Monday, February 8, 2010

36 hours... in the same old places in Istanbul

Even as I would contentedly curl up with the Sunday New York Times back home, I always knew I wasn't part of that paper's target audience. I didn't live in New York, for one thing, and didn't even really aspire to the kind of wealth required to take part in the types of nightlife, travel, real estate, and weddings it breathlessly touted. I did think, in all my gentle naivete, however, that to write for this fine publication one might have to come up with a better lede than

From a skyline featuring both minarets and church spires to the call to prayer competing with lounge music in a hip cafe, Istanbul is the only major city to span two continents.
When I worked at a magazine, editors would be quick to scribble "BTDT" (been there, done that) on a pitch that bore even a passing connection to something we had covered before. But when it comes to Istanbul -- and I'll bet other expats living in different places feel the same way about their foreign homes -- publications don't seem to like to stray far from the beaten path.

I remember speaking to a fellow freelancer about an article she was writing for a major U.S. magazine on Sultanahmet, Istanbul's historic "old city." A long-time expat, she was brimming with ideas about lesser-known sites worth seeing. But the magazine just wanted Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque all over again.

Sure, New York Times readers probably don't want to jostle elbow-to-elbow for a sidewalk seat to drink Efes at Badehane or get up from their seats to point at stews and mezes behind glass at Çiya. They might not even want to eat an extremely tasty meter-long kebab at Akdeniz Hatay Sofrası if it means hanging out in Aksaray.

But might they not want to be served traditional Mardin cuisine from silver platters by dapper and attentive waiters at Cercis Murat Konağı? Or sip cocktails at one of the actually trendy bars in Tünel or Şishane? Or, heaven forbid, follow their jaunt to SantralIstanbul (admittedly, a good pick) with a trip to Eyüp to watch families take pictures of their little boys dressed in kingly white robes in honor of their forthcoming sünnet (circumcision) ceremonies -- if only to give themselves a good story to tell when they go home?

On the other hand, more tourists at 360 means fewer at the places where anyone else might actually want to go.

3 comments:

Bir annenin ise donme macerasi said...

Just found your blog and loved it!I'll be back to dig more..

Selamlar from Toronto, Canada:)

Ozlem

Faruk Ahmet said...

Haha, that last sentence cracked me up! So true.

Cheers.

Jen said...

Thanks, Özlem! I'll try to give yours a read when I'm feeling ambitious enough to tackle some Turkish ;)