Maui is paradise on earth. Never too hot and never too cold, it's a peaceful rock in the middle of the powerful Pacific Ocean that houses beautiful jungle hikes, warm seas, and enough activities for a lifetime. But, you may find yourself parked on the beach sipping testing organic vodkas and pineapple wine until you can't see straight.
With almost 2.5 million visitors a year, Maui is the second most visited Hawaiian island, and it's easy to understand why. It has an easily accessible airport, which opens the gateway to luxurious resorts, the famous Road to Hana, Ocean Organic Vodka's plantation, cliff jumping at Black Rock Beach, quaint towns like Paia, and Haleakala National Park - overlooking dormant volcanoes and rainbow bamboo forests.
Want to learn how to maximize a week in Maui then keep reading and see all that the Valley Isle has to offer.
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Ka'anapali. It's situated where most of the other resorts are on the western side of the Island. But, if you want something a little more "authentic" check out Airbnb's near Paia. Here there are tiny villages and bed n' breakfasts that have a distinctly calmer vibe. If you're new to the island though, I can't recommend the Hyatt enough as the employees and location give you excellent access to all that Maui has to offer, without having to look too hard.
If you trust this blog for only one thing, it should be this. Breweries, distilleries, and vineyards run aplenty here, so you have the whole gamut to choose from.
This award-winning beer can be found all over the island, but you can take a tour of the brewery in Kihei. If you just want a taste, head over to the brewpub in Kahana and get some food with it too. Personally, I recommend the Pineapple Wheat, but the Coconut Porter is great too if you like dark beers.
I didn't know vodka tastings were a thing, but the views from the farm are worth the trip alone. I've found the vodka at Bevmos in California, but the rum can only be found on site. It's a pretty informative tour with an immaculate backdrop.
Famous for its pineapple wine, I'll admit, at first, I was skeptical, but Maui Wine's Maui Blanc is actually a dry wine and doesn't have the sweet taste that you'd imagine given the fruit. It's a unique take as it's certainly different from your typical white, but not so much that your standard pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc fans won't love it.
Sunset from here was like no other (featured image). With unobstructed views of the neighboring islands and a warm, calm sea. It's a great place to pop in or take a stroll.
Located by the Sheraton (north end of Ka'anapali Beach), this beach has a stronger surf and is built more for the adventurous in the bunch. Hawaiians believe this was where their spirits leaped to join their ancestors, leading some to believe that the tradition of taking Hawaiian volcanic rock as bad luck started here. Now, it's a cliff jumping and snorkeling paradise. Make sure you wear your water shoes when climbing up the rock as I stepped on a sea urchin, making for a very uncomfortable next few days.
Translated as "forbidden cove", this beach is near Kihei, and while it is pretty developed, the condos and hotels are a bit off the beach, keeping all that dreaded commercialization at bay.
A multicultural mill and fishing village. Paia is perfect for a stroll along the main drag where you can buy products from local artisans and grab a bite that has influence from Chinese, Portuguese, and native cuisines.
The largest "city" on the island is home to much of the island's museums and is a jumping off point for most of the whale watching tours. It's also the only real place for nightlife that you will find nearby.
Maui's "most isolated village" is located on the tip of the island's north shore. Famous for it's Congregational Church (built 1892) where you get the best of both worlds with its ocean and mountain backdrop. The town is also home to Julia's Banana Bread, touted by many as the best in the world!
The most famous activity on the island is well worth the 4-hour drive with hairpin turns on the cliffside road. It is a major commuter road, so take your time and make plenty of stops to not only let the locals pass but also so you can take in all the sites. Some of the must-see natural beauties include Twin Falls, the Painted Forest, and the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe'o; just to name a few.
The old burial place of Hawaii's chiefs. It is also the site of an old battlefield from 1790. Not to be outdone by its history, the valley and state monument's Needle Lookout Trail is also home to some of Hawaii's most beautiful fauna with placards explaining what the Hawaiians brought with them.
Towards the end of the Road to Hana, you'll find a volcanic black sand beach and surrounding tide pools that turn bright red at different times of the year. Local legend believes this is the blood of a murdered princess, but scientists say it's the arrival of small shrimp. You decide.
The crown jewel of Maui. Haleakala possesses the most endangered species of any park in the National Park System. Home of Maui's highest peak at 10,023 feet, it does snow, so bring your jacket, but highs also get up into the 80s. Home to volcanic ash, cinder cones, and numerous types of flora and fauna. You need to make sure to book your reservation before you come (because it sells out fast and they cap the number of visitors), but watching the sunrise from here is the most magical offering Maui will provide you on your trip.
