Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Armaggan - A Mecca of Traditional Turkish Designs

I left the house with intentions of going to the covered bazaar one morning but after noticing the store Armaggan on Nuruosmaniye Boulevard, I didn't get that far.  It's hard to imagine a six story store filled with one of a kind hand made objects, fabric and clothing that are all produced according to traditional techniques, but this is what exactly what Armaggan is. More than a store, it is like an art gallery.  I especially loved the floor where they have the natural dyed cloths and ottoman inspired clothing. It is very close to the Grand Bazaar, making it a convenient stop for a day of exotic shopping.
Nuruosmaniye Caddesi, No. 65
34120 Fatih- Istanbul
Tel:  +90 212 522 4433

Akaretler - the hippest neighborhood for shopping

The architectural study of the Akaretler Row Houses was completed by Sarkis Balyan in late 19th century. These residences are one of the best examples of the civil architecture of 1870s with their neoclassical front design, lacking the influence of the previous Baroque and Rococo styles. These forms were the direct reflection of the first westernization moves, which affected the Ottoman Empire, not only in fields of science, art, agriculture and trade but also architecture and housing styles in the first quarter of 19th century. Row Houses are the first examples of the change at the time, from traditional stonework/wooden to stone or brick houses with 4-6 story row or block dwellings and detached houses with gardens.  1

The Akaretler Row Houses have been turned into galleries, restaurants and high-end shops as well as residences.

A trip to Akaretler is worth it just to see Sevan Bicakci's store.  He is an artistic genius whose work belongs in galleries and museums instead of jewelry stores.

Sevan Bicakci
Visnezade Mah. Sair Nedim Cad. No. 3 (1A)
Akaretler, Besiktas 34357
Tel:  +90 212 236 9199

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There are a row of cafe and restaurants where you can sit and rest or just people watch.
Sair Nedim Caddesi No.14
+90 212 258 2195


Monday, August 22, 2011

Two Great Restaurant Suggestions in Karakoy

I discovered a restaurant in Karakoy that I will add to my favorites in Istanbul for seafood.  Actually it turns out this restaurant and the one right next to it are my husband's favorite haunts while he is in Istanbul.  I was in the mood for seafood so I chose Karakoy Lokantasi but the one next door, Lokanta Maya, is supposed to be just as good. (Lokanta is Restaurant in Turkish.)

We were lucky enough to find a table out on the sidewalk since it was a warm summer night but the interior is truly lovely with blue tiles and a continental flair.

I don't want to name specific dishes because they were all very good.  To get the most out of your dining experience, you should take a look at the showcase and point to what catches your eye... I loved everything we ordered - the fried calamari, octopus salad, lakerda (pickled king fish) were to die for.

There seems to be a standard in most restaurants for meze prices - the mezes with vegetables or yogurt are around 5 to 7TL and the meze with seafood are from 15 to 20TL.
It was a fantastic meal with impeccable service.  I would definitely go back next time I am in town.

Karakoy Lokantasi
Kemankes Caddesi 37/A
Karakoy 34425
Istanbul - TURKEY
Tel:  +90 212 292 4455

Lokanta Maya, right next door to Karakoy Lokantasi, is a trendy restaurant that specializes in innovative, traditional Turkish Cuisine.  The chef, Didem Senol, who has studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York and worked at Le Cirque and Eleven Madison Park Restaurant before opening Lokanta Maya, also has a cookbook full of imaginative recipes using local herbs and produce for traditional favorites.  We have tried out some of her recipes with great success.

In order to show me what I had missed out on, my husband brought me here for desert, after our meal next door.  If the deserts are any indication, this is another place that should be on any self-respecting foodie's list for Istanbul.
Lokanta Maya
Kemankes Caddesi No. 35 A
Karakoy - Istanbul

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Byzantium 1200

If I were to recommend an itinerary for anyone visiting Istanbul today, I would definitely insist they start their tour with a visit to the Istanbul Archaeological Museums - not just for their incredibly interesting and rare collection of artifacts from antiquity but to visit the exhibition, Byzantine Palaces in Istanbul, that is on display right now til October 2 2011.

Istanbul Archaeological Museums situated on Osman Hamdi Bey yokusu, the slope  between the Topkapi Palace and Gulhane Park, is a complex that houses 3 different museums, Archaeological Museum, Ancient Orient Museum and Tiled Kiosk Museum, on its grounds. It has an amazing collection of marbles from civilizations from antiquity that can rival any in the world.

Unfortunately, I didn't have much time after my long visit at the Hagia Sophia and all I could manage was a quick stroll thorough the main floor of the Archeological Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum which is one of the earliest examples of Seljuk civil architecture that has a very nice collection of Turkey's famous tiles and pottery from Iznik, Kutahya and Canakkale region from 11th  to the 20th centuries.

