• Food & Drink,  Places

    five years fresh … den

    Years ago (almost five to be exact) I had a favourite morning hangout. I used to huddle over my laptop on cold winter mornings by the misted window, deeply embroiled in a novel I was working on at the time. After a while I finished the novel and moved to Yeniköy in anticipation of the beautiful daughter that came into our lives. At first Yenikoy was missing something, though I couldn’t quite say what. I established my mobile writer’s outpost at Caffé Nero which had all the mod-cons I needed. Personality, I guess you’d call it, was lacking. The staff were nice, but they came and went regularly. It wasn’t the same experience as saying hello to the owners at Den. In the last year, perhaps a little more, I started meeting my friend — and all around man of good taste — Maxime, for lunches at my haunt of old, Den.…

  • Places

    gold green

    Yesterday I was daydreaming of Denmark. Today I’m noticing the last glorious stretch of summer days here in Istanbul. The sunlight filtered through slowly yellowing leaves washes everything in minty gold hue. Autumn creeps closer. But not too close.

  • Food & Drink

    cup of joy

    Do you understand the difference between a flat white and a latté? Do you know what an aeropress is? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you owe it to yourself to find a narrow little pasaj in Bebek and visit Cup Of Joy. Despite a serious coffee addiction, I have to say I began to wonder about the value proposition of spending 8TL for someone to ruin an espresso drink. A local chain recently delivered me an americano with a taste that more closely resembled burnt popcorn than coffee. However, there’s no danger of that happening at Cup Of Joy, where coffee is taken rather seriously. They don’t believe in Americanos here and will more likely suggest an alternative, which might make you look at filter coffees in a whole new way. They also don’t scald the daily milk they use for the lattés and flat whites…

  • Mind / Body,  Places

    pony time

    Hidden in between the confusion and chaos of Maslak traffic and the monstrosity known as Istiniye Park is a small strip of heaven and quiet designated for horse and pony lovers. I am always surprised and pleased with how striking and magnificent horses can be when viewed up close. It’s also difficult not to appreciate how special the bond between horse and rider is. It always seems like such a gift that these awesome and powerful creatures are so willing to calmly carry the burden of another creature around on their backs. For one three-year old, I know it was a particularly giddy new surprise. There are small ponies for the little people and proper horses for bigger and more experienced riders. Memberships and rider training is available for children and adults. I have a feeling we’ll be back soon.

  • Places

    a strange climate

    When I started this blog it was with the intention of pointing out things to appreciate, especially with regard to this city which has been my home for eight years. This city has brought me so many good things, and as a result I’ve wanted to pay it back. However, I’ve had something of a philosophical conundrum in the last week. It’s been difficult to go back to that same reality. In the space an hour these days I can find hope in some simple act of kindness from the people of this city, and lose it in the next second. I’m not usually into finger-pointing, but it’s usually in the moments when one of the city’s or country’s democratically elected leaders speaks. In the last hour there’s a man on the TV saying some very frightening things, about minorities, foreign interests, about the abuse of his head scarf-wearing sisters,…

  • People

    a friendly revolution?

    Could this be the most civil of civil uprisings? Not that I have a great deal of experience with such happenings, but indulge me if I’m inclined to think so. With the exception of insults hurled at Turkey’s Prime Minister, everyone behind the Occupy Gezi Park movement is being remarkably kind and relaxed. Before entering the AKM Building (Atatürk Cultural Centre) through a break in the hoarding, a dangling cardboard sign warns that the structure is not strong and you might think twice about entering. Incidentally, this building was once used as a vantage point for snipers in the 1970s to target left-wing protestors and is now being used for this generation’s resistance to hang banners and host jazz performances aimed at uplifting today’s protestors — a nice bit of irony. Not that there’s much need. Nothing seems able to stop this jubilant crowd. All around Taksim their are people of…

  • People,  Places

    what’s next, turkey?

    Yesterday people of all sorts gathered to continue the celebration of a victory in Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Left-wing, right-wing, liberal, conservative, nationalist, socialist … you name them. There was a constant flow of Turkish citizens of every age, ethnicity and subculture. There are banners with socialist slogans, nationalist slogans flying next to the rainbow GLBT flags everywhere. People pose to have their pictures taken on burned-out police cars and buses, while some diligent protestors sweep up the rubble and debris nearby. Some of it is theirs, some of it the police’s. However, this feels like a major victory for peaceful protestors who were violently abused by their police force and government (see previous post). It’s a strange victory, though, because it’s not being acknowledged as a defeat by the man and he government they took on. What started as a minor protest for a small park has rolled…

  • Places

    çukurcuma colour

    The cat’s expression at the top of this post says it all. It’s been a while, so I’m trying to get back in the swing of things by tramping around Çukurcuma, peering up, down, backwards and sideways as well as into windows to reignite my creative spark. Not much luck, today, I’m afraid. I’ve retreated to Holy Coffee to see if some java can reignite my curiosity. Some days you just have to trust that Istanbul is keeping her real treasures curtained for a purpose that is beyond your ken. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. That, and the day’s, not over, right?

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    briken aliu’s guitars

    I’ve always admired people who can make music. There’s something about them, as if their minds existed  in two or more universes simultaneously. Which makes me think that the people who craft musical instruments for professionals must be  attuned to some truly special wavelengths. On Friday I happened to meet such an exceptional guy, someone who has been creating instruments since his mid-teens. While he’s now approaching 30, he has the keen gleam in his eye of someone who is making a living doing exactly what he loves. A self-described “gypsy” originally from Albania, Briken Aliu came to Istanbul with no friends and no Turkish as a teenager and has since set himself up as a preeminent musical instrument artisan, first apprenticing with Murat Sezen. While the economy has had an impact on his trade, at any one time he’s working on at least 6-7 projects, including a remake of a guitar…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    workshop wonderland

    Yesterday I had an all too brief glimpse into the mind of one of the most fascinating creatives in Istanbul — someone who successfully blurs the line between art, architecture, design and craft — in what might well be the most distinctive style I’ve seen anywhere in years. At some point I will have to do a full exploration and profile of Sema Topaloglu’s Cibali workshop and showroom. Her work environment is a veritable wonderland of organic shapes and materials, prototypes and projects. You’d almost think you were standing in a special effects workshop for a motion picture, except that the materials are not made of foam and cardboard, and she’s not creating illusions, so much as fabricating a new physical reality in media such as Black Sea hardwood, raw iron, glass and marble. There are huge mushroom lamp models, wood blocks representing a neighbourhood planning project she’s working on, multi-level…