Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Istanbul Hamam Guide: Unisex Hamams

One of the main reasons for young generation being not so interested in hamams is the gender discrimination (Probably rising prices of the hamams getting more and more touristic everyday is the second). You have to split into two if you go with a group of boys and girls. Of course there is no such discrimination if you prefer to go crisp and clean hotel hamams. But these places are both over-priced and their imitated historical atmosphere is not satisfying. There are three hamams which were originally designed as to be a unisex hamam.

sulymaniye hamam inside
Suleymaniye Hamam inside
First one is the ornate Mimar Sinan structure Suleymaniye Hamam (Built in 1557) which is located near Suleymaniye Mosque. But this unisex hamam has just a “minor” criteria. Turks can’t get in there alone without their foreign friends (This “Turkish Bath”s web site doesn’t even have a Turkish section). But it’s not also that easy even if you are a tourist who is willing to lie down on the heated marble (“Göbek taşı” in Turkish) to relax. You must have a hotel reservation. So if you are Turkish and you have a foreign friend who is staying in a hotel then you can enjoy this not-so-very hot hamam (These touristic hamams are not as hot as the regular hamams). Mimar Sinan had taken bath in this hamam from the day it was built until the day he died (1588). Private rooms (“Halvet” in Turkish) which Sinan and Kanuni Sultan Suleyman (Suleyman the Magnificent) used to bath are still being preserved. Entrance fee is 70 TL. Rubbing (Rubbing with bath glove means “Kese” in Turkish) and massage is included to the fee.

suleymaniye hamam
Suleymaniye Hamam enterance
Second one is the small and untended Kosk Hamam in Cagaloglu. This hamam also serves just tourists as a unisex hamam after 7:00 pm. Before that it only serves men from all “nationality”.

Acemoglu Hamam inside
There is no either gender or local-foreigner discrimination in this third and the last hamam. This historical hamam which belongs to Bestekar (Composer) Dede Efendi’s family and also caused him to gain “hamamzade” title is Acemoglu Hamam. Acemoglu Hamam has served for a long time but suffered from neglect and has been shut down for a while. Then a part of the hamam was taken down and an ugly hotel was built there named Celal Aga Konagı. Acemoglu Hamam is also being runned by this hotel. A small part of the hamam was restored as a hamam again and the other parts are being used by the hotel as a cafe. In other words even if you don’t face the discrimination and may enjoy hamam, you will be giving credit to a plunder of history. If you make a booking, you may experience a “semi-historical” hamam for all excluded 35 TL.

Acemoglu Hamam surrounded by an ugly hotel
One last wish; We hope Ayasofya (Hagia Sofia) Hamam which is being restored nowadays would be a unisex hamam, and Istanbulers may enjoy a beautiful historical hamam.

Note: If you want to join our hammam tour. please click the link below:           

Two Stores

The Askaroz Fish Store: In fact, this entry should have been written by our retired blogger Adil, because he first mentioned this place. However, as we explained earlier, he gave up writing long time ago. The ‘starchitect’ of the future nowadays deals with trendy projects. We hope he will get his pen back and join us soon.

Askoroz Fish  Store (Old One)
The Askaroz Fish Store is probably the only answer to this question: “Where can we eat inexpensive and fine fish in Beyoglu?” Although alcohol is not served, it is possible to order your meal from another venue, just in front of the fish store, called Divers Club which provides a rich menu of alcoholic drinks (The building looks like bricked English apartment buildings).

We started with fish soup. We were a little bit bothered because it was limpid. However, it was tasty. It seemed boneless fish gave off the smell well. It is just fine to order at least half a portion for a good start, especially in cold days. There are multiple fish options. Red mullet is wonderful if it is the season. They cut haddock into thin slices. Sardines and anchovies are fried on pan. I haven’t tried any big fish but several customers were eating grilled ones. The personnel were warm-blooded and cheerful.

Another good thing here is that they serve a fresh and generous salad. The salad seemed as it were double portion. The price is reasonable as well. The place is rather simple and spit-and-sawdust. There are only three tables inside. Fish is served on paper covered plastic plates.

Two portion fish (horse-mackerel, sardines or anchovy), a king size salad, fish soup and coke cost 25 Liras. It is impossible to find such a cost-effective place in Beyoglu. In case you order some raki in Divers Club, then you will be overjoyed. The Askaroz Fish Store is located on the far end of Süslü Saksi Street.

