December 31, 2011

Happy New Year Everyone! :)

Thanks for following us in 2011! 

May The New Year Bring Health, Happiness and Success 
to You & Your Loved Ones 

See you next year! :)

Bulgaria Campaigns to Restore Istanbul Iron Church

A number of schools and organizations across Bulgaria are taking part in a large-scale donation campaign titled "Let's Preserve the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church in Istanbul."

The campaign is organized under the initiative of the Foundation "Bulgarian Orthodox Temple St. Stephen in Istanbul."

The goal is to collect enough funds to fully restore the Church's iconostasis, which had not been touched in the last 113 years.

The restoration includes applying of a new gold leaf, accurate reconstruction of the damaged segments of the iconostasis, cleaning and preservation.

The project will be carried out by Turkish specialists in the restoration of historic monuments, while Bulgaria will send an expert in the field as observer. The amount needed to implement all stages of the restoration of the iconostasis is estimated at EUR 75 000.

The Church was inaugurated in 1898 by Exarch Joseph and marks the beginning of the Bulgarian exarchate. It is also the main worship place of Bulgarian Christian Orthodox in Turkey.

The St. Stephen Day mass is traditionally attended by high-ranking Bulgarian clergy, by Orthodox Bulgarians, living in the city, and Bulgarian tourists.

Last year, the dome of the church was gold-plated thanks to a donation of Bulgarians from Plovdiv. Bulgarians living in Istanbul now say the church is the only one in the city having a gold-covered dome.

Four years ago, St. Stephen was declared the most beautiful church in Turkey. Architects call it a unique building. It is also the only cast-iron church in the world.

Right before Christmas 2010, the Istanbul City Hall announced it will use municipal funds to repair the temple.

Turkey Gov Aims to Make Istanbul a Major Hub for the United Nations

In signing a cooperation protocol with the Istanbul Municipality Government, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the government aims to make Istanbul a major hub for the United Nations and world financial and cultural organizations reports Hurriyet Daily News.

Davutoğlu said the government wanted to make Istanbul a center for politics and diplomacy as a “U.N. city.” “We want all countries’ flags to wave in Istanbul. It’s a diplomatic perspective. “We aim to make Istanbul a U.N. center for issues of mediation, peace and issues concerning the future of humanity,” Davutoğlu said. “We agree with the U.N. on these matters and determined we have an important place [in these discussions].”

The foreign minister also said the government hopes Istanbul will become a center for finance, a main center for global economic influx and a main station for transportation lines. He said Turkey has already had talks with Switzerland and Luxembourg on the subject.

December 28, 2011

Turkish Soaps Drive Macedonians To Istanbul

Turkish soap operas lure increasing numbers of Macedonian tourists to Istanbul, where they hope to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars.

In 2011 Istanbul remained one of the top holiday destinations for Macedonians, many of whom are eager to see the city where their favourite Turkish soap operas come to life.

Read more on Eurasia Review: Turkish Soaps Drive Macedonians To Istanbul

Tanker Traffic Halted in Istanbul Due to Heavy Fog

Tanker traffic through Turkey's Bosphorus Strait, a key shipping channel for Russian oil, was suspended on Wednesday after heavy fog reduced visibility, shipping agent GAC said.

The Istanbul channel was closed in both directions at 7:21 a.m. (0521 GMT), GAC said in an e-mailed statement. It was not clear when the strait will re-open, but a GAC official told Reuters that they expected the fog to clear in the afternoon.

Six tankers were scheduled to transit the Bosphorus on Wednesday, the agent said, and only one of them passed early on Wednesday before the traffic was closed.

Read more on Reuters: Tanker Traffic Halted in Istanbul Due to Heavy Fog

Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four 2012 Istanbul Logo Unveiled

The Top 16 Draw on Wednesday featured the unveiling of the logo for the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Istanbul, the city where a champion will be crowned in five short months. The logo is inspired by the geographic location of the city, its graphic identity, and the art and culture of the country. The design focuses on two special concepts, the water and the undulating shapes of two of the most important buildings in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, merged with basketball.

Turkey Becoming Major Hub for Contemporary Art

Turkey’s ever-growing art scene was again flourishing in many fields, from fine arts to cinema and literature, in the year we’re preparing to leave behind.

Yet, as it has been the case for decades, 2011 was again a year in which almost all major cultural events took place in Istanbul, Turkey’s cultural capital, save for several international festivals in Antalya, Ankara and İzmir.

The most significant of the art events Turkey offered to the international art community in the past year was arguably the 12th Istanbul Biennial, a two-month exhibition that generated hype not only among Turkish art connoisseurs and the local art community, but also in international media, with leading press publications, including The New York Times and The Economist, publishing detailed reviews of the event.

