• Art / Design / Craft

    Ghost City

    “GHOST CITY” PART OF LUK BERGHE’S UTOPIA COLLECTION. There’s something magnetic to me about art that explores architecture, especially when it’s concerned with abandoned architecture. Vacant seats and derelict buildings always leave me wondering about the dreamers who built and inhabited them, and have since moved on. Have they left us a gift? A window into time? Or a haunted trap, singing of someone else’s sorrow? Enough of my feeble poetry …  that’s why I’m looking forward to tomorrow evening’s opening at the Architectural Research Studio MARS in Istanbul, where Luk Berghe’s fascinating, apocalyptic looking watercolor on paper prints will be on display. As a special bonus, Berghe, also a performance artist, will be adding to the spectacle by opening the show with a piece appropriately entitled: “Occupy.” Hope to see you there. GHOST CITY: UTOPIA COLLECTION BY LUK BERGHE Opening: 19:00 Thursday, March 1, 2012 Closing: April 28, 2012 MARS…

  • Food & Drink,  Photography,  Places

    24 golden hours on the Golden Horn.

    VOYAGE TO THE GOLDEN HORN. This weekend I had an amazing 24-hours escaping into my favorite neighborhood like a tourist. After dropping off our daughter at her grandmother’s we boarded a vapur for Karaköy. Start any adventure on a vapur and it’s bound to add flavor to the experience. FIND YOURSELF A GOOD NIGHTTIME NEST: KARAKÖY ROOMS. Next, we checked ourselves into a really elegantly appointed hotel. Sometimes you need to feel like you’re in a movie, not ordinary life. We stayed at Karaköy Rooms, owned by the same team that bring me gastronomic bliss on a regular basis, Karaköy Lonakantasi. I highly recommend renting the studio. It’s a beautiful space with high ceilings and even has a small kitchenette appointed. We were tempted to stay for more than 24 hours. Take a beer or a glass of wine up to the roof and take in the view of the old…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    Sefahathane: thickening the Beyoglu atmosphere.

    YOU NEVER KNOW WHO’S BEEN HERE. A night out doesn’t have to be big, or glitzy to be fun. All you need is a good corner to perch, and the right company. In fact, it seems to me that big places, with lots of money splashed out on the decor often find themselves thin on that thing you just can’t generate artificially — atmosphere. It’s there, or it isn’t. In Beyoglu’s Atlas Pasaji — about 150 meters from the gate of Galatasary Lisessi, if you’re walking towards Taksim — is Sefahathane, one of my favorite night spots. In the columned space between Atlas Sinema‘s box office and the stair to its large theatre is one my favorite spots in the world. It’s one of those spaces that defy the need to be big on anything but atmosphere. Like Torino Express in Beirut, or the Manx Pub where I grew up, these narrow…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People,  Places

    The sounds, colours and vibrations of the universe.

    PROMOTING OPEN AIR WAVES AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. I recently had a chance to take a peek inside the Harbiye studios from which Istanbul’s AÇIK (Open) Radyo 94.9 is broadcast. On the airwaves since 1995, the station will soon move to a new home in Tophane. It was Simon Johnson, editor-in-chief of That Magazine, and co-host of Saturday night’s 10 pm world music program, who suggested I take a look behind the scenes. COFFEE AND TEA AVAILABLE BASED ON THE HONOR SYSTEM. AÇIK’s studios are quite a contrast compared to those I’m used to. Its studio glass is yellowed and hazed with cigarette (ahem) smoke, empty beer bottles have been left atop consoles, there are torn walls, desks missing drawers, and just about every square inch of wall, glass or air duct is stuck with decals, making it feel more like the basement of a high school friend even five floors up. But then…

  • Food & Drink,  Mind / Body,  Places

    Adaçayi: a sage choice of drink.

