January 26, 2012

Art Project Presents A ‘Senseless Society'

Young artist Ekin Onat von Merhart’s installation is on display at İkametgah Kadıköy, a joint art project rising from artistic production and collectivity in the Asian side of Istanbul.

The installation of von Merhart draws attention to a society that became senseless through experiencing events of daily life. Her installation shows clothes with arms but no human figures attached.

“Clothes and the fact that those humans do not have legs and only arms have a significant symbol. They have no place to run, and they cannot run,” von Merhart said.

Von Merhart said she was inspired by situations and social life in Turkey. The clothes of von Merhart belong to children, women, men, old people and young people. “Everyone is in the same situation,” she said.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Art Project Presents A ‘Senseless Society'

Istanbul's Independent Film Festival !f Ready for 11th Year

It is once more the time of the year when Istanbul's movie buffs should start clearing their agenda for February to make room for a 10-day marathon of indie films.

The countdown to this year's !f İstanbul International Independent Film Festival began this week as the event's organizers announced a smorgasbord of independent films selected for the festival's 2012 edition, set for Feb. 16-26 in İstanbul. The festival's Istanbul screening program will be announced Thursday.

Istanbul Prepares for 2nd Bout of Snowfall

The Istanbul municipality has warned that, according to State Meteorology Bureau forecasts, more snowfall is on the way for Istanbul. Snow is expected to begin falling on Thursday night and continue throughout the day Friday, the Anatolia news agency reported Thursday.

January 24, 2012

The 10 Fastest-Growing (and Fastest-Declining) Cities in the World

7 :: ISTANBUL, TURKEYOne cool fact: One year ago, Istanbul ranked first in Brookings' analysis of the world's most dynamic cities.

From the report: "Three Turkish metro areas (Izmir, Ankara, and Istanbul) cracked the top 10, headlining strong performance in that national economy."

Read more on The Atlantic: The 10 Fastest-Growing (and Fastest-Declining) Cities in the World

MINI Roadster Adventure: Cliffhanger in Istanbul (VIDEO)

MINI’s first ever two-seater convertible has finally hit the global market, and to create hype, the BMW sub-brand is sending it on the usual adventure in the unlikeliest of places. A couple of smartly-dressed guys find themselves in a precarious situation, as the Roadster is dangling off the edge of what looks like a drawbridge.

After Being Stricken by Drought, Istanbul Yields Ancient Treasure

For 1,600 years, this city — Turkey’s largest — has been built and destroyed, erected and erased, as layer upon layer of life has thrived on its seven hills.

Today, Istanbul is a city of 13 million, spread far beyond those hills. And on a long-farmed peninsula jutting into Lake Kucukcekmece, 13 miles west of the city center, archaeologists have made an extraordinary find.

The find is Bathonea, a substantial harbor town dating from the second century B.C. Discovered in 2007 after a drought lowered the lake’s water table, it has been yielding a trove of relics from the fourth to the sixth centuries A.D., a period that parallels Istanbul’s founding and its rise as Constantinople, a seat of power for three successive empires — the Eastern Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman.

While there are some historical records of this early period, precious few physical artifacts exist. The slim offerings in the Istanbul section of the Archaeological Museums here reflect that, paling in comparison with the riches on display from Anatolia, Mesopotamia and Lebanon.

So Bathonea (pronounced bath-oh-NAY-uh) has the potential to become a “library of Constantinople,” says Sengul Aydingun, the archaeologist who made the initial discovery.

Salt Art Venue to Host Universal Works

A new collaborative project between SALT and Van Abbemuseum is set to evolve over the course of three exhibitions presented at both of Istanbul’s SALT venues throughout 2012.

The first exhibition, “Istanbul Eindhoven-SALTVanAbbe: Post ’89” opens Jan. 27 at SALT Beyoğlu and presents art works on loan from the Van Abbemuseum. In collaboration with the team at Van Abbemuseum, SALT has selected over 40 individual works by 15 international artists who have either never shown in Istanbul or have been rarely exhibited despite their fame.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Salt Art Venue to Host Universal Works

The Theme of Exhibtion Reveals Artistic Healing

Siemens Sanat is continuing artistic activities that look at the actual individual and the trans-border world of the present day with the new exhibition “Accent and Silence.”

The exhibition gathers works by Ayşen Urfalıoğlu, Florencia Almiron and Ragıp Basmazölmez.

“The relations among the works are not discreet. On the contrary, they are open,” exhibition curator Melih Görgün told the Hürriyet Daily News. “Our present day perception of the trans-border world replaces the representation of otherness in the public space with the dual appearance of difference. ‘Divisions’ and ‘splits’ leave the actual individual devoid of any type of autonomy or representation as a result of the current political atmosphere,” said Görgün.

The exhibition curated within this general framework discusses how the colonial domination of consumerist culture encircles the individual while, at the same time, the transnational control mechanisms emerging together with globalization are liberating the individual, said Görgün, adding that the exhibition also touched visually on the need for liberating strategies in order to overcome the crisis state of the individual.

Görgün said it was possible that the audience could read the meanings of the works very comfortably. For example, Urfalıoğlu, Almiron and Basmazölmez present these unverbalized thoughts as the individual’s acts of resistance in their works.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: The Theme of Exhibtion Reveals Artistic Healing

January 22, 2012

Jane Birkin Sings for Istanbul

Jane Birkin, a 66-year-old actress, singer and activist, sang the songs of Serge Gainsbourg on Jan. 19 at Istanbul’s Babylon with Japanese musicians.

Perhaps unfitting for a cultural icon who once inspired a Hermes bag, she was dressed in a plain white shirt and black trousers, but this did not stop her from charming the audience.

Birkin sang the songs of last century, becoming her younger self again, only now with more noblesse and grace. Birkin was careful to emphasize the reason for the tour and sang the songs to honor the love of her life and father of her first-born child, Gainsbourg.