From mid-September to mid-November, “Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011” presented more than 500 works of art in five group exhibitions and more than 50 solo presentations in an assorted selection co-curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hoffmann under several themes inspired by the works of late Cuban-American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

While Britain’s The Independent billed the event as “the art calendar’s most enticing event -- even above Venice,” The Guardian, another leading British daily, declared that Istanbul was “now up there with Venice and São Paulo as the art biennials that matter,” adding that the biennial was the most telling sign of “the rise of Istanbul as a cultural power.”

Read more on Zaman: Turkey Becoming Major Hub for Contemporary Art

Istanbul Mayor Pushes Animal Rights to Forefront of Agenda

Sunday marked the end of a three-month project by the Istanbul municipality’s “Rights that Exist, Love for Animals and Animal Rights,” a program which has seen 10,000 children educated on the importance of respecting every form of life on Earth, with a concert at the Cemal Reşit Rey concert hall in Istanbul’s Harbiye quarter.

Speaking at the concert, Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş underlined the importance of recognizing animal rights. “All life is holy and precious, be it of humans, animals or ecology, and no person has the right to take away the right of another living being to live,” he said.

Addressing a range of animal rights-related issues, Topbaş announced that the municipality has decided to close down the Istanbul-based Dolphinarium Dolphin Display Center when its contract expires in two years time. “You can’t base entertainment around a process that makes animals suffer and causes them pain,” he said.

December 25, 2011

Istanbul to Host Master of Surrealism

In an exhibition that opened Dec. 23, Istanbul’s Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts in cooperation with InArtis and Kült hosts one of the 20th century’s most important artists and representatives of the surrealist movement, Salvador Dali, with 121 works consisting of the print series “Divine Comedy,” “Traces of Surrealism” and “Dinner with Gala.”

The Dali print series “Divine Comedy” originated through plans by the Italian government to honor the 700th birthday of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri in the beginning of the 1950s. Although the project was later dropped in Italy, Dali strove to see its completion.

In the late 1950s Dali met French publisher Joseph Foret, who had issued Dali’s series of lithographs for Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” in 1957 and 1958. After viewing a group of the watercolors for the series “Divine Comedy” at Dali’s studio, Foret enthusiastically set out to find support for the creation of the print series.

The series consists of 100 prints, one print for each canto of Dante’s epic poem “Divine Comedy” plus one cover print. The prints were produced as wood engravings in the years 1959 to 1963 in Paris, commissioned by Joseph Foret. For the series “Divine Comedy,” 3,500 blocks were carved by two professional carvers.

“Traces of Surrealism” is made up of Dali’s nine lithographic color printings. The lithographic works were made in Paris in 1971. The surreal atmosphere in the works provides images of a plastic universe that makes it impossible to separate between dream and reality. Dali’s main goal was to convert the everyday life to the home of “dream” in a sarcastic manner.

This series is regarded as the exemplary work for Dali’s symbolism and surrealism. Here, the crutches, the clocks, the butterflies, Gala and Dali himself are the important symbols in terms of traces of his artistic light.

Dali’s “Dinner with Gala” series consists of 12 colored lithographs. Dali had wished to become a chef since childhood and finally realized this dream at the age of 68. This series includes the menus and recipes of legendary restaurants and chefs and their surrealist gastro-aesthetics stories.

In these studies full of light and color games, the artist stresses the starving artist, but he is depicted not as someone who is hungry but someone with a burning passion for art with the same pleasure of eating food and an exaggerated and flaunted digesting.

The exhibition at Tophane-i Amire can be viewed through Feb. 26, 2012 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul to Host Master of Surrealism

Merry Christmas from Stamboul Twilight! :)

European Communication Conference to Be Held in Istanbul Next Year

Istanbul will host the fourth international European Communication Conference (ECC) organized by the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA), a Brussels-based international organization bringing together academics from communication studies worldwide, in October 2012.

The conference, whose topic will be social media, will be held with the assistance of the Communication Research Association (İLAD), a civil society organization established 22 years ago in Istanbul to conduct and promote academic research on communication. One of İLAD's founders is renowned journalist and writer Hıfzı Topuz. ECREA's biannual conferences started in 2005 and were previously held in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Hamburg.

Nurçay Türkoğlu, secretary-general of İLAD and a senior lecturer in communication and media studies at Marmara University, explained that Istanbul has been chosen as the new venue for the conference. “Istanbul is an important cultural center with its cultural plurality that draws the attention of researchers from the field of communication, and journalists,” she said at a press conference to announce the event. François Heinderyckx, president of ECREA, called Turkey a successful actor in communicating its culture, mainly through visual media, most importantly by TV series.

The conference will take place on Oct. 24-27, bringing together journalists and academics from the departments of media studies of various Turkish universities, including Galatasaray University, Marmara University, Anadolu University and Ankara University. It will be held at Istanbul Bilgi University's Dolapdere and Santral campuses. Douglas Kellner, a prominent academic known for his research on the effects of globalization and post-modernity on new media studies, will be a keynote speaker.

