• the blessing

    May 24th, 2014

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    Open a newspaper or turn on the television and you’ll probably get a pretty troubling picture of things in Turkey these days. Sometimes it’s enough to make an outsider want to switch off entirely. Fortunately, peppered in amongst the drama, life still presents many moments of genuine hope here on a daily basis. One such was a couple of weekends ago in Yeniköy. Over the last couple of years I’ve been truly fortunate to attend and enjoy the welcome of the local Rum (Byzantine Greek) community at various events and ceremonies. It’s something that grounds you. And witnessing the baptism of one small but treasured member of their community was a highpoint in my nine years in Turkey, moreover since it was something my family was welcomed in to share.

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    baptism
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    Until a couple of Sundays ago, I had never been fortunate enough to attend such a ceremony. It was truly interesting to watch. Religion gets a lot of bad press these days, but when you are part of such an event, it’s much easier to understand the contribution that belief and spirituality makes for a community. Especially in such a small and tightly knit community. Read More…

  • Kuzguncuk Mahallesi

    March 21st, 2012

    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 independent little cafes and boutiques interspersed throughout its high street and side-streets. There’s a mix of new and old, but none of it feels artificial or imposed.

    There’s also a terrific little square looking out onto the Bosporus, bounded by a row of yalis on one side and Çinaralti Cafe and Ismet Baba fish restaurant on the other. Locals and interlopers like me are welcome sit on benches, refreshing themselves with tea, Turkish coffee or fresh squeezed orange juice as behemoth freighters fill the glistening blue corridor mute as ghosts.

    Perhaps that’s what makes the place. It seems to me that the locals are all actively engaged in and enjoy their own neighborhood. It’s the difference between a neighborhood and community, or a house and a home. There’s a feeling of belonging here. That’s something you just can’t synthesize, or buy at a Starbucks.

    To say I was charmed would be an understatement. There was something here I haven’t experienced in a long time, and call me sentimental, but I don’t want it to change.

    ÇINARALTI CAFE.

    ROMANI FLOWER BUCKETS ACCENTUATING THE LOCAL COLOR.

    SIDE-STREET CAFES.

    INTERESTING SHOP WINDOWS.

    HISTORICAL ARCHITECTURE.

    ISMET BABA FISH RESTAURANT.

    LOCAL BAKERIES.

    What makes a neighborhood more than just a place to live? How do you experience a sense of belonging, or community? Can we go back to a time when a neighborhood was more than just a stopover to take a breath as we run from one place to next? Should we? Is that neighborhood feeling irretrievable? Maybe we should be rootless or risk getting stuck? What do you think? Is a sense of place important?

    Talk to me … I’m listening.