• Places

    Delicate flowers

    Yesterday as I was walking through my neighborhood, I decided to stop and appreciate the flowers you see above. Right now the area is bursting with them, and has been for over a month. I was thinking to myself, what a paradise Turkey can be with its abundance of flowering trees, fruit and fresh produce. I continued to walk in a large circuit around my neighborhood before going home. The slanting evening light was nice and there’s a sloping street I  like with lots of vines like those above spilling over the high stone walls on either side of the road. You have to be a bit careful on these roads because there are plenty of Range Rovers and Mercedes tearing through the lanes at high speed, usually with drivers nattering away at equally high speed on mobile phones. Mindful of this, I proceeded to take some pictures of the…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    The Pera perch

    When I first came to this city you could acquire yourself a scruffy but livable flat with an amazing Stamboul view for as little as $40,000 US in Galata. The neighborhood did not have an Eczacıbaşı guest house, it did not have nearly so many cafés or espresso corners, boutiques, or the well-to-do expats and visitors to fill them. Today, the old Genoese quarter of Pera is an altogether different experience.

  • Places

    Escaping the hottest month

    It’s Ramazan and it’s hot. Forgive me, humid. In any case it’s not the best of times to be in a cramped city of 15 million … or is it that 18 million? Everything is a bit of a blur right now. Anyway, the days are a real test for everyone in the city, especially those observing the fast. As I’m not, the challenge is finding someplace cool and welcoming where you can eat and drink without feeling like you’re rubbing it in people’s faces.

  • Places

    Istanbul rules

    If you expect the open arms of sanctuary, be prepared to embrace barbed wire. Those who exercise self-restraint must first flex their muscles in your face. One door invites you in so that the second can slam in your face. Your personal business will be auctioned off by someone else as common property. Your neighbor erects a locked gate to protect his fence-less perimeter. The man whose home is constructed entirely of salvaged scrap doesn’t want anyone to throw litter on his garden of weeds. To find beauty look for the trail of decay. Unintentional irony or absolute ambiguity? You’re free to decide whatever we tell you. Istanbul rules: engraved in the crystal clear medium of mud.

  • Food & Drink

    Turkish Coffee: a fuzzy kind of feeling

    Do you ever have experiences you’re not sure how you feel about? That’s the fuzzy sort of thinking I have about Türk Kahvesi. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m ever going to stumble out of bed, shouting, “Don’t talk to me until after I’ve had my first sip of Turkish Coffee!” And yet there’s something very intriguing in a Turkish coffee—even if you don’t use the remains to penetrate the ripples in space-time with fortune telling.

  • Places

    Kadıköy: the book haven

    If the sight of books spilling off tables, down steps and into the street makes you happy, visit Kadıköy immediately. There are many things to like about this Anatolian side neighborhood of Istanbul, but I’m going to start with the vast number of booksellers. There are people selling books on the pavement, in doorways, in the Akmar Pasajı, and in proper good old fashioned stores. 

  • Places

    Büyükada Evening

    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…

  • Places

    Büyükada Day

    Prinkipo or Büyükada, as the name in Turkish tells you, is a big island. It’s also a big tourist destination right now, much to the distress of Istanbul’s weekenders. That’s why you should never go on weekends this time of year without your own private pad to enjoy. My advice is visit between Sunday evening and Friday morning. There will still be some tourists, especially in the vicinity of the ferry port. However, if you grab a horse and carriage, walk or rent a bicycle—as I did at the staggering expense of 10TL/day—you can easily escape for some quiet seclusion in the hills and enjoy a vista worthy of Elysium.

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Places

    Call to Şakirin

    Many things have been done in the name of God, some good, some bad. I’d definitely say the Şakirin Mosque falls into the former category. This place of worship is notable for its extremely contemporary design sensibility and, perhaps more important, the fact that its interior was designed by Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu — a woman.

  • Photography,  Places

    Balat textures

    Balat is one of my favorite places to get inspired. It may be run down but the light shines differently here. There are textures, colors, scents and a mood you won’t find anywhere else in Istanbul. Last time I visited my fingers were freezing on the shutter release. Yesterday was a different story. A whole new experience, in sun-drenched, tumble-down Balat.