• old friends, new business: iznik works

    February 19th, 2013

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    Whenever I’m in the Covered Bazaar there’s one place I choose to go to first — Dhoku. Not only do I find their modern take on the craft of kilim-making beautiful, I really like the family involved in creating and selling them. I can easily see a few hours disappear with no problem over a glass of tea. Today when I stopped by to see them, I saw that there was a new addition to the family. A brand new tile and ceramics store. One of the reasons I became friends with these guys is that I’ve always liked the way the Güreli family does business. They have a sense of humour and are plenty of fun and never pushy with sales. They’ve brought that same sensibility to life in their new venture, and are providing the full range of plates and tiles, from handcrafted and artisan to the more commercially made quartz-free porcelain. Essentially what this means is that you can find a range of styles and designs from something very affordable as a courtesy for your second cousin thrice removed to a hand-painted treasure that should stay in the family for generations. Their new store is tastefully chock-a-block with plates, tiles, vases and kaftans, and Mevlevi figures and is a throughly welcoming experience in both the manner in which the works are presented and in the approach of the gentlemen who work there. Hayirli olsun! I say.

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    IZNIK WORKS
    Kapalıçarşı, Takkeciler Sokak no: 41-43, Fatih, Istanbul
    +90 212 522 4242
    www.iznikworks.com

  • Festive cheer about town

    December 22nd, 2012

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    Sometimes you’ve got to overdo it to do it right. One might even say ’tis the season. Once you’ve accomplished all there is to accomplish, it’s time to live it up. So here’s my agenda for the perfect day of moderating the moderation, and lounging about before it’s time to get all ambitious again for a new year.

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    Start by finding yourself a good breakfast. You can’t go wrong with a mid-morning breakfast at either Auf or Unter, currently stealing my heart with the beautifully appointed interiors, honest food and fantastic staff. You’ll get a great cup of coffee and something really satisfying from Zeynep’s bakery or Esra’s kitchen. These two love food, and so do their people. It’s a welcoming way to while away the bleary morning hours. When you’re done, maybe amble your way towards Nisantasi and finish off the last of your seasonal shopping, and check out the over-the-top street decorations. They’re a big hit with someone I know.

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    This time of year, I don’t think lunch should be rushed. Lunch should be a long, lingering affair, to the extent that maybe you never make it back to the office. That is if you’re unfortunate enough to still have to go to one. Arrange to meet friends, lots of them, somewhere exactly like Park Samdan, and splash about a bit of wine, between courses. Eat too much chocolate. You’re going to get fit in the New Year, remember?

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    When things start to get a little dim, don’t worry, it’s not you. The days are short. It’s not the end of the world — sorry, Mayans. It’s either time for a nap, a hamam or a new venue. What better venue for the early evening than a cheerful pub? Head to the Bosphorus Brewing Co and sidle up to the bar and get yourself a proper ale, or a homemade ginger ale, if you haven’t yet overindulged sufficiently. Phillip Hall and family have pulled out all the stops to bring the refreshing taste of real ales to Istanbul. Judging from the enthusiasm of both Turks and foreigners, the Hall family are here to stay.

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    Once you’ve done with the ale aperitifs, It’s time to slink into a dark corner. Make yourself a reservation at Cochine on Kumbaraci Yokusu in Beyoglu. This secluded spot was once the den of four artists, and it’s now the place to quench your nighttime appetites in the seductive, low warm light. Owned by chef Chris Maxwell and partner Melis Onderoglu Maxwell, an incredibly charming couple who met in London and decided to move to Melis’ homeland to open up this swanky nightspot, featuring French-influenced Vietnamese food and their signature earl grey martinis, it’s a cozy little spot to keep indulging until you can indulge no more. Chris and Melis are fantastic hosts — it’s not just the fireplace that exudes warmth. This young couple have a feel for old world charm.

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    Any questions? If so, you now know where to find me. Happy holidays.

  • Rummaging in the past: Aslıhan Pasajı

    December 17th, 2012

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    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.

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     Galatasaray, Beyoğlu/İstanbul‎  34435

  • Sirkeci Train Station

    October 16th, 2012

    What is it about train stations? They’re certainly a reminder of the most civilized form of mass transportation ever conceived, a place where you can travel in relative comfort, style and not somehow feel dehumanized at the same point. That’s not to say there aren’t routes or stations (especially in India) that can’t be cramped or uncomfortable, but how romantic is our notion of trains? This station was the last terminal in the legendary Orient Express. Embarking or disembarking here would be something special. Just imagine the people who trafficked through this place. I recently chose it as a location for a magazine photo shoot, where I was fortunate enough to be the subject (I’ll let you know the details when the November  issue magazine hits the stands).  Train stations in Istanbul like this one seem to communicate the transitional nature of this country from a dwindling empire to republic and also the cultural flow from east to west and vice-versa.

    It’s somewhat sad that this piece of history through which commuters pass daily will become obsolete when the Marmaray Project is completed. Their journey will be safer, faster and more efficient, but given that a trip through here is equally about the journey and the destination, it’s worth pausing to reflect on a beauty that still draws admirers.