Last week, I introduced my new nostalgia column, "Turkey's Hidden Top 10", where I go into some of the hidden gems in the beautiful country that is Turkey. You can check out the 1st iteration here. The previous issue talked about another old neighborhood in Istanbul that houses some of its famous history and cultural diversity.
In honor of summer, this blog is about the Turkish Riviera. Turkey has a long beautiful coastline with some of the most beautiful and active spots on the Mediterranean. If you're looking for a great way to map out your trip here, check out this post.
If you're looking to get a combination of the adventure and relaxation this region supplies, look no further than three little towns: Xanthos, Letoon, and Patara.
This UNESCO Heritage site is a waymark on the Lycian Way, which is the Appalachian Trail of Turkey; but older, hotter, shorter, and with a nicer finish. Xanthos is famous because it was the capital of the Lycian Federation until the invasion of the Persians in the 4th Century BC. What remains are the Lycian Acropolis (the Roman one as well) and many ornate Lycian sarcophagi, the most famous being the Harpy Monument.
It's a surprise there's this much left because after the Lycians found out the Persians were coming, they murdered all the women and then committed mass suicide, with only about 80 families opting out.
Another UNESCO site, Letoon has a history that is closely tied with Xanthos. It's the next stop on the Lycian Way after Xanthos and is an important religious site. You can find Hellenistic Temples and inscriptions written in Lycian, Greek, and Aramaic. Some even detail a visit from Alexander the Great.
The greatest lore surrounds Mithridates VI of Pontus. Wanting to clear a grove of trees on his way to sacking the city of Patara, he has a nightmare about the importance of the trees and the repercussions if he were to cut them down. He relented and they won the battle. The importance of the grove lasted so strongly and deeply to those that lived there that its inhab-itants blessed the site every generation for over 1000 years and was even christened in the 700s.
Patara was the primary port of Lycia, you can see why with their 11 miles (18km) of continuous beach. A dip in the pristine water is definitely called for if you've just finished the Lycian Way. However, the city has its own historical significance. It has many ruins - like a 40 ft. tall lighthouse from the 1st century AD - but it's most famous as the home of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. This makes Patara a significant pilgrimage site, but I'd prefer just going to the beach.
In 2014, Turkey was quickly becoming one of the top tourist targets in the world. Now, the media makes it out to be another type of target. It was the sixth most visited country in 2015, but is now looking at losing up to $12 billion compared to last year. Not to mention, with everything that is going on politically--Turkey's everyday citizens and beautiful landscapes need some positive press. I'm not going to include "The Big 5" destinations that everyone sees in their inflight magazines or travel brochures. You will learn there's far more to this country than suppressed journalistic freedoms, terrorist attacks and threats, autocratic leaders, and regional "disputes" that could be said about lots of countries (and are definitely still ongoing here and are real issues). It's a place with an immense history and beauty that has been the center of the world for millennia. Napoleon once said, "if the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be the capital." Istanbul was my home for 3 years and the rest of the country lifts the city to its place of prominence.
First off, 'The Big 5'. Let me break them down:
Sultan Ahmet, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Pamukkale, Bodrum & Fethiye are the biggest draws. Most people fly into Istanbul and stay in Sultan Ahmet, then visit Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Tokapı Palace. However, there are so many places that you wouldn't normally find when wandering the old-stone streets of Sultan Ahmet.
Families' then move to Cappadocia. Here you stare at Phallic rock formations, hike through underground cities and ancient Christian valleys. Then you finish it up like any destination worth its weight--wine, sunsets, and tacky pottery (some is quite beautiful, actually).
If you're here in the summer (or British, Russian or German) then you may just head to one of the Turkish Riviera's beautiful turquoise beaches. Bodrum, Fethiye and Antalya are the most famous with their own bits of culture to keep you interested, but what makes these places really worth their salt is setting up camp on the beach and letting the sea slightly cool you from the scorching sun until you recharge with fresh fish and cold drinks.
Turkey's most well-preserved ancient city, Ephesus (Efes, in Turkish) was the Greek capital of Asia Minor and once the 2nd largest city in the world. It's an open museum that is as interesting as it is beautiful. As far as ancient cities go, if Rome is New York then Efes is Chicago. Which is to say that it may actually be better (I come from Chicago and am incredibly biased). It's massive and definitely worth shelling out the extra cash to get the full history. A bonus section shows old apartments from the time and detail the extravagance of the upper class and the depression of the lower. Very close is the Temple of Artemis, or really, a column from it, that was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
About an hour or so away, you have Pamukkale and Hierapolis. Pamukkale, or Cotton Castle, are limestone baths that give the appearance of sitting in bathtubs in the clouds the way the Gods are always depicted in Greek myths. It's connected to Hierapolis, the original Florida. An ancient city that people have been flocking to in retirement since the 2nd century BC. The hot springs amongst the ruins are the only ones that I've discovered.
