• Places

    A Pasaj in Time

    Ever want to time travel? I do. Not for sinister reasons like making myself insanely wealthy by choosing the right lottery numbers or even more noble ones like preventing some of history’s great tragedies. I’d be too afraid accidentally re-write my very existence out of time and space. I would simply like to travel back as an observer, gaze at the people, get a taste of the air, sample a glass of the wine, listen to the sounds, feel the textures of another era. Short of building a time machine, however, there are places you can go where you can gaze backward through time. One of them is the Suriye Pasaji at the Tünel end of Beyoglu. This place is magic. It has a cavernous atrium. Open walkways. The office of a daily Greek newspaper. A fur shop, and even a vast basement vintage shop to outfit you for your passage…

  • Places

    The Hill House

    Do you ever find a house or a building inexplicably intriguing? I do, and there’s something about this particular one in Yeniköy that never fails to stimulate my curiosity. As usual it’s not a single feature, but a collection of attributes that ignite my wonder. I love the combination of stone and wood, the chipped paint. It’s obviously fallen a bit into disrepair, but it still has a certain dignified beauty, or romance to it if you ask me. There are many bigger, grander houses, but there’s something special about this one. There’s also its placement. Perched high above the Yeniköy boulevard, up above the traffic at the top of a winding step that leads to a church gate. It’s beside a much taller, grander konak. And though it’s surrounded by beauty, there’s a certain sense of loneliness, a sense of distance this house has. It makes me wonder if whoever dwelled within…

  • 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…

  • Places

    Kuzguncuk Mahallesi

    THIS NEIGHBORHOOD BELONGS TO ANOTHER ERA OF ISTANBUL. Don’t know about you, but there are times I want to live an urban life without all the latté and fast food chains, which seem to be claiming more and more prime real estate and more and more of our everyday lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above using them, it’s just they get a little tiring, manufacturing the same experience over and over. That’s why I felt so refreshed the other day when I heeded historian Selin Barlas‘ advice and headed to Kuzguncuk. There wasn’t one branded paper coffee cup rolling around the streets, or simit chain store in sight. Instead there was relaxed local scene, where people clearly knew one another and weren’t in any hurry to be somewhere else. Kuzguncuk is a self-contained, functioning neighborhood with its own post office, a butcher’s, several bakeries and a host of…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Ghost City

    “GHOST CITY” PART OF LUK BERGHE’S UTOPIA COLLECTION. There’s something magnetic to me about art that explores architecture, especially when it’s concerned with abandoned architecture. Vacant seats and derelict buildings always leave me wondering about the dreamers who built and inhabited them, and have since moved on. Have they left us a gift? A window into time? Or a haunted trap, singing of someone else’s sorrow? Enough of my feeble poetry …  that’s why I’m looking forward to tomorrow evening’s opening at the Architectural Research Studio MARS in Istanbul, where Luk Berghe’s fascinating, apocalyptic looking watercolor on paper prints will be on display. As a special bonus, Berghe, also a performance artist, will be adding to the spectacle by opening the show with a piece appropriately entitled: “Occupy.” Hope to see you there. GHOST CITY: UTOPIA COLLECTION BY LUK BERGHE Opening: 19:00 Thursday, March 1, 2012 Closing: April 28, 2012 MARS…

  • Books & Lit,  Photography,  Places

    Gothic beauty … in the eye of the beholder.

    YENIKÖY CHURCH. Perhaps it’s the constant threat of snow the last couple weeks, but I’ve started to notice the cracks in this city, through which both the icy wind and my imagination can howl. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of snow. Where I grew up the snow and dark could last for months. As a child it sometimes seemed my only refuge was the world of books and the fiery corners of my imagination. ABANDONED KONAK, YENIKÖY. More often than not the tales I disappeared into were of a dark, gothic nature. So, thanks to the snow, my imagination has started to shade the city a touch gothic lately. I mean this in the literary sense — and not the medieval architectural sense. I mean in the details, in the strange slanted light, the clacking shutters of empty casements, and the creaking of floorboards. Istanbul is full of…

  • Places

    Istanbul’s Smallest Church?

    NUMBER 19 TAHSIN HOCA SOKAGI. Despite not being religious, I have, nevertheless, a deep fascination which borders on reverence for places of worship. There’s something about them, an energy, a vibration — call it what you will — that’s special. That’s why I was intrigued when a good friend told me about a rooftop Russian Orthdox church in Karaköy.

  • Photography,  Places

    Dystopian Wonderland

    THIS ATRIUM BELONGS IN A SCI-FI DYSTOPIA. If you ask me, Istanbul is inherently cinematic. I just left Switzerland which you could say is inherently picturesque — with its mountains, its lakes and its pristine architecture, it would make a good location for several of my cinematic fantasies. But could you do a dystopian epic with a nicely understated sci-fi twist? I think not. I regularly dream movies up in my head, like the other day when I decided to cut through this han to get to Karaköy Lokantasi, and for about two-three minutes I completely forgot my ravenous appetite.

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    Sema Topaloglu: creating the artifacts of tomorrow?

    THE SIGNATURE MOTIF OF A FANTASTIC TALENT. Dear Mayor of Istanbul, I’d like to sincerely thank you and the city for the ongoing work you’re doing upgrading public transportation. I’ve lived here just over six years now, and I’ve seen a vast improvement and many positive changes. Automobile traffic its resulting pollution is a huge problem, and the more you do to unclog the streets and clean up the air, the better. In addition, you’ve made it possible for me to go from Taksim Square to my home in Yeniköy in under 40 minutes, mostly thanks to the underground. This means that rather than sitting in traffic with horns blaring and inching along at a snail’s pace, I can instead be home and spend valuable time with my daughter. This makes a huge difference to my quality of life, and I trust, hers. That’s why I don’t want to sound…

  • Photography,  Places

    Steam Punk Dreaming: Haydarpasa & Santral

    PRESSURE GAUGES IN THE DORMANT SANTRAL POWER STATION. In Istanbul the question, “when am I?” sounds in my head frequently. Its passages and corridors, its city streets and vistas that could belong to any number of eras. But then someone yanks out a cellphone and my dreamlike sense of dislocation is shattered. Once again it’s an old city pocked with wear. There are two places where I get a particular kind of steam punk feeling though, the kind of mood that China Mieville’s gritty nightmare fantasy Perdido Street Station elicited in me. Both are vast and filled with quiet, but evoke volumes of wonder. Both belong to the dwindling days of the Ottoman Empire, where history and tradition began to be steamrolled into the modern era. HISTORIES COLLIDE AT HAYDARPASA STATION. The first is Haydarpasa Train Station. Imagine the awe it must have inspired  … you’ve lived in central Anatolia all…