March 30, 2012

Istanbul's Fasil Music Scene

Fasil is what makes a good night great in a traditional Turkish meyhane (tavern) – a motley band of violin, lyre and clarinet-playing musicians and singers who usually mix classical Turkish music, well-loved songs from the 1950s and 1960s and sometimes a cheeky arabesque drumbeat to suit a crowd of diners. This kind of music is quintessentially crowd-pleasing, to the extent that, as the night progresses and the raki flows, the performance becomes the realm of the people and the diners themselves do most of the singing and a great deal of boozy dancing.

Fasil is to the Turks what karaoke is to the Japanese (and to a certain extent the British) – everyone gets involved, but it usually entails a certain amount of tipsiness. I once walked past the open door of a fasil-fuelled meyhane late one night while completely sober, and found it decidedly embarrassing. Grown men and women were singing lustily into a microphone passed around by hands holding glasses of raki and forkfuls of cheese, everyone swaying and hooting with laughter. They were having a whale of a time, just the right side of tipsy, warm with camaraderie and the buzz of being ridiculous with friends.

The great thing is that, even as a foreigner, you are never allowed to be an outsider in a fasil crowd. You may not know the words to the songs or how to dance, but everyone will be (literally) falling over themselves to get you on your feet and fully involved. If this sounds completely horrifying, my advice would be to have a drink and see what happens.

Read more on The Guardian: Istanbul's Fasil Music Scene

A Big Night Out in Istanbul – And A Big Breakfast the Morning After

Once a turn-of-the-century Italian school Cezayir (Hayriye Caddesi 12, Galatasaray, Beyoglu, is now a swish and sophisticated bar. On warm spring nights, head downstairs to the bar's gorgeous back garden. Limonlu Bahçe (Yeniçarsi Caddesi 98, Galatasaray) is a secret courtyard garden (spot the bar's tiny sign out front), where the city's creative types sip mojitos among the lemon trees.

Why party on the land when you can bob between two continents? Su Ada (Ferry from Kuruçesme waterfront park, is an artificial island floating in the middle of the Bosphorus. A stunner for aperitifs at sunset. Urban (Istiklal Caddesi, Kartal Sokak 6/A, Galatasaray, Beyoglu, is a hip neighbourhood bar in a beautiful old pastry shop.

Istanbul’s Sultanahmet District

Rich lives can be found among the gravestones of Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district.
In Istanbul, the dead and living enjoy a surprisingly peaceful coexistence. Whether neglected or cherished, the gravestones and tombs of the common and the great quietly compete for space in this ever-expanding metropolis. Just metres from where tour buses daily disgorge thousands of animated tourists who file through the 400-year-old Blue Mosque lies the grand tomb of the sultan who commissioned it.

Read more on New Zealand Listener: Istanbul’s Sultanahmet District

Istanbul Jewelery Show Opens

This year the 34th Istanbul Jewelry show ran until March 25 at the CNR Expo. The fair was organized by UBM Rotaforte and Turkey Ekonomi Bankas (TEB), which was the main sponsor of the event.

More than 30,000 visitors were expected to attend the show, with the majority being from the Middle East, East Europe, North Africa, Russia, the Turkic Republics, as well as all of Turkey. This year's show also featured buyer delegations from Russia, Arab countries, Dubai, Iran and Europe. Over 1,000 companies from 24 countries exhibited at the show, which featured 5 halls totaling over 1640 square feet of space.

Leading local jewelry and watch companies participating in the exhibition included Altinbas, Atasay, Assos, Asgold, Arpas, Aris, Eris, Gulaylar, Seyrekoglu, Zen Diamond, and Timeart (Belmond, Quantum). There are also international pavilions from Belgium, Italy, Hong Kong, Thailand.

Read more on Diamonds.Net: Istanbul Jewelery Show Opens

Book Details Ambitious Ottoman Projects for Istanbul

As the Ottoman Empire -- one of the largest and longest-lasting empires in history -- entered the modern era, a great many architectural projects were developed at the request of the sultans, who showed great interest in the construction of canals, railways, bridges and funiculars.

These projects have recently been compiled in a visually rich and informative book, “Osmanlı’nın Çılgın Projeleri” (The Crazy Projects of the Ottoman Empire). The book includes photographs and drawings of the projects, many of which remained on paper without ever being transformed into reality.

