September 30, 2012

The Truth About Istanbul — One Of The Hottest New Financial Centers In The World

Earlier this month, Bloomberg Markets reported Istanbul is planning to build a $2.6 billion dollar financial center that would rival Dubai's.

According to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's current plans, within three years, a high-rise office building will dominate the modern suburb of Atasehir, now a dusty patch of land on the Asian side of the city.

The announcement comes in a year where the city’s stock exchange has grown 26 percent. Citigroup and HSBC already have a presence in the city, along with Japanese and Russian multinational banks.

Meanwhile, a robust banking culture is already making inroads. CEOs seek out the Billionaire Club, a showy multi-level nightclub, while junior executives head to the Suada Club, a man-made party island with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, bars and restaurants in the middle of the Bosporus Strait.

Read more on Business Insider: The Truth About Istanbul — One Of The Hottest New Financial Centers In The World

Chinese Culture Shines in Istanbul

A Chinese Culture Week themed "The Modern Silk Road" opened here on Saturday, serving attendants a feast for the eyes and appetite.

The week-long event, as part of 2012 China Culture Year, features documentaries, Mongolian art shows and Chinese cuisine, presenting China's traditional culture and the lifestyle of its ethnic minorities.

At the opening ceremony, artists from north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region performed a series of Mongolian songs and dances, and gave the guests Hada, a piece of silk used as greeting gift.

"This is my first time receiving Chinese culture, and I hope someday I can go there and learn more," Fatimah, a college student in Istanbul, told Xinhua, adding she was impressed by the performance. "An Eternal Lamb," a selected film in The Montreal World Film Festival last year, depicted the lifestyle of Chinese Kazakh people with a local presence, which drew wide applause among the audience.

Two Chinese Huaiyang Cuisine chefs, Xiong Shiwei and Zhang Baojian, were also invited to prepare dishes.

Read more on Global Times: Chinese Culture Shines in Istanbul

September 29, 2012

Istanbul, An Enchanting Paradise - For Cats

Mornings around nine, when shop owners on Galip Dede Street open their doors, dozens of cats appear out of nowhere. They know it’s breakfast time. Not right away: the men first have to unpack new merchandise, stock the shelves, and check the till.

But then they put out bowls of water for the cats, who have been waiting patiently and attentively, and strew generous amounts of dried cat food about. Only then do they drink their own morning tea, standing in front of their shops chatting with each other along the small cobblestone street. Sometimes they play with the animals, teasing them benevolently or stroking them.

Read more on World Crunch: Istanbul, An Enchanting Paradise - For Cats

Istanbul’s Creative Industries on Display at Design Biennial

The first Istanbul Design Biennial will open Oct. 12, taking the Galata Greek Primary School and Istanbul Modern as its main venues and the theme of “Imperfection” as its focus. It will feature work by hundreds of designers from Turkey and around the world, and will continue through Dec. 12.

The biennial is organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), and curated by Emre Arolat and Joseph Grima. Its theme was suggested by Deyan Sudjic, an Istanbul Design Biennial advisory board member and the director of the Design Museum in London. The biennial’s exhibitions will explore creative products and projects from all disciplines of the creative industries in major fields from urban design to architecture; interior architecture; and industrial, graphic, fashion and new media design, as well as their subfields.

The exhibitions will include 514 projects, 236 of which are of Turkish origin, while the remaining 278 come from 48 other countries around the world, including the United States, Germany, Belgium, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Greece.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul’s Creative Industries on Display at Design Biennial

Pera Palace: Istanbul's Hot-Spot Hotel

It's East meets West in glamorous, exotic and stylish form. Turkey’s most famous hotel has just had a £20 million facelift – and it's got to be seen to be believed. The Pera Palace, the first Western Hotel to be built in Turkey, has just completed a four-year renovation project. First opened in 1892 in the final decade of the Ottoman Empire – it’s now been restored to its former glory.

This legendary spot was an elegant hangout for famous faces of the early 20th century including King Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth II, Agatha Christie, Greta Garbo and Alfred Hitchcock. More recently Hollywood star Ben Affleck was spotted sipping drinks in the hotel's Orient bar, the same spot where Ernest Hemmingway used to knock back whiskies in a former, more glamorous age.

