• Food & Drink,  Places

    Breakfast of Pashas: Emek Cafe

    Breakfast on the Bosporus is a sure way to start off the day feeling like a Pasha. One of my favorite spots lately is Emek Cafe, one block north of Yeniköy Iskelesi. The tea is kept fresh, the service is classic white shirt professional, and the food simple, unfussy but good. It’s the sea-side atmosphere and neighborhood charm that elevates the experience. Then there’s the menemen, perhaps one of Turkey’s finest breakfast offerings, eggs cooked up in a sauté of tomato and green pepper. You simply can’t go wrong if you want something savory. If your taste runs sweet, then there’s always bal-kaymak (honey-cream). Turkish honey is deservedly famous, with a pure uncluttered taste. Paired with another Turkish specialty, kaymak—somewhat like clotted cream—and served on the thick fluffy wedges of bread, it’s like something out of a dream. As always for me, though, the starring duo of the morning, is the…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Bosporus Binoculars

    Usually the amount of junk that people put between me and a great view irritates me. But there’s something kind of quirky cool about these fixed binoculars outside Yeniköy Spor Klubu that entertains me. They possess an appealing retro robotic ugliness like something you might see in a Fritz Lang movie, or the Jetsons. There are moments when I almost expect them to spring into action and start talking.

  • Places

    Reflecting on the ordinary

    The reflected natural light in Istanbul is something else. Nowhere else do I remember the casting of such a gleam. It’s particularly lovely in the evening and at dawn (though I’m rarely conscious enough to record it). My favorite thing about the light is how it limns everyday objects, giving the mundane — and sometimes even the ugly — a strange flashing moment of glory. Stone, metal, wood, concrete and glass all take on new dimension when reflecting the lengthy beams of the sun. Switched off lampposts, metal fences and fence posts, street signs, building facades, even puddles gleam like mystic revelations in the Istanbul light. Perhaps that’s just one of the gifts of this city. Its light can transmute the experience of something ordinary into the extraordinary. Thanks for illuminating me, Istanbul.

  • 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.

  • People

    Profile: Eko Zeyno

    Since last summer I’ve been looking into stories about what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s downright scary about Turkey’s food supply. When you become a parent you suddenly want to educate yourself about things you’ve never thought enough about in the past. One of the most interesting aspects of the story is the organic food industry and what’s holding it back when so much of the world no longer needs convincing as to its merits. Recently, I talked to Zeynep Çelen, the natural living (these are my terms) guest expert on Star TV’s Melek about the organic food scene and her take on what needs to be done if it’s to take root. If I were to derive a one-word response from her on the greatest obstacle to Turkey’s organic food movement, it would be: attitude. You’ve been quite vocal in social media countering negative opinions towards the organic foods movement. What’s the…

  • People

    Old Corners, Bright New Lights: LOS DU MAL

    Istanbul has plenty that could, and perhaps should, change. However there are still plenty of old pieces of this city that only need a little polish to produce volumes of atmosphere. That’s why I’ve been really pleased to get acquainted with Metin Ilktekin and Raphael Faeh, the like-minded talents behind Los Du Mal. These two interesting characters are making it their business to illuminate and energize some of the overlooked corners of the city, and have recently set up their Muvakkat Studio in Roumelie Han, one of the great Pera buildings that has fallen into decline over the years, yet still manages to provide plenty of inspiration for painters and other artists, as well as serving as the HQ for the latest incarnation of the Turkish Communist Party. The pair met in Zurich three years ago but came from entirely different professional disciplines. Metin is a former private jet salesman…

  • Places

    Aboard The Trabzon

    Ashore, the Bosporus seems like a broad passage, deep and easily navigable. From the bridge of a 229-meter freighter, the scale and proportion of things changes — dramatically. You realize that there’s nothing straight about the world’s most romantic, if not most important, strait. The Bosporus is a twisty, mighty and highly dangerous waterway. And if not accorded the respect she deserves, could easily prove lethal to many. That’s why on Sunday morning I shook off the previous night’s Easter celebrations and hastened in a taxi to Rumeli Kavagi, camera in hand, in order to to board Ciner Shipping’s 6-month old freighter, the “Trabzon.” I wanted to capture at least something of life aboard one of these incredible vessels which slip up and down the Bosporus on a daily basis. It was an awe-inspiring experience, and one that’s deepened my respect for those who live their life at the mercy…

  • Places

    A Pasaj in Time

    Ever want to time travel? I do. Not for sinister reasons like making myself insanely wealthy by choosing the right lottery numbers or even more noble ones like preventing some of history’s great tragedies. I’d be too afraid accidentally re-write my very existence out of time and space. I would simply like to travel back as an observer, gaze at the people, get a taste of the air, sample a glass of the wine, listen to the sounds, feel the textures of another era. Short of building a time machine, however, there are places you can go where you can gaze backward through time. One of them is the Suriye Pasaji at the Tünel end of Beyoglu. This place is magic. It has a cavernous atrium. Open walkways. The office of a daily Greek newspaper. A fur shop, and even a vast basement vintage shop to outfit you for your passage…

  • Places

    The Hill House

    Do you ever find a house or a building inexplicably intriguing? I do, and there’s something about this particular one in Yeniköy that never fails to stimulate my curiosity. As usual it’s not a single feature, but a collection of attributes that ignite my wonder. I love the combination of stone and wood, the chipped paint. It’s obviously fallen a bit into disrepair, but it still has a certain dignified beauty, or romance to it if you ask me. There are many bigger, grander houses, but there’s something special about this one. There’s also its placement. Perched high above the Yeniköy boulevard, up above the traffic at the top of a winding step that leads to a church gate. It’s beside a much taller, grander konak. And though it’s surrounded by beauty, there’s a certain sense of loneliness, a sense of distance this house has. It makes me wonder if whoever dwelled within…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    City Sketcher

     © Samantha Zaza One of the things I wanted to do when I started this site was to provide sketches of city life. Before launching I worked furiously for a couple of hours every day, honing my skills. But I’m not there yet, and will continue to rely on my photographic skills in order to present the visual component of most of my stories for the time being. © Samantha Zaza That’s why I want to take the time to introduce you to a terrific artist we have working away right here in Istanbul already providing incredible glimpses into the beauty and mystery of this city and others. You may have noticed her site Harika (meaning wonderful, fantastic, incredible … in Turkish) listed on the blog roll to your right before today, but I really hope you’ll visit it — that’s why I’ve stopped myself at just three of her sketches. The thing I…