Archive for May, 2012
You’re a stable chaos. A dangerous haven. Your noisy kind of quiet makes the sane crazy, and the crazy sane. From a lit up night you deliver a dark dawn. Your ugly beauty gives me a raging love. Your deep shadows frame the most brilliant displays.You ruin and make me, kill and resurrect me daily. We’re friends and bitter enemies. You make sin a virtue and virtue a sin.
Istanbul, black and white, shadow and light.
There are many great things about living in Istanbul. The beer selection, however, isn’t one of them. Don’t get me wrong the national mass market brand ranks well above any old pilsner — but is it fit for a sultan?
That’s why I’m excited to tell you that Istanbul is within weeks of seeing its first fully independent craft brewing company, ready to create custom batches from 30 liters to 1000 liters. Want a flowery Belgian brew? A porter stout? An I.P.A. (India Pale Ale). We’ll soon have the expertise on hand to deliver. Whether you’re a restaurant seeking to make a signature beer, or an enthusiast seeking to mark a one-of-a kind occasion, there will soon be a choice. For some this may not be especially exciting news, but to me it signals that Istanbul really is becoming an international city again, open to a variety of tastes and experiences. In my opinion, that’s always cause for celebration. I’ll be keeping you posted on any new developments. Cheers.
There are many variations of lokma, loukoumades or lokmades—or deep fried sweet flour lumps, as I like to call them—in this region. After being boiled in oil these little dough balls are coated in syrup or honey, sometimes sprinkled with nuts or sesame, and then dusted with cinnamon. After seven years, I could no longer resist. Yes, I succumbed. These are the simpler kind without nuts or sesame. Crunchy crisp on the outside, warm and soft on the inside, I’m not quite sure what to make of them. The texture is definitely the appeal here, and could be habit-forming, which kind of scares me. I will now go and drink copious quantities of green tea to see if I can counter their deleterious effects and restore balance to my health ledger.
By now you probably know I am fascinated by heavy industry, shipping and any kind of adventure involving these sorts of things. This Saturday I went to observe Ciner’s Fatih self-loading steel into its holds at Dilovasi on the Marmara using its four onboard cranes under leaden skies. As usual the scale of these things seems monstrous. I’m sorry I didn’t get any usable shots of the refinery itself—equal parts ugly and fascinating—as I ended up hearing a hearty bellow from security when I tried to snap a few in the parking lot.
Maybe this will inspire you if you’re expected to do some heavy lifting this week. Happy Monday.
It’s not always easy to get a beer in this city. Sometimes, it has to be done on the sly. Recently I was in a nice little eatery a bit too close to a mosque to have an alcohol license, which used the code name soğuk çay (cold tea) for beer. There are times when I enjoy these little rituals and games and then there are times when I just want a beer without any secret handshakes or fuss.
Yes, there are days when it seems that there are a few too many fences between me and the swinging Sultan style of life I believe I desire. Some days I’m half tempted to just knock at the gate of someones’s yalı and find out what’s going on for those fortunate enough to live within toe-dipping distance of the Bosporus. Fortunately there are a few places where you can almost pretend you’re an Ottoman aristocrat, if not a full fledged Sultan. One of those is Gazebo in Yeniköy. I’d never visited the place before as I was a bit put off by its name, a word which I associated with small town squares not majestic Bosporus shores. Still I was not disappointed by what I found. There’s a good view,and liberal splashings of sea and sun, and the soğuk çay was properly cold if not exactly cheap. Not sure if I felt like a Sultan or even an aristocrat, but at least I didn’t need a code word to be on the right side of the fence.
