Monday, November 24, 2008

THE City

Istanbul is The City.

When I am here with friends from abroad, this observation becomes even more factual. I enjoyed the presence of best friends from Amsterdam, Heather and Marina (H&M in vernacular), as much as they enjoyed being here.

Other than that, it is my city. So having friends around means they get to know me. Every step is an inroad to the curves of my brain. Every walk explains something about me. So I felt extremely privileged to have them around.

Here is what one can do in a week's time in The City (excluding the excursive walks and home-made delicacies that would be a much more extensive list)...

1. first night out:meze-rakı-friends...
Cezayir Restaurant is in an old Italian school building with great food and atmosphere. The wonderful feeling of coming together spontaneously with 20 beloved people at once merges with the enjoyment of experimental delicacies on traditional recipes. oh shiva... I'm back at home... :D
a dub reggae concert in Ghetto:
Dub L.F.O is from Tel Aviv. They are good and their energy matches their music, and the club itself is fantastic.

2. horse-riding
To detox and recovery after a night of dancing, it's best to wake up early, go to the forest close to the black sea coast and have a walk with an equine soulmate. a crispy weather, and a walk after the ride towards the commons, all smiles etc... great people to meet at each step. I notice that I miss this lightness.

3. old city and old friends
While I met my best friend and her new baby, the girls go to the old city to do their touristy stuff... Mondays are not a good choice for this, but they come back tired and excited.
I recognise once more that I don't feel like becoming a mother. It looks tough. Pelin, however, seems to have fit the role perfectly. I like her calling the baby the dude, and herself a cow when Selin is being fed. Also that she doesn't stigmatise the event at all...

4. Ottoman food and
Çiya in Kadıköy is a must-go: the revival of Ottoman food for reasonable prices. A walk to the Kadife street full of nice bars and cafés brought us to my fave bar around the neighbourhood: Karga, which is located in an old Istanbul house with a fantastic staircase and an authentic atmosphere.

5. more good food... a surprise and a bit of frustration

This city never stops growing and changing. Often, this is not enjoyable to observe. Going to the "Orhan Pamuk district" and walking around the neighbourhood I used to live and work in only a few years ago was shocking in the sad sense of the word.

Nişantaşı is losing its elegance and style. But Zazi was a nice restaurant, serves fusion food and good wines. The highly modern style fits the food perfectly. Although I don't like either in general, the service made up for any disagreements I could have with the style. - Apparently, when I wasn't here Cemal got famous and all. I intend to see one of his movies soon preferably one in which he rides horses, which I know he does elegantly and well...

6. Selim Sesler at Araf
This one was for Heather, but we all enjoyed it tremendously. Araf, the name of the bar, means "purgatory". Selim Sesler, the name of the famous clarinet master that was playing, means "benign sounds" (alternatively "flawless sounds"). We danced to flawless sounds in the purgatory for 5 hours or so. Gypsy music has a certain universal quality to it; we could all dance without feeling tired, and despite several injuries and none of us had a chance to get depressed that night. We needed a rest the next day.

7. spoiling ourselves
with mantı and çiğbörek at Çesta on Bağdat Street and with a hair and nail treatment which one can afford in the City we spent a day spoiling ourselves, and helping the local economy. The shopped for clothes, too: This is the only way I like shopping for clothes. I go to my aunt's boutique in Feneryolu, have some tea and a nice conversation, eat simit filled with kaşar peyniri, try several things and ask the opinions of the many family members who are there and feel like a human being, member of a loving circle, rather than a consumer. Always works. H&M looked great in their new sweaters and hair, and I guess they also enjoyed the process of 'being treated'...

8. Another night out: Cabaret Cine is back... (almost)
Cabaret Cine is about to open after an extensive renovation. We were there for a pre-opening celebration, a dance party like the old times. I wish it was not modernised as much. It used to be much more Istanbul-like (see pic.), but it was nice to be with old friends and dance with them. Alev and Emin are always nice to see again. 
So it was another night of dancing... For the non-Istanbullers, the program was to see Istanbul Modern and/or Santralistanbul and have a nice dinner in the fish restaurants along the Bosporus, before joining us.  

9. a walk along the coast

The Asian side of Istanbul (actually only the Kadiköy district, but hey...) is the sister city of Amsterdam. It has a long coastline with old villas, 
seagulls and magnolia trees, accompanied by the 
wonderful salty smell of the Marmara sea. The storm that destroyed the Karaköy port was just starting when we went there for a short walk. 

We smelled the linden trees, speculated about which 
tree was called what in each language we spoke, took photos, and fantasised about moving to the old Istanbul house in the picture, turning it into a culture centre was Heather's idea. 
I would rather keep it silent, with only solitary philosophers to be allowed to live and work there... 

This is a recommendable walk unless it is summer and crowded. One can read (and translate) 
the Istanbul poems of the most beloved poets of the last century that are printed on the benches for extra effect ;)

Ben bir ceviz ağacıyım Gülhane Parkında
Ne sen bunun farkındasın
Ne de polis farkında...

10. Taksim, Beyoğlu, Pera 
(bookshops, music shops, and a whole lot of desserts to try)
We have been to Beyoğlu so many times and for so many different kinds of excursions that it is difficult to summarise it all.
Simply put, one must see it because it is the heart of İstanbul. I will put a single photo (of Çiçek Pasajı), probably one of the most picturesque spots in the neighbourhood, but it has many beautiful buildings that were once built as consulates in the Ottoman Capital. 

İstiklal Street is also my favourite place to shop. (Clothing is a different matter. It is endurable in the way I described above, now I am talking about real shopping.) 
Robinson Crusoe is the bookshop I choose most often: I can easily spend a whole day there. I think I will write in the next few months about the books I bought.

Heather had the CD-bonanza, and Marina indulged herself to Turkish literature and handicrafts. Then, we had to have more specialities to try: Boza, Sahlep, and Tavukgöğsü...

11. Concerts: Transglobal Underground and Nigel Kennedy...
Good ones. Very much so. It was even better as I was bumping into a friend every 15 minutes. Really cool.

12. Wonderful people: Başak, Eylem, Erkut, Ömer, Melike, Mahir, Güner, Lale, Güler, and others who made it possible by opening their minds/houses/refrigerators/cars/bookshelves to us... (and Pako, Püskül, Toros and Enigma who allowed us to their homes, and cared for us in the most wondrous, intuitive, and welcoming manner).

1 comment:

Sander Chan said...

I wish I was there....