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Letters from Istanbul

from the writings of James Tressler.

Songs for an Unfinished City (An Istanbullu’s Listening Guide)

Every great city has its own soundtrack, or at least, deserves one. If it doesn’t, you should think about moving somewhere else. I think of...

On the Road to Gebze: Surviving in the Industrial Heartland

On the road to Gebze, where I teach twice a week, I have a lot of time to contemplate the passing landscape. Out on the...

My Dinner With Gökhan

A friend of mine, whom I’ll call Gökhan, loves eating. It is one of his great passions in life. As the son of an...

The Rise and Fall of a Telecommuting Empire in Istanbul

Traffic is a daily grind for some 14 million Istanbullus. That’s not even counting the outskirts, which include several million more. You get used to...

City Scherzos: Bukowski in Sultanahmet (and Other Ghosts of Teachers Past)

I’ve been a teacher for the past ten years, first in Prague and now in Istanbul. Over the years, you get used to seeing...

City Scherzos: Chopin in Koşuyolu

Some time back, I decided to try a new approach to my Istanbul stories. Up until that point, the stories, though carefully written, were missing...

City Scherzos: This Matter of Medusa

You may have read in the Turkish news recently that archaeologists in Antalya found the head of Medusa … in stone. The archaeologists told reporters...

City Scherzos: Istanbul’s Absurdist Heart

The other evening, my wife and I were out in our neighborhood of Koşuyolu feeding the cats as is our evening ritual. While we were...

City Scherzos: Mother-of-Pearl

We were getting married. We couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable. We didn’t consider ourselves the marrying type. We were too lazy to get...

Letters from Istanbul: In Search of the ‘Real’ English

On the way to work the other morning, the taxi driver, noticing I was a yabancı, asked the usual, inevitable question. “America,” I answered. “Amerika?” the driver...

City Scherzos: Lahmacuns in the Sky

Ali was a 27-year-old Kurd from the eastern Turkish city of Van. He and his brothers had come to Istanbul nearly a decade before...

When the Night Comes Falling

All day long, in fits and waves, there had been blackouts. And not just in one part of Istanbul, but across the whole vast...

Letters from Istanbul: Avenues & Interludes

One Saturday afternoon in the autumn of 2012, I was walking around Beyoğlu. I don’t spend much time on the European side of Istanbul,...

Yabancı Abroad: When in Rome…Levitate

When we got off the bus at Rome’s Termini Stazion, the first thing we saw was an Istanbul Kebab Shop. My girlfriend Ozge laughed at...

Letters from Istanbul: Yeldeğirmeni’s Quiet Renaissance

Author’s note: Last week, I wrote about the stories behind some of Istanbul’s street names, and the week before that I traced some of...

Confused Letters from Istanbul: Rude Sheiks and Mad Rams — A...

It is almost a cliché to say that behind every name in Istanbul there is a story; nevertheless, the saying is true. For instance, I...

Letters from Istanbul: City of the Blind (Or, Why You Shouldn’t...

I live in Kadıköy, the “city of the blind.” Have you heard this one? Well, in ancient times, the first Greeks who arrived from Megara set...

Letters from Istanbul: The Anatolian Way

As a yabancı, you probably have your own first impressions of the city. One of my own was made while coming from Ataturk International Airport...

Letters from Istanbul: Surrogate Lives

They were three sisters and they had all grown up together in a small town in the south of Turkey. The oldest, and the...

Letters from Istanbul: The Journey of a Tissue Pack

In the city of Istanbul many poor old women sell packets of tissue in the streets, mostly to passing motorists and the people sitting...

Letters from Istanbul: The Sum of Our Travels

The other day I was having lunch at Café Nero with one of the new teachers. She said she came from Austin. Since I grew...

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