The writer, Turan Şahin, says in the introduction to his book that Ottoman rulers committed themselves to providing social facilities such as fountains, bridges, railways and train stations for public use. Public service was not only regarded by the sultans as a duty, but also a means of receiving benediction from the public. Many foreign experts were employed by the sultans to develop projects and improve the urban design of cities under Ottoman rule.

Bulgaria to Open Culture Center in Istanbul

Bulgarian Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov said that they would open a culture center in Istanbul.

Speaking to AA, Rashidov said that culture centers, which would mutually be opened in Turkey and Bulgaria, would play an important role in development of bilateral relations.

Culture centers will increase friendship and cooperation between the two countries, added Rashidov.

Noting that Bulgaria opened culture centers in 11 countries so far, Rashidov said that they would open the 12th in Istanbul, Turkey.

Rashidov said that he had been discussing this issue with Turkish Culture & Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay for the last two months, adding that culture was the best ambassador between the countries.

Read more on World Bulletin: Bulgaria to Open Culture Center in Istanbul

Istanbul Hosted Europe's Annual Football Parliament

Europe's annual football parliament convened in Istanbul when the XXXVI Ordinary UEFA Congress took place.

Representatives from UEFA's 53 member national associations were called upon to discuss and vote on a variety of issues at the Congress at Istanbul's Congress Centre.

UEFA President Michel Platini addressed the Congress on UEFA's activities and achievements since last year's gathering in Paris. The main items on the agenda included approval of the report of the UEFA President and Executive Committee for 2010/11, and approval of the UEFA administration report for the same period.

Read more on the official UEFA website: Istanbul Hosts Europe's Annual Football Parliament

March 21, 2012

Istanbul Sizzles With 10th International Gastronomy Festival

While Istanbul is home to numerous festivals throughout the year, Thursday saw a food-infused gathering of foodies and chefs from around the world.

The first day of the 10th International Istanbul Gastronomy Festival, which runs March 15-18, started the festival off with a competition for student chefs. I was lucky enough to visit the festival and watch the chefs-in-training compete in timed challenges.

The All Cooks Federation of Turkey (TAF), a member of the World Association of Chefs, is sponsoring the international competition and has invited chefs from 22 different countries. Thousands of chefs have gathered to compete in team and individual cooking challenges at the Tuyap convention center in Büyükçekmece.

Istanbul Film Festival Adds Extra Screening of ‘Detachment’

Tickets for this year’s İstanbul International Film Festival went on sale Saturday, and one film in particular instantly sold out thanks to festival aficionados who ran to box offices and online ticket seller Biletix to grab seats for the films they could hardly wait to see.

The festival announced over the weekend that it was setting up an additional screening of “American History X” director Tony Kaye’s newest effort “Detachment” after all tickets for the film’s three scheduled showings at the festival sold out the day the tickets went on sale.

“Detachment,” the third feature film by Kaye, stars Adrien Brody and Marcia Gay Harden in the leading roles of the drama about the decline of the US educational system. The film will get a fourth screening at the festival on April 3 at the CityLife theater in Nişantaşı, according to the festival’s website,

Istanbul at the Crossroad

It is late afternoon in historic Taksim neighborhood of Istanbul and Kafe Ara is full of local intellectuals. The walls are decorated with enormous black and white photographs depicting old days of the city: ancient fishing boats, exhausted laborers arriving to the jetty, historic trams crawling through Galata Bridge. All these photos were taken by one of the greatest Turkish photographers of Armenian origin – Mr. Ara Guler – now more than 90 years old.

As I write this article, Mr. Guler is sitting at the large wooden table right next to me. He is still loved and popular, never short of company of both young and old people who ask him to autograph his books and to share his thoughts on this city.

Once in a while we look at each other and smile. At one point he begins eyeing my Leica camera, then he winks at me: “I have 50 of them at home. I even knew personally the family… You know… After they went digital, it is not the same…” I still love Leicas, but I politely agree with the old master.

While his work is considered phenomenal, as one of the great symbols of Istanbul, for many inhabitants and visitors alike it is synonymous with nostalgia and melancholy. Taksim neighborhood is constantly changing. While still full of history and architectural beauty, it became one of the most expensive places on earth, and according to the great Turkish Marxist filmmaker Serkan Koc – one of the ‘most capitalist’.

