases of the local language using this powerful tool. Gum or mints are essential. One other thing, it’s usually worth paying a bit more to get durable gear. Cheap fabrics don’t withstand traveling well so it’s better to get one good thing than 3 cheap things over the same period of time. Plus good products usually come with good warranties because the brands can stand behind their products.

Stay Connected

Currency is a helpful app that works offline. WiFox gives you passwords to all the airports in the world, important since getting to your accommodation from the airport is when you’re most vulnerable. Find some good travel blogs, they give good firsthand insights that can help with planning, navigating scams, and learning the local customs.

scottish highlands

Download Google Maps offline to help you get around. Put the phone down and look up when you don’t need it.

faucetsafe app

Go with the flow, try a food you’ve never had, and always eat where the locals do. Long lines of tourists don’t always indicate the best places to eat and TripAdvisor can only get you so far. Ask a local. Try it, you’ll get good advice like this.

Remember The Important Things

There’s certainly more, but this should help get you started. Traveling can be tiring, confusing, or a bit lonely sometimes. Keep in mind that if you can travel for recreation, you’re one of the lucky ones on Earth. Not everyone can travel and for most of human history it was impossible to move like we do now.

Understanding other cultures doesn’t require much footwork far or near – meeting new people can give you an important insight. Getting out of cities and into nature can give you perspective. The one thing to bring on any journey is an open mind, without that, you can visit every country in the world and still have not seen much of anything at all.

Holy Everest Is One Of Berlin’s Best Restaurants And Inspiring Immigrant Stories

Rajesh Lama’s life is the kind of story you might probably associate with America and it’s well marketed the dream. What you might not know is that Germany is the world’s second most popular destination for immigrants, creating opportunities for both locals and the new members of its society who now call it home.

Berlin in many ways is a city that embodies what multiculturalism can be and at Holy Everest you’ll not only enjoy a good meal, but leave with a strong affinity for a country you may never have visited. You can watch Rajesh’s full story in the video above or read on.

Nepali Cuisine From Every Elevation

10 years ago, Rajesh was a trekking guide in Nepal’s Himalayan mountains, where he learned to cook hearty foods at altitude for his guests. Cooking is an important mountain skill to have, especially in case the other cook happens to come down with altitude sickness. Nepal has roughly three broad groups of cuisine, all representing various climate altitudes in a country that’s 75% mountainous.

holy everest berlin

As a guide he met a lot of people from around the world, first visiting Europe as a tourist, eventually relocating to Germany. After some time Rajesh made it to Berlin, a city with no mountains or obvious application of his Himalayan skill set. Yet with an instinctual sense of German efficiency fueled by a contagious passion to obtain contentment through purpose, Rajesh began to analyze his situation.

Learning The Cultural Landscape

As a guide Rajesh was exposed to many cultures, different types of people, and ways of thinking. At first in Berlin he began an intensive German course to learn the language, later working in hotels where he could put his language skills to use. As time passed, he eventually got to know Berlin, coming across the street food festival at Markthalle Neun.

Noticing there wasn’t any Nepalese food at the fair combined with the disappointment that most of the “Nepali” food in Berlin was actually Indian or Pakistani sparked an idea with Rajesh.

Momo Man Begins

I can’t include all of the paperwork, permits, and other German bureaucracy required to open a food stall – let alone restaurant in Berlin – but red tape is a part of everything here. Papers plus concept took nearly two years before Rajesh began selling momos, Himalayan soup, plus other mountain staples at Markthalle Neun.

rajesh lama

That’s where I first met Rajesh and his smile is infectious. The food is great too but the cook and delivery are part of the enjoyment. At that time, Rajesh was hoping to open a Nepali restaurant one day. In August this year, Holy Everest opened at Gleimstrasse 54, in the north part of Berlin.

Hours at Holy Everest are from noon to 11pm on most days, closed on Mondays.

Nepali Infusion

Part of what makes Rajesh happy is seeing other people happy. A reflection of his personal and Buddhist beliefs that are combined with a strong sense of motivation with attention to detail. The mandala in the background of our conversation was hand painted in Nepal, for instance. Holy Everest’s design is open and bright with touches of Nepal true to its roots – just look to the embroidery above or the prayer wheel by the entrance.

holy everest berlin

The staff are also all Nepalese and ingredients sourced from various organic, local Berlin markets. (Including Markthalle Neun.) I can continue to describe some of the dishes on the menu – designed by his wife – like badam sadeko (spicy roasted peanuts with garlic and coriander) which goes well with Nepali beer, of course the momos… or Nepalese spiced chana masala (cooked chickpeas) plus other vegetarian and vegan options.

I could describe more but it wouldn’t capture the experience you have here. I’ve focused on Rajesh’s journey to the first day Holy Everest opened its doors, because that path is infused in every aspect of the dining experience here. Enjoying the food is not enough nor profit an indicator of success. Rajesh, everyone, and everything involved to get a plate of Nepali cuisine in front of you at Holy Everest is meant to put a smile on your face. That is the true meaning of success at this restaurant and there’s nothing artificial about it, you’ll be smiling too after having a meal at Holy Everest.

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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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