January 12, 2015

On Foreign Ground’ by Jacques Tange in Istanbul

Jacques Tange, who has won the ‘Artist of the Year Award’ in the Netherlands in 2005/2006, will exhibit at Gallery Art350 here in Istanbul from the 8th of January until the 15th of February. The title of his exhibition ‘On Foreign Ground’ refers to the fact that this is his first show in an unknown country for him, in other words, he is taking one step outside Europe. This adventure of change and exhibiting in a completely different country brings some questions into the artist’s mind and most importantly, he wonders how people will react to his work.

January 07, 2015

Thousands-Year-Old Bones Come to Surface in Istanbul

The identification of a cut on a skull that was unearthed during the Bathonea excavations, which archaeologists have been conducting in the Küçükçekmece lake basin for the last five years, appears to reveal that brain surgery was performed 1,000 years ago.

One of the excavation team members, forensic science expert Ömer Turan, said the Kocaeli University Department of Forensic Science had been conducting the excavations since 2010 and opened nearly 70 graves in two different fields so far.

Turan said babies and people of all ages had been buried in these graves, and the team has removed the bones of humans who lived between the 6th and 11th centuries B.C.

“There is a human group between the ages of 20 and 35. The men’s average height is 1.65 meter and for women it is between 1.50 and 1.55 meters. Their backbones had the most damage. Health problems such as arthritis, rheumatism and bone flexure, which are usually only seen in the elderly, are seen in these bones. It may be because of genetic transformation through families or because it was a society working under hard conditions with problems in nutrition,” he added.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Thousands-Year-Old Bones Come to Surface in Istanbul

Turkey's SPA Scene: Istanbul Scrubs up Well

We're in a steamy antechamber in the heart of historic Istanbul. My hamamci, Fatih, has unfolded me on to the searing gobek tasi marble slab that fills the centre of the steam room. This is no dainty tourist massage. I'm battered flat like a wiener schnitzel. Fatih uses his elbows and forearms to exorcise the ghosts of winter from within me.

The only respite from the marble furnace is when Fatih brings me a glass of iced mineral water. When he isn't looking, I dab some on my buttocks to ease the scald. I'm then lathered up like a soapsud snowman to scrub the toxins from my skin.

Despite appearances, this luxury bathhouse experience at the Ayasofya Hamami – opposite Istanbul's Aya Sofya Museum – has barely existed since the end of the days of the sultans a century ago. Like the English pub, the future of the Turkish hamam seemed bleak until recently. An entire generation of Turks preferred showers at home, and the idea of using a public bathhouse was deemed archaic. The Ayasofya Hamami was turned into a carpet showroom before being sympathetically renovated in 2008. Now, glass walkways display the original sit-in-a-row toilets and 15th-century furnaces. I'm part of a hamam revolution. And it feels hot.

The hamam's splendour becomes apparent as Fatih settles me on to a divan in the reclining room. I'm swaddled in no less than five fluffy towels. An attendant brings tea and a silver box of Turkish delight. I sigh as the stress eases in my shoulders. I feel like a sultan after a busy morning drinking sherbet and executing people, and I drift into an easy sleep.

Read more on The Independent: Turkey's SPA Scene: Istanbul Scrubs up Well

Forgotten Gems Abound in İstanbul’s Old City

The lower end of the old city is loaded with interesting shopping opportunities that offer an escape from the banality of the shopping mall and the packed, touristy feel of the Egyptian and Grand Bazaars. Amid the winding labyrinth of Tahtakale lies Şark Han, informally known as the Chinese Bazaar due to its heavy concentration of Chinese-made goods. Şark Han is a paradise for collectors of cheap knick-knacks, with floor after floor of unusual gift possibilities. The Tahtakale Commerce Center -- or Electronics Sellers' Bazaar -- housed in a beautiful century-old building with slightly compromised integrity due to its soulless modern sign, is a one-stop-shop for electronic needs. In the corner on the ground floor there is even a shop selling sunglasses and umbrellas, polar opposite products that indicate the desire of the proprietor to remain seasonally competitive.

Tahtakale's compact streets are full to the brim with shops selling jewelry materials, curious storefronts that shower one's field of vision with the gleaming multi-colored hues of beads and tassels. A stark overabundance of small stands selling fake Viagra and similar contraband makes one wonder about the actual demand for such products, or if there is something else going on behind the scenes.

The area is architectural splendor that is home to hundreds of gorgeous century-old buildings that are mostly ignored or even totally vacant. The Deutsche Orient Bank building, or Germania Hanı located past Tahtakale toward Sirkeci on the other side of the Egyptian Bazaar, is one of İstanbul's underrated heroes and looks to be completely unoccupied save for an overzealous hustler of cheap umbrellas operating from its front steps. The elegant art nouveau building is topped with a melancholy turquoise dome that charmingly accentuates the old city skyline and stands out while observing the view from a Bosporus ferry.