Read more on Hello Magazine: Pera Palace: Istanbul's Hot-Spot Hotel

Sting Brings Legendary Hits to Istanbul’s Stage

Sting will perform in Istanbul on Nov. 26 with tickets released for sale Sept. 3. Sting last came to Turkey in 2006 to perform for 15,000 fans at Kuruçeşme Arena. This time he will appear at Ataköy Athletizm Arena in Istanbul joined by a 5-piece band made up of Dominic Miller on guitar, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, David Sancious on keyboards, Peter Tickell on electric fiddle and Jo Lawry on back up vocals.

Sting will visit Turkey as a part of his Back To Bass Fall 2012Tour. The singer has varied his musical style throughout his career, incorporating distinct elements of jazz, reggae, classical, New Age, and worldbeat into his music. As a solo musician and member of The Police, Sting has received sixteen Grammy Awards for his work, receiving his first Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1981. The artist also has three Brit Awards, including one for Best British Male in 1994, a Golden Globe, an Emmy Award, and several Oscar nominations for Best Original Song under his belt. He is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Sting Brings Legendary Hits to Istanbul’s Stage

Urban Festival to Bring Electro Beats to Istanbul

Lounge FM’s Istanbul Urban Festival has been organized for the fourth consecutive year, bringing three famous electronic groups to the city along with multiple high-profile DJ artists for a one-day electronic music event.

Norwegian duo Röyskopp will join Danish electronic music producer Trentemoller and the Turkish band 123 as headliners of the one-day music festival, which will be held Sept. 30 at Küçükçiftlik Park. A favorite among Amsterdam’s club set, Trouw’s resident DJ Patrice Baumel will scratch and spin on the turntables at Urban Fest along with Mehmet Garan, Low Earth, Doğan Aktay, Altan Balgır, Yeşim Unan and Tufan Demir.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Urban Festival to Bring Electro Beats to Istanbul

Where to Eat in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

We like to think of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar – open since 1461 – as the world's oldest shopping mall. If that's the case, shouldn't the Grand Bazaar be home to the world's oldest food court? That may be stretching the analogy a little too far, but for us the Grand Bazaar is as much of a food destination as a shopping one.

As we see it, one of the hidden pleasures of going to the bazaar (once you get past the overzealous shopkeepers hawking souvenirs) is exploring some of its quieter back alleys and interior courtyards for new dining possibilities, especially some of the smaller restaurants that cater not to tourists but rather to the locals who work in the sprawling marketplace. Here are three of our favourite places.

Read more on The Guardian: Where to eat in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

Istanbul, Turkey: In Search of the City’s Roman Past

Exactly 1,700 years ago, in 312 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine had a vision that changed the course of the Roman Empire – the world even – and ultimately turned Britain into a Christian country.

The vision appeared to Constantine, just before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. His adversary was Maxentius, a rival for the emperor’s crown. Looking above the heads of his marching soldiers, Constantine saw a burning cross of light over the sun, next to the Greek words, “Ev Toutw Nika” - “In this sign, you will conquer.” The following night, Christ appeared to Constantine in a dream, telling him to use the sign against his enemies.

Constantine did as he was told. He stuck a cross on his army’s shields, won the battle, killed Maxentius, became undisputed Roman Emperor, and the rest is history - Christian history. From that point on, or so the legend goes, Constantine began his conversion to Christianity and, in time, the Roman Empire became a Christian Roman Empire.

But the heart of Constantine’s new Christian Empire was not to be Rome, but the ancient Greek city of Byzantium. In 330AD, he made it the new imperial capital; in the same year, it was renamed Constantinople in his honour (and nicknamed “New Rome”). Along with the Roman imperial court, the senate and the supreme courts all moved to Constantinople from old Rome.

Read more on The Telegraph: Istanbul, Turkey: In Search of the City’s Roman Past

Istanbul’s Techno-Park to Make $10 Bln Annually

Teknopark Istanbul, a defense and related-industry research and development hub, will generate nearly $10 billion for Turkey’s economy annually after its completion in eight to 10 years, the project’s business development chief has said.

“I think the annual contribution of Istanbul Teknopark to Turkey’s economy will be around $10 billion when the project is completed,” Özgur Özçelik, the program’s business development director, told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Istanbul’s Techno-Park to Make $10 Bln Annually

Istanbul's Luckiest Lottery Kiosk Feeds Turkish Appetite for Numbers Game

It may be the luckiest lottery booth in the world. It's certainly one of the most popular. In the heart of Istanbul's historic Eminönü district, the Nimet Abla lottery kiosk has become so renowned for producing regular winners that it has become a magnet for the punters. 

