• Food & Drink,  Photography,  Places

    hydra … our summer’s first and last port of call

    As stated before, I love islands. At their best they are little capsules of bliss. On an island you accept the fact that there is a disconnection from all that mainland hustle and bustle. You’re cut off. Which is a pleasure …  and while I am happy that there are more far islands left in this grand world to discover, my current favourite is Hydra. I am not alone. Far more distinguished company have resided or worked here – Leonard Cohen, Jurgen Teller, Sofia Loren among others. We had a celebrity sighting with a Game Of Thrones star. I’ve been twice and predict a return at the next earliest date. Although the amphitheatre arrangement style of the architecture of the port may be overshadowed by Santorini’s iconic and relentlessly photographed scene, Hydra doesn’t lack for charm. Strict codes preserve it from crass developments and ugly architecture. This is, for my…

  • Mind / Body,  Places

    mercury in retrograde

    This week the Marmaray Project opened. While I was away, I missed a chance to do a BBC radio interview and publish a photograph in the Globe and Mail. Must admit there’s a side of me which is inclined to curse. Another part of me, instead, looks back at the good people, good food and lengthy dose of extended summer I found in the Aegean region. Mercury is in retrograde.

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    garden of earthly delights: asma yaprağı

    Down a village alley, pumpkins stacked in a barrow. With bowed heads the wayfarers pass through the gate. They raise their faces to the shelter of a fig tree swelling with fruit which filters the last hot light of a dying day. The crunch of white gravel underfoot, the skitter of stones. A cat watches, superior, slanty-eyed from its vantage up on the surrounding stone walls. Blue chairs, baby tubs bursting with pink flowers. Candles being lit. They are greeted by a woman in black, her face as warm as the late day sun. Platters crowd the long table. Gleaming white counters. Pots hanging from hooks. A village woman works the stove. Another stands just back waiting to plate the wayfarer’s food. The day’s menu is displayed, artichokes with lentils, nettle salad, marinated beets, minced meat in vine leaves, stuffed courgette flowers … everything crisp, and vibrant as if the…

  • Places

    the fish auction

    Saturday morning. The sun burns white above, bleaches the earth below white. A man with a resplendent white moustache and an immaculately pressed shirt weighs and sorts piles of fresh catch under a covered structure. On the long glistening marble table hundreds of fish of numerous shapes and hues, lobsters, prawns, shimmer in numbered lots. Craggy faced men, and sunglass-wearing women crowd around the table and ready themselves for the first bid. Mustafa Kemal’s steely blue eyes overlook the gathering from a large wall hanging. It’s 11:00 AM. The man in the striped shirt, the auctioneer, now holds a metre stick with which taps the table immediately below his nose. The first bid is for over 100 TL for a pile of fish. It being the weekend, a woman who runs one of the local restaurants or hotels motions and no one challenges. The fish are immediately bagged and the sale…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    the right wake up call

    I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who looks forward to breakfast before I’ve started my supper. And for me the acid test of any hotel is its breakfast. Now I’ve had some pretty fine breakfasts in Alaçatı, but the last two mornings have been so good that I’m not sure I’m ever going to want to stay anywhere else. That’s if I can still get a reservation. Top marks to Morro. Think farm fresh eggs. An array of homemade jams. Tapenade and spicy pastes. Like cheese? Let’s just say, wow for now. Nutty good gevrek — what we less well fed Istanbullu call simit — all washed down with some black coffee. I’m seriously considering migration.

  • Photography,  Places

    A Dream Named Thessaloniki II

      I’m still wandering down the corridors of memory. Stumbling perhaps. It’s a dreamy place I’m in and I’m not yet ready to relinquish it. Thessaloniki, Salonika … what was its magic? Was it the right amount of decay versus newness? Old visions merging into the new? The people? Perhaps it was the space in which to walk, empty but not vacant. Modiano Market. A vast roof above, still functioning stalls. Vegetables. Eggs. Meat. Cheese. A burst of voices, laughter. A flash of a smile. Then a beautiful silhouette. Her heels clatter on the stone. Her shadowed figure merges with the light at the end of the corridor. Cafes, tavernas, mini ouzeri clustered beneath the decrepit canopy. More signs I can’t read. This is intriguing. I want to come back. But it is shuttered at night when I return though, drowned in shadow, and locked. Next time, stay for lunch. The architecture…

  • Photography,  Places

    A Dream Named Thessaloniki

    It has excited my imagination for some time, but I know very little about it. I know it’s Mustafa Kemal’s birthplace, but ironically not part of the great modern state he created. It’s often compared to Izmir. Its history, rich, significant … Greek, Roman, Ottoman, 20th century, Jewish. It’s a port city, Aegean, named after the princess born on the day of a great Macedonian victory. To hell with guidebooks. Wander. Get a vague sense of direction and then to let all five, or is it six, senses lead me. I don’t want anybody else to discover for me. Why not relinquish the burdensome anxiety that something will be missed without Fodor’s or Lonely Planet? Yes, I have expectations, but seeing how close one’s imagination stands up to reality is another pleasure. Thessaloniki … Salonika … Selanik? doesn’t disappoint. There are echoes of other port cities, Izmir, Beirut, common architectural details…