Many in the audience were left with the impression that Gainsbourg was indeed among them, if not on stage with Birkin, suggesting that eternal might indeed exist after all.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Jane Birkin Sings for Istanbul

Artist Dedicates Exhibit to His Friend, Poet Nazım Hikmet

A retrospective exhibition by an artist who began painting when he met Turkey’s most famous poet, Nazım Hikmet, in Bursa Prison 70 years ago, is now on display at the International Art Center in Istanbul’s Üsküdar.

İbrahim Balaban’s exhibition, “Balabanizm,” features 140 works, including previously unseen tiles, design, carpet and canvas works, as well as a self-portrait signed by Nazım himself.

Balaban, who took three years of education in a village of the Marmara province of Bursa, told Anatolia news agency that his interest in painting began after he met Nazım, whom he described as “Şair Baba” (Poet Father).

Turks around the country marked the 110th anniversary of Nazım’s birth with ceremonies on Jan. 15.

The artist said his talent was discovered and developed thanks to the poet’s support and interest and that they were together for seven years.

Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts Celebrates 40 years

IKSV, celebrating its 40th Year Anniversary in 2012, has announced this year’s special activities and its future plans at a press meeting.

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts founded under the leadership of Dr. Nejat F. Eczacıbaşı with the goal to present the finest examples of the world’s culture and arts, new initiatives and different movements to Istanbul’s art lovers, to promote Turkey’s cultural multiplicity to the world and to transform Istanbul into an important centre of the international culture and arts platform, has become the pioneer of Istanbul’s cultural and artistic life with the festivals and events it has organised for 40 years.

The 40th anniversary activities and special events of İKSV were announced at a press meeting held in Salon located in the foundation building on Tuesday, 17 January. Bülent Eczacıbaşı, Chair of the Board of Directors of İKSV not only shared the special activities that will be organised as part of the 40th Year Anniversary celebrations, but also provided information on the Istanbul Film, Theatre, Music and Jazz Festivals, the Leyla Gencer Voice Competition, Filmekimi, and the Istanbul Design Biennial that will be held for the first time this year.

Bülent Eczacıbaşı, Chair of the Board of Directors of İKSV who stated that in the 40 years, İKSV had become an institution that organises four festivals on international levels and two biennials and realises exclusive events throughout the year, said “Initially founded with the aim of organizing a single “Istanbul Festival”, the İKSV has transformed itself, over a period of 40 years, into an institution that runs four festivals, two biennials and holds numerous special events throughout the year. We are proud to celebrate our 40th anniversary as a non-profit institution involved in culture and the arts. (...) Our dreams, as we celebrate İKSV’s 40th anniversary, go beyond the organisation of culture and art events. Through our activities, we wish to support the development of young individuals, cultivate artists specialized in their own fields, strengthen the international ties of artists and art enthusiasts, ensure the development of participatory and sustainable cultural policies in our country, and contribute to the production of contemporary art in Turkey.”

Megan Fox : I Thought Istanbul Was A Town

Megan Fox arrived in Istanbul for a commercial for Doritos chips and gave her first interview at a Turkish morning show to Saba Tümer, the host.

Here is what Megan Fox shared with her Turkish fans in the interview...

SABA TÜMER: Hi Megan, how are you? It’s your first time in Turkey, you just arrived yesterday? What did you know about Turkey prior to your visit? What did you expect and what have you seen so far here?

MEGAN FOX: I knew a few things about Turkey. Like you have the most ancient temple on earth..and it is not far from where we are right now.

SABA TÜMER: And you made this research before or after the offer for the ad was made ?

MEGAN FOX: I knew this already, because i’v watched a show called ”Ancient Alliens”. It sounds silly but it is about ancient temples and pyramides. I watched the special episode about this temple, i can’t pronounce it correctly right now but it is a ‘Göbekli Tepe’.

SABA TÜMER: So you are interested in archeology and history, do you read a lot ?

MEGAN FOX: No, i really don’t take a book and read. I read from I-book from my I-pad.

SABA: How did you find Istanbul? Did you go shopping? Have you tried traditional Turkish cuisine yet ?

MEGAN FOX:: No, not yet. Haven’t found the chance yet. But i will do it today. I want to visit The Grand Bazaar and the Mosques. I want to eat Turkish food as soon as possible. This is not like what i did expect here. I thought Istanbul was a town. But it is a metropolis, with big urbanization and industry. so many buildings everywhere, i didn’t expect this.

Istanbul’s ‘Lost’ Gateways

Of the approximately 60 gates that used to be used as entrances and exits through the walls that surrounded the city of Istanbul, some are remembered in the names of districts that lie near where the doors used to be, while many have simply been forgotten over time.

According to a recent article by the Anatolia news agency, the gates that marked the “Marmara,” “Haliç” (Golden Horn) and “Kara” (Land) walls that once surrounded the city during Byzantine and Ottoman times were regularly opened in the morning and closed at night. Though most of these ancient gateways have not lasted to the present day, some of their names live on in the names of the districts situated near where the gates used to be.

These gates to the city used to be very well used, and many of them are well documented in historical texts. They are at the top of the list of places worth seeing in Istanbul.

Wizard Istanbul Guides Foreign Tourists Visiting Istanbul

Wizard Istanbul, a travel guide supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day to help foreign tourists visiting Istanbul.

A volunteer organization founded by Mehmet Cihangir, a lover of Istanbul, is helping Istanbul travelers experience the city even better. Wizard İstanbul is an on-demand service, so tourists can ask anything they want to know about Istanbul via the social media networks -- Facebook and Twitter -- and also the official website, www.wizardistanbul.com. Wizard İstanbul is operated by Web Girişim. “The Wizard Istanbul team grows day by day with new Istanbul lovers to help tourists to have better experiences with Istanbul,” the project’s website states.

