• Food & Drink

    Behind the scenes at:

    Yesterday I had a fantastic opportunity to go into the kitchen and bakery at Auf and see magic being made. Talk about talent. Talk about love. The heat in this kitchen wasn’t only radiating from the ovens, it was glowing from a passionate love affair with food. The people I met on Esra and Zeynep’s team were so alive, and so full of ardour for what they were doing — a philosophy graduate who would rather bake, a former English teacher who’d prefer to create — all working really long hours and pulling it off with incredible smiles. Every day the women (and man) in the kitchen create a new menu, based on seasonally available produce and ingredients which might change anywhere up to 15 minutes before the lunch crowd storms in. Yet this is not a tense environment, and I don’t think simply because there was a yabanci in…

  • 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

    Istanbullu IV

    Good, bad, lovely, mad … it takes attitude to last in this city. All these people (in one case I use the term loosely) provided plenty of personality and made the last week more interesting. Thanks for keeping it—mostly—real, everyone.

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Contemporary Istanbul

    If you happen to be in Istanbul today, and are wondering what to do, drop by Contemporary Istanbul. Even if the venue is not quite right for the subject matter the selection of talent and work is something special. It’s especially encouraging to see contemporary Turkish art take its place right next to international artists without any dissonance. I’ve been a little distracted (in a good way) the last couple of years, so I haven’t had much chance to monitor what was going on art-wise locally to the extent I’d like to so it was particularly nice to bump into friends and artists like Emel Kurhan and Ahmet Polat, both of whom are enjoying international success. It’s particularly interesting to view art with other artists and discuss the work without pretence. It’s a fair, which means it’s every bit as much about transaction and collection as it is appreciation. As…

  • People

    Café girl

    Someone said to me at the café where I’m writing this right now: “I know you, you’re famous!” While I was somewhat taken aback, I smiled, and replied, “Oh, really … am I?” Then she responded, “Yes, you’re Sofia’s father.” I laughed because it made sense. Every time we stroll into a café, you turn heads. Every time we sit down, you charm a laugh out of me or someone else. If my only claim to fame is you, that’s just fine with me. I couldn’t be prouder.

  • Places

    Sirkeci Train Station

    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…

  • People,  Places

    Istanbullu II

    There are so many great faces, and so many great stories to go with them in this city. What do each of these expressive faces tell you? How much can you read? It’s all there in black and white, shadow and light.

  • People

    Sultanahmet Style

    I don’t know about you, but I think people with genuine style often don’t even know they have it. They’re effortless with it, rather like this gentleman I saw using a public telephone in Fatih. How many people still use a public phone? Better yet, how many people forego the so-called convenience of a mobile these days? There he was having a conversation on the phone smoking his cigarette and he just transported me to a different time and place. I was about to wander on, but then I decided I had to go back and ask him for his photo. Thanks, Ağabey.

  • Places

    Kayseri Han

    Wandering through Eminönü I discovered another interesting han. The light spilling through the atrium was magnificent. It’s too bad such buildings aren’t put to better use, seeing as no one seems to build them anymore. I’m sure the quick answer why no one builds structures like this is economics — but still … couldn’t we make more inspiring architecture for people to work in like this? Such spaces never fail to spark my sense of wonder — it’s interesting to think of all the different tenants in times past, who climbed the stairs, said good morning to one another, shared a conversation over a glass of tea, a cigarette. In my opinion these hans are every bit as interesting as the more famous monuments in Istanbul, mostly because they are mementos of everyday life that has changed so drastically over the years, the minor events, the details that history books…