“Istanbul from my childhood has changed, it already disappeared”, laments Ara Guler. “The new construction is everywhere. Even when you think about Istanbul some 50 years ago, it was already gone. We have been living in the city called Istanbul, but it is just imaginary city. The real city went mad; its culture is finished. New generations – they are all empty. I see emptiness all around me.”

Read more on Today's Zaman: Istanbul at the Crossroad

UEFA Congress 2012 in Istanbul

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino held a news conference on Wednesday after the UEFA Executive Committee meeting conveyed in Istanbul, Turkey, the country that rocked by its biggest match fixing scandal.

Uefa General Secratary Gianni Infantino stated that Uefa relies on Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) judgement on recent match fixing case Turkish football passes through and hinted the decision will be taken by TFF anf only by TFF. ‘ After TFF’s decision we will evaluate it, our [UEFA's] zero tolerance policy towards match-fixing will be implemented ‘ Infantino continued.

Read more on National Turk: Uefa Congress 2012 in Istanbul

Istanbul Modern Cinema Celebrates Year of Dragon

As part of the Chinese Culture Year in Turkey, Istanbul Modern Cinema, in cooperation with Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, will present a program that brings together seven films from Chinese cinema. The event will open tomorrow at 7 p.m. with a breathtaking Chinese acrobatic show. The films to be shown until March 29 are as follows:

“Confucius,” which tells the life story of the highly-influential Chinese philosopher, Confucius.

“Walking to School,” the story of Naxiang (Anamuling), the teenage daughter of a Lisu minority family, who can only attend school using a rusty old zip line across a dangerous river.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul Modern Cinema Celebrates Year of Dragon

10 of the Best Lokantas in Istanbul

Istanbul's lokantas, or 'tradesmen's restaurants', are where the locals go for fast, fresh home-style cooking and a lively atmosphere. The Istanbul Eats bloggers select 10 of the best...

Karaköy Lokantasi

This place started with the concept of a traditional esnaf lokantasi and added laid-back service and funky design and paying greater attention to the food. The result is a power lunch spot buzzing with bankers out for a bite. Hünkar beğendi, a leftover from the Ottoman imperial kitchen, is the star of the menu. Eggplants are charred on a charcoal grill, then peeled, mashed and thickened with milk and cheese. Over the top, tender morsels of slow-cooked lamb are drizzled with the red gravy they were stewed in. It's the beğendi experience that this place thrives on. At night, it turns into a taverna.

Kemankeş Caddesi 37, Karaköy, +90 212 292 4455, mains around £5.
Open Mon-Sat 6am-midnight

Read more on The Guardian: 10 of the Best Lokantas in Istanbul

March 06, 2012

Turkey: Istanbul Remembers WWII Jewish Refugee Tragedy

When he first arrived in what was, back then, British-controlled Palestine, no one was especially interested in hearing David Stoliar’s astonishing story, even though he was the sole survivor of the sinking of the SS Struma, a rusting steamer with almost 800 Jewish refugees aboard when it was torpedoed off the Turkish coast.

February 24 marks the 70th anniversary of the Struma tragedy. To commemorate it, a small group of local activists held a minute of silence at Sarayburnu Point, overlooking the waters at the mouth of Istanbul’s Golden Horn, where the Struma was once moored.

Beethoven Sonatas on Istanbul Stage

Violinist Cihat Aşkın and pianist Tuluğ Tırpan were on stage at Caddebostan Culture Center on March 1 for the first leg of what the duo call Beethoven Marathon. The project included two more concerts in the same venue on March 3 and 4, and the repertoire was based on Beethoven’s 10 violin sonatas.

“The idea came to our mind while we were talking on Beethoven, which showed us that we both could play most of the sonatas. Then, I offered Aşkın to make a stage project on these pieces,” Tırpan told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Beethoven Sonatas on Istanbul Stage

Russian Diva Took Istanbul Stage

The CRR Concert Hall hosted Russian opera singer Maria Petrovna Maksakova on February 28.

The CRR Istanbul Symphonic Orchestra accompanied the Russian diva.