Identifying their basic goal in an introductory text included in the website, those behind the project say their idea is simple and clear; they try to think as tourists think and provide only the most useful and important information in their guides. They further say the rest of the information is based on demand, which means they wait until foreign tourists ask the questions.

Hrant Dink: Istanbul March As Verdict Anger Continues

At least 20,000 people have marched in Istanbul to mark five years since the murder of prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

Some of the demonstrators were driven by anger over verdicts delivered this week in the latest trial of people linked to his killing.

Three people were jailed but allegations of official negligence or state collusion were rejected.

Cargo Ship Damaged off Istanbul After Brushing Against 2 Other Vessels

A cargo ship brushed against two anchored vessels during severe weather off the coast of Istanbul on Friday and tilted to one side, taking on water for hours before authorities were forced to pull it ashore using a tug boat.

A senior maritime official said the disabled ship was not in danger of sinking, but most of its crew members were evacuated before it was towed.

Read more on Washington Post: Cargo Ship Damaged off Istanbul After Brushing Against 2 Other Vessels

The Five Best Places to Live in the World, and Why

What's going for it? I bet guide books blethered on about "where east meets west" when Istanbul was Constantinople. But at least it's finally coming true again. On account of Turkey's wooing of both the EU and east Asia, the past decade has seen the city turn from lovely-if-decrepit museum piece to lovely-if-decrepit museum piece with great bars, economic growth and an OK public transport system. Not all of the change has been for the best. But spots like Cihangir make it all seem worthwhile. This is an Orhan Pamuk kind of neighbourhood. You'll still pass woodturning workshops, button warehouses and old ice-cream parlours en route for that dark, urbane bookshop. It still feels old and ancient and unrestored and a bit shabby. There are still whiskery grocers who'll deliver figs to the door. The dervishes still whirl up the hill at the Galata Lodge. Only now there's a great rooftop bar or six with views over the Bosphorus (I'd consider moving here for the views alone) and a good modern art gallery at the bottom of the hill. What with culture and economics so shifted to the east, this feels like where the world begins.

The case against Earthquakes. They're waiting for a big one, and who knows what horrors lie within those teetering apartment blocks. Be sure to get a very, very good structural survey. Those views come with a price: exceedingly steep hills, which turn into white-water-raft courses in rain showers.

Well connected? The tottering, creaking tram plying along Istiklal Caddesi isn't just for the tourists, nor the new one up the Bosphorus and off across the Galata Bridge. In between, use your thighs, or hail one of the billion yellow taxis.

Hang out at… Susam Sokak (Sesame Street) is a laid-back cafe by day, a slinky cocktail bar by night. Good place to pretend to write that novel.

Property Recent property liberalisation means it's simpler for foreigners to buy. Think lofty, skinny apartment blocks. Fight for the views. Small flats (70-100m2), £60,000-£100,000; 100m2 flats with a good view, £100,000-£130,000; big 'uns (150-250m2), £130,000-£250,000; swanky, up to £500,000.

January 14, 2012

Istanbul Blackout Leaves Millions in Dark

A major power blackout hit Turkey's largest city Saturday afternoon, leaving millions of residents without electricity while shutting down Istanbul's subway and tram systems.

Officials with the Istanbul governor's emergency situation directorate told CNN the massive outage appeared to be caused by a failure on a main power transfer line running from the Western city of Bursa.

"There was no power in all of Istanbul," one official said. Another added, "We think there was also no power in Izmit and Adapazari," referring to two other cities in western Turkey.

Istanbul is Turkey's cultural and commercial hub, with a population of more than 12 million people.

The sparkling lights along Istanbul's main pedestrian thoroughfare, Istiklal Caddesi, went completely dark as snow began falling on the city.

In subway stations, lights were on in the tunnels but escalators stopped operating. Meanwhile, a message repeated over the loudspeaker system announcing "due to a technical problem the metro is not running."

The blackout reached from the neighborhoods of Istinye to Atakoy, a distance of around 20 kilometers.
After at least an hour of darkness, residents reported some power returned to the neighborhood of Kadikoy on the eastern side of Istanbul.

Turkish Contemporary Art Spreads to London and Seoul

Istanbul’s main art fair, Contemporary Istanbul (Cİ), aims to carry the fair to London and Seoul in 2012. To discuss the latest developments and aims in 2012, Cİ board members met with Turkish galleries in Sofa Hotel.

“Our main aim is to remove the obstacles Turkish contemporary art has, and that’s why to realize our aim we are working like an institution,” said Cİ Chairman Ali Güreli.

With the aim of spreading Turkish contemporary art to the world and awakening the conscience of Turkish contemporary art in the international scene, Cİ will carry its know-how to other countries. In July 2012, South Korea’s capital Seoul will host the fair of Turkish contemporary art, while in September and October 2012 London will host the same fair by the curatorship of Cİ General Coordinator Hasan Bülent Kahraman. “With these shows we are approaching our aims,” Güreli said.

Cİ also announced that art galleries will be recognized with the status of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and will utilize Small and Medium Industry Development Organization (KOSGEB) loans beginning this year.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Turkish Contemporary Art Spreads to London and Seoul

Planning Approval for 'Metropol Istanbul' Granted

Scotland-based architectural firm RMJM’s office in Dubai announced that it received planning approval for “Metropol Istanbul,” a vast 500,000 square meter project, which includes three towers, a 30,000 square meter public shopping mall, offices and luxury apartments.

Managing principal at RMJM, Chris Jones, declared the tower complex would be “iconic and bring character to Istanbul,” confirming that construction would conclude at the end of 2015. “There is nothing like this in Turkey yet… We could not be speaking about this kind of a project in any other part of Europe in this financial situation. This reflects the robust and confidence of Turkey’s growing economy,” Jones added in an interview.

Modern high-rise towers on the European side have already altered the traditional Bosphorus silhouette ; world famous for its panorama punctuated by Ottoman era minarets and spires. and temples and palaces but not disgusting skyscrapers the work of greedy and tasteless AKP government and companies.

