It was pretty much 6 months into our year in Istanbul that we took a trip to Amsterdam over Christmas. Going home for Christmas meant for us either flying to the US or to South Korea none of which we wanted to do so little time in. We were based in Istanbul for my marketing job which saw me traveling all over Eastern Europe. I was on the road pretty much every week, from Mersin in Southern Turkey to Tel Aviv, Moscow, Batumi (a small beach town in Georgia), Kazakhstan in -20 degrees Celsius, Prague, Krakow etc. including the occasional trip to meetings in Dubai, Vienna and London. It was a crazy time and taking long flights out for vacation time just didn’t seem very tempting.
During the Christmas get-together at work just a few days before Christmas we were sharing our plans for the holidays. For most this meant some quiet time at home with the family. For my colleagues in Turkey the holiday of course was meaningless. To be honest, we weren’t really in a Christmas spirit. We were still new in town and just starting to make friends.
It’s not a popular holiday in Turkey. Religiously it is meaningless, yet the commercial Christmas has bled over into the metropole or Istanbul. But funnily this doesn’t really start until AFTER Christmas when people are getting ready for New Years. “Mutlu Yillar” (happy new year) banners in Christmas colors including decorative holly and reindeers appear in all shop windows along with Christmas baubles and snow flakes. Banners adorn the outside of buildings. One of our agencies sent us red and green cupcakes spelling out the words on New Year’s Eve and our favorite neighborhood restaurant was playing Elvis Presley’s XYZ and other Classic Christmas songs.
“Marc and I have decided to go to Amsterdam for a few days” – Amsterdam? Why Amsterdam? Do you have family there? No? What are you doing there then? Until my colleague shouted across the dinner table “Marketing is going to Amsterdam to get some ‘creative’ ideas!!” Of course the whole table was rolling on the floor with wine infused laughter at this remark, including me.
So we packed our bags, left the pup in daycare and made our way over to Amsterdam. It was the first time in Amsterdam and I hadn’t been there since my university days when we took a trip to Amsterdam with my basic design concepts class at university. Back then I was studying architecture and was in awe of the simplistic beautiful Dutch architecture.
As always we rented out an apartment with AirBnB and we were prepared with some basic research. Now you need to know that we are hugely into quality food and have not been able to experience our usual food diversity in Istanbul. International food isn’t widely spread and though Turkish food is delicious and fresh it didn’t have the diversity we were looking for. We did find an Ethiopian place in Istanbul not too long ago which was a major break-through for us. But it was expensive and not comparable to Ethiopian dishes we’ve had in our favorite restaurants in DC. So we were starved for different flavors!
I had read about a relatively new food hall online which was greatly rated and happened to be not too far from the apartment we were staying at. So as soon as we landed we put the bags aside, got out the winter coats and set off for a late lunch followed by a stroll around the city to get a feeling for it.
We were not disappointed. De Hallen is a vibrant place with a great variety of food stalls, bars, benches and tables to sit on and a little market for shirt shops, independent designer clothes, homemade decoration and chopping boards. Clusters of friends happily chat on one of the big tables enjoying some beer while on next table a family with two young kids is on their Sunday outing.
With hungry stomachs we decided we’d do a full tour of the food stalls first to see everything that’s out there and then targeted to back to those stalls we want to eat from. And we did exactly that. BBQ, hot dogs, Vietnamese pho, crêpes, fish, waffles, melted cheese, you name it. Our mouths were watering and our stomachs were growling. A quick discussion of the action plan and then we stormed out like troopers hunting down food and coming back to the base to find a table and eat.
Doesn’t everybody know that you should never go food shopping on a hungry stomach. Yes, of course we know, too. But we were blinded by the excitement and also the option to have pork again. Neither of us usually is a big pork eater but as it’s something you will very rarely find in restaurants and grocery shops alike in Turkey it was like the ‘forbidden fruit’ to us. And we all know what happens to forbidden fruits.
So we came back with a large board of pulled and BBQ pork, and Vietnamese spring rolls with pork filling. Oh and we also had a fresh pretzel with pork filling. And it took us all of five minutes to devour all the food down. We finished it all in record speed and were very content.
Until we started walking.
All the food started to finally settle in our stomachs and were forming a heavy lump and size and weight of a rock. It turns out that after not having eating pork for a few months you should really take it easy with filling your stomach with heavy fatty meat. As we were strolling along the canals on every second corner I had to gasp ‘I am so full, my stomach hurts’ followed by a rub on the stomach that was now hard and sticking out. The occasional burp would give temporary relief but not exactly something you’d be proud of doing while wandering the streets holding your boyfriend’s hand.
oats had us in awe. Cobble stoned streets and bikes everywhere. We made it pretty much to the center of town when we stumbled upon a ramen place! Ramen! One of our favorite foods! We were so excited and quick to check the menu and peak through the window and door. It looked very cosy and down to earth, exactly our kind of eatery. We were dying to go in but our stomachs were still hard like a rock and filled to the rim. The thought of eating again made me want to be sick.
“Well, if not today – maybe we go tomorrow?” Marc suggested. Something that made an awful lot of sense. Until we saw the paper note in the window with their Christmas holiday hour. They’d close early today and the be closed for the rest of our time in Amsterdam! There were still two hours of operation left so we consoled ourselves that we’d walk a bit more and surely the fresh air and walking will have us ready to eat again in no time.
Well. Two hours later I was still huffing and puffing, holding and rubbing my stomach like a pregnant woman and proclaiming the 150th ‘I am so full!’
Needless to say we didn’t make it back to the ramen spot. Since then we have sworn ourselves to moderation and occasionally it even works and we are able to stick to it.
A pig’s trip to Amsterdam