  • Autumn Ottoman Delights

    October 2nd, 2012

    Once again I managed to snag a delicious (literally) photo assignment with friends and foodies, chef Selcuk Aruk and writer Lale Kayabey for XOXO the Mag. October’s issue features a fantastic array of autumnal colors and tastes favored by the Ottomans. This time I thought I’d show some of the photos that didn’t make the final cut. Trust these dishes and their ingredients — jujubes, pomegranates, cinnamon, spice, carrots, spinach and yoghurt and everything nice — to make your mouth water. They certainly did mine.

  • Cathar Country

    July 12th, 2012

    It’s often strange to think that this region of France we’re now in was once the site of one of Europe’s bloodiest persecutions. Hundreds of years ago this was the land of the Cathars, a religious group who believed that the material world was the creation of Satan and that worldly possessions were something that should be abandoned. It wasn’t long before the Catholic Church feared their growing sway over people’s hearts and sent in the Inquisition.

    Read More…

  • Büyükada Evening

    July 10th, 2012

    Late afternoon. The sun beginning to descend and properly fortified by the gifted cooks at Club Mavi, it was time to move. Bicycling to the station midpoint of the Island, I locked up my rental bought myself a couple of cold bottles of water and proceeded to climb the hill on foot. Though some people ignore the postings, you can take your feet or hire a donkey to take you to Aya Yorgi (Saint George). This is where it gets a bit touristy again, but to be honest, the ascent is well worth it, whether you want to send a request to the director of the universe, or simply take in another impressive, but perfectly secular, view.

    After visiting the church it was time for a refreshment with a bit more of an edge to it than that provided by spring water. I opted for a cold white, which wasn’t amazing, but sufficient for toasting the view. This is my favorite spot for an evening drink. Read More…

  • The Antique Market – Kapalıçarsı

    June 21st, 2012

    After a few years of living in a place, you tend to avoid the touristy areas. My one exception is the antique market in the  Kapalıçarsı (Covered Bazaar). This place never fails to entertain me. My wife and I like to pay regular visits to the bazaar simply to soak up the feel. It’s truly a city within a city. There’s an incredible mixture of stuff, from the kitsch and cheap, to the truly antique and interesting — from pocket watches, naval instruments, old film cameras, illuminated pages, and semi precious stones. Read More…

  • The Hill House

    April 5th, 2012

    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 was happy or isolated.

    It’s a house I can’t help but look at from the outside and try to imagine backward through time. From what I’ve gathered it’s about 220 years old and originally Greek (like much of Yeniköy), and was once a hotel/han and perhaps a wine tavern. Now it seems to be someone’s slightly decrepit home.

    It seems to me that even long after they’ve left a building like this, something of each resident maybe even each guest remains with it. You can feel it in the wood, in the stone. An echo, a vibration, a faint breath of life.

    I’m sure its been the setting for many dramas, and many lives. It tells a story, don’t you think?

  • A Dream Named Thessaloniki II

    April 3rd, 2012

     

    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 of dreams. The crumbling and the cracked. The smooth walled and restored. Soaring ceilings. Fresh paint. Just the right amount of quirk.

    A wine bar named after Hermes, the first craftsman, the first intelligencer, the first alchemist. Didn’t sample the food, but the beer works. The dining locals seem pleased. A crowd worthy of more than a glance. Animated faces. Families. Couples. Cigarette smoke shot through with late afternoon sun. This too is a place worth returning to.

    An interesting couple. He’s black clad, alternative, she’s pretty, flashing eyes and a crinkling burn scar on her arm she makes no attempt  to hide. They are backlit, spotlit almost, in the window. They are having too intense a conversation for me to interrupt. I’d like to take their photo, but the mood between them isn’t right, it seems. There’s a debate, maybe about trivial matters, maybe something serious. Best to leave them in their bubble.

    Thessaloniki light. It penetrates the windows, the buildings, the cracks. It has space to illuminate and bring alive anything it washes down on. The air  moves too. It is not thick or heavy, but fragrant with the sea and the perfume of trees. Perhaps it’s not so strange that the cigarette smoke never chokes or cloys.

    The photography museum. A well curated collection by Greek talent shooting the vastly different places across the Middle East, from Dubai to Cairo in a converted warehouse building. Just the right amount of despots and the downtrodden. A suitably stark cafe with a terrific view of the passenger terminal quay. More parents and children. A toddler kicks the table, shattering the peace with his father’s coffee cup. Nobody minds.

    Back to The Met. An international crowd. Greek. Turkish. Arab and African. Japanese. All dressed in expensive, well fitting clothes. Late afternoon drinks. I’m always greeted in Greek. I like this. English has infiltrated too much of the world, stolen too much of its mystery. I like hearing other languages, like codes waiting to be broken.

    The sun is falling. Time to put the camera down. Another dream awaits me in the room.

    This one I won’t photograph.