The city also lives under constant danger of an earthquake, heightening the risk of building higher. In the last major 7.4-magnitude earthquake near Istanbul in 1999, more than 20,000 people were killed in the region, mostly due to poor construction. Experts warn that another massive quake could strike Istanbul at any time.

But Chris Jones, delusional with the money the preject will land, stated the towers have been engineered to withstand earthquakes with a reinforced, aerodynamic structure. On allegations that the tower could obscure the jewels of the Istanbul skyline, he stresses that Atasehir is far from historic heart of the city.

“The skyline of Istanbul is exceptional and should be protected, but the city is large enough to have both the historical part and the 21st century skyline — and more,” he said.

Erdoğan Gives Order to Protect Istanbul Skyline

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has given orders to the relevant ministries to preserve Istanbul's historic skyline, which is under threat by new constructions that are often tall buildings or skyscrapers that loom behind the city's centuries-old mosques and their minarets.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, said in televised remarks on Wednesday, “Giant buildings across Istanbul are damaging the city's skyline. Considering this, the prime minister has given instructions to the Istanbul municipalities to come up with plans to preserve the historic skyline.” He noted that measures to protect the city's skyline could include demolishing existing buildings where necessary.

Recalling that 10 stories of the Istanbul Park Hotel in Taksim's Gümüşsuyu district were demolished in 1993 on the orders of then-Istanbul Mayor Nurettin Sözen, Günay stated that no buildings that spoil the skyline will remain in the city under a similar initiative.

More Istanbul Shopping and Dining Secrets from Daily Secret

Last week, Gadling included Istanbul in their picks for 2012 luxury travel, and introduced you to Daily Secret, a web-based "guide service" offering insider intel to 12 cities, including Istanbul. They got so many more great Istanbul secrets from editor Laura Wells (many with special discounts and exclusive access) and they're posting them for Gadling (&Stamboul Twilight) readers to add to their itineraries. Happy shopping (and tasting)!

Local designer fashion: To buy designer clothing for men & women from multiple up-and-coming Turkish designers, this is a really cool, brand-new co-op: Fashion Tunnel in Galata

Turkish wine: Turkey has amazing wine, but it's difficult to export as it's heavily taxed. To try the best Turkish wines (even local sour cherry wine wine, which is delicious) and get ideas for what to buy at duty free, check out Rouge in Taksim. They have free tasting every Saturday, but you can try anything by the glass in the restaurant above, which also serves amazing rare Turkish cheeses and cure meats.

January 09, 2012

W Istanbul Introduces OKKA

OKKA, named after the food weight measurement unit from the Ottoman Empire, welcomes locals and international guests with classic Turkish cuisine in a contemporary bistro setting within the W Istanbul.

Abundant mezes heat the palate with a fierce pastrami steamed in parchment paper (en papillote) and refresh with a creamy white cheese whipped with yoghurt and mint. Twenty five flavorful options of kebap with local ingredients from their namesake towns and regions offer diners the ability to sample the best of Turkey without ever leaving the table. Guests may also choose to enjoy entrees including pomegranate marinated chicken or lamb tenderloin. Rose petal crème brulee is as delicate as it is decadent and creamed date ice cream needs no additional endorsement. While boasting Istanbul’s grandest cellar of locally produced wines, OKKA bows to conviviality with a self pour Raki service

Read more on Brand Critique: W Istanbul Introduces OKKA

Luxury Vacation Guide 2012: Istanbul

In 2010, Istanbul made headlines in every travel magazine and newspaper as it was home to one of the European Capitals of Culture. The influx of cash and visitors meant dozens of new hotels, art galleries, museums, and world-class restaurants. As many European countries' economies have seen trouble in the last year, the Turkish Tiger is booming.

Visitors today can relive the glory days of travel in the restored Pera Palace Hotel, built for the Orient Express passengers, or luxuriate in modern style with a water view at the House Hotel Bosphorus. Marvel at the jewel-encrusted treasures at Topkapı Palace and pick up something for your own royal residence at Paşabahçe, where home goods run from a few lira for a çay glass to thousands for a mosaic-tiled Ottoman-inspired vase; or invest in artisanal, limited-edition jewelry and textiles at Armaggan.

Read more on Brand Critique: Luxury Vacation Guide 2012: Istanbul

Stereotypes And Clichés Reflect in the Video Art

German video artist Julian Rosefeldt focuses on the clichés and political aspects of society in his video titled “Asylum,” which is showing at the Garibaldi building in Istanbul by Dirimart Art Gallery.

Rosefeldt’s video focuses on clichés with a cinematographic approach. He created the images and chose the actors and actresses.

“The first part of the work deals with political asylum with certain stereotypes of people,” said Rosefeldt, adding that people in Western Europe had certain stereotypes or clichés about people who lived in other countries.

However, while dealing with those issues, Rosefeldt chose to reflect the immigration or migration aspect in European countries.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Stereotypes And Clichés Reflect in the Video Art

Looking for Spiritual Light on the Golden Horn

The blessing of the waters on the Golden Horn has been one of the highlights of Istanbul’s spiritual and cultural life for a very long time. On the seventh day of January, after completing the morning mass in the church of St. George, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch walks down a few hundred meters to the shore the Golden Horn, blesses the water and throws a cross in the sea in the memory of Jesus Christ’s baptism by St John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

According to the tradition, as soon as the cross is thrown into the water, anyone with enough faith and determination can dive into the water and try to find the cross. Whoever catches it first is the lucky person of the year. He receives a special blessing from the Patriarch and a special gift. Although this ritual also takes place in a few other sites around Istanbul, it is the event on the Golden Horn which attracts most attention both by Orthodox Christians but also by Turks, as this particular ceremony remains an important part of the Istanbulites’ cultural tradition.