Now that you're caught up on the must see destinations, I'll give you the first place on my list--Kumkapı. Those that have been to this neighborhood know it for its square filled with fish restaurants to lure in tourists. On the other hand, trickling through the windy ravines of streets that flow from this reservoir of rakı, mezes, and fresh fish is evidence of Istanbul's diverse ethnic and religious origins. Still boasting a large Armenian population, it also possesses some of Istanbul's most original churches and mosques.
On my trip I came from the seaside at Yenikapı and I think it's the best way to encounter the neighborhood, though it's probably the opposite that most people will use. When you cross the concrete underpass by Kennedy Caddesi you'll encounter the Armenian Patriarchate and a large Armenian Orthodox church. Together, they represent much of pre-WWI Istanbul with an infusion of traditional architecture of the Ottomans mixed with an Armenian Apostolic style.
As you walk one more block inland you'll notice a stark contrast in the upkeep of the buildings. With run-down shops and homes, the business spills into the street where you can find a plethora of supplies. Anything from socks to booze, and even pork, can be haggled for while strolling down the street; make sure to grab some fruit from the street vendors for your walk.
That walk should take you up the hill a bit more towards Beyazıt and you'll end up at Mother Mary Church. Unassuming from the side, with a plain brick wall, but it's stunning on the inside and a gorgeous classical exterior that helps it sit like an island oasis in a concrete sea of dilapidation and gentrification. If checking out old churches is your thing also check out Aya Kiryoki and Rum Kilise for larger and grander structures, but with slightly less "je ne sais quoi" to them.
Turn towards the Old Town and you'll run into the main square that's filled with restaurants and not so passive waiters trying to get you to sit down. Kumkapı Historical Restaurant is the most famous, but in my opinion you really can't go wrong where ever you go here.
Once you're refueled head out towards Marmara University's campus and check out Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii just passed the police station. It's beautifully ornate with a piece of the Kaaba on the inside. You can chat with the caretaker who speaks enough English to give you an idea of the history and meaning of the place, while he'll also throw in pictures of all his grandkids to show you.
When you finally get a word in, ask him how to get to Küçük Aya Sofya and he'll point you there. Close to Sultan Ahmet, you'll come across the church-turned-mosque that actually predates the larger Aya Sofya by a year--being finished in 536 AD--and was used as a template to help them prepare for the much larger and more famous follow up. Due to Islamic law all the interior mosaics have been covered, but the current interior's design can be traced back to as early as 1506.
From here you can follow the path near the water or the streets next to the parks and end at Bukoleon Sarayı, the remnants of a palace from the 5th century. It was one of the few palaces still standing when the Ottomans sacked the city and a wall remains to this day. It's a last little photo-op before heading back into the much more dense Sultanahmet district.
A middle-aged man passes under a vivid yet rustic sign that reads BÜYÜLÜ FENER, which fits like a puzzle piece among the colors of cafes and apartments that flood this block in Balat. He pushes open a glass door that rests under a row of rainbow stained glass. Once inside he’s greeted with a welcome from the owner, Gediz, as he scans the walls and shelves. This isn’t your typical antique shop, which pop up all over the neighborhood.
Not just because Gediz is the only female owner in the area, but because instead of the other shops where you feel like you’re walking into an old Ottoman tea house, here it’s like you’ve entered the Art Director from Turkish Mad Men’s supply warehouse. On the walls are rows of small tube TVs, record players, and typewriters flashing with vibrant colors. One of the record players spins a song from the 1960s that only the Turks seem to recognize.
The man’s eyes stop on an unassuming collection of retro cigarette packages. “Can I buy just this one?” he asks. Gediz tells him of course, but that it’s not worth much without the rest of the collection. “That’s fine. They used to sell this box in Cyprus when I was a kid there. So, when I saw it it immediately brought me back to my time there as a child.”
And that’s why people come to Büyülü Fener (magic lantern in Turkish), not necessarily to find the next rare find of the antiquing world, but to bring back a fond memory or experience. Gediz told me that what really separates Büyülü Fener from the other antique stores is that hers isn’t one; it’s a nostalgia shop.