P.S. After I wrote this entry, the store was moved 20 metres further, to a larger place. It is no longer that spit-and-sawdust (this expression always gets my dander up) but food is still tasty.
Dönerci Şahin Usta: This chapter should be written by Imerhan because he was constantly pigging out there when he was an economics student at the University of Istanbul. Nevertheless, it is not possible to make him write anything while he has so many ups and downs these days.

Şahin Usta is located just in front of the of Grand Bazaar’s Gate of Swordsmen (Kılıççılar Kapısı). The store is no larger than 6 square metres but there is always a long line to buy döner. Only two types of products are served here: bread and pita sandwich. We tried döner with pita. Usta filled pita with döner. Inside, there are tomatoes, onions and pickles if you wish.

He wrapped pita and rolled it with a paper. It is costly, 10 Liras but döner is magnificent. If you do not prefer döner as dry as possible (just like me), then you may not like Şahin Usta but if you are after ‘pure’ meat, it is worth trying, at least once! The other exit of the Beyazid Campus (University of Istanbul), there is a kiosk called Sebil Büfe, which also only sells döner sandwich. It was literarily an historical ‘kiosk’. This place can be a good option for ‘pure döner addicts’. I think one problem with both places is that they do not prefer to use sauces. Döner without sauce is too dry and it gets cold too quickly. However, I appreciate the fact that they only sell döner, it is amazing that they only specialized on döner (not toasted sandwich or kebab).

A Quick Beer Guide In Finland

Despite vodka is a "national drink" to Finns, there is a strong tradition of beer in Finland, dating back to the middle ages. Finland is standing 9th in per capita consumption of beer. Here I tried to list the mainstream and inexpensive brands in Finland.

KOFF: The oldest but not the best. Despite it has been in production since 1813, I do not favor the "sweet" taste. The only advantage is it is very cost effective (perhaps the cheapest beer in Finland).

KARJALA: I found nothing special about Karjala however its name (Karelia, a lost region to Soviet Union after the World War II) recalls some historical sympathy among the old.

KARHU: The most popular beer in Finland. It tastes better than Koff and Karjala but usually expensive. Karhu means "bear" in Finnish, which makes the drink more mascular.
LAPIN KULTA: Gold of Lapland, is considered one of the best beers in Finland (not by everyone, for sure) and I agree. It is almost as cheap as Koff. Having a light taste and a proper price, Lapin Kulta is one of my favourites.

OLVI: One of the lightest beers in Finland. Less popular but sometimes good offers can be found in supermarkets and pubs. Better than Koff and Karjala but below average (My Finnish friend Mikko thinks Olvi deserves a better treatment).

SANDELS: Having Swedish origin (name comes from a Swedish general) makes it the "elite beer" in Finland. More expensive than others and less common.

Not satisfied? : Try independent breweries in Suomenlinna or take a ferry to Estonia!

East Helsinki For Beginners

Nordic Welfare regime in Finland based on progressive taxation, universal social benefits, high quality public services and a drastic redistribution of income has been accompanied by social mixing as an urban policy. Social mixing aims to develop heterogeneous and socially balanced neighborhoods. Whereas, East Helsinki reveals as an exceptional case in the Helsinki cityscape.

Helsinki Districts and East Helsinki

Vaattovaara and Kortteinen (2003) claimed that ICTs based development in Finland has challenged the egalitarian basis of the Nordic welfare regime in Finland. They emphasized on a slow educational divide taking place for at least 30 years in Helsinki; the divide follows an east-west axis, the further west, the higher the share of inhabitants with a university degree (Vaattovaara and Kortteinen, 2003, p. 2132)

Educational gap in the long run resulted in socio-spatial differentiation. Today, East Helsinki has the highest unemployment rate (about 12%) in the Helsinki metropolitan area. Urban poverty is much more visible than any district, and income levels are lower.

The Roihuvuori Tower

It is significant that the rise in unemployment and poverty has been fastest in East Helsinki which was socioeconomically the weakest. Urban development of the eastern parts is rather slow or even continuously worsening compared with the city average Vaattovaara and Kortteinen, 2003, p. 2133).

Meri-Rastila Square

This picture is complete when immigrants are considered. Since the 1990s, East Helsinki has the highest percentage of immigrants (over 10%) in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Rastila, an East Helsinki neighborhood, has the highest
percentage of immigrants in Helsinki (approximately 20%)

According to Galanakis (2008, pp. 185-187) two things attracted the immigrants to the area. First, East Helsinki is more desirable to poorer households due to relatively cheaper living.