I happened to attend Friday’s blessing of the waters of the Golden Horn under my guise as a television reporter. I reported on the rows of buses who brought hundreds of Greeks from the mainland to observe this year’s ceremony and then had to stay on the frozen shore of the Golden Horn under the drizzle, together with some three thousand people waiting for the Patriarch Bartholomeos to do his customary walk through the cobble-stoned narrow street, which links the Patriarchate with the shore. Outside, satellite broadcasting units were lined across the site waiting to transmit the ceremony live to the rest of the world; an event which usually does not last more than two hours. Yet, these are unusual times and even the strictest procedures may be disrupted. An exceptionally large number of Orthodox Greeks had decided to take the Holy Communion this year from the hands of Patriarch Bartholomeos, hence the whole event had to be delayed.

This unusually long ceremony also affected the volunteer divers who were waiting eagerly in small boats for the moment for the cross to be thrown into the water as waiting for longer meant freezing for longer in their swimming costumes.

The actual dive lasts only a few minutes and I had the chance to interview this year’s winner, a young man from Drama, Northern Greece, who has been coming to Istanbul every year for the last four years in order to catch the cross. This year it was different, he told me. “It was different for all the Greeks, I had to do it: it was a promise to me; a personal target. One has to believe in something. You know, things are very bad.”

The unusually long line of Greek Orthodox people, who delayed this year’s ceremony in order to receive consolation from their Patriarch, was in complete conflict with the atmosphere of social tension and disrespect shown during similar celebrations taking place on the same day in Greece. The country’s president was openly booed and insulted by Greek “indignati” during the blessing of the waters in the provincial city of Chalkida, while several politicians received similar treatment by citizens in other cities.

As the New Year starts in earnest from today, Greece is entering another period of extreme financial and political uncertainty with a society desperately looking for credible alternatives. And during this period of histolysis and histogenesis for the Greeks, their supreme religious leader still remains a strong point of reference.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Looking for Spiritual Light on the Golden Horn

Armenian Church Reopens in Istanbul

Surp Krikor Lusavorich Armenian Church reopened in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday, Jan 8, after a restoration by Sisli Municipality.

A religious ceremony was held at the church in Istanbul's Karakoy neighborhood with participation of Sisli Mayor Mustafa Sarigul and Armenian Deputy Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, Anatolia news agency reports.

Read more on Public Radio of Armenia: Armenian Church Reopens in Istanbul

Mayor Topbaş Promises Clean, Modern City Restrooms

Most of Istanbul's public restrooms are in deplorable condition, but the city is determined to change that situation, Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş has said, announcing a new plan for 2012 to renovate existing facilities and construct new, modern ones in various parts of the city.

Speaking to Today's Zaman about the Istanbul Municipality's new investments and projects for 2012, Topbaş said one of the biggest problems for most cities is a lack of cleanliness in public restrooms; thus, the municipality will launch a project in which they will renovate old public water closets, including those in mosques.

Topbaş said: “There are often questions surrounding the cleanliness of public restrooms, so the municipality will initiate a project to convert public toilets into modern ones, especially in touristic areas. The municipal workers assigned to deal with public facilities will be careful in maintaining the toilets' cleanness.”

Jobseekers from Greece Try Chances in Istanbul

Turkey – especially Istanbul – stands out as a popular destination for Greeks seeking jobs abroad as Greece suffers a major economic crisis.

In spite of accusations of “betrayal” by ultra-nationalist Greeks, rapprochement between Turkey and Greece is resulting in increased political, economic and social benefits for both sides, Assistant Professor Dimitris Triantaphyllou, Director of the Center for International and European Studies (CIES) at Kadir Has University, told the Daily News.

Some 1.2 million people, nearly 10 percent of the population, emigrated from Greece last year, according to recently published statistics in the World Bank’s “The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011.”

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Jobseekers from Greece Try Chances in Istanbul

Adana, Istanbul to Host James Bond Crew in Spring

The Turkish cities of Adana and İstanbul will this spring host the cast and crew of “Skyfall,” the next movie in the James Bond franchise and one of the most eagerly anticipated titles of the year, Turkish news agencies reported over the weekend.

Filming details for the upcoming movie in the franchise have started to emerge as producers of the 23rd film in the series continue working on shooting locations in Turkey. Ali Akdeniz, the Turkish executive producer on the team, was in the southern province of Adana over the weekend, seeking support from local administrators for the movie’s scenes to be shot in the region, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan to Head International Jury at Istanbul Film Festival

Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan will lead the jury for the “international feature” competition at this year’s Istanbul Film Festival, the organizers of the long-running event announced on Monday.

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Art (IKSV) also said in a written statement issued on Monday that the jury for the “national feature” competition will be chaired by the renowned author and poet Murathan Mungan.

Ceylan’s most recent film, the Cannes Grand Prix-winning “Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da” (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia), is Turkey’s bid in this year’s foreign language Oscar race. Famous for his trademark slow-paced dramas that feature limited dialogue, the photographer, filmmaker and scriptwriter has created six critically acclaimed feature films since his debut with “Kasaba” (The Small Town) in 1997, most of which returned home with awards from high profile international film festivals, including Cannes and Berlin.

Along with the other jury members, Ceylan will select the winner of the Golden Tulip Award for Best Film, which comes with a cash prize of 25,000 euros.

Istanbul a Crucial Stop on Meadows' Road to London

Reigning World and European indoor bronze medallist Jenny Meadows has set her sights on dual major titles this year after announcing her intentions to compete at both the Aviva International Match and Aviva Grand Prix.

Meadows, who is affectionately known as the ‘Pocket Rocket’, will kick-start her 2012 season at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall on 28 January – an event she has won for the last four years – before travelling south of the border to the West Midlands to compete at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena on 18 February at the penultimate IAAF Indoor Permit Meeting of the season.

The 30-year-old endured a mixed season last year, taking silver in the 800m and 4x400m relay at the European Indoor Championships in March before narrowly missing out on a place in the two-lap final at the World Championships in Daegu in September by just .09 seconds.

