Every Thursday, I make the journey to Cengelkoy to meet one of my clients. It is a two-hour lesson and everything about it is fun and exciting. I love having an excuse to explore the Asian side of the city. Additionally, I love commuting by ferry. There is an additional plus: Autumn is here and the sun is setting earlier. As a result, I have the unique privilege of riding the ferry at sunset. It is the ideal commute! Jealous?!
Watch out Cihangir. Besiktas is the new weekend breakfast destination!
In the past 2 years, a handful of new breakfast cafes have popped up near the Besiktas Balik Pazari. This lead TimeOut Istanbul to describe Celebioglu Sokak as a street devoted to breakfast, stating that the street “pretty much exists just so that Besiktas residents can eat breakfast.’ However, I predict that these restaurants and cafes will attract more than local residents. These bustling cafes have crowds of people waiting for a seat. Their charm as well as their quirkiness contributes to their allure. Blues and jazz play in the background. Tables unfold onto the streets.
I spent my Saturday morning sampling the numerous jams and delicious menemen at Reçel Türevleri. This particular Besiktas breakfast cafe has a unique draw: numerous jams from the city of Adana. We were served cherry, quince and carrot jam in our particular breakfast spread. We ordered the ‘serpme kahvalti’, menemen, tea and ended the meal with fresh squeezed orange juice…all for 18 lira. The young owners serve as waiters and cooks. The decor is colorful, hip and inviting. Prices are low and ingredients are fresh and organic. Read the rest of this entry
The Ferikoy neighborhood is one of extreme contrasts. There are old apartment buildings, churches and a large cemetery that reflect the neighborhoods history and diversity. It is home to the city’s Armenian population and welcomes new refugees, Erasmus students and Kurdish families on a regular basis. Some of the streets and shops have not changed in the last 50 years, however, the city has changed around it. There is an old parking lot that hosts the organic produce bazaar on Saturday and the Antique bazaar on Sunday. Surrounding this dilapidated structure are sleek new apartment buildings surrounded my security gates and totally disconnected from the rest of the city.
This makes the bazaar a hidden and unexpected treasure. Every Sunday, antique collectors, artists and history buffs take over tables to display their unique collections. You will see absolutely everything from old Ottoman coins to costume jewelry, old books and picture frames, to interesting pieces of Judaica and used clothing. It is easy to spend hours scouring through each and every table, chatting with the collectors and bargaining for some unique gems.
And, of course there is food! In the middle of the bazaar is a wonderful booth with the best home cooked food. Additionally, the Saturday and Sunday bazaar has some of the best gozleme in the city (try the mixed gozleme. It is great!). Additionally, along the entrance to the bazaar is one of the only ‘organic buffets’, I have ever discovered in the city.
If you are looking for the perfect Sunday activity, this is it! Start your day with gozleme and fresh squeezed orange juice. Afterwards, spend and hour or two searching for treasures…
You can reach the bazaar by getting off at the Pangalti exit of the Osmanbey Metro station. Walk along Ergenekon Cadessi, passing Kurtulus Caddessi, until you reach the end of the street. You will see the tall new apartment developments (including Anthill) to your right walk through the development until you are greeted with a sign that welcomes you to the bazaar.
Over two years ago, I was first welcomed into Selin’s home. She lives in an old apartment in the heart of Nisantasi. Her home contains beautiful Turkish ceramics, art and my personal favorite: glorious bookshelves full of cookbooks. She is simultaneously your guide, host, mother, teacher and friend. Her background lies in Tourism, however her company was founded because of her love of food. She hosts cooking lessons in her home and leads market tours through Kadikoy. In the four hours you spend with her, you learn where to find the best products in Istanbul and Turkey, and how to make numerous Turkish dishes you can only find in the warmth of a Turkish home.