Liam Neeson in Istanbul, Marking His Territory

The beloved Liam Neeson, actor from Star Wars, Shindler’s List, Clash of the Titans, Batman Begins became the victim of disgusting Turkish paparazzis, when they caught the legendary actor peeing in a street in the heart of Istanbul’s famous nightlife in Taksim, Beyoglu. The tipsy Liam Neeson lost coordination and peed his pants in the panic.

Christians in Turkey Long for Christmas Spirit

The twinkling lights of Christmas may brighten the streets of Istanbul, but for many of the Muslim city's Christian minorities celebrating the holidays can prove challenging.

In celebrating Christmas in Istanbul, the issue is not one of restriction of religious expression or lack of opportunities, various Christians told Sunday's Zaman. In fact, Christianity has a rich history in Anatolia, the birthplace of many Christian Apostles and saints like Paul of Tarsus and Nicholas of Myra. A total of 65,000 Armenian Orthodox, 15,000 Syriac Orthodox, 8,000 Chaldean Catholic and 2,500 Greek Orthodox believers reside in Turkey. There are also members of other denominations, such as Bulgarian Orthodox and Georgian Orthodox along with Protestants.

The republic has taken a number of long-overdue steps to expand the rights of its Christian minorities, such as the decision to return property belonging to non-Muslim foundations that was confiscated after 1936.

Despite all this some Christians said they still long for the sense of community that most consider inherent to the holidays.

The landscape of Istanbul around this time of year resembles that of any Western city that marks the Christian holiday. Strings of white lights drape the facades of buildings, evergreens dressed in colorful balls and garland adorn homes and hotels and inflatable Frosty-the-Snowman and toy Santa Claus (Baba Noel) figures smile from store shelves.

But for some Christians the “New Year” decorations, as they are called in Turkey, is a strange concept.

‘Occupy Emek’: Cinephiles, Film Professionals Speak up for Historic Emek Theater

The weather was freezing but the air was full of passion, solidarity and rebellion for a cause -- this past Saturday will be remembered in Turkey as the day that thousands of people walked in Istanbul's Beyoğlu to protest the planned destruction of the legendary Emek Theater, one of the oldest and most prominent cinemas in the city, which is slated to be replaced by a shopping mall.

Jointly organized by several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- including Beyoğlu İçin Mücadele İnisiyatifi (the Initiative for Beyoğlu, an umbrella platform formed by numerous foundations and societies working to protect and preserve the historic Beyoğlu area), the Turkish Film Critics Association (SİYAD), the Turkish Cinema Workers' Union (SİNESEN), Yeni Sinema Hareketi (the New Cinema Movement, a collective that brings together young Turkish art house filmmakers) -- and several other not-for-profit groups, the protest rally started at 4 p.m. in Taksim Square with the participation of movie professionals, film critics, journalists, film festival organizers, architects and concerned civilians who refuse to allow gentrification to take over the Beyoğlu district.

At the beginning of the demonstration the group's slogans were mainly along the lines of, “Emek is ours, the city is ours.” When the group came in front of the Demirören Mall, the slogans took a shift: “You are the real freak of the city,” they changed, referring to the Demirören Group's massive mall next to Emek. Some protesters took the liberty of throwing eggs at two of the shops located on the ground floor of the mall.

The group continued to the street where Emek is located, where a press statement was read.

‘Istanbul’s Colorful Treasures’ as Old as History Itself

A stunning coffee-table book curated by the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO), “Istanbul’s Colorful Treasures from Byzantine Mosaics to Ottoman Tiles,” takes readers on a journey through the tumultuous history of Istanbul, touching on the rise and fall of two great empires and civilizations in a visually fluid exploration of the ancient art forms of tiles and mosaics.

İTO director Dr. Murat Yalçıntaş writes in the book’s foreword that mosaics and tiles, as two of Istanbul’s richest aesthetic assets, are as old as history itself.

A mammoth 340-pages long and perfect entertainment fodder for the wintery holiday, “Istanbul’s Colorful Treasures” details the foundations of a city that over the centuries has served as a thriving hub of cultural enrichment from arts and philosophy to language and architecture. Founded as Byzantium in the seventh century B.C., present-day Istanbul was renamed Constantinople in the year A.D. 330 when the Roman Emperor Constantine I moved his capital there from Rome.

Europe’s largest and wealthiest urban center throughout the Middle Ages, Constantinople – which remained the capital of the eastern, Greek-speaking empire for over a thousand years – was conquered in 1453 by 21-year-old Fatih Sultan Mehmet, marking the beginning of 470 years of prosperous Ottoman rule. A city characterized by its cosmopolitan population, Istanbul flourished as a potent cultural, economic, religious and administrative center until the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on Oct. 29, 1923, and the selection of the Anatolian city of Ankara as the new state’s capital.

Yet today, in the 21st century, the legacy and heritage from two of history’s most dominant empires are omnipresent in the aesthetic of a city that continues to enchant locals and visitors with its romanticism and splendor.

