Devorah Lev-Tov

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Devorah Lev-Tov is a writer and editor with 12 years' experience. She writes about food, travel, luxury, and lifestyle for multiple publications including The New York Times, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, and National Geographic. An ex-pat from the publishing world, she is also an illustrated nonfiction book editor, with expertise in developmental editing and cookbook/recipe editing. In addition, she has several years' experience in event marketing and nonprofit copywriting. She's eaten her way through Central and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, and much of the United States.

Filtering by Tag: istanbul

Turkey: The Bosphorous and Its Environs

One of the greatest things about Istanbul is the Bosphorous River that runs through it, dividing the European and Asian sides and leading out to the Black Sea on one end and the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara on the other. It's a beautiful body of water and provides a great place to take boat rides!

I'd already gone on a Bosphorous cruise the last time I was here, but I was excited to go again. A highlight is stopping for the famous yogurt made in Kanlica, on the Asian side.

And this time, we stayed on the boat almost until the last stop, right at the entrance to the Black Sea. On the way, we passed beautiful sites, like the Dolmabahce Palace and the Rumeli Hisari fortress, as well as chamring neighborhoods like Ortakoy and Bebek.

There are many opportunities to disembark the ship but we ended up being thrilled we stayed on until the neighborhood of Rumeli Kavağı, a small fishing area right near the Black Sea that felt very far away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and the old city.

From Rumeli Kavağı , we took a Dolmus (shuttle bus) to nearby Sariyer, another, larger fishing area. It has less charm than Rumeli Kavağı, but we were able to sit outside on the water and drink some of Turkey's famous apple tea at a café, and have a deliciously fresh seafood lunch. We also happened upon the fish market and an impromptu outdoor prayer service.

My lunch was battered and fried sardines. Yum!

Turkey: Magnificent Mosques of Istanbul

Istanbul is definitely one of my favorite cities in the world. It's beautiful, with so many ancient structures from the Ottoman period juxtaposed against super modern and sleek new buildings. It's also surrounded by water, which in my book is what any good city should be. There are lots of people, but not too many that it overwhelms you, and most of them are helpful and friendly. Before we embarked on our journey some of our family members were wary about us going to Turkey, especially from Israel, due to the conflict they've had with Israel lately. But as we suspected, the average Turk has no such prejudices, and Manor even ended up entering the country on his Israeli passport because the visa was free, unlike the American on which was $20. One of the most remarkable highlights about Istanbul are it's many beautiful and elaborate mosques. There are of course two very famous ones that sit across from each other in Sultanhamet, Istanbul's old quarter: the Aya Sofya (ask Hagia Sofia) and the Blue Mosque. I've been to both before, but they were no less majestic this time around. The Aya Sofya was especially different because last time I was there they were doing renovations so there was a lot of scaffolding up. The building also has a fascinating history, originally being dedicated as a church in 360 CE, and then turned into a mosque in 1453. In 1935 it was secularized and turned into a museum by Ataturk, the man generally credited with secularizing Turkey and bringing it into the modern world. While it has many of the markings and installments of a mosque, beautiful Christian mosaics have also been uncovered. You can easily spend a couple hours exploring the gigantic building and we did just that.

The Blue Mosque is quite different, in that it is still a functioning mosque that people actually pray in. You can't walk wherever you want (i.e. into the prayer section, which is most of the room), but you can still get a good sense of the beauty and majesty of the building. It was extremely crowded the day we went, which was a bit frustrating, but we managed to carve out our own little spot.

We also visited the New Mosque (or Yeni Camii, in Turkish), which is not that new, but being built in 1597 is comparatively so. It is in a different part of the city, perched above the Galata Bridge and the Golden Horn (the part of the Bosphorous River that divides the city and forms a strait leading to the Sea of Marmara). Also a functioning mosque, it was full of people praying.

There are many more mosques in Istanbul, and we awoke each morning to the muezzin's call to prayer, often coming from multiple places at once. As a Jew and an American, being in an Islamic country, albeit a more secular one, allows a new understanding for the religion and its people. There are obviously many prejudices about Muslims, and while there are many in Israel we were mostly shielded from them. Being in Turkey allowed me to be more immersed in the culture and appreciate it as a valid culture and religion.

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Turkey and Israel: Kicking Off the Journey

The three week journey from New York to Bombay was a bit hectic. It seemed as though big news stories had been following us around.  Our second week in Israel, the whole country was consumed with constant updates on the release of 5-year Hammas prisoner Gilad Shalit, who finally reached Israel the hour we left it.  Make of it what you will, but on the day of Shalit's release, both foreigners in Israel and Turks asked us the same question: "A THOUSAND prisoners for one soldier?"

A couple days after we arrived in Turkey, news broke of the Kurdish missile attack and subsequent Turkish incursion into Iraq.  A day later, as we returned from an all day trip, we were told by our hosts of the terrible earthquake in eastern Turkey several hours earlier.  Needless to say, our families were worried while we had no idea.

Israel was a whirlwind of family and friends. We went from the center to the north and back several times.  Having been in Israel and experienced the inflation there first hand, I have a much better sense of the cause of the protests several months ago.  I'm not sure how  people survive there financially. Also interesting was Yom Kippur.  We were in Hertzilya for the holiday and it was different than anywhere else I'd been.  To be fair, I'd only previously experienced Israeli Yom Kippur on Kibbutz, where everything comes to a hot standstill for a day.  This was truly different.  People go out and enjoy the day, taking advantage of the lack of cars.  The evening of Yom Kippur, there were tons of people walking and riding bicycles, even on the highway.  The biggest beneficiary of the holiday seemed to be dogs, who could be walked without leashes, free to roam about where they please.  Children rode and played on the city streets--a luxury they don't have the rest of the year.   It was pretty incredible to see this somber, quiet holiday turned into a shared lively experience. We arrived in Turkey to find Istanbul's airport to be deceptively chaotic.  As we went to collect our bags, the belt they were supposed to be on was turned off and no one was standing by it.  After walking around the entire baggage claim section, we found my bag as the lone luggage on different belt.  Devorah's bag was nowhere to be found.  This was not a good start to our trip.  Devorah went to the lost baggage office to fill out a claim and afterwards we decided to do one final check for her bag.  Sure enough, it was in a pile of bags that had been removed off of the belts.  Crisis averted. Istanbul was not exactly the East meets West that I'd envisioned, unless the east that's being referred to is the middle east.  Our first day there we took four different types of public transit: tram, trolley, bus, and two very different funiculars (short distance trains that take commuters up and down hills).  To top it off, a couple days later, we added a light rail, boat, and metro.  We took every possible public commuting option in the city, except the suburban train. It was also pretty amazing to walk through the city and see random ancient Ottoman mausoleums and landmarks.  There are so many things to see in that city, so much history, I feel we could have easily spent weeks there and not seen everything.

After Israel, driving in Turkey was a pleasure.  There were no cars driving dangerously fast, drivers used their blinkers to indicate they wanted to pass rather than tailgating for as long as it takes, and there was no unsafe passing.  It was a stark difference from Israel, where I got clipped by a bus driver that cut me off and then proceeded to drive away and pretended he hadn't left a piece of the bus lodged in my car.  Turkey will be the last time I drive a (four wheel) vehicle for a while.

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