GAZEBO CAFE Köybaşı Cad. No:175 Sarıyer – Yeniköy, İstanbul – Avrupa (0212) 299 8487
One of my favorite Yeniköy friends isn’t human, but is one sweet being nevertheless. This morning I finally captured the beauty in those bright orange eyes, sometimes hidden beneath her dusty brows. I try to feed the street dogs when I can, but I’ve never been in the right place at the right time to give my favorite a treat. Still, she recognizes me everyday, and when not deep in the realm of doggie dreams, affectionately smashes her tail against the pavement in welcome. Despite objecting to certain marks of cars like Toyotas—she demonstrates surprisingly good taste for a street hound—or anyone pushing a cart, she really has the kindest disposition of any creature I’ve met. I feel like I should have a name for her. She has soul. Any thoughts?
Everywhere I go lately I’m seeing roses — and I don’t mean this in the proverbial sense. In Yeniköy, Tarabya and all sorts of other places there seems to be an explosion of these flowers. Red ones firing off over fences. Pink ones blasting through slatted rails. Yellow ones bursting through every imaginable crevice. It’s an assault of color like none I’ve ever seen before. Last year I didn’t notice nearly so many. What happened? Perhaps I simply wasn’t paying attention, or perhaps they were simply planning their attack. I’m trying not to fight it. We can co-exist, right?
Though to a lot of people they may seem like a cheesy symbol of romance and bad poetry, I have to say I’m beginning to respect them a little bit more, un-plucked and on the vine. Perhaps it’s all the reading I’ve done on alchemy and Rosicrucianism. Perhaps it’s what natural healer Jayda Uras told me about the rose’s unique properties. Who knows? Am I being subdued by flower power? Should I be worried? Don’t know. Maybe I’m just seeing things differently.
Sometimes I wonder where the city of Istanbul begins and ends. I don’t mean officially, on a map, which it splashes across like an upended bucket of paint. Psychologically speaking, there’s a place where its growth seems to have stopped: Rumeli Kavagi. There’s something about this place that intrigues me, something I can’t quite explain. It could be paradise. It’s far from it however. There’s a desolate, decaying, end and edge of the world feel. It’s full of broken docks, listing boats, tumbledown buildings, gaping parking lots, and half closed fish restaurants streaked with gull droppings. Yet it’s in a magnificent position, full of unkept promise, staring across the Bosporus at its counterpoint, the much more alive feeling Anadolu Kavagi.
Despite its decrepitude, despite its cracks, I have a strange hope for this place. I can imagine how it might be one day. There’s something waiting in this seaside village, something just disguised beneath the patina of decay, something mumbling to awaken. I hope to see it one day.
Breakfast on the Bosporus is a sure way to start off the day feeling like a Pasha. One of my favorite spots lately is Emek Cafe, one block north of Yeniköy Iskelesi. The tea is kept fresh, the service is classic white shirt professional, and the food simple, unfussy but good. It’s the sea-side atmosphere and neighborhood charm that elevates the experience. Then there’s the menemen, perhaps one of Turkey’s finest breakfast offerings, eggs cooked up in a sauté of tomato and green pepper. You simply can’t go wrong if you want something savory. If your taste runs sweet, then there’s always bal-kaymak (honey-cream). Turkish honey is deservedly famous, with a pure uncluttered taste. Paired with another Turkish specialty, kaymak—somewhat like clotted cream—and served on the thick fluffy wedges of bread, it’s like something out of a dream.
As always for me, though, the starring duo of the morning, is the tea and sea. There are an abundance of places to drink tea seaside in Istanbul, but at Emek the tea is always fresh, hot and never bitter. I drink it without sugar and it balances out both the sweetness and the savoriness of the dishes served. It’s also perfect way to see off any morning chill when a cool breeze washes over you from the Bosporus, as you watch the independent motorboats from departing Yeniköy or arriving from Beykoz, ferrying people too busy to pause and appreciate one of life’s great pleasures, breakfast on the Bosporus.
Usually the amount of junk that people put between me and a great view irritates me. But there’s something kind of quirky cool about these fixed binoculars outside Yeniköy Spor Klubu that entertains me. They possess an appealing retro robotic ugliness like something you might see in a Fritz Lang movie, or the Jetsons. There are moments when I almost expect them to spring into action and start talking.