December 19, 2011

House Hunting in ... Turkey

This 1920s-era house is on tranquil Buyukada, the largest of the nine Princes’ Islands, 12 miles off Istanbul. It has two stories and about 3,800 square feet of space, on a 12,400-square-foot property on the island, which does not allow cars. The entrance, on the ground floor, opens into a large hall; the dining room is to the left, and the living room, which has a fireplace, is to the right. The blue-tiled kitchen, behind the dining room, is antiquated. A small room next to the kitchen could be used as a bedroom or office.

Most of the floors are wooden, as are the ceilings, which are designed in geometric inlaid patterns. A half bath in the main hall is tucked underneath a wooden staircase with a decorative balustrade. From both the living and dining rooms, French doors open onto the wooden front terrace, which is partially covered.

The second floor has six bedrooms, a half bath and a full bath equipped with a shower, a bidet and two sinks. Most of the bedrooms, wallpapered in white, have French windows and closets. The Marmara Sea is visible beyond the treetops, as is the Bosporus, which connects to the Black Sea, dividing Istanbul into its European and Asian sides.

About 30 feet behind the house is a small one-story structure, formerly servants’ quarters, with a bedroom, an open kitchen and a bath. Neither it nor the main house has heating, which is not unusual for old homes on an island where natural gas pipes arrived only in recent years.

Buyukada can be reached in 20 minutes or an hour and a half, depending whether one takes a private boat, a sea bus or the ferry. This house is a 5- to 10-minute walk from the ferry landing. Because emergency vehicles are the only cars allowed on the island, transportation options other than walking are bicycles and horse-drawn carriages.

Although Buyukada is technically a district of Istanbul, it feels frozen in time. Its two square miles offer a mix of lush hills, wooded areas, cliffs and beaches. It has a rich history dating to the Byzantine Empire, with striking architecture to match. Restaurants, shops, banks, and coffee and tea houses are within close proximity of the house.

Read more on The New York Times: House Hunting in ... Turkey

Istanbul to Host Flamenco Star Estrella Morente's Turkish Debut

The daughter of legendary flamenco singer Enrique Morente, Estrella Morente has been performing on stages since she was 7 years old.

Not only critics but almost all flamenco singers call her the “best female flamenco singer alive.” Her many accolades include the Ondas prize for best flamenco performer and being shortlisted for a Latin Grammy and the Premio Amigo. Now the time has finally come for Morente to bring her flamenco magic to İstanbul with a majestic performance set to be held at the city's Cemal Reşit Rey (CRR) concert hall at 8 p.m. Monday.

A living legend, Estrella Morente spoke with Today's Zaman about her career, her father and her first visit to Istanbul.

Megacity with Ambitions to Match

Standing between the tramline and the Grand Bazaar, with no plaque to mark it out, a forlorn column bears witness to Istanbul’s long history as a world city.

This ancient mass of porphyry, once topped by a statue of the emperor Constantine, was built to mark the inauguration of the new centre of the Roman empire in 330AD. Only in 1923, after 16 centuries of triumphs and defeats under Byzantines and Ottomans, did the city lose its status as a capital.

But today Istanbul is at the forefront of the world stage once again. Kadir Topbas, mayor, argues that Istanbul’s “increasing prestige, brand value and economic power” is more than a match for the challenges it faces in infrastructure and other areas. “Istanbul is a city the world looks at with envy,” he claims.

Home to the biggest banks and companies of a self-confident Turkey, Istanbul is a multitude of cities crammed into one – an industrial hub; a centre of financial activity; a diplomatic and conference meeting point with a backdrop beyond compare; a megacity whose 15m-strong population makes it Europe’s largest.

Read more on Financial Times: Megacity with Ambitions to Match

Istanbul Receives 16% More Tourists in First 11 Months

The number of tourists visiting Istanbul from January through November of 2011 has increased by 16 percent compared to the same period one year ago, according to official figures.

Istanbul Provincial Culture and Tourism Directorate figures for 2011 reveal that Istanbul attracted 7,509,000 foreigner tourists from January through November. This number was 6,489,000 in the first 11 months of 2010.

In the first 11 months of 2011, 6,959,291 tourists arrived in Istanbul via the city's Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen airports, while 550,046 tourists arrived via the ports of Haydarpaşa, Pendik and Karaköy.

The port used most by tourists is Karaköy, which received 460,855 tourists in the first 11 months.

Istanbul received the highest number of tourists in July -- 916,486, whereas January saw the least number of tourist -- 378,380.

Germans made up the largest number of foreign tourists visiting the city, with 12.3 percent of the total number of tourists. Russia and the US ranked second and third, with respectively 6.1 and 5.6 percent of the total. Italian, French, English and Iranian nations followed on the list, respectively.

The number of Arab tourists visiting İstanbul rose by 28.5 compared to 2010. The Arab tourists accounted for 11.1 percent of the tourists coming to İstanbul.