Fountain of Life

Having just visited the Hagia Sophia, I was in a Byzantine state of mind, so I literally dragged my aching limbs up to the second floor to check out the 'Byzantine Palaces in Istanbul' exhibit.  At first, I was a little confused since the glass display cases contained few examples of artifacts from the period with some of the most incredibly impressive photographs of what appeared to be Byzantine palaces.  As I walked around I noticed names I was familiar with... the Great Palace, Tekfur Palace, the Hippodrome... but as far as I knew these places were nothing more than ruins with no hope for any kind of a reconstruction.  Once I started to read the labels, I found out these were all computer reconstructions of the Byzantine monuments that were present in Istanbul in 1200 AD.  It was actually a part of a fascinating, ongoing project called Byzantium 1200.  The very impressive website is worthy of a followup for any student of Byzantine History.  I wish I had time to cajole my sons into seeing this exhibit - it would have been a once in a life time opportunity to visualize Istanbul during the most impressive era of the Byzantine Empire. Oh well, maybe next time...
The museum has a lovely garden and an outdoor cafe for a brief break to sit and ponder all the civilizations that have past thorough these lands, leaving behind their mark in some way or another.  Before I left, I decided to sit and have a cup of coffee amidst ancient ruins, overlooking one of the side paths of the Gulhane Park.


Overall, a visit to this museum is an otherworldly experience from its serene gardens to the quiet galleries full of arresting remains from ancient civilizations.  It is also a great deal that should not be missed with an entrance ticket costing only 10TL.

Istanbul Arkeoloji Muzeleri
Alemdar Cad. Osman Hamdi Bey Yokusu Sok. 
Sultanahmet - Fatih
Istanbul / TURKEY
Tel:  +90 212 527 2700

Open everyday except Monday
9.00am - 7.00pm (Summer) 
9.00am - 5.00pm (Winter) 

Transportation:  you can take the T1 tram to Gulhane stop, pass thorough the stone arches and walk up the hill on the right side. - link has all the pertinent information including a map.

One of the Brightest Jewels in the Crown - Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, has such a rich history and wealth that even after serving as the capital for the Roman, Eastern Roman and the Ottoman Empires, and surviving through major earthquakes, fires, wars and being sacked and pillaged, there are still new discoveries being unearthed today.  Recently, during excavations for an underground tunnel, a Neolithic settlement dating back to the 7th millenium BC was exposed.

Everytime I come back to this city that has my heart, I can be assured of finding new delights and a feast for all of my senses.  This time was of course no different...

Istanbul is a city that is the culmination of layer upon layer of history and Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) is the most comprehensible monument to visualize this procession.

I started out my day with no plans past taking the metro to Sultanahmet, the heart of the historic district, to buy myself a new Muze Kart (a yearly museum membership card for Turkish citizens.) I purchased my card at the ticket counter at Hagia Sophia and hesitated for maybe a second before heading inside.  Even though, as usual, it was very crowded, I still took my chances, promising myself I would be out in a few minutes.  The minutes turned to hours and I was able to drag myself out of this shrine of art and culture in about four hours.

There is a decent audio tour that helps to understand the history of the church/mosque/museum.  I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised with all that I saw because there were so many improvements in the gift shop as well as new discoveries that weren't there the last time I had visited.  A visit to Hagia Sophia is an experience that mere words cannot do justice.  So I will try share the visuals I tired to capture as I walked around.

The first breathtaking glimpse

Serafims unearthed after 160 years

Mosaic of cultures and religions that is the fabric of Istanbul under one roof
Those who are interested in getting a 360 degree look at the interior of the museum can do so at this link.
Aya Sofya Muzesi
Aya Sofya Meydani
Sultanahmet - Fatih
Istanbul/ TURKEY
Tel:  +90 212 522 1750
        +90 212 522 0989

Open everyday except Monday
9.00am - 7.00pm (summer)
9.00am - 5.00pm (winter)

Ticket Price : 20TL

Transportation:  you can take the T1 tram between Kabatas and Zeytinburnu and get off at the Sultanahmet stop.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Istanbul... my kind of town

We are back in Istanbul and I am really looking forward to writing about the city of my heart.
My first stop was Istanbul Modern, the museum of contemporary art.  Every Thursday the museum is open til 8.00pm and there is no entrance fee. I used this excuse to go visit and not only immerse myself in some amazing art work but also one of the best views of Istanbul.

Istanbul Modern, a renovated warehouse, is located in a very unique part of the city, Karakoy, a port and business district in Istanbul,which makes seeing huge cruise ships docked right in front of the museum a very common occurrence.  

There is an exhibition set up on the first floor, 'New Works New Horizons' from their permanent collection which was about the evolution of modern and contemporary art in Turkey. It's a very interesting and enlightening exhibit that sheds some light on Turkey's unique existence as a modern, secular, Muslim country.     Even if you are not a fan of contemporary art, Istanbul Modern is worth a visit just to have a drink at it's restaurant with magnificent views.  I also have to confess to being awed every single time I see the unique baroque influenced Nusretiye Mosque standing tall behind the parking lot of the museum - it's such a perfect combination of the diversity that is part of the very fabric of Istanbul.                                                                             

Istanbul Modern
Meclis'i Mebusan Caddesi
Liman Isletmeleri Sahasi Antrepo
No: 4
Karakoy / ISTANBUL
Tel  212 334 7300

Monday, August 1, 2011

Return to Limon Cafe, Gümüşlük

Return to Limon Cafe, Gümüşlük
Everyone I know who has visited Limon Cafe in Gumusluk can't stop raving about it.  Although I have passed by it so many times, I have not had the opportunity to go into this lovely cafe/restaurant myself.  I wanted to share what a fellow blogger/Bodrum Lover had to say about this incomparable place (that's how most people refer to it...)  Check out Roving Jay's blog entry about her trips to a must-see attraction in Gumusluk.