Turkish Pop Heartthrob Tarkan Still Popping

March 26, 2010 at 9:40 am | Posted in Middle East, music, Turkey | Leave a comment
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by Tripatini staff


German-born Tarkan Tevetoğlu, 37, has been compared to a cross between a Turkish Elvis and Michael Jackson in terms of his impact on his country’s pop music scene, and he’s achieved a measure of fame abroad, as well, particularly in Europe. The dude garners A-list coverage from Turkey‘s media, of course, for almost everything he does, whether it’s verbal gaffes; groundbreakingly racy video scenes; temporary military draft-dodging; shilling for Pepsi-Cola; scary run-ins with the paparazzi; a tiff with PETA over fur-wearing; or is-he-or-isn’t-he-gay. Vay Anam Vay is from Tarkan’s sixth and most recent album, Metamorfoz (“Metamorphosis”), released at the end of 2007 and less than critically acclaimed but still a commercial hit. The choreography’s slightly goofy and the lyrics fairly trite love-song yadda-yadda (“If she said die, I’d die for her / the arrow went straight into my heart”), but whatever — it’s a very club-ready, infectious bit of electropop with just a touch of Eurasian musical exoticism.

Like it? Buy it here!

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Istanbul Dining Gems: Tuck In & Tip Back Like a Turk at Traditional Meyhanes

February 22, 2010 at 11:10 am | Posted in culinary/food & drink, Europe | 4 Comments
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by Asli Pelit

Imroz meyhane, Istanbul, TurkeyAlong with the dramatic blue waters of Turkey‘s Bosphorus, the opulent dome and minarets of Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia, travelers to Istanbul always come away wowed by its incredible cuisine. And I confess, as a seventh-generation local, I dream about the sight of a well prepared Turkish table when I’m away from home.

Atop seven hills where two continents meet, encircled by the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, the perfect setup of the ancient city once known as Constantinople  influences our way of living and of course eating — we take dining and drinking seriously here! And no matter what their income level or ethnic/social background, people get together with friends at least once a week to drink and eat for hours in the most typical and traditional of our restaurants, the meyhanes (pronounced mei-HA-nee, meaning “wine house”).

Similar in feel and concept to Spain’s tapas bars, our unpretentious meyhanes are a world unto themselves, frequented by young and old, rich and poor, fancy and dowdy — they’re probably the only spots in Istanbul where you can witness such disparate groups hanging out together.  They’re loud, dodgy, bustling, and popular for celebrations (and if you’re wondering what Muslim Turks are doing drinking, we’re obviously pretty liberal on the question of alcohol).

Most locals agree that meyhanes serve the best mezes in town, washed down by most with raki, the licorice-flavored distilled spirit that’s our national drink. Mezes are essentially elaborate yet inexpensive pub snacks, designed to encourage you to drink more, arriving on trays full of tantalizing different textures and tastes. Consuming them’s a very leisurely procedure: take a sip of raki, perhaps a slice of feta and melon or a mouthful of eggplant salad, then a bit of crusty bread, followed by another mouthful of raki, then some garlicky yogurt dip, then deep-friend calamari and mussels, more raki, followed by a crispy fried herring, yet another sip…and so on throughout the evening.

We all have our favorites, where the waiter knows our names, where we never wait for table, and are never served stale bread or mezes. Here are some of mine, most located in Taksim, Beyoğlu and surrounding old parts of town. Afiyet olsun (bon appétit)!

Cumhuriyet, in the heart of Beyoğlu, is a good place to start. The most famous meyhane on the Balıkpazarı restaurant row, its reputation was established when Turkey’s revered founder Kemal Atatürk used to drink here (cumhuriyet means “democracy”). It’s known for uskumru dolması (stuffed mackerel), topik (spicy, potato-and-chickpea-based), and çerkez tavuğu (a marvelous mixture of garlic and boneless chicken pieces). Balıkpazarı Sokak 47; 0212/252-0886.

Near Taksim Square on the buzzing Nevizade restaurant row, İmroz (above right) was opened in 1941 by Yorgo Okumuş, who believe it or not is still on the job! Armenian specialties are the stars — don’t miss, among its 35 mezes, lakerda (bonito in brine), pilaki (white beans and onions in vinagrette), and tarama (fish roe and breadcrumbs). The summer terrace is a real treat. Nevizade Sokak 24; 0212/249-9073.