Saudi Arabia is the country from which citizens coming to Turkey increased the most with an increase of 71.3 percent of the total. Iraq followed Saudi Arabia with 64.7 percent, and Kuwait followed Iraq at 40 percent.

Arab interest in Turkish culture -- from TV soap operas, pop music and food to Turkey's rehabilitation of its Ottoman history -- has helped bring in an influx of Arab tourists to Turkey in recent years.

Read more on Zaman: Istanbul Receives 16 Percent More Tourists in First 11 Months

December 16, 2011

Istanbul 2012 Record Number of Entries

Monaco – The IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul which will take place from 9 to 11 March 2012 are shaping up to become the biggest gathering in terms of participating nations in the history of these championships, exceeding the previous record set four years ago in Valencia.

Following the deadline for Preliminary Entry Lists last Monday 12 December, no fewer than 160 of the IAAF’s Member Federations have confirmed their intention of sending a team to Istanbul.

In Valencia 2008 147 countries took part in the event with the second best gathering taking place in Doha 2010 with 142 nations competing.

With the Final Entry Lists finalised on 27 February 2012 (midnight Monaco time), Istanbul 2012 is on track to break the record in terms of participating nations.

In term of participating athletes, the previous record belongs to the edition of Paris 1997 where 712 men and women competed followed by Budapest 2004 with a total of 677 athletes.

Again, Istanbul could break more records as no fewer than 847 athletes have been entered in the Preliminary Entry Lists, 450 men and 397 women, figures which are on line to become the highest in the history of the World Indoor Championships.

The World Indoor Championships, which were first contested under the guise of the World Indoor Games in Paris in 1985 when 69 nations took part, attracted 147 nations for their edition in Valencia in 2008. Behind, the numbers that gathered for Doha 2010 were 142 nations, 139 nations for Budapest 2004, 136 for Lisbon 2001 and 133 for Birmingham 2003.

Istanbul Starting to Rival High-end Paris and London Says Sotheby's

Some areas of Istanbul have become as attractive as the high-end “marquee addresses” of London and Paris, says Turkey’s Sotheby’s International Realty General Manager Arman Özver.

Özver believes that Istanbul’s location and culture gives it the “most historic value” of any European city, with a well-developed financial system and good infrastructure meaning that it is being seen as a ‘safe haven’ by the world’s super rich- especially areas like the upmarket Nişantaşı district.

“Nişantaşı is the same as Knightsbridge in central London,” he says, “and if rental or sale prices in İstanbul collapse by 50%, prices for buildings like these will maintain their value, because they are unique,” he commented.

Many properties in Istanbul now reach $15,000, $20,000, $25,000 per sqm, even in downtown locations, with wealthy investors realising that they can access Moscow, Azerbaijan, the Gulf cities of Doha and Dubai and Europe’s financial capital, London, all with flights under four hours.

And Özver has high hopes for the future of property in Istanbul, with buyers still clamouring to invest: “In the last six months we have hosted representatives of different Arab royal families who are looking for property in Istanbul. They have very specific requests and are sophisticated investors, owning properties across the world,” he adds.

Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula Put Under Protection

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Council has adopted a plan by the municipality’s City Planning Directorate that concerns İstanbul’s historical peninsula.

The plan, which concerns the protection of the historical peninsula, the part of the city located within the old city walls, by demolishing illegally built buildings in the area, preserving green areas surrounding historical places and not allowing any construction close to historical sites was approved after amendments were made by the Regional Board of Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets.

December 14, 2011

Ottoman, Turkish History Depicted in Ice

The first and only ice museum in Turkey, the Magic Ice Museum at Forum Istanbul, has launched its new concept “Ottoman and Turkish History.”

Magic Ice Museum, where blocks of ice turn into art in the hands of masters, will present masterpieces featuring Turkish and Ottoman history.

Works for the new concept started Nov. 24, and the museum is ready to present history starting from the first age to the foundation of the Ottoman State and on to the conquest of Istanbul and the Republic Period.

Magic Ice Museum, which was built by Norwegian Lofoten Trading at the Forum Istanbul Shopping Mall with a $20 million investment, began welcoming visitors in April 2010. The museum has said goodbye to its first concept, “Vikings,” and has transformed into a new exhibition area in an atmosphere chilled to minus 5 degrees Celsius.

Visitors determined concept

The museum decided upon the new concept “Turkish and Ottoman History” through a poll conducted among its visitors.

Chronology was paid great attention to when preparing the new concept, the museum’s General-Director Odd Roar Olsen said, adding that it was the world’s first museum where history was depicted on ice.

In the new concept, visitors will be able to see sculptures such as hunters, a Çatalhöyük house, images from the conquest of Istanbul and the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The exhibition will be an informative and entertaining one for visitors interested in history.

