Sahlep – the winterful, wonderful street beverage of Istanbul

The magnificent Blue Mosque

There is something indescribably “Istanbul-ish” about a warm, soothing cup of sahlep as you walk around in the cool, brusque Fall and Winter air of Sultanahmet (in the Old City) any evening between November and January.

Hagia Sofia with its generations of history

The refreshing evenings in the Old City side of Istanbul during this cooler time of year, capture an ambiance that’s definitely not in existence during the sultry summer months.

Street tea vendors at night – Istanbul

During the winter, if you go out later in the day, when the crowds have quieted down, you’ll find a different, quieter city, when there’s only you and a few other souls walking around, watching the multi-coloured dancing waters of the fountain in the Center of Sultanahmet Meydani (Square), which mystically contrasts the serenity and stately grandeur of the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.

Sultanahmet Square
Sultanahmet Meydani with Hagia Sofia as the backdrop.

To add to your winter delight on the dark streets of Istanbul, if you’ve never had the wondrous experience of drinking hot sahlep on a cold night, the sensation would feel similar to this: on a horse-drawn sleighride in the crisp winter air, enjoying a nice ‘perfectly warmed’ cup of hot chocolate.

Sahlep is similar in consistency to hot chocolate, unlike warm milk chocolate, it would be akin to a cup of warm, white chocolate drink. That is sahlep! Delicious and topped with just a hint of cinnamon or nutmeg, and some crumbled pistachios to slightly enhance the flavour. Yum! Try it! You’ll like it!

The Blue Mosque – Istanbul
Sahlep and Turkish tea vendors at night in Istanbul

These types of intimate and enriching but local, cultural experiences are what we like to share with our guests when we go to Istanbul, either on a group itinerary, or privately. Let us share our love of Istanbul with you!

Blue Mosque/Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: SultanAhmet Camii)
Sahlep! Take a walk around Istanbul this winter and experience it for yourself!

Basilica Cistern … Sultanahmet, Istanbul Turkey

This has quickly become one of my favorite places in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey.

I happened upon this fantastic place when I was strolling out of the Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofya) one day on my way to the Grand Bazaar. It amazed & enchanted me, and I continue to visit this lovely, mysterious place every single time I visit Istanbul.

The first time I entered Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnic) it was very quiet, before many people had arrived for the day. I was immediately entranced. The low, lilting sounds of the soft music, people’s muted voices, along with the dimly lit walkways simply enhance the visitor experience

The Basilica Cistern, built in 532 A.D., is Istanbul’s largest covered reservoir, and once supplied water to nearby palaces such as the Topkapi Palace and the Great Palace of Constantinople.

The Basilica Cistern is also known as the “Sunken Palace,” and was supplied with water flowing from forests in Belgrade, Serbia, to an excess of 100,000 tons. Inside the Cistern there are a total of 336 columns, in 12 rows of 28 columns.

Several columns exist inside the Cistern that are worth noting:

1) The Peacock Column is supposedly a surviving column from the Arch of Theodosius

2) Medusa Columns: There are also the two columns located at the very end of the Basilica Cistern, whose bases are formed in the shape of the Medusa Head (a female monster from Greek mythology with hair made of snakes. Tales imply to look at her would turn you into stone.)

The Medusa upside down head is found on the base of one column and next to it is another Medusa head laid on its side. Stories abound as to why her head was placed upside down, but many believe that it was done to ward off evil spirits.

I highly recommend a stop by the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnic) if you are looking for interesting things to do in Istanbul.

Contact Us at World Travel Warehouse, if you need assistance with your Istanbul & Turkey travel plans. We are Turkey specialists.