• Food & Drink,  Mind / Body

    Something sweet

    In Turkey it’s not a lack of choice but an abundance of choice that’s the problem when it comes to sweets. I don’t think I know of a place with more varieties of dessert. Want something crispy, crusty and sweet like baklava? Or something cool and sweet like muhallebi? What’s your favorite? It all goes so well with tea.

  • Mind / Body,  Photography,  Places

    Seeing roses

    Everywhere I go lately I’m seeing roses — and I don’t mean this in the proverbial sense. In Yeniköy, Tarabya and all sorts of other places there seems to be an explosion of these flowers. Red ones firing off over fences.  Pink ones blasting through slatted rails. Yellow ones bursting through every imaginable crevice. It’s an assault of color like none I’ve ever seen before. Last year I didn’t notice nearly so many. What happened? Perhaps I simply wasn’t paying attention, or perhaps they were simply planning their attack.  I’m trying not to fight it. We can co-exist, right? Though to a lot of people they may seem like a cheesy symbol of romance and bad poetry, I have to say I’m beginning to respect them a little bit more, un-plucked and on the vine. Perhaps it’s all the reading I’ve done on alchemy and Rosicrucianism. Perhaps it’s what natural healer Jayda…

  • Mind / Body,  Places

    Weekday Escape: Atatürk Arboretum

    In Istanbul green space is at something of a premium. In fact, I read somewhere recently that it’s as low as six square meters per resident. So if you’re like me and have an unusual schedule to keep, or are a gentleman or lady of leisure you might just appreciate the Atatürk Arboretum in Bahçeköy. For a couple of TL you can stroll about at your leisure—whereas on weekends and holidays you need to be a member get your dose of naturally filtered air. While the occasional rampaging student or a gardener with a verge trimmer might shatter the trilling birdsong, there are plenty of paths to explore. This will be a great retreat on sweltering midsummer days, when the city atmosphere is thick with particulate. The first thing I noticed was the air, which I gulped down like water. It tasted of flowers.

  • Mind / Body


    Dear Sof, There’s something in your eyes I hope you never lose. Curiosity. You’re brimming with it, and it’s a beautiful thing. For me the process of finding out is more interesting than the actually knowing, or being right. Even when you know a little something, you can build on it by asking the next question. Once you’ve figured out the how, go onto the why. Even if you never find out, you’ll be rewarded with all sorts of adventures which keep life interesting. Develop your curiosity. Develop your sense of wonder — wonder, which is not the same thing as gullibility, any more than open-mindedness is the same as empty-headedness. Wonder leads to all sorts of things — creativity, invention, discovery, surprises, friendships, travel, and perhaps best of all, love. Some people get to an age or station in life when they think they’ve lived everything they can ever…

  • Mind / Body,  Places

    Easter in Turkey

    This weekend I was granted a fascinating glimpse into Greek Orthodox Easter at the Church of St. Nicolas in Yeniköy, Istanbul. Turkey’s Rum (Greek/Byzantine) community is the nation’s smallest minority, with a community of perhaps no more than 2000 people. Here the Rum Ortodoks church serves not only as an important spiritual adviser in life, but as a way of keeping community alive and strong. As an outsider it was a true pleasure, to feel so welcome. The Turkish-Greek community have been granting me and my family a special welcome to such events, and seem happy to receive all whether they’re Orthodox or Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or any other denomination. Since my daughter, Sofia’s birth, however, I’ve felt a real desire to share the experiences of other minorities as much as possible here in Turkey, since she too is a minority citizen. I must admit, though, I feel a special closeness with the Rum community,…

  • Mind / Body,  Photography

    The Mystic Emptiness

    Ever have those moments when the light strikes the surface you’re looking at in a certain way and suddenly there’s a change, an almost mystic feel in the air and you want suddenly to say, “Yeah, baby!” I do all the time. Then I realize I’m alone, or in a church, a mosque or some sacred site where such an expression would be highly inappropriate. The world really is an incredible place at times, particularly when you get to see the most mundane things all over again, but in a new way. Perhaps that’s why I’m so relieved to have my camera and this blog. Being a writer or a creative person is very solitary at times. You’re always trying to capture a moment, hold it, freeze it in glass. Now it’s not so lonely. I could say more, but somebody else has already said it far better: “The most…

  • Mind / Body,  People,  Uncategorized

    Woodcutters & Management.

