• Places

    Dilapidated doorways and detailing in decay

    How’s that for an alliterative title? I really wanted to call this piece: a diminutive demonstration of dilapidated doorways and decadent details in decay … but it wouldn’t fit in the headline space my template allots. Still, I probably managed to go purple enough with my prose style to describe the beauty of these passageways and halls which have lost none of their magic despite the neglect. Or has the neglect only enhanced it? The hallways and doors of Beyoglu, may go unnoticed in terms of restoration, but they still turn my head.

  • Food & Drink

    Istanbul’s Irish pub

    Sometimes life doesn’t feel real enough. There’s socializing and then there’s socializing. One type involves trying to impress people, another involves sharing in a good drink and an honest conversation. For the latter, there’s few more genuine places to than the U2 Irish Pub just off Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoğlu. Owner Leo is a true innkeeper and proof that you don’t have to come from the British Isles to operate a proper public house. A pub is a place that should offer welcome to any class of lady or gentleman, and Leo does just that. At little more than four metres square it’s also proof that some of the best pubs don’t need to be big. He’s been open for about six years and leaves a friend or regular in charge on the few occasions when he needs a holiday. The smoking lounge is essentially the stairwell connecting to the…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Osman Usta: the Master beneath the mosque

    I don’t know about you, but I like a well made shoe. In fact, I prefer a pair. These days, however, it seems you have to go to Italy or Spain to find a good handcrafted shoemaker … or so I thought. Skeptical? I was too. Despite a tip from my friend, Metin — a man of substance and style —I learned about a fine shoemaker in my own backyard. Much to my amazement, beneath Yeni Camii (New Mosque) in Yeniköy, there is, in fact, an artisan shoemaker. He is also turning out some extremely stylish men’s boots in supple leather and silky soft suede, and has been doing so for no less than about 50 years. To my embarrassment, I walked by his shop for almost two-and-a-half years without a second glance. Perhaps it’s because it seems like a relatively modest storefront and workshop. Let this be a lesson…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    The stairwell refuge

    In most business buildings, and many apartment blocks there’s an essential Turkish institution. Past the postboxes, across the scuffed, cracked tile floor, an illumined window, fogged with steam, behind which moves a shadowy indistinct figure. What’s brewing inside the uninitiated, non Turk might wonder? A magician in his lair? Almost. From that room, usually not much more than a metre or two square, a man or youth will emerge bearing a shiny silvery tray on which he carries an absolute Turkish necessity — piping hot, black tea accompanied by a tiny spoon and two little bricks of sugar. Outside pushed against the narrow corridor wall, a stool or two, maybe a chair with its vinyl cushion torn, exposing some yellow foam cushioning, and a table with an ashtray and stubbed out butt. This time of year, this is the cheapest refuge from Istanbul’s rain-spattered streets, where for less than 50 cents…

  • People

    The Epiphany

    Today was not a warm day for a stroll beside the Bosporus and no one with any sense was dressed in anything less than full headgear and warm winter clothes. Then again — for some there is a strong sense of faith in both community and tradition. Today is a special day for Turkey’s Orthodox Community, who marked the date of the Epiphany, or the revelation of God to the Gentiles through the form of the Christ. Into the Bosporus jumped four brave souls on the most blustery cold day of the season. We were expecting snow today, so you had to be brave to leap from the shelter of a boat to the warmth of a waiting terry cloth bathrobe. Nevertheless some young men from the Orthodox community did just that to mark this important date on the calendar. Once again, I’m grateful to have witnessed one of the…

  • Places

    Go Galatasaray!

    The football club bearing the above name may be having a lousy season this year, but the neighbourhood in Beyoğlu is winning hands down on several counts. I’d like to list a few ways this colourful intersection between Taksim and Tünel currently scores as the number one place I’d maroon myself in the unlikely event that I ever be forced to maroon myself somewhere. Following are four reasons to go to the Galatasaray Mahallesi right now … BEST COFFEE. Let’s start with the most important drink of the day. After nearly eight years and countless kilos of bitter beans, thousands of litres of scalded milk, and several burnt lips I have finally tasted caffeinated perfection. Or the closest thing I’m going to find to it in Istanbul. Kronotrop in Galatasaray, the “Espresso Blend Atelier” wins hands-down, without a doubt, absolutely, definitely — sorry if I’m overselling this — for the…

  • Food & Drink

    Istanbul’s Vietnamese Speakeasy

    In a recent post I described what I’d do with a leisurely day left to my own devices, and in it one of the places where I said I’d finish my day was Cochine. On Saturday night, however, I was able to put the place to the test with 15 friends for dinner and drinks. From now on, If I have my way, I will never veer from eating out  anywhere but owner-operated kitchens. It makes all the difference. Food preparation is a kind of alchemy. It’s not just the ingredients, or the measurements, it’s the spirit of the people putting it together that determines whether or not they create gold.  There’s a lot of gold at Cochine, located on Kumbaracı Yokuşu, thanks to the complementary talents of its owners Melis Onderoglu Maxwell (pictured immediately below) and Chris Maxwell. It would be all to easy to walk past Cochine’s discreetly…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    Festive cheer about town

    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. 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…

  • People,  Places

    What a year

    At first it’s hard for me to believe. It’s been only 1 year! So much has happened since I first launched this site December 19, 2011. I’ve been introduced to so many incredible people, I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to have these experiences and share them. I’ve learned so much about so many different people thanks to starting this site. It’s helped me find a vehicle for my natural curiosity, and voice my constant state of wonder. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life —  launching  this site isn’t one of them. It’s allowed me to record my small keyhole view of local history and share it with people all around the world. Being an immigrant, you never lose your roots, but it makes the dislocation a little easier when you  can simultaneously share your new home as you explore it with people you…

  • 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