Along with the visual feast of sculptures, there will also be film screenings and informative presentations during visiting times to explain the concept of the exhibit. The souvenir shop at the museum will also sell products depicting history.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Ottoman, Turkish History Depicted in Ice

China Year in Turkey to Boost Two Countries’ Ties

Many Chinese artists and representatives will visit different provinces in Turkey such as Ankara, Istanbul, İzmir, Bursa, Antalya and Samsun as part of the year-long cultural events. Next year, Turkish artists will visit China, Günay said. “With China’s ‘Turkey Year,’ Chinese artists will also have the chance to follow developments in Turkish art.”

Chinese Ambassador to Turkey Gong Xiaosheng said that despite the distance between Turkey and China, the two nations’ friendship had spanned 2,000 years.

The Silk Road represents peace, friendship and civilization, Gong said, adding that Chinese artists were recreating that sentiment with their paintbrushes. “Today, we will once again establish the relationship we had in the days of the Silk Road. We hope to create a bridge between the two nations.”

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: China Year in Turkey to Boost Two Countries’ Ties

TRAVEL: A Taste of Tradition in Old Istanbul

For thousands of years, emperors, sultans and their millions of loyal citizens have enjoyed the very special Bosphorus riverside location of Istanbul, which is at its best when the sun’s out and the water twinkles with optimism.

While it may no longer be the seat of a grand continent-spanning empire - as Constantinople (now Istanbul) was during the Roman and subsequent Ottoman period, from 1453 until 1923 - it still hums with optimistic energy on both its European and Asian shores.

In keeping with her Asian neighbours, Istanbul’s 12 million residents, up from three million in the 1970s, are enjoying an economic boom.

Sadly for the tourists who jostle out of the many mosques and palaces, this can mean mayhem. The quickest way for visitors to burn through their money is in a taxi, as the city’s inadequate transport system means the roads are in gridlock most of the time.

If you’re in Istanbul for a whistlestop tour, it’s probably easiest to stay bang in the centre, within tram-riding distance of the historic districts (Sultanahmet) and the modern bars and shops (Beyoglu).

For those in need of a treat, last year the Pera Palace Hotel opened its doors after a two-year restoration. The famous 1892 hotel, which originally provided the last destination stop for travellers arriving on the Orient Express, is a tribute to the city’s first forays into fashionable Western living.

Tasteful and effortlessly elegant, a few nights staying in the most refined hotel in town, faithfully furnished with antique bureaux and marble-clad bathrooms, will transport you back to those more glamorous times when Greta Garbo, Ernest Hemingway and Sarah Bernhardt stalked Europe’s capitals looking for inspiration and the high life.

Indeed, Room 411 is believed to be the place where Agatha Christie wrote Murder On The Orient Express.

Sitting on your French balcony, you’ll see Istanbul’s housing skyline stretching far into the middle distance. Yet the areas of interest for tourists are relatively self-contained nearby.

Probably the best decision we made, after buying an umbrella, was investing in a tour guide. It’s no mean feat absorbing the city’s history, which stretches from the moment Roman emperor Constantine I designated it his new Christian capital in the 7th century, to the eventual fall of the Islamic Ottoman empire, while still enjoying the sights.

And a guide’s also useful for pointing out the best place to eat really nice kofte (meatballs) or lahmacun (Turkish-style thin pizza) for lunch.

For tourists who don’t want to spend all their time sightseeing, you can take in the top three sights in a day. Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman Sultans, complete with harem; the Hagia Sophia, an impressive cathedral turned mosque, before being declared a museum by Ataturk, and the Blue Mosque are all within walking distance. Very handy if you’re just there for the weekend.

Each building is a tribute to the vision of the country’s rulers, with The Blue Mosque (officially called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) in particular drawing the eye with its six minarets, just one less than the most prestigious mosque in Mecca.

If you’ve got more time in town, then take advantage of Istanbul’s location spanning the Bosphorus river. Along the coast on both the European and Asian sides are fishing villages boasting charming restaurants and relaxing views.

After a day of sightseeing, there’s one Turkish tradition that should definitely be adhered to. Whether you prefer to try the communal bath approach or high-end treatment, a Turkish hammam is an exquisitely quirky affair.

Halfway between a wash and a massage, depending on your budget, these traditional baths can be found all over the city.

For a personal, delicate treatment, head to the beautifully renovated Ciragan Palace.

Afterwards we dined overlooking the Bosphorus at the hotel’s Tugra restaurant, enjoying one of the most romantic locations the city has to offer.

Read more on The Hemel Today: TRAVEL: A Taste of Tradition in Old Istanbul

New Istanbul Aquarium Offers Views From Under the Sea

In a city surrounded by bodies of water, the new Istanbul Akvaryum, or aquarium, offers a peek at what lies beneath.

At the aquarium, which opened in July, visitors start by following a route lined with tanks of Russian sturgeon from the Black Sea, then walk through a replica of what curators imagine Noah’s Ark to have been like.