People travel for miles around – from well beyond the city limits – to snap up a ticket. Others will make proxy purchases, posting the slips to friends and relatives in other cities. Such is the kiosk's reputation that one in 10 lotto tickets in Turkey is sold here, and demand from all over the country as well as from abroad has been so high that the firm started online sales last year. 

Melek Nimet Özden founded the kiosk, lending it both her name and her luck. Nimet Abla ("Big sister Nimet") started selling lottery tickets in 1928, and after she won the big new year's lottery draw in 1931 her shop earned nationwide fame as the luckiest lottery booth in Turkey. 

Read more on The Guardian: Istanbul's Luckiest Lottery Kiosk Feeds Turkish Appetite for Numbers Game

Istanbul's Tanpinar Literature Festival: Preview

It is only apt that a perpetually transforming, transcontinental city such as Istanbul should give rise to a dynamic, international literary festival that has set up a fascinating dialogue with the outside world. Hooking up with an array of other arts organisations and literary festivals from across Europe, including the Hay Festival whose UK media partner is the Telegraph, the fourth Istanbul Tanpinar Literature Festival will next month gather together 68 authors from 22 countries. 

Read more on The Telegraph: Istanbul's Tanpinar Literature Festival: Preview

Monumental: Istanbul’s Dazzling Architecture

Istanbul makes all the latest travel hot lists, for good reason. Domed mosques, topped with fairy-tale minarets, anchor scores of neighborhood squares where prayer calls echo down cobbled lanes. Boats of every size navigate the Bosporus Strait, where old men crowd bridges to drop fishing lines and gossip, while along the shores, cafés serve thimbles of thick Turkish coffee. 

This Silk Road terminus can sometimes feel as chaotic as exotic. Istanbul residents complain about the crush of traffic and the gaggles of tourists increasingly drawn to a rejuvenated world capital. Still, Istanbul has managed the transition from a city of 7 million residents in 1990 to today’s metropolis of over 15 million far better than other boomtowns like Beijing. Some landmarks have been compromised, but the city’s astonishing architectural endowment remains unrivaled in depth and diversity.

Read more on TIME: Monumental: Istanbul’s Dazzling Architecture

No Risk of Boredom in Exotic, Wonderful Istanbul

With one foot in Asia and the other in Europe, Istanbul offers visitors a kaleidoscope of cultural experiences.

You can haggle for pricey Turkish carpets or cheap souvenir T-shirts in the Grand Bazaar, or sip a Starbucks latte while loudspeakers call the faithful to prayer at nearby mosques. One thing you can’t do is run out of places to see, things to buy and delicacies to taste — in this sprawling and eclectic city of 17 million, there’s no risk of boredom.

Read more on Vancouver Sun: No Risk of Boredom in Exotic, Wonderful Istanbul

Turkish Delights

The designer Umit Benan Sahin, 31, has caught the attention of the fashion world with his namesake men’s-wear collection and his designs for the venerable Italian brand Trussardi. He works in Milan, but he replenishes his creative energy in his hometown of Istanbul. Here, he describes a few of his favorite spots in the city by the Bosporus. 

Read more on The New York Times: Turkish Delights

Why Are There So Many Cats in Istanbul?

Jodi - In Istanbul, my cat-magnetism (catnetism?) reached higher levels. Walking outside my guesthouse, I was flanked by felines, to the amusement of the staff who wanted to know if I bathed in fish oil. Their suspicions deepened when I returned to my room after a day of wandering to find a cat sitting contentedly in my shower.

The cat-following was out of control.

Read more on Legal Nomads: Why Are There So Many Cats in Istanbul?
See more Cats of Istanbul by Legal Nomads on: Stamboul Twilight's Facebook Album

Traffic Problem to End by 2016: Istanbul Mayor

A new plan will solve Istanbul’s mass transportation problems by 2016, according to Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş.