Meadows was in fantastic form in the run-up to the Championships in Korea, winning her first national title at the Aviva UK Trials and Championships in July and taking the coveted Diamond Race title for her outstanding performance in the elite Samsung Diamond League series.

But the Wigan athlete is determined not to dwell on the disappointment of Daegu and will target the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul (9-11 March), then the London Olympic Games, as the ideal opportunities to break her major championships title duck.

January 08, 2012

Jimi Hendrix Show by His Brother at Roxy

Leon Hendrix, the younger brother of rock icon Jimi Hendrix, will pay tribute to the “World’s Best Guitarist” in Istanbul and Ankara. The Jimi Hendrix Show feat. Leon Hendrix will be at Istanbul’s Roxy stage on Jan. 20 and Ankara’s Kuzgun Bar and Performance Hall on Jan. 21.

Best known for his original artwork featuring his brother Jimi and his songwriting regarding his life growing up as part of the Hendrix legacy, Leon Hendrix said his wish was to keep his brother Jimi’s legacy alive by dedicating his songs to Jimi when he performed. His band “The Leon Hendrix Band” has released one album named “Keeper of the Flame.”

He has also toured in recent years with The Magic Carpet Ride performing concerts in large venues.

Ticket price for the show is 40 Turkish Liras and 30 liras for students.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Jimi Hendrix Show by His Brother at Roxy

Istanbul State Opera to Perform Barber of Seville

Istanbul State Opera and Ballet is performing Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” tonight at Süreyya Opera House. The opera starts at 8 p.m. The piece tells of Count Almaviva’s plan to woo Rosina and win her hand in marriage. With the help of the barber and general factotum Figaro, he executes a plan to outwit her guardian, Dr. Bartolo, who has an eye on his ward’s fortune. Almaviva finds his way into Rosina’s home as a substitute for the officious music master, Don Basilio. After many twists and turns, real Dr. Bartolo is thwarted in his intention of marrying Rosina, who is reconciled with her lover in his true identity.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul State Opera to Perform Barber of Seville

The Hagia Sophia, and Freedom of Religion

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, not far from the well known Blue Mosque, has been the centre point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for over one thousand years. The first recorded structure dates back to the 4th century. The current structure was built in the 6th century. In 1453, Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople, renamed it to Istanbul and converted the Hagia Sophia to an Islamic mosque. Then, in 1935, with the secularization of Turkey under Kemal Ataturk, the Hagia Sophia was declared to be a state-owned museum. It still is an imposing edifice today.

Read more on Canada Free Press: The Hagia Sophia, and Freedom of Religion

From Coffee to Figs -- Can Turkey Brand Itself?

"If the Earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital," Napoleon once said of Istanbul.

Turkey had been known in the West for economic and political crises, coups and movies like Midnight Express that painted a rough picture of the country. Today, however, Turkey is viewed as an increasing powerful regional actor and its image is improving, especially in places like the Middle East.

According to Brand Finance, Turkey is the 19th most valuable country brand in the world. The research is made on the basis of a country's economy, politics, national income, unemployment rate, tourism income, country risk perception, health services, total exports and banking system.

"Istanbul is a huge intersection point where so many cultures touch each other. By this meaning it can be capital of the world," Levent Erden, a brand management expert at Bilgi University, explains.

Erden says that Istanbul is not only a Turkish legacy, but has been a cultural intersection of the world for over 2,000 years.

"In no place can you find the intersection of the Romans and Greeks. You'll find the intersection of Orthodox and Catholics here. An incredible intersection one atop the other: young and old, modern and classic, East and West, oriental and modern, secular and religious."

With its nearly 13 million inhabitants and 6.9 million visitors last year, Istanbul has been a draw for tourists and businessmen alike. Now, some would like to see Turkey's image in the world improve through branding.

"Istanbul seems like a bigger brand than Turkey," Efe Sevin, the director of political communication at Turkayfe.org, an interactive blogging website developed to support Turkey's branding process.

Sevin says most resources have been devoted to tourism advertisement without any systematic effort to brand Turkey.

Read more on The Journal of Turkish Weekly: From Coffee to Figs -- Can Turkey Brand Itself?

Seasonal Drinks to Warm Up Winter in Istanbul

Once winter arrives in full force, with wind whipping down the Bosporus from the Black Sea, and the snow flurries gathering atop minarets, Turks start to take refuge in seasonal drinks like sweet sahlep, or hearty boza, to help them fortify against the elements.

A tour of cafes and restaurants that serve these beverages provides a way to explore Istanbul and its culinary history.

Istanbul Culinary Institute‘s sleek restaurant offers mugs of sahlep – a hot sort of liquid tapioca made from the ground roots of Central Anatolian mountain orchids. The Institute makes it from scratch, mixed with wheat starch and milk, and dusted with ground ginger and cinnamon, for 10 Turkish lira, or $5.40.

Hande Bozdogan, director and founder of the Institute, is a fan of the beverage.

“My grandmother always said it is good for the cold and coughing so we always had it at home in my childhood,’’ Ms. Bozdogan said this week, adding that it’s important to seek out places that use the authentic powder and not an industrial mix.

Read more on The New York Times: Seasonal Drinks to Warm Up Winter in Istanbul

Istanbul Strait Opens to Vessel Traffic After Fog Clears

The Istanbul Strait was opened to vessel traffic on Thursday morning after heavy fog cleared.

Heavy fog also hampered air traffic in Istanbul on Wednesday.

The strait was closed to vessel traffic at 20.16 hours on Wednesday. It was reopened to vessel traffic at 06.00 hours on Thursday.

Visibility dropped to 250 meters at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport due to heavy fog, and some planes were directed to Sabiha Gokcen Airport in the Anatolian side of Istanbul.

Executives said visibility could be down to 100-150 meters during the night.

