Monthly Archives: May 2012

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The fabulous Natalie of Turkish Travel Blog prepared the following infograph about tourism trends in Turkey. It highlights Turkey’s current statistics and long-term goals. With an emphasis on regional development and sustainable tourism (at least on paper), the Ministry of Tourism has big plans for Turkey. Last year, Turkey had 31.4 million foreign visitors. The majority of tourists flock to the resorts in Southern Turkey. The Big 3?  Turkey is an established destination for many British, German and Russian tourists.  I loved these captivating graphics and overview of information in this infograph. I hope you do too!

Check out more information here: http://turkishtravelblog.com/tourism-in-turkey/

 

Istanbul Tourist Trends

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This morning I had to pinch myself. Is this my life?! As I sipped my morning coffee, our neighborhood accordian player wandered the streets below, and music filled the air. Last night, as we roamed through Taksim after a romantic dinner at our favorite restaurant, we stumbled upon a dance festival, we saw a cat march confidently into a restaurant waiting to be served, observed a capuchin monkey walk down Istiklal Cadessi, and after returning home and opening a bottle of wine, we watched a 10 minute firework show from our apartment window. Life is good! And sometimes, full of so many wonderful, humourous and thrilling surprises!

The Bizarre Pleasures of Life in Istanbul

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I am absolutely obsessed with the French electroswing and gypsy jazz band, Caravan Palace, and was so thrilled to hear they were coming back to Istanbul for this event. Babylon is a music establishment in Istanbul, and always brings the best up-and-coming bands to the city. For today’s event they brought an assortment of their favorite bands to initiate the summer concert season. Do yourself a favor and check out this line-up…

Babylon Soundgarden: An Istanbul Concert

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The friendly American in me struggled with this seemingly bizarre fact: Turks do not smile.  Growing up in a small town, I was trained to make eye-contact and smile at everyone I pass. However, when I moved to Istanbul, I quickly learned that this only brought unwanted attention from men, and skeptical looks from women. It boggled my mind, how could a country with such an emphasis on hospitality,  with such deep bonds between friends and family, be so closed-off to the people they encounter on the streets? Well, a recent op-ed piece in the Turkish Daily News attempts to explain this mystery. He asserts the following:

1.) “Turkey is a ‘transitional society’, one that is in the critical middle of a long transformation from a traditional (rural, agrarian and communal) to a modern (urban) nation. So, traditional mores are eroding, whereas new ones are not fully matured”

2.) The political climate is incredibly divisive and promotes significant levels of distrust between parties, people and government as a whole. This distrust spreads to the unfamiliar. Problems within the country are blamed on “enemies within and without”. In the absence of a true democracy, there is a lack of openness.

2.) Despite the rapid urbanization of Turkey, Turks still identify their hometown as their father’s place of birth. Very few people are from Istanbul, however this growing metropolis has become home to a diverse group of people from all over the country. In a ‘colossal city’ like Istanbul, there are too much that is unknown and unfamiliar. You no longer know or trust your neighbor. These neighborhood and local bonds are no longer relevant or possible in large urban environments.

While this is not necessarily unique to Turkey, it is interesting to contemplate how the political climate impacts social bonds and interactions in a place I call ‘home’.

istiklal caddesi

The Significance of a Smile

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For anyone who lives, works or loves Istanbul, please watch this movie! Ekumenopolis explores the development of Istanbul, as it attempts to distinguish itself as a ‘global city’. It asserts that Istanbul has become a “city without limits” and outlines how the application of neoliberal development policies have been  incredibly misguided and destructive.  The documentary enlists passionate and insightful urban planners, UN officials, social workers and scholars to  explain the current economic boom in Istanbul, and the sad realities that accompany it: the dislocation of communities, a greater divide between the rich and the poor, a lack of environment preservation, the depletion of natural resources, a dependence on automobiles, a lack of investment in public transportation, the separation of housing from jobs and so much more.

 It challenges the rhetoric we hear in support of building the third bridge, and notes that instead of easing congestion, it will result in more development, more roads and more cars. It challenges political forces that interfere with the development  of the city, and ignore the long-term development plan that already exists. It highlights the condition of migrants forced to leave their villages and move to Istanbul in search of jobs, and shows how this new economy,  and the “urban renewal projects” that accompany it have had a devastating impact on the poor. It shares how housing initiatives and the infamous profit-driven TOKI have failed to serve the people who need housing the most.

 As Istanbul’s population continues to grow, and more cars fill the roads, there is no plan to stop the growing inequities and environmental destruction. Istanbul is predicted to take over an entire region, without careful planning or preservation. Whether your issue is development,  income inequality, migrant workers, environmental destruction, public housing-watch this movie, and share it with your friends.

Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEzqu_z9fRo

Read more here: http://affr.nl/festival_2011/ekafmenopolis_openingfilm_affr.html

Watch some of the film here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYSLIsMhAvM&feature=related

The movie is currently playing at Cine Majestic in Beyoglu (with English subtitles). Find more information here: http://www.cinemajestic.com/

Ekümanopolis: A Must-See Documentary about the Politics of Development in Istanbul

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Today is Youth and Sports Day, but the holiday was established to commemorate the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. On May 19, 1919, Atatürk arrived in Samsun to rally his troops to challenge the Allied powers, and their efforts to carve what remained of the Ottoman Empire between themselves.

This day is also widely recognized as Atatürk’s birthday. While his exact birthday is unknown, he famously declared that he deeply resonated with the spirit of May 19th and felt this day could be his birthday. Thus, May 19th has great cultural and historical significance, as well as contemporary relevance. On this day, Turkey comes together to remember the achievements of their great leader, and celebrate the athletic accomplishments of the next generation of Turks.

May 19th: Youth and Sports Day

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This view should be enough to lure you to my favorite terrace bar and restaurant. Located off the back streets of Asmalımescit, beyond the famed music venue Babylon, you can enter a seemingly normal apartment building, and take the intimate 3 person elevator to the top. Once you enter Balkon, another set of stairs takes you to the terrace bar. A view of the Golden Horn, and the Bosphorus awaits you. It is the perfect place to spend the evening and watch the sunset. Additionally, the margaritas and mojitos are excellent, as is the wonderful menu of pizzas, pastas and salads.

Check out the website here: http://www.balkonrestaurantbar.com/

Address: Asmalımescit Mah. Sehbender Sokak No:5 Kat:6 Tunel-Beyoglu

Balkon: The Perfect Terrace Bar in Istanbul

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You have not experienced the glory of Turkish Breakfasts, until you have been to Cafe Kale.  Located in the Rumeli neighborhood along the Bosphorus, in the shadows of the second bridge and the Fortress of Europe, the view alone is reason to enough to explore Rumeli.  Once a simple bakery  in a small seaside house, the cafe has now expanded into two adjacent buildings and onto the streets. After securing a table, you will quickly be spoiled with delights. Especially if you order the ‘Serpme Kahvalti’ (The Breakfast Spread). I promise you will not be disappointed! This breakfast spread goes above and beyond normal breakfast standards. Within 5 minutes of placing your order, your table will be covered with delights. Ranging from kaymak (decadent clotted cream) covered in honey, fresh squeezed orange juice, fried eggs and sucuk (the Turkish sausage), Helumi (Fried Salty Cheese from Cyprus), Borek with pastirma and so much more. The staff is famous for their hospitality and service, and the space itself is buzzing with activity. This is a meal that cannot be missed in Istanbul!

Address: Yahya Kemal Caddesi, No: 16, Rumelihisarı.  Take the Bahcekoy-bound 42T anywhere along the Bosphorus Road until you reach Rumeli Hisari.

Breakfast at Cafe Kale

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It was a beautiful day in Istanbul, and we ventured over to the Asian side to explore and relax. First, we travelled by ferry from Besiktas to Uskudar. Then, we took a Beykoz-bound dolmus (minibus) along the shore. At least at first. It was a holiday, which meant all of Istanbul was out, ready to play. So, in typical Turkish fashion, our driver zig-zagged through the back streets to ensure we would avoid any and all traffic. Despite a bit of car-sickness, it was a success. We saw parts of Istanbul we never saw before, and we were in Beykoz in less than 40 minutes.

Every town along the shore has a unique small-town flair, enhanced by its beautiful promenade along the shore. Everything is green, and the Bosphorus sparkled. We wandered past fishing boats, and ate durum at a seaside restaurant. Afterwards, we wandered along the promenade and through the tulip-filled gardens of Beykoz Sosyal Tesisleri (a social facility). We ate ice cream and sipped tea, and for an afternoon, we felt worlds away from our daily lives, without actually leaving the city. If you are looking for a day trip in Istanbul, I strongly encourage a trip to the seaside villages of the Asian shore.

In addition to Beykoz, there are several others I would recommend.

-Kanlica- Famous for its yogurt, this seaside village also has a lively covered market and numerous shops and cafes.

-Anadolu Hisari-Located next to the fortress of Asia, there is a small park as well as a canal lined by cafes and full of boats.

-Cengelkoy- There is an old maple tree that brings shade and charm to this seaside town. There are lots of cafes, and a bazaar on Monday.

-Beylerbeyi- Close the second bridge, Beylerbeyi has wonderful fish restaurants and some hidden courtyards nestled in the backstreets.

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Along the Asian Shore of Istanbul