Later comes a selection of species found in the Bosporus Strait, through which dolphins still migrate, dodging some 55,000 ships a year that carry cargo from Russia and the Caspian Sea to global markets. (The display has a strong environmental message about marine life in danger of depletion.)

Next is a gently rising path that snakes from exhibits on the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, the Aegean and the Suez Canal, through the Red Sea, Antarctica (with a chilly iceberg you can reach out and touch while considering the effects of global warming). Then it’s off to Gibraltar, the Atlantic and the Panama Canal to the Amazon rain forest, which will feel like a steamy Turkish hammam on a wintry day, for a peek at piranhas and frogs in shades of neon green, blue or yellow.

The facility attempts to recreate the natural habitats for its estimated 15,000 creatures and plants including scary sharks, slithery giant eels and deceptively placid stingrays. It also offers interactive games and, for an extra fee, what the creators call “5-D” movie theaters that mimic effects like fog and wind. The periodic fish-feeding by divers in wet suits is fun to watch.

Most, but not all, of the displays are accompanied by explanations in English. During a recent visit, the crowd was a blend of Turkish families and European couples with children. Figure on spending about two hours to see the full exhibition, and more if you want to enjoy a drink or lunch at one of the cafes, sitting in the sunshine to enjoy a view of the real Marmara Sea.

The aquarium is in Florya, a wealthy suburb of western Istanbul, well off the usual tourist track. A taxi cost around 40 lira from the Old City, but a local train leaving Sirkeci Station with a stop about a half-mile from the spot was 2 lira (about $1) each way, aquarium employees said.

Uncensored: Art And Politics Converge At Istanbul Contemporary Art Fair

While the predictable “anyone who is anyone” was heading off to Miami to suck up the de rigeur art scene chic of Art Basel/Miami Beach last week, everyone with a more adventurous rebel streak was dashing about the cobbled alleyways and 24-hour-a-day energies of Istanbul, discovering the new and chic-to-be at Istanbul Contemporary, Turkey’s increasingly-popular international fair for contemporary art.

Now in its sixth year, Contemporary Istanbul stands as something of a symbol for the changes that have overtaken this city in the past decade, not just culturally, but socially, as well. To visit the fair is to watch an entire country change, at times for better, at times for worse, as the vicissitudes of the region’s political realities press in.

Unlike other Middle Eastern fairs like Art Dubai, where from the beginning Western galleries swarmed in to take advantage of Middle East wealth and a longstanding interest in buying Western art, Contemporary Istanbul has only in the past three years found interest among European and American dealers – just as only recently have Turkish collectors begun to show an affinity with European and American art.

Sweet Success in Istanbul

The art of eating baklava is serious business here at Karakoy Gulluoglu, nestled in a street back from the banks of the wind-whipped Bosphorus in the historic Istanbul neighbourhood of Karakoy. This landmark establishment is tipped by many locals to have the finest baklava in town: no small feat in a city renowned for its excellent representation of this time-honoured sweet.

But there's more to appreciating baklava than one may think. My initial attempt to slice a piece then scoff it in two rapid mouthfuls has been thwarted.

Turan, a dapper mustachioed gentleman, and staff member, has materialised from behind the brass-trimmed counter to help me with the finer points of enjoying this famed delicacy.

"We must engage all our senses," he urges, spreading out my selection of triangular, pea-green flecked sobiyet (a type of cream-filled baklava) and rounded squares of the more familiar walnut and pistachio varieties. A bushy eyebrow raises as I move in to help myself; it appears there's still work to be done before these beckoning wedges can be tasted.

The slightly rounded golden dome of the pastry must be admired for its consistency and smooth crust; a deep breath is necessary to properly smell the glorious combination of sheep's butter and freshly ground pistachios. Each baklava log is made by hand; we're talking 40 paper-thin layers of yufka pastry sandwiching a thick ream of nuts and then doused with melted butter and sugar.

Time must be taken to appreciate this feat of kitchen alchemy.

Finally, the baklava may be brought to our lips, but not before twisting the fork so we make contact with the underside first.

"All the juices soak down to the bottom of the baklava," explains Turan, flicking his wrist in one clean motion. "You will taste these first, and it will be followed by the crunch and butter of the pastry. Magnificent!"

Crackly and headily perfumed, it is indeed something very special. I've never tasted baklava so fresh and balanced, and the slightly ritualistic but logical way of eating it adds another dimension to the experience, like discovering a sprinkle of salt on ripe tomatoes for the first time. I realise now why my efforts at slicing provoked such alarm.

Read more on The Australian: Sweet Success in Istanbul

‘Ecumenopolis’ Displays Dark Side of Istanbul’s Growth

A German/Turkish documentary film, “Ecumenopolis,” directed by İmre Azem, questions the future of Istanbul as it looks at the rapid urban transformation of the city and new urban construction projects planned for 2012.