With numerous out-of-town guests for my wedding, I arranged a day of cooking with Selin. We gathered in her home at 9:30 and sipped fresh cherry juice as we learned about her family, her favorite restaurants and the best Turkish cookbooks on the market. We moved into her kitchen to discuss the menu of the day and quickly got to work. As we chopped tomatoes, and learned how to properly smoke eggplant, we were offered special olives from Southern Turkey, a sample of pomegranate molasses and 5 different types of Turkish cheeses. Selin creates the menu based on your interests and requests. In my particular group, she was able to accommodate vegetarians and vegans, as well as eggplant enthusiasts. We prepared borek, green olive salad with pomegranate sauce, smoked eggplant mezes, green pepper dolmas, a baked beef stew, wine infused figs with kaymak and a few other treats along the way.
After 2 1/2 hours of cooking, you sit down to enjoy the fruit of your labor at a beautifully set table in the heart of her apartment. You sip on wine, share your stories and Selin answers your questions. After a lovely feast, you are sent home with leftovers. It is the perfect activity for any foodie looking to experience a slice of Turkish home life and cuisine!
August 30th is a major holiday in Turkey. It commemorates the victory of the Turkish forces at the final battle in Dumlupınar. This victory is significant because it ended the Turkish Independence War in 1922 and resulted in the founding of the Turkish Republic. This year it became a 4-day weekend for many. I had the unique opportunity to wander the streets in the morning and observe some of the festivities.
Like most Turkish holidays, flags covered each and every building, bus and monument. Each neighborhood had special banners to commemorate the event. For this holiday, naval and army troops gathered at the monument in Taksim Square for a special ceremony. Beautiful Navy ships covered the Bosphorus. And, to my surprise, a band of leather jacket wearing men with Turkish flags on their backs rode their motorcycles through Besiktas as their crew formed for the afternoon parade. It was a wonderful spectacle and celebration.
While Turkuaz was first opened in 2011 , it is one of the newest (and best) language schools in the city. For newcomers looking for a place to call home and a community in their first few weeks living in Istanbul, this may be the place for you. The school is located in a lovely ground floor apartment in Gumussuyu, 10 minutes from Taksim Square.
There are four classrooms. Classes consist of no more than 6 students. There is coffee and tea awaiting you at every break. There is a lovely woman who cooks and cleans for the school, and teaches you about each dish she prepares (the smells fill the air in the morning. It is impossible to resist). Pamuk, the school’s 18-year-old cat wanders in and out of each classroom (and lap). You quickly feel at home.
The space is bright. The classrooms look out at a garden, and each classroom connects to the balcony. Everything in the school is crisp and clean. There are pictures of Istanbul all over the walls. The teachers are warm, friendly and welcoming.
My Level 1 class consists of a 2 Americans (including myself), a Japanese woman, a German man, a Welsh girl and an Austrian woman. We go out to weekly lunches and share resources on a daily basis.
Quality of Education? The teachers are excellent. While the class is taught primarily in Turkish, the teachers speak simply and slowly. You are given a Turkuaz course book on the first day of school for various reading and writing activities, Additionally, you receive 2-4 pages of homework each night. The first three weeks of class focus on the simple continuous and past tense, in addition to a lot of technical grammar. The main goal of the Introductory course is to expand your vocabulary and give you the basic foundation to learn Turkish.
Originally, I planned to take one course to guide my own Turkish studies, but now I am sold! This class is worth every penny! It is the best language course I have ever taken, and the results are already proven: I am speaking Turkish every chance I get!
We are escaping for the weekend to the small village of Hoşköy. With a pool in front of the house and the Marmara Sea beckoning below, this is a wonderful weekend escape. It is also in the heart of one of Turkey’s blossoming wine regions. The town is near Tekirdag, which is roughly 4 hours from Istanbul. The last hour of the drive consists of rolling hills covered by grape vines or olive trees. Roadside stands sell local honey, produce and herbs. Dirt roads pass through small villages tucked into the hillside. There are numerous wineries to visit and sandy beaches to explore. It is the perfect getaway!