Istanbul's Emek Theater Under Threat

Turkey's cultural capital is undergoing a major transformation in its bid to modernize. The latest victim? The city's iconic movie theaters.

Emek theater is one of those places where everyone has memories — just not recent memories.

So it's hard to take the recent attempts, like the 4,000-strong demonstration on Dec. 24 to save Emek, seriously. It makes you wonder where everyone was before the for-profit renewal process that is sweeping over Istanbul's hallmark Istiklal Street decided to "renew" Emek theater.

Attendance at the theater was low aside from film festivals, and Emek just wasn't pulling the crowds that it used to. That is not to say Emek had it coming. Countless supporters wrote in from all over Turkey in support of saving the theater, remembering when they watched X, Y or Z movie there. But with its neighboring historic building now the Demiroren Shopping Mall, which boasts a mega Virgin Store and the 3-story German tech store Saturn, it just wasn't a surprise.

According to the new plans, the Cercele D'orient building that now houses Emek, long the crown jewel of theaters during film festivals, will become yet another shopping venue. And Emek? Well, it will not be destroyed, just moved, a little.

Read more on Global Post: Istanbul's Emek Theater Under Threat

Daily Secret Offers Insider Intel for Istanbul

The Istanbul secrets are compiled and curated by a team of 15 "scouts," ranging from a fashion blogger, to a food critic, to a non-profit specialist in new companies who often hears about new ventures before they open. You can register with the site to receive the daily secrets, or search online by category, neighborhood, or date posted. Not all secrets are fancy or expensive, but they tend to be sophisticated and high-end. Daily Secret likes to be the first to write about a new service or business, or provide an added value for readers: an exclusive discount or giveaway, the unlisted phone number, or a spot on the guest list of an event.

I met with Laura Walker, co-founder and editor of Istanbul Daily Secret, to get her best tips and favorites for the Turkish cultural capital. With a background in news journalism, Laura is an American expat with a discerning eye and impeccable tastes, who vets each secret and hopes that if you like the secret's description, you'll like the place too.

A year after the Capital of Culture is over, why travel to Istanbul in 2012?
Istanbul is not about trends or time-sensitive titles, though it is 'hot' these days. Istanbul has been around for thousands of years, and there's nowhere else like it. It's exotic, and yet also very accessible to foreigners, in terms of culture and things to do.

Istanbul Receives 16 Percent More Tourists Last Year

Istanbul continued to be a tourism hot spot in 2011 as Turkey's largest metropolis saw 8 million foreign tourists, a 16 percent rise over the preceding year, the latest data reveal.

According to figures provided by the İstanbul Provincial Culture and Tourism Directorate on Thursday, 1.09 million more people flocked to see Istanbul last year over 2010. The city attracted 6.97 million foreign visitors in 2010, when it was one of three European Capital of Culture cities. Germany sent the highest number of tourists to Istanbul in 2011, followed by Russia, the US, Italy and France.

The directorate said in a written statement the city “left a successful year in tourism behind,” despite financial and political fluctuations in surrounding regions.

Turkey: Istanbul A Hub For Islamic Art Theft

As the international art market has turned its attention – and resources – to Islamic art, Istanbul has become a growing hub for stolen artifacts. Sixty-eight thousand historical objects were recovered in 2010 by the police, causing cultural sites like Istanbul’s famed Süleymaniye Mosque, above, to tighten security.

Under the elegant, soaring arches of Istanbul’s newly restored, 16th century Süleymaniye Mosque, dozens of security cameras keep an eye on visitors’ every move. Vigilant security guards patrol indoors and out. Turkey, police say, is becoming the epicenter of an international market for stolen Islamic art, and Turkish mosques and museums alike are on high alert.

That means the responsibilities of the imam at Süleymaniye Mosque, widely considered the city’s most magnificent, now include not only looking after the people’s faith, but, increasingly, the valuable contents of the mosque itself.

“We are more comfortable with the presence of the security guards. We feel this place is secure,” said Imam Ayhan Mansiz. “Thank God, we didn’t experience any theft. Our mosque is safe. The restoration has just been completed and everything is listed and categorized, and the most valuable items are now in museums.”

Orthodox Christians Celebrate Epiphany in Istanbul

Orthodox Christians in Istanbul reenacted the baptism of Christ with a traditional cross-throwing ceremony Jan. 6 at several waterfront locations in the city.

After a three-hour ceremony held by Patriarch Bartholomew at the Fener Greek Patriarchate, a group of priests and faithful Orthodox Christians went to the Fener dock where the patriarch threw a large cross into the sea, the Anatolia news agency reported.

As the Patriarch Bartholomew threw the cross into the sea, 18 people, including one woman, jumped in the water.

Greek Apostoloes Oikonomov was the first to reach the cross and return it to the patriarch, who awarded him with a golden cross pendant.

A similar ceremony was held in the city’s Üsküdar municipality. After a two-hour ceremony held at the Eastern Orthodox Aya Yorgi Church Metropolitan, Bishop Halkidonos threw the cross into the sea.

Young men Georgios Mastrovasilis, Diamyanos Balıkçıoğlu, Bayram Baklacıoğlu and Emin Papazoğlu assembled as part of the group and jumped into the cold water, all swimming to reach the cross and bring it back to dry land. Baklacıoğlu was first to reach the cross and return it.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Orthodox Christians Celebrate Epiphany in Istanbul
Read more on Associated Press: Orthodox Christians Celebrate Epiphany

January 04, 2012

Grand Bazaar's Gold Merchants Turn to Bloomberg

Around 2.5m ounces of the substance change hands in its labyrinthine alleyways each year, amounting to $29bn (£18.6bn) of business and giving the Grand Bazaar a clear lead as Turkey's biggest gold market.

But that centuries-old ritual is starting to change. The economic downturn has fuelled trading of the 'safe haven" metal to such an extent that Istanbul's gold merchants have started to invest in expensive Bloomberg terminals in order to keep up with demand and step up the speed of transactions and gain access to the latest prices.

