Archive for March, 2013
Seeing you on the ferry for the first time. The thrill of the sea up close and the wind washing through your hair. Your love of the experience amplifies mine tenfold. Your bliss makes me want to patch together a raft, an eternal platform of these fragments. Will you even have a vague sense of this, five, 10, or 3o years from now? Why is it that this moment which is one of the most meaningful of my life must only be a vague notion buried deep in yours? Will you remember any of this? This is the odyssey of fatherhood, my daughter. A voyage that should never end.
The most talented people in any profession don’t need to advertise. In fact, advertising or drawing undue attention often does more harm than good. If you not only know your trade, but have mastered it, your reputation will be more than enough. Last night I checked out a bar in Beyoglu that doesn’t even have a name. It doesn’t need one. Most people will probably end up calling it Alex’s Bar, as its proprietor, and his personality, are the driving force behind the experience. Not only is Alex a man who knows his drinks, he’s a man unafraid to refuse an order if he feels he can’t prepare it to his professional satisfaction. He’s not about to make a mojito out of season, especially if he doesn’t have the proper mint to create it. He will also mix single malt whisky as he puts it to, “Simultaneously defy ridiculous convention as well as perfect a fine drink.”
I won’t use euphemisms like cozy or intimate to describe the bar. It’s small. It’s tucked away in a little alley down at the Tünel end of Istiklal Caddesi. That, it seems to me, is part of the recipe. A good drink isn’t something to be quaffed in a corner with booming music and a vast crowd, but something to be enjoyed and shared. And part of the enjoyment is conversing with the no-bullshit artisan behind it. In fact, that’s key to the alchemy. If you’re in Beyoglu and you want a proper after work cocktail or aperitif, look for the place with the covered windows and dapperly dressed, likely bearded gentlemen behind the bar at number 7b Gonül Sokak from Tuesday to Saturday sometime after 5pm.
When I first moved to Istanbul I rented a flat in the Galata neighbourhood which was scruffy but interesting area on the city map. Later, like a lot of Beyoglu, it became a bit disillusioning. As we all know, economic progress doesn’t necessarily benefit a neighbourhood’s character or hospitality. Especially when the new businesses and residents decide to do a sad or cynical interpretation of someone else’s culture for the benefit of non-residents. So it became easy to give the Galata neighbourhood a miss without missing anything at all. However Serdar-ı Ekrem Sokak seems to have undergone a mostly positive transformation, comfortably mixing old and new and featuring design businesses and small boutiques which draw on the local culture and architecture as much for the benefit of Turks — at least so it seems from the people sitting in the street-side cafés and coffee joints — as for outsiders. Change is an inevitable consequence of urban life just like human life. Fortunately it’s not all for the worst with businesses like Georges Galata, which in my opinion has the ultimate night time supper terrace, summer or winter, as well as Sntrl Dükkan and Mavra, which provide good street-side perches to people watch in the company of your friends and neighbours while sipping a glass of wine. On this Sokak, at least, it feels good to be back in Galata again.
The range of emotions you experience in a city like this makes a minute wear like a day, a day like a week and a … well you get the idea. Yet there’s nothing wrong with feeling, right? But how much can you confine to such a small time and space? Something could rupture. Hope it isn’t us.
Karaköy. Closed doors amplify the light, warm the expectant faces. Doors open and the wind washes in, in through the doors, in through an overlooked button. A touch of cool fingertips. The undignified rush begins, and he is swept up in it. Blue sea. Blue sky. White, white light, burning to the eyes, fraying the boundaries of vision. A half finished cigarette. A half finished tea. The journey has slipped through trembling hands unnoticed. Up uncertain steps into an empty train station, shaded at midday. The clatter of heels on the cracked floor warn him. He turns. Before his eyes have adjusted to the abrupt darkness, before her footsteps have risen to the vaulted ceilings, though, she has passed him by out into the gasping air.
