• Places

    serdar-ı ekrem sokak

    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…

  • Places

    departures

    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.

  • Places

    modern lines, ottoman opulence: the grand tarabya

    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…

  • Places

    Lines in the silence

    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.

  • Places

    the turkish shoe spa

    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…

  • Places

    the sway of the sea

    Is there anything more powerful than the experience of the sea? Her currents move us like nothing else — whether we’re aboard a vessel or on dry land, she has the power to transport us wherever she will. And not just physically. Sometimes we are mere passengers to her emotional will.

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    şişhane sweetspot: the kamondo mansion

    If I were to plan an indulgent escape for adults, without leaving the city limits, I would stay in the slightly spooky, somewhat spare restoration of the Kamondo family’s 19th Century mansion. Home to the Adahan Hotel, Comedus, Baylo and Gram, there’s something particularly louche about this street corner, especially in the evening hours. 18:00 – 18:15 … check into the Adahan Hotel. 18:15 – 19:45  … for your discretion. adult only content. 19:45 – 20:05 … compose yourself, make yourself respectable — at least briefly. 20:15 – 20:30 … go down to Comedus and stock up your room with some essentials (for later). 20:35 – 21:00 … take in the view at the Adahan restaurant upstairs with an aperitif 21:00 – 23:00 … enjoy some more Mediterranean delights. restrict yourself to those on the menu, for a while, anyway. 23:00 – 02:00 … indulge at Baylo, a New Yorkistan…

  • Places

    dear istanbul/mistanbul

    An eerie feeling swept in the last couple of days. On the weekend the sun soaked the city and it felt that the vibrant colours were seeping back up through the cracks. Then, as if to challenge my optimism, a clinging mist hugs the seaside, giving the shore an emptiness over the last two days. It’s almost as if you’ve gone all modest and now want to veil your favours. There’s no doubt you’re one capricious mistress, Istanbul — splashy bright one day hanging out your windows like a painted harlot in a loose-fitting dress, then the next, shuttered up dark and snooty and joyless as the wife of a protestant priest. Boats bob on a chill grey sea that bleeds into an equally colourless sky. The gulls overhead seem reluctant to laugh. You want to be all mysterious, all moody? Go ahead, torment me. I know your tricks.

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Places

    old friends, new business: iznik works

    Whenever I’m in the Covered Bazaar there’s one place I choose to go to first — Dhoku. Not only do I find their modern take on the craft of kilim-making beautiful, I really like the family involved in creating and selling them. I can easily see a few hours disappear with no problem over a glass of tea. Today when I stopped by to see them, I saw that there was a new addition to the family. A brand new tile and ceramics store. One of the reasons I became friends with these guys is that I’ve always liked the way the Güreli family does business. They have a sense of humour and are plenty of fun and never pushy with sales. They’ve brought that same sensibility to life in their new venture, and are providing the full range of plates and tiles, from handcrafted and artisan to the more…