• 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…

  • 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.

  • Places

    No other place: Yeniköy

    Is it the architecture of yalilar, and konaklar? Your broad boulevard of plane trees? The secrets promised in your hidden lanes latticed with vines?  The glimpses  granted through spiky gates? The crumbling stone walls, the tucked away churches. Is it the wash of sea air through the fragrant leaves? Or the light that paints incredible texture on wood and stone, slanting low in the evenings? Could it be the meetings you’ve brought me? The welcome sound of familiar voices? The cups of coffee, the glasses of wine? Is it your slinking alley cats, eyes flashing between the grass? The street dog who beats her tail into the pavement every time I pass? Perhaps it’s all of these things, Yeniköy. But there’s one other thing that makes you indelible. You’re my daughter’s first home. Now there’s no other place. It’s strange, even though you’re with me, I’m missing you.

  • 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…

  • Photography

    The Alchemy of Pink

    Pink, there are times when you come off a little garish, or seem the feebler cousin of Red, lacking that vibrant color’s conviction. For some you can be a little hard to define, your hue being somewhere between Red and Magenta. But when you place yourself in partnership with Green, you truly know how to shine, perhaps even how to heal. You also know how to highlight magnificently the hours of dawn and dusk in between the contrast of slanting beams of light and long layers of shadow. You’re the color of love and the signal fire that says the equinox is here. Pink, you definitely have your moments. The spectrum of the universe would not be the same without you. Keep shining.

  • Places

    Japon Bahçesi

    One of these days I will be lucky enough to visit Japan during cherry blossom season. Until then, however, I’m lucky enough to have discovered this wonderful little gift from the city of Shimonoseki, Japan to Istanbul. Since 1972 the cities have been sister cities because of their similar landscapes and straits. This park was built about 10 years ago to commemorate the friendship in Baltalimani, not far from the Sakip Sabanci Hospital. The three weeks I spent in Japan a few years ago were nothing less than incredible. Since then, I have a radar for anything reminiscent of Japan. This is the perfect place to take a book or a loved one (or both) and a flask of green tea, and relax and spend a few hours. Don’t know what it’s like on weekends but it is very quiet weekdays. It’s especially nice if you’re a parent because the grass…

  • 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,…

  • 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…

  • 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…