Hands down the best two blocks in Kadikoy—a pedestrian lane with two dozen artist kiosks, an army of stray cats, a big shaded tea garden, the constant tink tink tink of teaspoon hitting tea glass, a culture center for singing and playing music and watching documentaries, an unabashed socialism, a dance studio where Laz and non-Laz learn the horon, a summer concert series with Firat Tanis as the headliner, junkmen with pushcarts shouting "ess-kih-JEE!" all day, old men with tanks on their back selling "bo-ZAA!" on winter nights, cafes that do most of their business on long summer Sundays, the crabby guy at the corner tekel, the dershane bell that chimes even when no one's in the building, the new used book store that'll probably close in a year, the overpriced baked potatoes with weird choice of toppings (corn, beets, pickles), and not one but three different shops selling orthopedic gear and adult diapers. I'll miss it all.
Too bad a lot of Turkish housing dates back no farther than the 1950s. In less confident economic times, a family wouldn't think twice about razing their old wooden Ottoman-style house and replacing it with a five-story, multi-family concrete box. But fortunately the march of progress never reached Safranbolu. The valley town has done a great job preserving its old architecture and attracting tourists (mostly Turks, Japanese, and Koreans) to spend a night or two. The locals were very friendly and helpful, even more so than the Turkish norm. Top honors to our pension owner, who gallantly pursued a bus down the highway so Cindy and Lizzy could make their connection to Cappadocia.
Getting here was like threading a needle. You burn at least two days coming and going, and the weather is so fickle that the mountains could be shrouded in clouds by the time you finally start exploring. Our marshrutka (share taxi) was blocked by a rockslide, so we had to spend the night in our seats—me, the driver, a dozen teenage girls returning home from a singing festival, and their three female chaperones. The nonstop snoring was just one more kick to the shins. Next day I was catatonic from sleep deprivation and a Snickers breakfast, but the perfect weather and scenery brought me back to life. A huge thanks to Giorgi and his dog, Buta, for guiding me to the top of a mountain that overlooks the village of Mestia. Thanks also to his mom for feeding me when we came back down. And a solemn bow to the long-gone souls who built the stone defensive towers that dot the valleys. Wow.
It's been 20 years since Georgia left the Soviet Union, and it seems like the country is still suffering a bad hangover. Lacking the natural resources of neighbor-to-the-east Azerbaijan or the human resources of neighbor-to-the-west Turkey, Georgia is an economic laggard, with poverty and disrepair like Moscow circa 1996. Georgians nevertheless are warm and hospitable, in their uniquely gruff way, and there's a lot of hopeful renovation in Tbilisi and several other tourist draws. Some people complain that the changes are inauthentic (e.g., the faux alpine stylings of the newly renovated Mestia), but it's hard to argue with the jobs and revenue that are being created. Plus it's time for the rest of the world to learn how much Georgia has contributed to civilization (wine!), long before it fell under the Soviet Union's murderous thumb.
- United Kingdom
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- British Virgin Islands
- Jul 18, 2012 | Sanatcilar Sokak
- Jul 9, 2012 | Safranbolu
- Feb 10, 2012 | Winter
- Jan 18, 2012 | Bostanci
- Oct 9, 2011 | Bendeyar
- Aug 29, 2011 | Golden Horn
- Aug 24, 2011 | Princes' Islands
- Feb 6, 2011 | Kadikoy
- Dec 7, 2010 | Bosphorus Strait
- Nov 1, 2007 | Van | Diyarbakir
- Oct 24, 2007 | Mardin | Kiziltepe
- Oct 21, 2007 | Hasankeyf | Midyat
- Oct 7, 2007 | Gaziantep | Sanliurfa
- Oct 1, 2007 | Cappadocia
- Sep 17, 2007 | Aegean Coast
- Sep 11, 2007 | Istanbul
- New Zealand
- El Salvador