“We [are planning] 641 kilometers of subway and rail systems. When we complete [this plan], transportation in Istanbul will be based largely on subways and rail systems. In 2016 the residents of Istanbul will no longer have traffic problems. By that time, most of the line will be completed, new buses will be provided and minibus systems will change. Also taxis will work more systematically. Urban transportation will become much easier. Then it will not be necessary to talk about transportation so much,” he said.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Traffic Problem to End by 2016: Istanbul Mayor

City of the Senses - A Cultural Revival in Istanbul

ONE EVENING LAST MAY, around the time when evenings heat up and Turks spend all night outdoors, I went to an art opening at the new Egeran Galeri in Istanbul. Across the water from the gallery, Hagia Sophia, lit up like an aging movie star, gazed warily at this louche, noisy party in Karaköy, the brash ingenue of Istanbul’s neighborhoods. A hundred foreigners and Turks drinking wine in tall glasses had flooded around two DJs in the middle of the street. American conceptual artist Mel Bochner, whose work was on exhibit, sat on a couch bestowing kisses. Inside, his paintings—consisting of clusters of words, such as Blah Blah Blah—hung on white walls that led through huge glass doors and back outside. 

These days, Istanbul is no longer just the spot where Europe meets Asia; it is a creative mishmash of civilizations, eras, classes, and ways of life—as if someone had dribbled bits of Berlin and New York and Barcelona onto a seaside Islamic wonderland. Karaköy is one of a handful of neighborhoods that typify the new feeling. En route to the opening, walking through an architectural jumble that included a sixteenth-century mosque as well as Armenian and Greek churches hiding behind paint-patchy walls, I passed narghile hangouts where young people who smoke but don’t drink lounged on beanbag seating; bars where blond socialites, sprung from their Bosphorus mansions, sip cocktails next to tables of hipsters; heavily designed Austrian coffee shops that attract graphic artists on break; and the traditional drab concrete teahouses for male workers. When I later consulted the architectural critic Gökhan Karakuş about this dizzying, inclusive mix of design and society, he deadpanned, “Turks are good at aggregating.” 

Read more on Condé Nast Traveler: City of the Senses - A Cultural Revival in Istanbul
See more Istanbul photos from Condé Nast Traveler: Stamboul Twilight's "Istanbul by Condé Nast" Facebook Gallery

September 02, 2012

A Whirlwind Tour Of Turkey With 'Law & Order: SVU' Star Stephanie March

Stephanie March may be best known for her role on "Law & Order: SVU," but the actress is also an avid world traveler.

She recently spent her birthday week touring Istanbul, Ephesus, and Cappadocia with two friends (husband and celebrity chef Bobby Flay was home filming). She took photos and kept a diary of her travels and from Istanbul's Blue Mosque to the caves of Cappadocia for Fathom, a travel website, where she's a contributing editor.

Read more on Business Insider: A Whirlwind Tour Of Turkey With 'Law & Order: SVU' Star Stephanie March

Istanbul's Palaces, Pools, and Bosphorus Views

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, we asked our editors and writers to share the travel moments they'll never forget. As expected, some mentioned destinations they fell for, a few talked about unexpected adventures, and others recalled meals they still dream about. For photo editor Esin Göknar, that unforgettable moment was when she bought a prototype of an Autobahn chandelier in Istanbul…and had no way to bring it home to New York City. Check out her photos from the trip that inspired the big purchase, then click over to read the full story on how the piece finally made it back to Brooklyn.

See more on Condé Nast Traveller: Istanbul's Palaces, Pools, and Bosphorus Views

September 01, 2012

Erdogan’s Grand Ambitions for Istanbul

From the top of Istanbul’s highest hill, amid teahouses and television towers, throngs of local residents look down on the spectacular city they call their own.

But the view that opens up before them — with the Bosporus Strait shimmering silver and blue as it flows between the Asian and European continents — is set to change, at the initiative of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s commanding prime minister.

Read more on Washington Post: Erdogan’s Grand Ambitions for Istanbul

Take a Clean Break in Istanbul

ISTANBUL AWAKENS the senses like few places on earth, with its centuries-old minarets, fragrant bazaars, clanging trolleys, all the ships and ferries chugging up and down the mighty Bosporus.

For a long time, Istanbul has also offered a distinctive type of sanctuary from all that overstimulation: the Turkish bathhouse, or hammam. When much of Europe was still emerging from the Dark Ages, the sophisticated Ottomans were transforming the ablution centers of their Greek, Roman and Byzantine predecessors into salon-like relaxation palaces.

During a weeklong trip to Istanbul this year, I had the chance to immerse myself in this ancient tradition, visiting haute spots and local haunts in search of the city's most satisfying Turkish bath.

Read more on The Wall Street Journal: Take a Clean Break in Istanbul