Refík Aslan opened his small Refík in  Beyoğlu fifty years ago and still runs it, along with his son. Traditional Turkish main dishes are served at lunch, while the night belongs to mezes such as house specialties karalahana dolması (kale stuffed with meat), stewed anchovies, and kuzu sarma (lamb chitlins). Closed Sundays; reserve Friday/Saturday. Sofyalı Sok 10-12; 0212/243-2834.

meze dish of the meyhanes of Istanbul, Turkey: arnavut ciğeriYakup 2 has been in business near Tünel (part of Beyoğlu, so called because it’s home to Istanbul’s first subway line) for 27 years, known for its distinctive hot mezes, like arnavut ciğeri (fried liver; right), mushrooms sautéed in butter, and kağıtta pastırma (dried meat flavored with cumin and garlic, cooked in parchment). Considering Asmali Mescit Street has become Beyoğlu’s coolest hangout on weekends, reservations are a must. Asmalı Mescýt Mahallesý 35-37; 0212/249-2925.

One of many little meyhanes on the buzzing Beyoğlu street of the same name, Nevizade is also dubbed “Eski Lefter” (Lefter was a legendary soccer player of the 1950’s, known for his right foot and his raki drinking). This little joint has become a haunt of artists and writers, and is usually packed on weekends, so show up early or  reserve ahead.  Nevizade Sokak 12; 0212/251-1634.

If you take a ride across Galata Bridge to Istanbul’s oldest quarter, Kumkapı, try Kör Agop. This 65-year-old classic in the historic customs building, in an area with lots of fish restaurants, is popular with foreigners, with special house mezes including fish soup. A fasıl heyeti (classical Turkish music ensemble) plays nightly from 8 pm. Kumkapı Meydanı Ördekçi Bakkal Sokak 7; 0212/517-2334.

meyhane Kuleli in Istanbul, TurkeyA quarter-century-old eatery in Samatya, a neighborhood that predates Istanbul itself, Kuleli (right) is also known for its fishy fare. Here you can’t go wrong ordering the kalamar (calamari), ançuez (salted anchovy), sardalya (sardines), ahtapot (octopus), lakerda (salted bonito) and çiroz (dried mackerel). Reservations recommended. Büyük Kuleli Sokak 38; 0212/587-9438.

Last but not least, Safa is Istanbul’s oldest still-operating meyhane, dating from 1879 and occupying a high-ceilinged single-story building in Yedikule, the waterfront neighborhood near the eponymous famous fortress/prison (now a museum). Its walls are decorated with raki bottles and shots of Atatürk, and the Arnavut ciğeri (savory nuggets of fried liver with onion) and lakerda are must-try classics, as are most any of the fish dishes. İlyasbey Caddesi 169; 0212/585-5594.

Tripatini Surveys Hot Destinations for 2010

December 28, 2009 at 11:03 am | Posted in Africa, Asia, Barbados, British Columbia, Canada, Caribbean/Bahamas/Bermuda, Central America, Colombia, Croatia, cruising, Cuba, Estonia, Europe, Florida, Honduras, Iceland, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macau, Mexico, Middle East, Montenegro, New Mexico, Panama, Rwanda, Slovenia, South Africa, South America, Sri Lanka, St. Lucia, Suriname, Turkey, Turks and Caicos, United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe | 2 Comments
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by David Paul Appell

It’s that time when the travel-hungry are scouring the media for word of the coming year’s “it” spots. We can play that game too, so, besides popular perennials, here are 29 we see looming larger on twenty-ten’s worldwide vaycaydar:

U.S.A.
For Americans at least, tight times mean Florida will tempt folks sticking closer to home; better deals down south include  Fort Lauderdale and up north the Panhandle. The latter’s now marketed as the “Emerald Coast,” trying to softpedal the “Redneck Riviera” image; comparisons to Sardinia’s glam Costa Smeralda are laughable, but there are some fetching towns, inns, and some interesting attractions — but above all sugary beaches along a stretch including  Destin, Fort Walton, Apalachicola, St. Joe Beach, and Pensacola. Another hotspot due for a boost this year is Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is popping the corks for its 400th anniversary (and while you’re out here, add a couple of days to explore some cool nearby towns like Acoma Pueblo and Gallup.

CANADA
The big story this year is inevitably the province of British Columbia, with cool cities Vancouver and Victoria, stunning coastal and mountain scenery, eco/adventure tourism, and swell snow sports. The reason is, of course, is the attention focused on Vancouver and ski resort Whistler Blackcomb, hosting this February’s Winter Olympics.

