• Photography,  Places

    Balat textures

    Balat is one of my favorite places to get inspired. It may be run down but the light shines differently here. There are textures, colors, scents and a mood you won’t find anywhere else in Istanbul. Last time I visited my fingers were freezing on the shutter release. Yesterday was a different story. A whole new experience, in sun-drenched, tumble-down Balat.

  • Food & Drink

    Şişhane lunch

    Every time I visit Şişhane there seems to be something new and worth checking out. Yesterday it was Gram, a swanky little bakery/eatery that’s been around for about two months, just opposite Da Vittorio, my favorite Italian restaurant in Istanbul. The design and the atmosphere of Gram make it a really appealing space — hats off to the architect and owners for creating such a reaxed yet intimate environment, with common tables, and the natural feel of wood, stone and brick. In particular, I liked the ceiling and lighting display featuring old scale weights as decoration.

  • Places

    Discovered in a han

    In my dreams I ascend buildings, while the stairs behind me crumble into a gaping abyss. Up and up I go while the way back down becomes impossible. There’s something of that feeling every time I discover a new, or rather, an old han. These old trade buildings provide endless inspiration for me, and I get lost in them in more ways than one. There are the sounds, the clink of hammer on metal, a distant voice penetrating a cracked door, a laugh. Silhouettes at the end of corridors, engulfed in blinding light. The feel, the mustiness of age and neglect. A wary look from a passerby. The whir of retrofit air conditioners. Then there are the other discoveries.

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Books & Lit,  Places

    Salt Galata

    Yesterday I decided I wanted to experience the audio exhibit Translated By, a series of 13 performed excerpts from books, and one original piece, by various writers about different cities and landscapes, some imagined, an exhibit sponsored by the British Council. For the most part, I’m glad I did, although I must admit I skipped over a few whose writing or narration style grated after a couple of minutes. As you tour about Salt Galata, you don your headphones and tune into a numbered channel, one for Istanbul, Tokyo, Baku, the Metaverse—you get the idea—and listen to a passage written about each of these places. I’d recommend it if you have some time. However, when I wasn’t absorbed in these orally rendered landscapes I found myself wondering about the physical space I was in. Ever feel that you really want to like a place but instead leave uncertain what to think? That’s how…

  • Photography,  Places

    Neighborhood watch: Tarabya

    In a few months we’ll probably be leaving our beloved Yeniköy for Tarabya, one village farther up the Bosporus towards the Black Sea. Like Yeniköy it’s originally a Greek village (Therapia). However, it differs from Yeniköy significantly in that it has a large natural harbor dominated by the architecture of the Tarabya Hotel which is currently under renovation. This building is unique to the Bosporus in both its architecture and its size and under normal circumstances would be an illegal building for the Bosporus, exceeding its building height restrictions, yet somehow this one snuck through. While I wouldn’t want more hotels like this crowding the shores of the Bosporus, I’m actually quite fond of it and its placement at one of the last points before the strait curls towards the Black Sea. Tarabya is a very mixed neighborhood. Waterside there are pricey properties and perhaps one too many a fish…

  • Places

    The last outpost

    Sometimes I wonder where the city of Istanbul begins and ends. I don’t mean officially, on a map, which it splashes across like an upended bucket of paint. Psychologically speaking, there’s a place where its growth seems to have stopped: Rumeli Kavagi. There’s something about this place that intrigues me, something I can’t quite explain. It could be paradise. It’s far from it however.  There’s a desolate, decaying, end and edge of the world feel. It’s full of broken docks, listing boats, tumbledown buildings, gaping parking lots, and half closed fish restaurants streaked with gull droppings. Yet it’s in a magnificent position, full of unkept promise, staring across the Bosporus at its counterpoint, the much more alive feeling Anadolu Kavagi. Despite its decrepitude, despite its cracks, I have a strange hope for this place. I can imagine how it might be one day. There’s something waiting in this seaside village,…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Bosporus Binoculars

    Usually the amount of junk that people put between me and a great view irritates me. But there’s something kind of quirky cool about these fixed binoculars outside Yeniköy Spor Klubu that entertains me. They possess an appealing retro robotic ugliness like something you might see in a Fritz Lang movie, or the Jetsons. There are moments when I almost expect them to spring into action and start talking.

  • 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…

  • Photography

    The Alchemy of Pink

    Pink, there are times when you come off a little garish, or seem the feebler cousin of Red, lacking that vibrant color’s conviction. For some you can be a little hard to define, your hue being somewhere between Red and Magenta. But when you place yourself in partnership with Green, you truly know how to shine, perhaps even how to heal. You also know how to highlight magnificently the hours of dawn and dusk in between the contrast of slanting beams of light and long layers of shadow. You’re the color of love and the signal fire that says the equinox is here. Pink, you definitely have your moments. The spectrum of the universe would not be the same without you. Keep shining.

  • Places

    Japon Bahçesi

    One of these days I will be lucky enough to visit Japan during cherry blossom season. Until then, however, I’m lucky enough to have discovered this wonderful little gift from the city of Shimonoseki, Japan to Istanbul. Since 1972 the cities have been sister cities because of their similar landscapes and straits. This park was built about 10 years ago to commemorate the friendship in Baltalimani, not far from the Sakip Sabanci Hospital. The three weeks I spent in Japan a few years ago were nothing less than incredible. Since then, I have a radar for anything reminiscent of Japan. This is the perfect place to take a book or a loved one (or both) and a flask of green tea, and relax and spend a few hours. Don’t know what it’s like on weekends but it is very quiet weekdays. It’s especially nice if you’re a parent because the grass…