Each subscription costs $20,000 and is more commonly associated with a trading floor, but allows gold sellers to keep track of volatile prices, and instantly trade gold and currency with buyers far beyond the 4,000 shops of the Grand Bazaar.

"It's a classic fusion of tradition and revolution," said a Bloomberg spokesman.

Award Winning Movies from African Cinema Are Coming to Istanbul Modern

Istanbul Modern Cinema presents a selection from the African cinema that though considered a relatively newcomer with its continental history of cinema dating only half a century back, has already enriched the global art realm with unique film productions.

Between January 5-22, within the programme called “Africa!”, a selection of 10 films curated by Mahir Saul, a professor who is an expert in African anthropology at the Illinois University, will be presented.

Turkey's ‘Crazy’ Istanbul Canal Project is Expected to Be Completed by 2023

Almost nine months have passed since the prime minister’s announcement of Istanbul’s “crazy” canal project, and officials have started surveying land at proposed sites. While real estate developers also said land prices in the planned area have increased tremendously, others oppose the project for various reasons.

“We started surveying the land for the construction of the canal and we are working on the details,” an official from Istanbul Municipality told the Hürriyet Daily News recently, adding that the canal would be constructed in the northwestern part of Istanbul, near Terkos Lake.

Real estate agents, however, said the location was already chosen. “We are almost sure the location will be around Değirmenköy since the prices in that region have gone up 200 percent in the past year,” Reka Balkan, a member from the real estate agencies’ chamber, told the Daily News.

Balkan said they received a number of phone calls everyday asking for the land prices in the area.

A Photo Guide to 10 Turkish Culinary Delights

Filling one's belly in Istanbul is not challenging as long as you are a carnivore, but finding an impressive place to eat is not so simple. If one comes to Istanbul from any Western country with a sizable Turkish population and sticks to only the restaurants into which they are reeled by the first man who doesn't shake a menu at them and block their path down whatever clogged alleyway they happen to be roaming hungrily, one will quickly come to the conclusion that Turkish food is best served outside of Turkey. But that is really not the case, really.

Most restaurants with favorable real estate in regards to tourists tend to be generic and aim at luring in customers by means of tacky décor and large women in village costumes kneading wads of dough through observational windows. Their purpose is to bring in one-time customers rather than have people coming back for quality cuisine.

The Turkish aesthetic is often to take that which is most beautiful and to hide it somewhere and then to rarely speak about it. This is also the case with almost all of Istanbul's finest eateries. You will find them unadvertised down dark alleys four floors up in buildings that appear abandoned, and there will be no signs to guide you. The only way to go about discovering these places is to befriend local foodies, or to troll blogs or check out websites such as IstanbulEats.

Now, with that said, here are a few not-to-be-missed Turkish dishes to guide you as you consume your way through this enchanting metropolis.

Visit the Photo Guide on Huffington Post: A Photo Guide to 10 Turkish Culinary Delights

A Colorful History of Finnish Design on Display in Istanbul

A traveling exhibition documenting the 60-year history of Finnish design company Marimekko is currently on display at Milli Reasürans Art Gallery in Istanbul’s Teşvikiye district.

The exhibition, which was originally shown by the Helsinki Design Museum, enables one to observe the historical development of the company through its colorful textiles, photos and other archival material.

Textile designer Armi Ratia founded Marimekko and its first retail store in 1952.

Harri Kivilinna, the curator of the show, explained to Today’s Zaman that after World War II, in Finland, there was a lack of material commodities because they had lost the war to the Soviet Union and been made to pay war reparations.

“It was an energetic time with people enterprising small companies. Armi Ratia wanted to create something new, something that [didn’t] have anything to do with the past. She thought about creating a company that was going to make fabrics and costumes out of fabrics that [were] totally new looking, not like the traditional ones. Her husband already had a small printing house, and she invited all kinds of friends of hers to come and start doing something new,” Kivilinna recounted.

The first Marimekko designer to become truly famous was Vuokko Nurmesniemi. She had very modernist ideas about design, believing that everything had to be simple and functional.

Memorable Concerts in Istanbul Mark Year’s End

As 2011 came to an end, the last week of December offered concerts everywhere in Istanbul, and most programs were dedicated to the New Year just around the corner, while one offered premieres of pieces written long ago.

From Moscow, the eminent Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of its long-time leader Vladimir Fedoseyev, came to the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall (CRRKS) on Dec. 28. Its completely sold-out New Year’s Concert featured Russian ballet music, including the seasonal favorite, “The Nutcracker Suite” by Tchaikovsky, as well as “Petrushka” by Igor Stravinsky.

January 01, 2012

Stamboul Twilight is 1 Year Old!

One year ago today Stamboul Twilight started out as a baby blog in Sweden. 

Its first ever post being 'Istanbul thrives as the new party capital of Europe', over the past 12 months Stamboul Twilight published 767 posts. 

Having attracted only 340 unique visitors at the end of January 2011, today Stamboul Twilight reaches a total of  15K unique visitors per month - who are either curious about or interested in Istanbul and related subjects. 

In 2011 Stamboul Twilight published spots, summaries and occasionally complete features from the following publications: BBC (2) Bloomberg (3) City Film (1) CNN (4) ESPN (1) Fox News (1) Global Post (3) Guardian (14) Huffington Post (5) Hurriyet Daily News (222) Just Luxe (5) Luxist (1) Mail and Guardian (1) National Geographic (1) Reuters (5) SkySports (1) The Financial (4) The Globe and Mail (3) The Independent (9) The National (4) The New York Times (24) The Standard (1) The Telegraph (10) The Wall Street Journal (2) Vogue (3) W Magazine (1) Zaman (148).

We hope that this blog would keep exposing you to things you have never heard of, things you have never seen and things you could never imagine about Istanbul in 2012.

Most Read Stamboul Twilight Posts in 2011