    COULD THIS TEA SHARPEN OUR SENSES? DIMINISH THE AGING PROCESS? MAYBE. A few years ago,  I started visiting Yeniköy, and in particular, Yeniköy Kahvesi, a tea garden/coffeehouse set above the village’s main boulevard, nestled beside one of the community’s Greek churches. Overhung with vines and interlacing tree branches this quiet spot is a popular weekend brunch option year-round with its mix of sun and shade, indoor fireplace and relaxed attitude. One day when a group of us gathered there in early spring with our books and Sudoku puzzles, my friend Despina ordered an adaçayi (sage tea). I’d like to think that my life has changed for the better since that day. THE LANE BEHIND YENIKÖY KAHVESI. Made simply by infusing hot water with sage leaves, this herb turns the water a vibrant fluorescent yellow-green. It’s a refreshing hot drink usually enjoyed with a slice or two of lemon. From that day on…

  • People,  Places

    Sofia’s Minibus Magic

    PROVING IT’S THE JOURNEY AND NOT THE DESTINATION LIKE NOTHING ELSE: THE MINIBUS. At the risk of sounding like some elitist, snobbish expat with delusions of grandeur, I have a confession to make: I don’t think Istanbul’s minibuses are the most stately mode of transport. No offense intended, this is just an observation. One of my earliest recollections involves veering in and out of traffic while the driver, mobile phone propped between shoulder and ear, cigarette clenched in teeth, drove and sorted change. Now that’s multitasking. On another trip, quite recently, the driver requested that all standing passengers crouch or squeeze three to a seat as the police were right behind him and he didn’t want to be fined for being overcapacity. THE FRONT SEAT: THE MOST COMFORTABLE, REMEMBERING THAT COMFORT IS RELATIVE. Not having a car (or wanting one) at my disposal, and being a firm believer in public…

  • Books & Lit,  Photography,  Places

    Gothic beauty … in the eye of the beholder.

    YENIKÖY CHURCH. Perhaps it’s the constant threat of snow the last couple weeks, but I’ve started to notice the cracks in this city, through which both the icy wind and my imagination can howl. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of snow. Where I grew up the snow and dark could last for months. As a child it sometimes seemed my only refuge was the world of books and the fiery corners of my imagination. ABANDONED KONAK, YENIKÖY. More often than not the tales I disappeared into were of a dark, gothic nature. So, thanks to the snow, my imagination has started to shade the city a touch gothic lately. I mean this in the literary sense — and not the medieval architectural sense. I mean in the details, in the strange slanted light, the clacking shutters of empty casements, and the creaking of floorboards. Istanbul is full of…

  • Photography,  Places

    The Romance of Rust

    I’m not an Orientalist. I’m not an Occidentalist. I’m an Oxidizalist. Okay, so there’s no such word, but right now, I’m having a certain romance with the processes of oxidation and crumbling (provided we’re not talking about my own), so I need a term to describe it. This city has so much beauty, even in its regions of decrepitude, that’s worthy of notice. Call me crazy, but I’m having  a kind of romance with rust. It’s interesting to take a stroll through the old industrial and shipping areas of town and feel the textures, particularly on a wet day when all the colors darken. Just look at the richness of hue, the patterns of wear, the textures in Industrianbul (yes another made up word)— Persembe Pazari, Haydarpasa and other dockside areas. WILL THE RUSTED RISE AGAIN? FREIGHT CRANES AT HAYDARPASA. What do you think? Are these things more romantic now that they’re…

  • Books & Lit

    Secret Societies: Oh no! or … Oh really?

    THE MASONS WERE HERE! THE MASONS WERE HERE! BUT WAIT … WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? For as long as human civilization has existed, it appears that secret societies have existed. Sometimes they were mainstream society’s priesthoods and knowledge keepers and the secrets they kept from the mainstream were the basis of their power, as they told themselves that they were keeping “the meat for the men and the milk for babes.” Other times they were completely underground organizations unknown or only rumored because of the threat of persecution for what may or may not have been their radical thinking. Until recently I had absolutely no idea what most of these societies were supposed to have believed. Many a blockbuster movie would have us think that they were sacrificing virgins and offering them up as a tribute to Satan. The problem with finding out what secret societies like the masons believe…

  • Places

    Istanbul’s Smallest Church?

    NUMBER 19 TAHSIN HOCA SOKAGI. Despite not being religious, I have, nevertheless, a deep fascination which borders on reverence for places of worship. There’s something about them, an energy, a vibration — call it what you will — that’s special. That’s why I was intrigued when a good friend told me about a rooftop Russian Orthdox church in Karaköy.