Welcome to my city. Although I have only lived here for a few months at a time throughout my life, and spent most of each year on the other side of the world, it is the oldest and most consistent home I have. And even though I will never move back, it will surely remain this way.

With each passing year, I return to find many changes. New shops open; metro lines connect once very distant neighborhoods; streets become increasingly crowded; skyscrapers are erected; buildings are torn down; trees are uprooted; concrete is poured; certain historical monuments are preserved; others are destroyed. A powerful, vibrant city boils under the heavy lid of an oppressive, tyrannical, islamist regime.

Yet, despite all of the changes, especially during such a turbulent time period in Turkey’s history, certain things always remain the same. The maddening incongruity that is Istanbul traffic; the melody of seagulls, street vendors, ferries and waves at the Bosphorus ferry docks; the captivating aroma of Raki that pairs so well with feta cheese and fresh fish; warming, robust black tea at every turn; a city that never sleeps.

Naturally, I haven’t had much opportunity to take photos during my time here. It simply didn’t occur to me to bring my camera along when I left the house. However, I managed to remember on a few occasions. And there is only so much of Istanbul that I can convey with rhetoric. So, I will let these select photographs tell the story. Welcome to my city.

Bridging East and West

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My favorite past time is taking a ride on one of Istanbul’s most iconic structures. Zigzagging across the Bosphorus strait between Europe and Asia, the Istanbul ferries provide an unusual and elegant calm amidst the city’s frenzied pulse. Even getting on and off is a battle, as locals flood in and out in a senseless rush. But once seated, with a glass of tea in hand and a sea of blue under your feet, all that is left is to immerse oneself in the unparalleled view.

Swarms of seagulls shadow the ferries, in hopes of catching a piece of simit (circular bread coated with sesame seeds)
Swarms of seagulls shadow the ferries, in hopes of catching a piece of simit (circular bread coated with sesame seeds)
An expert catch
An expert catch
Haydarpaşa train station
Haydarpaşa train station
Galata Tower rising above the European side
Galata Tower rising above the European side
An interesting setting I discovered on my camera
An interesting setting I discovered on my camera
Kız Kulesi – Maiden’s Tower
Kız Kulesi – Maiden’s Tower

A Brief Historic Tour

During my stay, a friend from overseas came to visit in Istanbul, and as a result I had the opportunity to photograph some of the more historic sights in the city. Here is a brief tour.

Shots of Galata Tower
Shots of Galata Tower

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..and one of the many stray cats that linger around the area
..and one of the many stray cats that linger around the area
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque
Ayasofya - Hagia Sophia
Ayasofya – Hagia Sophia
Formerly a Greek orthodox church, later converted into a mosque, and now a museum, Ayasofya stands as one of the oldest and most impressive architectural and historical structures in Istanbul
Formerly a Greek orthodox church, later converted into a mosque, and now a museum, Ayasofya stands as one of the oldest and most impressive architectural and historical structures in Istanbul
The Deësis mosaic, one of the countless beautiful mosaics covered with plaster following the conversion of Ayasofya to a mosque in 1453, on display in the museum after recovery and restoration efforts
The Deësis mosaic, one of the countless beautiful mosaics covered with plaster following the conversion of Ayasofya to a mosque in 1453, on display in the museum after recovery and restoration efforts
Taksim – Tünel Nostalgia Tramway, which runs the length of İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue)
Taksim – Tünel Nostalgia Tramway, which runs the length of İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue)
The quintessential Istanbul photograph – Ortaköy mosque, towering at the foot of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge
The quintessential Istanbul photograph – Ortaköy mosque, towering at the foot of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge

Finally, A Tasting Menu

To top it all off, a few shots of the meals I managed to photograph (before all of the food disappeared).

i00217Pictured above is one of the main reasons I keep coming back to Turkey – Kokoreç. Rolls of lamb intestines, wrapped onto long skewers that slowly cook over a charcoal fire, are sliced, chopped and seasoned with various herbs and spices, and served in a half baguette. There is truly no comparable taste.

The next series is from Sur Ocakbaşı, which received wide acclaim following Anthony Bourdain’s Istanbul episode.

Ayran, a cold yogurt drink, served in a copper bowl
Ayran, a cold yogurt drink, served in a copper bowl
Perde pilavı – Curtain rice, a “curtain” of dough topped with almonds, enclosing rice mixed with chicken, onion and peanuts
Perde pilavı – Curtain rice, a “curtain” of dough topped with almonds, enclosing rice mixed with chicken, onion and peanuts

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Sur kebap, the colorful house mixed-kebap plate
Sur kebap, the colorful house mixed-kebap plate
The house specialty, büryan kebap – prepared by slow cooking a whole lamb in a closed, 2 – 3 meter deep wood-fired pit
The house specialty, büryan kebap – prepared by slow cooking a whole lamb in a closed, 2 – 3 meter deep wood-fired pit
A traditional breakfast with friends
A traditional breakfast with friends

 

And, there is always room for dessert.

Baklava served with kaymak, a thick, sweet clotted cream
Baklava served with kaymak, a thick, sweet clotted cream
Ekmek kadayıfı (left), a bread pudding sandwiching kaymak, and Tulumba (right), a syrup soaked traditional dessert
Ekmek kadayıfı (left), a bread pudding sandwiching kaymak, and Tulumba (right), a syrup soaked traditional dessert

These photos represent just a small glimpse into Istanbul, and the only way to fill in the pieces is to experience the city for yourself. Until then..

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4 Comments

  1. This post really brings me back to August 2010. I remember standing in that exact spot looking at the Ortaköy mosque and the bridge. Can’t forget the kaymak either…

  2. wonderful pictorial of Istanbul…..

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