Maksakova has been a guest soloist with the Bolshoi Theater since 2003 and a soloist with Moscow’s Helikon-Opera since 2006 and with Mariinsky Opera Company since 2011.

She is the laureate of several prestigious events. Her extensive chamber repertoire includes works by Schumann, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Russian Diva Took Istanbul Stage

Marmara’s Sunken Ships Set Sail to US

The ancient ship graveyard, uncovered during excavations carried out as part of the Marmaray rail and subway projects in Istanbul’s Yenikapı district, is drawing the attention of international scientists.

Associate Professor of Istanbul University’s (I.U.) Department of Marine Archeology, Ufuk Kocabaş, said the ancient ship graveyard in Yenikapı was the richest in the world.

He said they had examined the ships and carried out conservation works in a laboratory they had established, and that due to this discovery from the Byzantine period, Istanbul would have the world’s largest sunken ship museum.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Marmara’s Sunken Ships Set Sail to US

March 04, 2012

Everything About Istanbul in A Library

The Istanbul Library, which was opened by the Çelik Gülersoy Foundation in 1990 in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, keeps the memory of the city alive with 10,000 books.

The library’s director, Neslihan Yalav, said late Çelik Gülersoy was a very well-known name in Istanbul and Turkey, having established many important places in the city. She said since Gülersoy was a big fan of Istanbul, he had a large library including books on Istanbul that he had collected over the years. As a result of his collection, the Istanbul Library was opened.

Yalav said there were countless numbers of books about Istanbul, but such a library had never existed before like this one.

“The library opened in 1990 with 6,000 books and now it has some 10,000 books. It is place where all works about Istanbul come together,” Yalav said.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Everything About Istanbul in A Library

A City Under Siege

These days the answer to “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” is “Conquest 1453,” the new spear-and-molten-pitch swashbuckler movie that has Turkish viewers storming their local cinemas in record-breaking numbers. It tells the story of the Ottomans’ successful siege of Constantinople through the eyes of Sultan Mehmet II, with a neat subplot about a cross-dressing female cannon maker who made victory possible.

“Conquest 1453” (or “Fetih 1453” in Turkish) is remarkable not just for its $17 million budget — which is enormous by Turkish standards — and for the size of the biceps on those thousands of extras. It’s also remarkable for the entirely unselfconscious way it celebrates war and conquest.

The film manages to combine blood and battle with a feel-good factor. We shed not a tear for the end of Byzantium. The Greeks lose the city after too many late nights spent with dancing girls. The Turks take it as a reward for their determination and faith. The film might have been pitched to the movie moguls as “Troy” meets “Starship Troopers” meets “Shakespeare in Love.”

Read more on The New York Times: A City Under Siege

Five Istanbul Hot Spots With A View

With its Ottoman Empire history and vibrant modern culture, there’s no denying Istanbul’s charm. At the center of it all, the city’s lifeblood is the body of water that divides Europe and Asia—the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. The waterway’s strategic importance enticed Constantine the Great to found the city as the capital of the Eastern Roman empire, but today, it’s the focus of some of Istanbul’s most sought-after views. At the end of a day in Turkey’s busiest city, settle in and ponder this famous strait from these five spots with can’t-miss views.

OFFF Istanbul Hosts World-Famous Names At A Digital Festival

OFFF, an international digital festival that has taken place in Paris, New York, Lisbon and Madrid, will take place in Istanbul this year at the Yapı-Endüstri Merkezi (YEM) in Şişli’s Fulya neighborhood.

OFFF, which is organized by Kurye Video Org., is an entity in continuous transformation and is alive and evolutionary.

More than a decade ago, it was born as a post-digital culture festival, becoming a meeting place to host contemporary creations through an in-depth program of conferences, workshops and performances by the most relevant artists.

The event has also produced an extensive international network of artists, developers, theorists and, more importantly, people who love art in all its multiple expressions: students, fans, professionals and the curious. The event is for people who want to show what they do, discover what others do and, above all, share their knowledge and their desires to inspire and be inspired.

Turkish artists, directors, designers, web designers, advertisement companies are all set to gather for the festival.

OFFF will also celebrate the 400th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands by hosting post-production studio Onesize and Falk&Sun’s from the Netherlands.