The dogs of Yeniköy occupy a special place in my heart. They go a little bit mental around sundown. The call to prayer can get them going. A passing motorcycle. A hapless homeless man with whom they aren’t familiar. They probably look for just about any excuse to let off a little steam during the gloaming hour. Our evening is a lot like their morning. They sit across from Molka Cafe in the park, sniffing each other’s parts until one nudges another. One mutt probably says to another, “You looking at me?” And the other responds, “No I was looking at your mama, bitch!” And then, the next thing you know, there’s a good old fashioned tussle in the grass. Teeth are bared. Legs are pulled. Eventually five or six have entered the fray. Blades of grass start flying in the air. Girls on top of the boys, the boys on top of girls. But no one gets hurt. It’s simply canine calisthenics. Then, just as abruptly as it started, it ends. Everyone loves everyone again.
I just wonder: how is it that the dogs can have a better sense of humour than most humans?
Today I had the chance to preview a hotel that I’ve been anticipating with a mixture of excitement and as well as apprehension. The Grand Tarabya is almost legend among a certain generation of Turks who once regularly visited it for afternoon tea. Although I have no history with the hotel, I am fascinated by it as its architecture and dimension are unique to a shoreline Bosphorus hotel. I am also now a resident of Tarabya, so its operation is of some importance to my neighbourhood’s wellbeing. Right now the marina and the shoreline are undergoing a huge transformation in which the Grand Tarabya is the focal point. This building’s curving, modern lines and height are something you’d be more likely to see along the Corniche in Beirut than on the shores of the Bosporus, where buildings generally don’t exceed a four-storey height limit. And at 12 floors, it makes quite a statement. There is simply nothing else quite like it along the European-Asian strait. While I have yet to sample the hotel’s full five-star service, the most standout aspects of this hotel are its views and its spa — which contains no less than 3 hamams in its 3000 metre footprint. While some of the decoration in the public areas might not be quite to my taste, the interior design is relatively restrained. The top three floors are not hotel, but residences with a much more understated, less Arabesque design flourish provided by local architectural practice, Tabanlioglu. All in all, I think the hotel’s opening is welcome progress for the neighbourhood and I look forward to experiencing the coffee shop, which is still in the works, as well as many of its other amenities. The only thing I question is whether or not this part of the city needs yet another fish restaurant. I guess we’ll see. While the hotel is operational now, the grand opening is slated for April. It’s certainly worth a look.
Haydar Aliyev Caddesi No:154 Tarabya, Istanbul +90 212 363 33 00
Quiet as a church. Swallowing footsteps like thick murk. I know you’re holding back, hidden behind closed doors. I’m also waiting, waiting for the shadow to cross the gleam beneath your door. You’re not moving. You’ve drawn a line in the silence. But inside there’s a big shout welling up. And I know you’re desperate to release it. No need to procrastinate, Istanbul. I’m ready. Tell me.
Have you lost that sparkle? Does the path you tread lack its former lustre? Are you dragging your feet? Perhaps you need to revitalize your image from the ground up. Once upon a time daddy needed a new pair of shoes. Nowadays he might only need some new life in his old leather. If so, there’s no better place to restore your old kicks to box freshness than a place such as Pangaltı Lostra, just outside the exit/entrance at the top of the escalator from the Osman Bey Metro station. This business has been restoring cracked, dried out old boot leather for over 50 years. It’s virtually a piece of modern day history. And for 8TL, it’s well worth it before you tramp through the mean streets of Istanbul. In the space of about five minutes you step up on the platform and practice your everyday Turkish while your friendly neighbourhood boyacı brushes down, oils up and then hair dries your scuffed up, world weary work boots and broken down brogues. Not a bad little deal if you ask me.
Last month I was lucky enough to photograph a group of truly exceptional people committed to ending an age-old practice that causes great harm to girls. This crisis is occurs all across the globe, even in such countries as the United States of America where freedom and self-determination are prized above all other rights. Child brides are not limited to any continent, country or ethnicity. It’s estimated that 14 million girls are married off before the age of 18 every year, expected to bear children, denied the right to education, proper healthcare, and many subject to horrible violence and abuse. Thankfully, there is a group of women and men passionately committed to ending this practice everywhere, taking very real measures to work with governments, religious bodies, police forces and other local organizations to end forced marriage. I encourage everyone to learn more about this very important issue at GIRLS NOT BRIDES. It’s one that concerns all humanity.