     THE AXE MAN. I want to take this opportunity to thank God … or the universe. Whoever or whatever is in charge seems to have brought the sun back after what felt like an interminable season of grey. Yesterday, to pay tribute to this momentous event, I decided that I would go out and look for color, specifically, pairings of yellow and blue. At the moment, I am really enjoying the interplay between these two primary partners — red is such a prima donna don’t you think, always blazing away, snatching center stage? Sorry, I digress. Something else happened. While I was out shooting stuff. I heard a cry. No, it was not spring. It was a group of woodcutters. They wanted their photos taken. One of the things I love about Turkey is that the working classes are only too happy to jump in front of the camera.  SOME HARD-SLOGGING GENTS REVEALING…

  • Food & Drink,  Mind / Body,  Places

    Adaçayi: a sage choice of drink.

    COULD THIS TEA SHARPEN OUR SENSES? DIMINISH THE AGING PROCESS? MAYBE. A few years ago,  I started visiting Yeniköy, and in particular, Yeniköy Kahvesi, a tea garden/coffeehouse set above the village’s main boulevard, nestled beside one of the community’s Greek churches. Overhung with vines and interlacing tree branches this quiet spot is a popular weekend brunch option year-round with its mix of sun and shade, indoor fireplace and relaxed attitude. One day when a group of us gathered there in early spring with our books and Sudoku puzzles, my friend Despina ordered an adaçayi (sage tea). I’d like to think that my life has changed for the better since that day. THE LANE BEHIND YENIKÖY KAHVESI. Made simply by infusing hot water with sage leaves, this herb turns the water a vibrant fluorescent yellow-green. It’s a refreshing hot drink usually enjoyed with a slice or two of lemon. From that day on…

  • Mind / Body,  Photography

    When the compass spins.

    SUPPOSE THIS IS A DOOR TO ANOTHER WORLD … WOULD YOU STEP THROUGH? Ever have that feeling that a passage to another world hovers just beneath your nose? Ever wonder if the image in the mirror might be the larger you, and that you might be nothing more than a thin reflection of limited dimension? In this city there are endless windows, ajar doors, stairways and passages that prompt my curiosity. Sometimes it seems that they might lead to some alternate reality, a world curled up inside our own. As early as childhood, stories like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles had a ring to them that drew in my young mind. There’s something about the notion of portals to other worlds that intrigues me, be they a wardrobe or a painting hung on wall.  A GOLDEN CITY? MAYBE … BUT THE ROAD BETWEEN HERE AND THERE IS OBSCURED. In the last…

  • Food & Drink,  Mind / Body

    The Elixir of Life?

    THE ELIXIR OF LIFE GRANTS IMMORTALITY TO ANYONE WHO DRINKS IT. The ultimate quest or Opus Magnum of the alchemist is the Lapis Philosophorum, more commonly known as the Philosopher’s Stone. With it she could transmute base metals into noble gold and even more importantly, mortality into immortality. Its recipe is the greatest secret of the Royal Art. Far more often than not, however, its pursuit shortened, rather than lengthened, the seeker’s life. In fact, poisonings, explosions and other misadventures were commonplace. But as long as man and woman have lived—and more importantly—died, the potential gains outweighed the dangers of failure. As far back as Gilgamesh we have accounts of people seeking to unlimit their existence. Frankly, who wouldn’t care for a taste of unlimited youth? THE  CHEMICAL WEDDING OF PHILOSOPHICAL SULFUR & MERCURY. Two notable figures—or legends, if you prefer—reputed to have achieved the Opus Magnum were Nicolas Flamel (September 28, 1330-1418) and later, the…