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Dearest Readers,

2013 has proven to be a year of exciting transitions and new beginnings. Istanbul was my home, my stomping grounds and adventure-base for almost 4 years. The city’s dynamic energy was thrilling and overwhelming, inspiring and exhausting. It is certainly one of my favorite places in the world and will always be somewhere I call ‘home’.

I miss the accordion man that walked through our street every Sunday morning. I miss the lemon cart and the old grandmothers who  yelled, chatted, smiled and strolled as they passed through the web of city streets. I miss the cats at every turn. I miss passing four grocery stores on my way home. I miss knowing I can jump on the bus or metro in a matter of minutes and get almost anywhere in the city. I miss the music pouring out of the Taksim bars. I miss when the streets are so full you can hardly walk. I miss the sparkling Bosphorus, where boats of all sizes travel in all directions. I miss constantly being exposed to new words, flavors, music and experiences. And, of course I miss my Istanbul friends and family.

Where am I now?! I am currently on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle, back on American soil. It is a place where you can hear the birds chirping, walk along the beach without seeing another soul and occasionally, if you are really lucky, you will see beautiful Mount Rainier. It is a place where everyone wants to know your story (and most people already do). Everyone makes eye contact with one another and it is expected for you to say hello (with a smile) to every stranger you pass. Small town life is charming in its quirks and serenity.

There has been significant culture shock. It  took me 3 weeks to muster the courage to enter a grocery store. It boggles my mind that there can be entire aisles of salad dressing and cereal. I still stand on the right side of an escalator. I am learning to tip 20 percent after every meal. I cannot hear (or see) my neighbors. The streets of Seattle seem so empty, even at the height of commuter hours.

In some ways life seems to have slowed down. We sleep in every day. The stress of work is absent from my life. I am surrounded by the comfort, love and support of family. However, I am constantly reminded that time never stops. Everyone I know has big, busy and full lives that have changed so much since my original departure. It is fun to get to know my closest friends in new ways and see how everyone has grown-up and started their own unique path towards the life they want to live.

What am I doing?! Exploring my options, networking, dreaming big and daydreaming about my next adventures (and blog). I am toying with the idea of careers in international education, public relations, public affairs, higher education and even writing. I am currently working on a book to ensure my adventures and experiences outlive the blur of my memories. I am considering my options for a blog about the social, economic, cultural realities of the Millennial generation I find myself to be a member of. I am trying to tame my wanderlust to imagine myself staying in one place long enough to establish real roots. I miss Istanbul and the exciting world I left behind, but I am also thrilled to imagine all the possibilities that await me.

Stay tuned for future posts and updates!

From Seattle with love…

Adrian

From Istanbul to Seattle

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The couch still seems empty despite the fact that our beloved visitors left over one week ago. These three wonderful women decided to take a trip of a lifetime and travel the world for 6 months. They left their jobs, rented their apartments and put all of their essential belongings into a backpack. They started in Greece (and Amsterdam), met in Izmir to tour the ruins of Efes and then came to Istanbul for one week. It was their friendship with my beloved college roommate that initially brought us together, however it was their enthusiasm, curiosity, kindness and sense of humor that ensured they became friends of our own.

They left Istanbul for Kathmandu, despite warnings that few backpackers make it out of Istanbul to continue their travels to Nepal (Perhaps Istanbul’s charms lure them in longer than expected). They are currently on an 8-day trek to the Annapurna Base Camp through the Himalayas. To anyone with wanderlust, a sense of adventure and a love of travel, follow their story and adventure on their blogRead the rest of this entry

Yesterday’s Underwear and Three Wonderful New Friends

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Karakoy is situated along the shore of the Bosphorus across from Eminonu and the old city. It was once the financial center of the Ottoman Empire. The elegant facades of many of the buildings in the neighborhood have slipped into an unfortunate state of decay.  This area of the city was overlooked for years.  The city developed and changed around it. The financial center of Modern Turkey moved to Levent and Maslak. Hardware shops dominate many streets.

Ten years ago nobody would have ventured to Karakoy by day or night. Now, it is becoming a destination. New galleries, cafes and restaurants are popping up left and right. Many say the crowd that once reinvented Nevizade, Tunel, Galata and Asmalimescit will make Karakoy the next hip neighborhood of Istanbul. The neighborhood’s slow transformation is impossible to ignore. Empty warehouses sit next to bustling new restaurants and bistros.  This is the magic of Karakoy, the most recent discovery and destination for Istanbul’s hipsters, trendsetters and yuppies.

We went on Saturday night to see for ourselves. Our destination? Bej, a bistro could easily be located in the heart of New York City or London. With small appetizer plates and a comprehensive wine list, this restaurant attracts the glamorous and hip 30-something crowd. Shiny BMWs surround the restaurant. A DJ sat inside spinning an eclectic mix of club music. The menu touted an interesting array of fusion cuisine. We sipped wine and nibbled on the Caprese salad, sesame chicken and kebab on a bed of humus. In three plates, we tasted authentic Italian, Chinese and Mediterranean flavors in one sitting. We watched as an accordion player passed through the crowd, TV personalities walked by and this forgotten neighborhood proved it was full of life, charm and promise.

 

Bej: The Jewel of Karakoy?

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They are infamous around Kabatas: the kofte sandwich stand. With three permanent stations  along the shore, the Kofte sandwich is cheap, filling and delicious. The meat is flavorful. The ingredients are fresh. The stands are lively. Their scent lures you in.  As you sit down on the small chairs, you immediately place your order.  

Kofte is the Turkish equivalent of a meatball. However, there are several significant differences. The shape prevents us from translating it as a meatball, they tend to be oval-shaped and flat.  Also, they  are rich with spices and flavor and the quality of meat is much higher than anything I am accustomed to.

A kofte sandwich consists of half a loaf of bread and contains 4-6 kofte, as well as lettuce, tomato, onions, parsley, salt, thyme and red pepper flakes. It is fresh, flavorful and filling. And?! 5-7 Lira. 

Before and after concerts and football games in Istanbul, these kofte stands migrate to the entrance of these large venues to fill a void. They provide a cheap meal or snack before or after an event. Everyone knows it and seeks it out. People who never come into the city or eat street food cannot resist the temptation of these sandwiches.

I took this photo after befriending this hardworking man who ran the stand with his son. The photo was taken before the Stevie Wonder concert. The perfect start to the evening!

My Latest Obsession: The Kofte Sandwich

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There is a city-owned gallery at the top of Istiklal Caddessi in Taksim (across from the Burger King) that hosts a variety of different exhibits that are free and open to the public. Whenever I am meeting a friend in Taksim and have a few minutes to kill, I walk through the gallery to see the current exhibition. This month? Beautiful and vibrant paintings of the Istanbul landscape. Next time you have a few minutes to kill, stop by to take a look..

Images of Istanbul

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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?!

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The Bosphorus at Sunset

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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

Besiktas: The New Breakfast Destination in Istanbul