~~ This page promises to be under perpetual construction… ~~
Traveling with the benefits of local knowledge can be like visiting old friends who’ve relocated to an exotic place. They can show you the land as they’ve learned to love it (and lift you over the pitfalls). Here are some of my favorite places.
NEWS FLASH expat+HAREM’s yearlong web-carnival is live! Monthly links to cultural attractions guest curated by Gökhan Karakuş and Rose Deniz and Tara Lutman Ağaçayak and Figen Çakır of Behind the Bazaar.
January-February’s city+CONNECTIONS asks if Istanbul has been a ‘hinge city’ for 4,000 years, what does it connect?
March’s city+SCAPES finds the unexpected dimensions of a city with grimy waterfronts and polished television dramas
April’s city+CONJURING captures the magic in vanished Byzantine buildings, Ottoman who-dunnits, and the shadowy theatre of karagöz
May’s city+TREASURES hunts Istanbul’s troves of art, nostalgic taste in food, purifying and ecstatic rituals of health and faith, and the hilltown’s natural springtime beauty.
Some of my other contributions about Istanbul…
for National Geographic Traveler magazine:
- Istanbul Unveiled interactive map of the Sultanahmet historical district
- Best of Istanbul Places of a Lifetime series with Jennifer Gokmen including Authentic Shopping Guide Must-dos and Walking Tours
on NBC’S The Today Show: Expat Harem interview with Matt Lauer about life in Istanbul
for Turk of America magazine: Istanbul’s Most Revealing Market
BODY LANGUAGE In tourist areas you can easily be overrun by touts. A clucking of the tongue and slow upward roll of the eyes means “No, and don’t ask me again.” Get a Turk to demonstrate this useful body language.
DON’T DO FAKE TEA At the Grand Bazaar, connect more authentically with shopkeepers by ordering Turkish black leaf “normal çay” instead of sweet and ultra-touristy apple tea.
LUNCHTIME HIDEAWAY If you’re near the Çırağan palace in Beşiktaş, try lunch at secluded Malta Köşk, a 19th century royal pavilion nestled in the woods behind it.
TURKISH BATHTIME Hamam supplies from Derviş or Abdulla in the Grand Bazaar make authentic gifts. Chunky laurel-scented soaps, linen hand-loomed peştemal towels, and copper bathing bowls are traditional luxuries.
HOMESTYLE FOOD On Istiklal at noon? Istanbul’s oldest restaurant, Hacı Abdullah, serves the long-stewed olive oil dishes of the Ottoman kitchen and it’s only open for lunch.
TREASURE HUNTING The back streets of Çukurcuma satisfy both antique treasure-hunters and boho fashionistas. Rummage through high and low curiosities in this Beyoğlu quarter of crumbling Italian palazzos.
GET INTO THE HUMOR Observe the development of Turkish humor since the first local cartoon appeared in an 1876 newspaper at the Caricature and Humor Arts Museum in Fatih, including jokes about Istanbul’s famous traffic jams.
STREET MARKETS Check out the weekly street markets that pop up in residential areas to get a piquant taste of local life: tubs of olives and feta cheese, counterfeit fashion stalls, whirling arabesque music.
CATCH A KAHVE BUZZ Outside the Spice Bazaar follow your nose to the corner shop of Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi for freshly-ground coffee beans, packed impossibly fast by clerks breathing in the fine dust.
SWEET TEETH If you’ve never been a fan of marzipan, the vibrant coarse-ground almond paste of 18th-century sweetmaker Hacı Bekir will change your mind. At the Egyptian Bazaar ask for “Sultan’s Lokum” and you’ll get a marshmallow nougat covered with coconut flakes.
Take time to reflect by getting out on the water…for the freshness of the sea air, the unimaginably glassy blue surfaces, and the proper perspective on this ancient imperial capital. The Bosphorus was the main drag for centuries and it’s still the best way to appreciate the sprawling, hilly city and its Ottoman mansions.
Surrender to local color and rhythm with an ultra-cheap commuter ferry lazily hopping from village to village, over steaming tea and sesame-covered bread in the shape of a life-preserver.
Ferries to the Asian town of Kadıköy offer priceless views of Topkapı Palace, Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
An even more meditative one-hour upper Bosphorus tour embarks from the artisan street market and tea garden district of Ortaköy. For less than five dollars drift past Mehmet the Conqueror’s 15th century fortress festooned with wisteria.