• Places

    Reflecting on the ordinary

    The reflected natural light in Istanbul is something else. Nowhere else do I remember the casting of such a gleam. It’s particularly lovely in the evening and at dawn (though I’m rarely conscious enough to record it). My favorite thing about the light is how it limns everyday objects, giving the mundane — and sometimes even the ugly — a strange flashing moment of glory. Stone, metal, wood, concrete and glass all take on new dimension when reflecting the lengthy beams of the sun. Switched off lampposts, metal fences and fence posts, street signs, building facades, even puddles gleam like mystic revelations in the Istanbul light. Perhaps that’s just one of the gifts of this city. Its light can transmute the experience of something ordinary into the extraordinary. Thanks for illuminating me, Istanbul.

  • Mind / Body,  Places

    Weekday Escape: Atatürk Arboretum

    In Istanbul green space is at something of a premium. In fact, I read somewhere recently that it’s as low as six square meters per resident. So if you’re like me and have an unusual schedule to keep, or are a gentleman or lady of leisure you might just appreciate the Atatürk Arboretum in Bahçeköy. For a couple of TL you can stroll about at your leisure—whereas on weekends and holidays you need to be a member get your dose of naturally filtered air. While the occasional rampaging student or a gardener with a verge trimmer might shatter the trilling birdsong, there are plenty of paths to explore. This will be a great retreat on sweltering midsummer days, when the city atmosphere is thick with particulate. The first thing I noticed was the air, which I gulped down like water. It tasted of flowers.

  • Places

    No other place: Yeniköy

    Is it the architecture of yalilar, and konaklar? Your broad boulevard of plane trees? The secrets promised in your hidden lanes latticed with vines?  The glimpses  granted through spiky gates? The crumbling stone walls, the tucked away churches. Is it the wash of sea air through the fragrant leaves? Or the light that paints incredible texture on wood and stone, slanting low in the evenings? Could it be the meetings you’ve brought me? The welcome sound of familiar voices? The cups of coffee, the glasses of wine? Is it your slinking alley cats, eyes flashing between the grass? The street dog who beats her tail into the pavement every time I pass? Perhaps it’s all of these things, Yeniköy. But there’s one other thing that makes you indelible. You’re my daughter’s first home. Now there’s no other place. It’s strange, even though you’re with me, I’m missing you.

  • People

    Profile: Eko Zeyno

    Since last summer I’ve been looking into stories about what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s downright scary about Turkey’s food supply. When you become a parent you suddenly want to educate yourself about things you’ve never thought enough about in the past. One of the most interesting aspects of the story is the organic food industry and what’s holding it back when so much of the world no longer needs convincing as to its merits. Recently, I talked to Zeynep Çelen, the natural living (these are my terms) guest expert on Star TV’s Melek about the organic food scene and her take on what needs to be done if it’s to take root. If I were to derive a one-word response from her on the greatest obstacle to Turkey’s organic food movement, it would be: attitude. You’ve been quite vocal in social media countering negative opinions towards the organic foods movement. What’s the…

  • Books & Lit

    Reading List: China Míeville

    Genre fiction is sometimes regarded as beneath other forms of literary enterprise, but I think that’s unfortunate. To dismiss certain authors because they write stories that are not firmly planted in the “real” world is to miss out on staggering feats of imagination and mind-expanding ideas. And isn’t that one of the roles of fiction? There are superb writers creating fantastic stories who should not be ignored simply because they veer off the path of the ordinary into the extraordinary. However, I must admit that until recently I had gone off fantastic stories unless they were somehow anchored in the world we recognize. I needed the sense of place, the grounding in places with which I had a passing familiarity—and thought the realm of high fantasy, the realm of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert had become a little lackluster. Then I discovered China Míeville’s The City & The City…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Dear Advertisers

    Don’t know about you, but the sight of trees makes me happy. Beautiful, green, oxygen-producing trees. Perhaps some of you see them as raw materials, a good backdrop, or simply in the way? Once upon a time I worked full time in the advertising industry as a creative. I know and believe that good ads can make a difference. Not just for profit-motivated brands, either. Many cultural and charitable organizations can and do benefit from insightfully strategized, beautifully executed campaigns. I’m not an idealist. I live in the real world (mostly) and understand that commercial messages also make good editorial and entertainment possible. There is nothing inherently evil about advertising, it just needs to be placed in the right context. Otherwise it goes wrong for all parties involved. Now I must admit that I never worked in media placement, but I do know enough about the discipline to understand that…

  • People,  Places

    The rites of spring continue: Hidrellez

    Every May 5 Hidrellez — or Ederlezi in Romani — erupts into the mother of all street parties in the backstreets of Sultanahmet. It is a celebration of spring, and a fusion of the names of the two prophets Hizir (the Green One) and Ilyas. Central to the rites is the practice of writing a wish on a scrap of paper and pinning it to ribbons on great swaths of fabric hung up in the streets. Traditionally, these wishes would be affixed to rose bushes at night, and then found again the following day and thrown out to sea. This year some opportunistic parties seem to have tried to relocate the celebrations to Park Orman and put on a concert, but to me this seemed like a crass maneuver to steal the thunder from what has traditionally been a truly great street party. I’ve tried to attend every Hidrellez I can since…

  • People

    Old Corners, Bright New Lights: LOS DU MAL

    Istanbul has plenty that could, and perhaps should, change. However there are still plenty of old pieces of this city that only need a little polish to produce volumes of atmosphere. That’s why I’ve been really pleased to get acquainted with Metin Ilktekin and Raphael Faeh, the like-minded talents behind Los Du Mal. These two interesting characters are making it their business to illuminate and energize some of the overlooked corners of the city, and have recently set up their Muvakkat Studio in Roumelie Han, one of the great Pera buildings that has fallen into decline over the years, yet still manages to provide plenty of inspiration for painters and other artists, as well as serving as the HQ for the latest incarnation of the Turkish Communist Party. The pair met in Zurich three years ago but came from entirely different professional disciplines. Metin is a former private jet salesman…

  • Places

    Istanbul’s Otherworldy Inhabitants II

    At the risk of anthropomorphizing here, I think cats have quite distinct, individual personalities. Some are friendly, others aloof, some mean, some soft, some weak, some strong … there are endless variations, especially among those that have regular contact with humans. Sometimes I wonder if the ones who have regular contact with Homo sapiens, don’t absorb something of their traits. Like humans, no two cats are identical, there’s always some quirk, some oddity that provides them with such individuality.