Archive for July, 2012

  • The Pera perch

    July 29th, 2012

    When I first came to this city you could acquire yourself a scruffy but livable flat with an amazing Stamboul view for as little as $40,000 US in Galata. The neighborhood did not have an Eczacıbaşı guest house, it did not have nearly so many cafés or espresso corners, boutiques, or the well-to-do expats and visitors to fill them. Today, the old Genoese quarter of Pera is an altogether different experience. Read More…

  • Karga: the Kadıköy hideaway

    July 26th, 2012

    As I’ve said, one of my favorite escapes these days is Kadıköy. Within the neighborhood, though, there’s a place that’s the perfect cool dark refuge from the intense summer heat and sun. The beer is cold, inexpensive, and perhaps best of all, the music is consistently good, something you can’t often say about a lot of the beer joints in Istanbul. If you like your music a bit dark, a touch alternative, a bit edgier  than the mainstream, you won’t be let down.

    There’s a distinct vibe in Karga, which possesses that independent Kadıköy feel, and distinguishes it from its more showy, more gimicky or more pretentious rivals in Beyoglu. You won’t find anything quite like Karga there. People here are a little more understated, a little less pushy, and definitely into their music. I really love the building too, the dark, dark wood, the scuffed floors and the unfussy feel. I don’t think it’s changed in years. It’s also fantastically cool — in the literal sense.

    KARGA: Caferağa Mh. Kadife Sokak 16, Kadıköy, ISTANBUL
    0216 449 1725

  • Escaping the hottest month

    July 24th, 2012

    It’s Ramazan and it’s hot. Forgive me, humid. In any case it’s not the best of times to be in a cramped city of 15 million … or is it that 18 million? Everything is a bit of a blur right now. Anyway, the days are a real test for everyone in the city, especially those observing the fast. As I’m not, the challenge is finding someplace cool and welcoming where you can eat and drink without feeling like you’re rubbing it in people’s faces. Read More…

  • Istanbul rules

    July 20th, 2012

    If you expect the open arms of sanctuary, be prepared to embrace barbed wire. Those who exercise self-restraint must first flex their muscles in your face. One door invites you in so that the second can slam in your face. Your personal business will be auctioned off by someone else as common property. Your neighbor erects a locked gate to protect his fence-less perimeter. The man whose home is constructed entirely of salvaged scrap doesn’t want anyone to throw litter on his garden of weeds. To find beauty look for the trail of decay. Unintentional irony or absolute ambiguity? You’re free to decide whatever we tell you. Istanbul rules: engraved in the crystal clear medium of mud.

  • Long evenings in empty streets

    July 18th, 2012

    What is it about this part of France? I think the light has a lot to do with it. A summer evening seems to linger forever, while the hot day that preceded it seems like an ill-defined memory. Then there’s the quiet. The streets are filled with it. There’s only the gentle “bonjour” of a passing stranger, the light clack of a wood shutter being cast open, or drawn closed against the slanted light. Or is it the empty, empty streets? There’s something distinct about this place. I’m not yet willing to leave it, even though I’m already miles away.

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  • Turkish Coffee: a fuzzy kind of feeling

    July 16th, 2012

    Do you ever have experiences you’re not sure how you feel about? That’s the fuzzy sort of thinking I have about Türk Kahvesi. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m ever going to stumble out of bed, shouting, “Don’t talk to me until after I’ve had my first sip of Turkish Coffee!” And yet there’s something very intriguing in a Turkish coffee—even if you don’t use the remains to penetrate the ripples in space-time with fortune telling. Read More…

  • Kadıköy: the book haven

    July 14th, 2012

    If the sight of books spilling off tables, down steps and into the street makes you happy, visit Kadıköy immediately. There are many things to like about this Anatolian side neighborhood of Istanbul, but I’m going to start with the vast number of booksellers. There are people selling books on the pavement, in doorways, in the Akmar Pasajı, and in proper good old fashioned stores.  Read More…

  • Cathar Country

    July 12th, 2012

    It’s often strange to think that this region of France we’re now in was once the site of one of Europe’s bloodiest persecutions. Hundreds of years ago this was the land of the Cathars, a religious group who believed that the material world was the creation of Satan and that worldly possessions were something that should be abandoned. It wasn’t long before the Catholic Church feared their growing sway over people’s hearts and sent in the Inquisition.

    Read More…

  • Büyükada Evening

    July 10th, 2012

    Late afternoon. The sun beginning to descend and properly fortified by the gifted cooks at Club Mavi, it was time to move. Bicycling to the station midpoint of the Island, I locked up my rental bought myself a couple of cold bottles of water and proceeded to climb the hill on foot. Though some people ignore the postings, you can take your feet or hire a donkey to take you to Aya Yorgi (Saint George). This is where it gets a bit touristy again, but to be honest, the ascent is well worth it, whether you want to send a request to the director of the universe, or simply take in another impressive, but perfectly secular, view.

    After visiting the church it was time for a refreshment with a bit more of an edge to it than that provided by spring water. I opted for a cold white, which wasn’t amazing, but sufficient for toasting the view. This is my favorite spot for an evening drink. Read More…

  • Büyükada Day

    July 9th, 2012

    Prinkipo or Büyükada, as the name in Turkish tells you, is a big island. It’s also a big tourist destination right now, much to the distress of Istanbul’s weekenders. That’s why you should never go on weekends this time of year without your own private pad to enjoy. My advice is visit between Sunday evening and Friday morning. There will still be some tourists, especially in the vicinity of the ferry port. However, if you grab a horse and carriage, walk or rent a bicycle—as I did at the staggering expense of 10TL/day—you can easily escape for some quiet seclusion in the hills and enjoy a vista worthy of Elysium. Read More…