It was designed by August Jachmund, a German architect better known for being behind the nearby Sirkeci train station. Jachmund and his apprentice Kemaleddin Bey, who blossomed into a renowned architect in his own right, are responsible for a wealth of architectural splendor in the area. Kemaleddin designed the adjacent İstanbul Birinci Vakıf Hanı building, as well as the İstanbul Dördüncü Vakıf Hanı, which now houses the five-star Legacy Ottoman hotel.

Past the İstanbul Dördüncü Vakıf Hanı is the Nazifpaşa Optometrists' Passage, featuring several stories of kiosks where one can pick out a pair of frames, haggle for the price and go home with their new spectacles the same day. Nearby is the Doğubank İş Hanı, a sparkly, hallucination-inducing gadget depository selling laptops, flat-screen TVs and robotic vacuum cleaners that look like R2D2's cousin.

Istanbul is Slowly But Surely Getting on Its Bike

Istanbul’s historic mosques and modern office towers often overlook a sea of traffic, as both population and car ownership rise rapidly in Turkey’s largest metropolis. Given the city’s perennial congestion, cycling could be an appealing alternative and the master plan for Istanbul calls for 1,004 kilometres of new bike paths by 2023.

But cyclists say the biggest deterrents are the limited infrastructure in Istanbul, a sprawling city of 15 million people, and the attitude of the general public, especially car drivers. They say that most of what’s been created in the city thus far runs along seaside routes used mainly for leisure, and requires cyclists to share space with pedestrians. New bike-share facilities are also largely limited to recreational areas, and public-transportation integration remains problematic.

Improving the situation for Istanbul’s cyclists poses a bit of a circular conundrum: in order to become a more bike-friendly city, the number of cyclists needs to grow to the point where their demands – and presence on the streets – cannot be ignored. But few will want to ride in the city until it’s safer for and more hospitable to cyclists.

New Church to Be Constructed in Istanbul

Turkey's Assyrian community will build a new church in the Yesilkoy neighborhood of Bakirkoy district in Istanbul, an area close to Ataturk Airport, prime ministry officials said on Friday. 

The decision came during a meeting of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu with representatives of non-Muslim minority communities at the prime ministry's office in Istanbul, known as the Dolmabahce Palace. The state will allocate an area for the construction of the church, the officials added.

Read more on World Bulletin: New Church to Be Constructed in Istanbul

Have you Explored the Istanbul Few Visitors See?

Rugerri - When I first crossed the Bosporus by ferry, I knew I’d made the right decision. It was my second visit to Istanbul. Like every other tourist, I had, by that point, seen the city’s many sights: Hagia Sophia, the spice market, the archeological museum, Topkapi Palace and so on. I’d developed an appreciation for the city’s storied history and spectacular art, but I’d also been exhausted by crowds, lines and souvenir sellers. 

 In other words, I was ready for the local’s Istanbul. 

Which is how I found myself, one brisk February day, on a ferry from the Golden Horn port of Karakoy, just down the hill from the Galata Tower. Destination: Kadikoy, a large district located on the Bosporus’s Asian side. On the upper deck, commuters in sharp business jackets and leather shoes ignored the panorama that fell away behind us – the Galata Bridge, Topkapi Palace, a ridge of domed mosques – as we churned across bright-blue water. A tea seller came past with a platter of glasses. “Cay, cay,” he called.

Read more on The Globe And Mail: Have you Explored the Istanbul Few Visitors See?

A Night Out at Istanbul’s 7/24 Library: Atatürk Kitaplığı

Istanbul – a city that never sleeps – boasts Turkey’s first and only 24/7 open library with some bibliophiles traveling almost 60 kilometers to visit in the run-up to midnight. 

One of the first reference centers of Turkey’s republican era, Istanbul’s Ataturk Library, has offered a 7/24 service since last October, leading to a huge rise in visitors. 

The unusual, three-floor hexagonal building was designed in the 1970s by Turkey’s award-winning architect Sedad Hakki Eldem who had an important influence on the country’s national style. 

It is located in Taksim – the heart of the 15 million-strong-city – and only minutes’ walk away from teeming nightclubs, bars and cafes. 

A casual visitor to the library at 10.00 p.m. might be surprised to see the size of a midweek crowd. It is late Tuesday and some people are just chatting in the garden; others are studying and some are reading a book, pausing occasionally to look at the breathtaking Istanbul view outside.

Read more on World Bulletin: A Night Out at Istanbul’s 7/24 Library