• Places

    the wonder of the pinewood

    In Istanbul it’s increasingly difficult to remember that our world isn’t comprised entirely of concrete and glass. Luckily this city has a few surprises left in store. One of which is only a few hundred meters from Haci Osman Metro station. Rough and unkept, unlike Emirgan Park or Belgrad Forest, is a large, and largely unused, pine wood. Although it’s open to the public, it’s not open to cars — although, unfortunately, it did seem to be open to the  odd motorcycle. A few hundred meters from the entrance, you begin to lose sight of anything but the stands of pine. A blue sky looms overhead, and sunlight filters through the branches. Soon the city disappears, and aside from the wail of the occasional siren, you hear little more than the wind through the trees. Stray a little from the beaten paths and you’ll soon feel the soft springy carpet…

  • Food & Drink

    duke istanbul

    Last week I was invited to lunch by Duke, Istanbul as I have been producing the words and photography for Marie Claire Türkiye’s Deluxe Mekan section for several months now. I must admit I was a little unsure of what to suspect. Duke is in Trump Towers in Mecidiyeköy — a region of the city which does not rank high on my list of preferred destinations. As many people now know, we’ve had a few issues in Istanbul regarding urban space, retail spaces and which direction one of the world’s most historically significant cities is headed. Mecidiyeköy “functions” as a business, transport and shopping hub. To say it does so gracefully would be something of a stretch. So I wasn’t necessarily prepared to like what I saw. To reach Duke you must enter Trump Towers and pass through the usual security inspection. You’re immediately doused with the usual hubbub of…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    five years fresh … den

    Years ago (almost five to be exact) I had a favourite morning hangout. I used to huddle over my laptop on cold winter mornings by the misted window, deeply embroiled in a novel I was working on at the time. After a while I finished the novel and moved to Yeniköy in anticipation of the beautiful daughter that came into our lives. At first Yenikoy was missing something, though I couldn’t quite say what. I established my mobile writer’s outpost at Caffé Nero which had all the mod-cons I needed. Personality, I guess you’d call it, was lacking. The staff were nice, but they came and went regularly. It wasn’t the same experience as saying hello to the owners at Den. In the last year, perhaps a little more, I started meeting my friend — and all around man of good taste — Maxime, for lunches at my haunt of old, Den.…

  • People,  Places

    what’s next, turkey?

    Yesterday people of all sorts gathered to continue the celebration of a victory in Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Left-wing, right-wing, liberal, conservative, nationalist, socialist … you name them. There was a constant flow of Turkish citizens of every age, ethnicity and subculture. There are banners with socialist slogans, nationalist slogans flying next to the rainbow GLBT flags everywhere. People pose to have their pictures taken on burned-out police cars and buses, while some diligent protestors sweep up the rubble and debris nearby. Some of it is theirs, some of it the police’s. However, this feels like a major victory for peaceful protestors who were violently abused by their police force and government (see previous post). It’s a strange victory, though, because it’s not being acknowledged as a defeat by the man and he government they took on. What started as a minor protest for a small park has rolled…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    briken aliu’s guitars

    I’ve always admired people who can make music. There’s something about them, as if their minds existed  in two or more universes simultaneously. Which makes me think that the people who craft musical instruments for professionals must be  attuned to some truly special wavelengths. On Friday I happened to meet such an exceptional guy, someone who has been creating instruments since his mid-teens. While he’s now approaching 30, he has the keen gleam in his eye of someone who is making a living doing exactly what he loves. A self-described “gypsy” originally from Albania, Briken Aliu came to Istanbul with no friends and no Turkish as a teenager and has since set himself up as a preeminent musical instrument artisan, first apprenticing with Murat Sezen. While the economy has had an impact on his trade, at any one time he’s working on at least 6-7 projects, including a remake of a guitar…

  • Places

    serdar-ı ekrem sokak

    When I first moved to Istanbul I rented a flat in the Galata neighbourhood which was scruffy but interesting area on the city map. Later, like a lot of Beyoglu, it became a bit disillusioning. As we all know, economic progress doesn’t necessarily benefit a neighbourhood’s character or hospitality. Especially when the new businesses and residents decide to do a sad or cynical interpretation of someone else’s culture for the benefit of non-residents. So it became easy to give the Galata neighbourhood a miss without missing anything at all. However Serdar-ı Ekrem Sokak seems to have undergone a mostly positive transformation, comfortably mixing old and new and featuring design businesses and small boutiques which draw on the local culture and architecture as much for the benefit of Turks — at least so it seems from the people sitting in the street-side cafés and coffee joints — as for outsiders. Change is…

  • Places

    Dilapidated doorways and detailing in decay

    How’s that for an alliterative title? I really wanted to call this piece: a diminutive demonstration of dilapidated doorways and decadent details in decay … but it wouldn’t fit in the headline space my template allots. Still, I probably managed to go purple enough with my prose style to describe the beauty of these passageways and halls which have lost none of their magic despite the neglect. Or has the neglect only enhanced it? The hallways and doors of Beyoglu, may go unnoticed in terms of restoration, but they still turn my head.

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    The stairwell refuge

    In most business buildings, and many apartment blocks there’s an essential Turkish institution. Past the postboxes, across the scuffed, cracked tile floor, an illumined window, fogged with steam, behind which moves a shadowy indistinct figure. What’s brewing inside the uninitiated, non Turk might wonder? A magician in his lair? Almost. From that room, usually not much more than a metre or two square, a man or youth will emerge bearing a shiny silvery tray on which he carries an absolute Turkish necessity — piping hot, black tea accompanied by a tiny spoon and two little bricks of sugar. Outside pushed against the narrow corridor wall, a stool or two, maybe a chair with its vinyl cushion torn, exposing some yellow foam cushioning, and a table with an ashtray and stubbed out butt. This time of year, this is the cheapest refuge from Istanbul’s rain-spattered streets, where for less than 50 cents…

  • People,  Places

    What a year

    At first it’s hard for me to believe. It’s been only 1 year! So much has happened since I first launched this site December 19, 2011. I’ve been introduced to so many incredible people, I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to have these experiences and share them. I’ve learned so much about so many different people thanks to starting this site. It’s helped me find a vehicle for my natural curiosity, and voice my constant state of wonder. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life —  launching  this site isn’t one of them. It’s allowed me to record my small keyhole view of local history and share it with people all around the world. Being an immigrant, you never lose your roots, but it makes the dislocation a little easier when you  can simultaneously share your new home as you explore it with people you…