Second, in East Helsinki there have been quite number of social houses which are most suitable for ethnic minorities (i.e. the Somalis) as the houses are relatively larger in size. In this context, East Helsinki is an area where socio-spatial segregation is observed in Helsinki.

(quoted from Uysal, Ulke (2010) : Helsinki: Representations of A Multicultural Metropolis, The Journal of International Social Research, Forthcoming)


GALANAKIS, Michail (2008). Space Unjust: Socio-spatial Discrimination in Urban Public Space Cases from Helsinki and Athens, Helsinki: University of Art and Design.

VAATTOVAARA, Mari & KORTTEINEN, Matti (2003). “Beyond Polarisation versus Professionalisation? A Case Study of the Development of the Helsinki Region, Finland”, Urban Studies 40(1), pp. 2127-2154.

Cultural Diversity On "Mogadishu Avenue" In Helsinki

Meri-Rastila in the east of Helsinki is Finland's first official multicultural suburb. One in five residents of Meri-Rastila are immigrants - a higher proportion of non-Finns than anywhere else in Helsinki. The largest groups are Somalis, Russians, and Estonians.

A bridge in front of the Metro station runs over Vuotie. The bridge divides Rastila from Meri-Rastila. The Rastila side has a camping area, and stylish dark apartment houses. On the Meri-Rastila side the houses are lower, and they are covered with tiles.
A wide street snakes through the whole neighbourhood - Meri-Rastilan tie. It begins at the shopping centre and ends at the local comprehensive school. In between there are dozens of ordinary apartment houses.

Meri-Rastilan tie has another name as well: Mogadishu Avenue. The nickname goes back to the early days of the suburb, but taxi drivers driving through the area still have fun counting the number of dark-skinned faces they see.

Haruspuisto is like the heart of Meri-Rastila. Now the children of a music kindergarten are gathered at the community park building. After the lesson, children go to the kitchen at the park and eat Asian chicken sauce from glass jars, and the mothers have coffee.
The main visitors here are housewives - both Finns and immigrants, who can exercise, paint icons, and bring the chidren for afternoon activities. There are also special groups for Russian and Somali women.

Meri-Rastila already has a reputation of a restless suburb. The unemployment rate is higher than average for the city, the education level is lower than in other areas, and the income level is only half the Helsinki average. Two out of three residents are in rental housing.In principle, all services are available in Meri-Rastila. There are two schools, many day care centres, a chapel, youth facilities, two hair salons, a kiosk, a few pubs, and a cash dispenser.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

From Guardian: Streets Ahead

Like all the best up-and-coming neighbourhoods, Cukurcuma's cutting-edge shops and bars exist side by side with centuries-old tradition. In its boutiques, artists are designing T-shirts and dresses that wouldn't look out of place in Hoxton or the Lower East Side, but a wander through the district will find wizened old men playing okey and sipping tea in the shade of flaking pastel-coloured facades.

Cukurcuma is in Beyoglu, Istanbul's pulsating west-thinking quarter where the nightlife is frenetic and head veils are sparse. While Istiklal Caddesi -the district's emblematic thoroughfare- teems at all hours, Cukurcuma is Beyoglu's calm inner core.
The area is that rare thing -a district where every shop is worth investigating. Cukurcuma has long be known for its antiques, but over the last few years, wares that appeal to distinctively hipster sensibilities have joined the Ottoman relics and old imperial plunder. Simultaneously, high-end design and fashion boutiques have started to pop up. Hot on the footsteps of the discerning shop owners and shoppers, are the discerning watering holes, with Algeria Street swiftly becoming one of the city's most vibrant nightspots.
With annoying predictability it has been dubbed the "SoHo of Istanbul". But SoHo is gridded, square and uniform by comparison. Cukurcuma is gloriously irregular, made of a dozen thin winding streets that tumble down into an urban valley east of Istiklal before ambling upwards into the neighbouring district of Cihangir. The buildings are grand, with staggered roofs, hovering oriel windows, crumbling arched doors and interiors of exposed brick and rafters.

The old cliche puts Istanbul as somewhere between east and west, but Cukurcuma ratchets up the variables -this is a district of east and west, old and new, trendy and bygone... often all within the same shop.