• Books & Lit,  Places

    Rummaging in the past: Aslıhan Pasajı

    Today was a truly miserable, wet day. On top of that, the weather was bad. Perhaps on days like this there are few better refuges than the world of books. Fortunately, I had a chance between meetings wandering through Beyoğlu to pop into this fantastic pasaj just off the Balık Pazarı. This place is crammed full of interesting books, documents, newspapers and media from another time — to such an extent that you could totally lose all sense of the here and now. A good thing, in my opinion, especially on a day like today.  Galatasaray, Beyoğlu/İstanbul‎  34435

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Nihat Usta

    At 79A Kumbaracı Yokuşu, the street that falls from Istiklal Caddesi to Tophane, exists a portal into a another world. This is the dükkan of master craftsman, Nihat Usta. Every day Nihat Usta boards the early morning motorboat to make his way from Anadolu Kavağı to his Pera workshop where he restores the most incredible furniture from another era. From his shop emanates a glow. Is it the materials like mother of pearl and wood that he works with? Or the aura of a man who can create something that much of us only dream of? In any case, there’s something vital as well as timeless (at least, I hope so) about this place. Let’s hope that businesses like Nihat’s thrive for years to come. They are something that keep the spirit of places like Beyoğlu from becoming artificial or feeling gentrified. Thanks for keeping it real, Nihat Usta.

  • People,  Places

    Sokak Style at Holy Coffee

    A good café needs a cool street presence. In fact, it’s not just about the coffee, it’s about the vibe, which is all about the people, the kind of character and the community you draw. Holy Coffee in Çukurcuma not only brews a decent cup, they attract a lively crowd, happy to spill into the street, whether it’s for a smoke, a chat or to soak up the nice warm autumn light. This place has a friendly, lively vibe and it regularly fills with some of my favorite people. I have to say, I’m feeling the love.

  • People,  Places

    Tarlabaşı

    Between thriving Beyoglu and the Golden Horn, Tarlabaşı could be the most cheerfully doomed neighborhood in the world. I’ve been meaning to pay this area a visit for some time, but have been deterred by the fact that some other people whose work I really respect have already delved into this dilapidated old Greek hood which is largely populated by Kurdish migrants from Eastern Turkey as well as Roma. Regardless, I felt I needed to see this area before the last vestiges of its current community are driven out in the ongoing gentrification or “urban revitalization” or “historic protection” — whatever you’d like to call it — process is complete. What I found truly surprised me. It’s  the friendliest neighborhood I’ve encountered in Istanbul, and perhaps the poorest. There are plenty of men on street corners who don’t want their photographs taken for reasons you can probably imagine, yet there was…

  • Food & Drink

    Wood Oven Happiness: Datlı Maya

    Today when I was taking pictures for a Cihangir guesthouse I was fortunate enough to stop in at Datlı Maya, a delicious stone oven bakery. I don’t know about the carbon footprint implications of a wood burning oven these days, but when it comes to pizza, or in this case, pide a boat-shaped Turkish flatbread equivalent (pictured immediately below), it makes a great difference  in terms of taste. This cosy wee spot tucked in behind Firuzağa Mosque is big on both taste and personality. The staff are friendly and boisterous, and the woman running the shop can greet you in Turkish, English or Greek with equal exuberance. From what I understand Datlı Maya sources its ingredients directly from quality farm producers. While they make no claims of being an ‘organic’ bakery, the food is fresh and remarkably economic, probably a benefit of cutting out the middle-man. There’s self-serve tea and glass-bottled water upstairs in…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    The Pera perch

    When I first came to this city you could acquire yourself a scruffy but livable flat with an amazing Stamboul view for as little as $40,000 US in Galata. The neighborhood did not have an Eczacıbaşı guest house, it did not have nearly so many cafés or espresso corners, boutiques, or the well-to-do expats and visitors to fill them. Today, the old Genoese quarter of Pera is an altogether different experience.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    Profile: Azize Tan, Istanbul Film Festival Director

    Whenever I get to see Azize Tan, I get inspired. It’s not simply that she has one of the most interesting jobs I can imagine, or that she can talk for hours about one of my favorite subjects, cinema — it’s her infectious enthusiasm for her work. This year is her sixth as director, and her 20th working with the Istanbul Film Festival which just closed its 31st year. Something of a marathon event, it ran from March 31-April 15, with Ms. Tan dealing with everything from sponsorships to going to hospital with fainting jury members, all while attending as many screenings as possible. Azize graciously took some time out last week to have a coffee with me and tell me about the life and trials of a festival director, which is not just the fun of watching films, but a struggle, for resources, venues and the recognition that film…

  • 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…