• Lit up

    December 8th, 2012

    Colours saturate. Dull broken pavements suddenly glisten, slicked with rain. Vapours rise. Damp tobacco burns without the tiniest crackle. Exposed bulbs buzz, haloing in the rain. And all the while people migrate from one island of artificial light to another in the sudden fall of Karaköy night.

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  • Salt Galata

    June 7th, 2012

    Yesterday I decided I wanted to experience the audio exhibit Translated By, a series of 13 performed excerpts from books, and one original piece, by various writers about different cities and landscapes, some imagined, an exhibit sponsored by the British Council. For the most part, I’m glad I did, although I must admit I skipped over a few whose writing or narration style grated after a couple of minutes. As you tour about Salt Galata, you don your headphones and tune into a numbered channel, one for Istanbul, Tokyo, Baku, the Metaverse—you get the idea—and listen to a passage written about each of these places. I’d recommend it if you have some time.

    However, when I wasn’t absorbed in these orally rendered landscapes I found myself wondering about the physical space I was in. Ever feel that you really want to like a place but instead leave uncertain what to think? That’s how I feel about Salt Galata. When I first heard about the project, I was truly excited by the notion of such a space, but after several visits I’m still left a little cold. There’s something disjointed about it — there are many likable aspects, yet somehow they don’t seem to tie together. It’s to Garanti Bank’s credit that they financed this renovation of the old Ottoman Bank Building and turned it into a public space for research. It’s tastefully done, and I’m especially grateful that they didn’t over-brand it.

    At the end of my audio tour I decided to refresh myself at CA’D’ORO, the restaurant space. This is where the experience really falls apart for me. Cultural institutions need to make money, and a good way to do that is to offer a worthwhile dining/drinking experience to bring in revenue. The view is good, the tablecloths pressed, but there’s something about the attitude here, the pretense, that just doesn’t work. It was the middle of the day, but even so, there was a vibrancy lacking.

    Overall I think that’s the difficulty with Salt Galata. It’s a bit hard-edged. Whether you’re using the archives, or going to the cafe, my impression is there’s something not entirely welcoming about this space. Still, I really want to like it. What do you think?

  • 24 golden hours on the Golden Horn.

    February 27th, 2012

    VOYAGE TO THE GOLDEN HORN.

    This weekend I had an amazing 24-hours escaping into my favorite neighborhood like a tourist. After dropping off our daughter at her grandmother’s we boarded a vapur for Karaköy. Start any adventure on a vapur and it’s bound to add flavor to the experience.

    FIND YOURSELF A GOOD NIGHTTIME NEST: KARAKÖY ROOMS.

    Next, we checked ourselves into a really elegantly appointed hotel. Sometimes you need to feel like you’re in a movie, not ordinary life. We stayed at Karaköy Rooms, owned by the same team that bring me gastronomic bliss on a regular basis, Karaköy Lonakantasi. I highly recommend renting the studio. It’s a beautiful space with high ceilings and even has a small kitchenette appointed. We were tempted to stay for more than 24 hours. Take a beer or a glass of wine up to the roof and take in the view of the old city and the crisscrossing traffic of ferries and ships.

    PERSEMBE PAZARI: FULL OF CURIOUS FINDS.

    One of my favorite places to explore these days is Persembe Pazari. These backstreets are full of atmosphere and shadowy beauty and the passages and the cracked and crumbling hans you can discover all manner of strange curiosities on display from businesses left over from the days when the Haliç (Golden Horn) was still a working port.

    FIND YOURSELF A SUNLIT PERCH ON THE HALIÇ.

    If it’s sunny and warm, relax on the shore and have a tea in the area just after the Karaköy fish market. If you’re a fan of great architecture, walk on from Persembe Pazari until the next bridge where you can visit one of Mimar Sinan’s famous mosques, situated just before the Haliç Tersanesi (Boat Yard). It’s definitely worth a look inside, and the late day light is truly amazing.

    INSIDE ONE OF MIMAR SINAN’S MOSQUES.

    THE HALIÇ TERSANESI (BOAT YARD)

    Before heading out for the evening, drop into Salt Galata. Originally built by a French Levantine architect, Alexandre Vallaury for the Ottoman Bank, and now owned by Garanti, it’s been extensively renovated and renewed to serve as a public archive and gallery space. There’s also a high end dining space by the Doors Group called CA’ D’ORO. Personally, I’d stay here for a drink at the sunset hour and enjoy the light and shadow slanting across the Golden Horn, but I’m not sure after tasting the food on two separate occasions that I’d stay for supper, as they don’t seem to have mastered their menu yet.

    For supper I’d check out Maya. Just remember to book at least a week in advance (I always leave it too late). If not, go to my personal favorite, Karaköy Lokantasi. For drinks afterward, head to Klup Kulah (directions here) or go back and enjoy the privacy of your suite. What happens next, is not for public consumption.

    BRUNCH AT BEJ: OVEREATING HERE IS A SERIOUS, BUT ENJOYABLE RISK.

    So let’s move to the next morning … after a late rise, I’d suggest a long, leisurely brunch at Bej Kahve. They brew a good cup of coffee and the yumurtali pide (kind of like a fried-egg-topped pizza) is delicious. So is the cevizli-bal-kaymak (walnut-honey-clotted) combination. Enjoy the warm morning light, a green tea or two to detox your liver from the previous night’s excesses, then a magazine or two and some mellow conversation before you head back to reality.

    Do you ever escape into your own city? What’s your perfect 24-hour excursion?

  • Istanbul’s Smallest Church?

    February 8th, 2012

    NUMBER 19 TAHSIN HOCA SOKAGI.

    Despite not being religious, I have, nevertheless, a deep fascination which borders on reverence for places of worship. There’s something about them, an energy, a vibration — call it what you will — that’s special. That’s why I was intrigued when a good friend told me about a rooftop Russian Orthdox church in Karaköy. Read More…

  • Karaköy Lokantasi: right atmosphere, right food.

    February 6th, 2012

    THE STAIRWAY TO CULINARY HEAVEN? MAYBE …

    Must admit I’m suffering from a bit of an addiction problem right now. If you follow this site regularly, you might notice I’m drifting a lot towards Karaköy these days. One of the reasons for this begins and ends with my stomach.

    AN INVITING, UNPRETENTIOUS ATMOSPHERE.

    All too often in Istanbul when you find great food you suffer from terrible atmosphere. The inverse is equally true unless you’re willing spend a lot of money. I’m not.

    That’s why Karaköy Lokantasi is something of a revelation. This is a serious eatery with seriously good food and a menu that changes daily. Its blue (a theme color of mine at the moment) tiled walls and crisp white tablecloths are chic yet unpretentious. If you desire, you can enjoy a glass of wine with lunch and expect to pay little more than $20 (US), quite possibly less.  Read More…

  • Dystopian Wonderland

    January 30th, 2012

    THIS ATRIUM BELONGS IN A SCI-FI DYSTOPIA.

    If you ask me, Istanbul is inherently cinematic. I just left Switzerland which you could say is inherently picturesque — with its mountains, its lakes and its pristine architecture, it would make a good location for several of my cinematic fantasies. But could you do a dystopian epic with a nicely understated sci-fi twist? I think not. I regularly dream movies up in my head, like the other day when I decided to cut through this han to get to Karaköy Lokantasi, and for about two-three minutes I completely forgot my ravenous appetite. Read More…

  • Cobalt into red gold: the alchemy of autumn color.

    December 9th, 2011

    Start with the three distinct primary colors (red, yellow, blue — right?) fade the seasonal light, wither a few leaves and see what begins to happen…

    Read More…