MEXICO
The so-called Maya Riviera, on the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coast stretching southward from Cancun, continues evolving whether big luxury resorts, mass-market all-inclusives, exquisite small inns, or budget digs. Some also see a bump for Mexico City, whose pollution and security issues can be finessed with some common sense and which offers one of the world’s great urban experiences — and what other burg has not just a stunning Aztec pyramid complex (Teotihuacan) on its outskirts but several right in town — one smack in the middle of downtown?

THE CARIBBEAN
This winter/spring, more ships come online and cruising is likely to stay strong, thanks to heavy discounting. Beyond the usual suspects, keep your eye on buttoned-down Barbados,  where some resorts and dining spots have been updating of late, and scenic St. Lucia, with luxury properties coming online fairly recently (Jade Mountain, The Landings) or refurbing (Cap Maison); there’s also a movement toward sustainable — and less pricey — town and country tourism. Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos also keeps adding fab resorts without sacrificing its limin’ vibe. Finally, could this be the year for Cuba, when the self-defeating, un-American, yet stubborn travel ban is dropped or relaxed for all U.S. citizens? Hold not thy breath, but anything’s possible, and if it happens, go — unsavory regime notwithstanding, it’s one of the world’s great travel and cultural experiences.

EUROPE
Eastern Europe has been on a major upswing ever since the Berlin Wall fell. But even 20 year later, some destinations are still growing or even just emerging. Examples of the former include Croatia and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And lately we’re hearing more about Croatia’s neighbors, Slovenia and Montenegro. Both serve up stunning mountains with eco/adventure, historic cities and towns, and Adriatic seacoast with fine beach resorts. And this year, Montenegro welcomes AmanResorts’ fancy-schmancy Sveti Stefan, on an island of medieval architecture. On the western side of things, Icelands a nice land, with its superb eco/adventure, cool capital Reykjavik, short flight time from Europe and New York City, and some of the most affordable prices in years, thanks to the recent economic meltdown.

CENTRAL AMERICA / SOUTH AMERICA
In Central America, everybody’s jockeying to be “the next Costa Rica” — even El Salvador (who knew?). But watch Honduras; ’09 tourism plummeted due to its political crisis but should be back on track — and hungry — once the new elected government debuts in January. Highlights: Maya ruins, colonial towns, exceptional eco/adventure, world-class diving.  Panama, too, with great rainforest, beaches, one of the hemisphere’s loveliest colonial quarters (Panama City’s Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and barefoot Caribbean isles like Bocas del Toro and the San Blas, home to the autonomous Kuna Indians. In South America, Colombia‘s overall continuing security and economic progress will feed that diverse country’s tourism, especially to another colonial stunner, Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, and happening capital Bogotá (whose colonial quarter’s also nothing to estornudar at). Rising on the radar is the continent’s smallest and only Dutch-speaking country, Suriname, a multi-culti charmer with a cute, sleepy little capital and some of the hemisphere’s most unspoiled eco offerings.

MIDDLE EAST
With the steam let out of Dubai, look to UAE capital Abu Dhabi, also developing a-plenty yet without sacrificing traditional culture and flavor. On the Mediterranean, with political crisis at bay for now, Lebanon is still rockin’ the casbah — well, at least Beirut is, while the beach resorts, Roman ruins, and even wine country outside the capital provide a lower-key counterpoint. Up on Turkey‘s “Turquise Coast,” meanwhile, a resort town and region called Dalaman is currently hot, for example outstripping Spain’s Majorca as among the Brits; allures include beaches, soft adventure, nightlife, and historic/archaeological sites.

ASIA
The tourism offerings in staid ol’ Singapore are getting something of a 2010 shot in the arm, with the elaborate, Vegas-style casino-resort Marina Bay Sands; the also elaborate Fullerton Heritage Complex crammed with shopping, dining, and lodging; and Sentosa Island’s Resorts World, with a Hard Rock Hotel and a Universal Studios theme park. Another “city-state” (now a semi-autonomous part of China) seeing some new action is Macau, where, again, it’s Vegas-style casinos that’ve been complementing the Portuguese colonial architecture and fueling a local boom. On a less glitzy, more laid-back note, since Sri Lanka ended its civil war last May, more travelers will be returning to its historic towns, Buddhist temples, and breathtaking beaches.

AFRICA
From Kruger Park to Cape Town to the winelands, South Africa is on the upswing again, thanks to interest generated by Hollywood hits like Invictus and District 9, and especially June’s soccer World Cup. Lower on the radar, the story of the year may well be the rebirth of safari tourism in Rwanda, 17 years after its genocide, and, believe it or not, Zimbabwe, despite still being a political and economic basket case.

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