The film investigates İstanbul’s ecological, demographic and economic limits with regards to urban growth and pressure to become a global city, through interviews with architects, urban planners, environmental engineers, economists and sociologists.

It asks whether Istanbul has a limit to its growth and whether an alternative strategy for development that would be more friendly towards the city dwellers’ needs and the original fabric of the city is possible.

Greek architect and urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis came up with the concept of “ecumenopolis” in 1967 to describe his idea that all urban spaces and megalopolises in the world will combine into one single city, an ecumenopolis, in the future as the pace of urban development and population is increasing on a global scale.

Ahmet Vefik Alp, a renowned Turkish architect and urban planner; Barbaros Gönençgil, chairman of Turkish Environmental and Woodlands Protection Society (TÜRÇEK) established in 1972; and Murat Cemal Yalçıntan, an urban planner and academic at Mimar Sinan University’s department of architecture, told Sunday’s Zaman their views on the city’s rapid urban transformation that the documentary draws attention to.

December 10, 2011

Istanbul Sunset from Golden Horn

December 04, 2011

Ottoman Kaftans on Display at Topkapı

A new exhibition opened Friday in Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace titled “Venice and Istanbul: A Glorious Woven Relationship. Eight Hundred Years of Interplay in Textiles.”
The exhibit features sultans’ kaftans and Ottoman-style weavings that were mostly made in Venice. The display aims at representing the common textile culture that had been created and re-created for 800 years between the Ottoman Empire and Venice.

The exhibition is organized into two sections. The first section displays examples of textiles from the Bevilacqua collection, one of the oldest weaving companies in Venice, founded in 1700 and famous for its elegant fabrics. This archive is particularly rich in velvet, brocade and damask examples made for the Ottoman Court. The other section presents kaftans that are already present in Topkapı Museum’s permanent collection.

The exhibition will continue through Jan. 8, 2012 and was organized in collaboration with the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry Directorate of Cultural Beings and Museums, the Italian Embassy, Topkapı Palace, Italian Culture Center, UNICREDIT and Istanbul Italian Turkish Friendship Association.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Ottoman Kaftans on Display at Topkapı

Buena Vista Social Club & Omara Portuondo coming to Istanbul

Buena Vista Social Club released its only studio album, produced by Ry Cooder, in 1997 and achieved instant success. The album, featuring a specially assembled group of veteran Cuban musicians, was further propelled by Wim Wenders‟ acclaimed film and later by a series of international tours and albums by many of the featured musicians. Buena Vista Social Club became a phenomenon.

Now in 2011, following a series of hugely successful performances in recent years, the thirteen-piece Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club which features a number of Buena Vista Social Club alumni make their eagerly awaited return.

Buena Vista Social Club’s most influential style is the exuberant, polyrhythmic music known as son, which gave birth to both Mambo and Salsa. These upbeat numbers are full of infectious guitar licks, multilayered Afro-Cuban rhythms, soaring vocal melodies, and brash, Big Band-style horn parts.

Joining this new and expanded lineup of Cuban players is vocalist Omara Portuondo, a member of the original Buena Vista Social Club, whose 2008 recording Gracias (World Village / Montuno) won a Latin Grammy and scored a Grammy nomination.

A Stroll in the City of Sultans

THERE'S a moment in Istanbul when the realisation hits. You've looked at maps, you've seen where the attractions are, you've plotted ways to get between them. But it's only when you stand in the small space between two of the city's drawcards - the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia - that you understand how close everything is.

Some cities were made for walking. Istanbul is one of them. You could roll out a carpet between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and most of the city's other attractions are similarly close. There's a palace a few hundred metres away; ancient baths just up the road and the Spice Bazaar down the hill.

Given the insane state of the traffic most days, walking around Istanbul makes sense. Visit The Sydney Morning Herald's website for a tour of the city's highlights on foot...

Read more on The Sydney Morning Herald: A Stroll in the City of Sultans

Madonna Set for Istanbul Concert in June

The moment Madonna fans in Turkey have been waiting for for years may finally arrive next summer.

It is looking increasingly likely that the glittering pop legend will make her first appearance in Turkey in more than 10 years with a concert in İstanbul in June 2012, the Radikal newspaper reported on Tuesday.

If plans to bring the international star to Turkey are successful, Madonna will perform on June 7 at the 52,000-capacity Türk Telekom Arena in İstanbul. The concert will be part of her yet to be confirmed 2012 world tour, which is also expected to see her perform in Abu Dhabi on June 6 and Tel Aviv on June 10.

The queen of pop is currently working on her 12th studio album with California-based live events company Live Nation. The album, which features collaborations with stars M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj, is to be released in the first half of 2012, with a single debuting in February.

A figure widely considered as one of the greatest icons in music, Madonna has sold more than 300 million records worldwide and is recognized as the world’s top-selling female recording artist of all time by the Guinness World Records. She was included in Time magazine’s elite list of the “25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century” in 2010.