In a city that is rapidly modernizing, the gentrification can be dispiriting. And, when your commute consists of passing block after block of Soviet-style apartment buildings, you want to find the colors, diversity, and romance of the storied Istanbul. That’s what propelled Fener-Balat to become such a hotspot for tourists, expats, and locals alike. Büyülü Fener fits this neighborhood aesthetic perfectly. It’s what drew Gediz here in the first place. Cihangir had become flooded with overpriced housing and Karaköy had been overrun with chain stores, making a small business nearly impossible. But here, every business is personally owned and new people are moving in droves, but they haven’t destroyed the neighborhood’s character. In fact, as long as they adapt to their surrounding culture they can help enhance it. The neighbors across the street are Bulgarian immigrants on the first floor, Syrians on the 2nd, and from eastern Anatolia on the 3rd. Imams walk the street and wave at the employees from the nearby Ecumenical Patriarchate. Women with head scarves will chat with their neighbors in mini-skirts. Gediz says there’s a weird balance where if you don’t judge, no one will judge you. This is why Fener-Balat is where the city on the cusp of two worlds analogy comes alive. When you live in a sterile apartment and work a sterile job, it feels like the old Istanbul is dead, but you can still find it here.
I always assumed that antique shops were a staple of the neighborhood, but apparently, I was wrong. Büyülü Fener was only the 5th and opened a little over 2 years ago. Now there are 19, with that number changing every day. While the store may be new, Gediz tells me that opening it has been her dream since she was a teenager. After daring the corporate world for many years, while simultaneously filling her apartment to the brim, she decided to pursue her dream to open her own place and live the laid-back lifestyle of Balat.
She began collecting when she was 16. At first, it was anything that interested her, but then it slowly morphed into attaining collections as well. The evidence is on display everywhere. There’s an eclectic record collection with many hailing from Turkey’s rock heyday in the 1970s summed up with a Barış Manço print in the front row.
Apparently records are making a comeback and many people who buy them don’t even own the players. However, she still sells them, and they all work because Gediz and different specialists team up to restore all the gadgets and electronics in the store. She will buy paintings and photos that barely get settled on the wall before they’re sold. Retro gas lamps are probably the highest selling item for locals, but tourists love trinkets because they can fit them in their suitcase. There are collections of old soda bottles, miniature alcohol bottles (still full), postcards, and a slew of things that you didn’t even know would make you feel nostalgic.
The nostalgia bug hits me hard when I see an old tin toy car that looks like a larger version of a Hot Wheels toy. Across from the entrance, you’ll notice a giant one, like a Cadillac version of all those Fisher-Price commercials I saw as a kid where you actually can ride in the car. Not one to show bias, a miniature burgundy stroller, perfect for a toddler to play house in, rests opposite the car and in front of the original signage for Balat Hastanesi.
I bee-line my way towards the sign and begin sweeping through the box of Swiss and Turkish postcards underneath it, I can’t help but read all the messages people wrote their loved ones that now live on through the curious eyes that pry into them. It seems every item in the store has a story. A special one sits in the corner of the store on a 1950s era stove top. An old cast iron sauce pan lacquered in floral patterned paint looks banal at first. But, Gediz tells me these were exclusively made in Western Europe and discontinued there about 40 years ago with the development of lightweight cooking materials.
She lifts up the top to an engraved “Made in Turkey”. “It’s the only one I’ve ever seen in all my years of collecting that was made here,” she says. So, maybe the rare finds are here as well.
I finally ask her how she knows what to buy and that it will sell? She says it’s impossible to predict what items people will buy, so she gave up trying. Instead, she buys things that she’d want to decorate her home with and that sometimes that’s beyond just an eye for commerce. “It’s hard for me to sell some of this stuff because I like it and I become sort of attached to it,” Gediz tells me. She then shows me her favorite item, a toy robot resembling R2D2 and when you open its head there’s a cassette player inside. I ask her how much she would charge for something like that. “It’s not for sale. This is still part of my personal collection.”
If you think you can pry it from her, come to Büyülü Fener in Balat from 10-7 any day but Monday and try.
If you've seen The Martian and thought you too would like to colonize Mars, you actually don't need to go as far you'd think. Matt Damon flew out to Wadi Rum, Jordan, which is also the home of the famous Lawrence of Arabia during WWI. There are numerous sites, both historical and geological, but the real jewel is the insight that you gain into the Bedouin culture and lifestyle. We signed up with Wadi Rum Nomads who are one of the top rated companies because the tours are informative, comfortable, reliable, but mostly because the people who organize it are friendly and open about their lives in the desert. Our guide, Atillah, told us about chasing his pet camels into Saudi Arabia, growing up as one of 30 kids, and hunting. My favorite was about the tiger that once got loose in the desert.
There's different trips and varying lengths you can do from riding a camel or jeep for a morning or up to nine days of walking. We opted for a day of visiting all the major sites followed by a night camping under the stars. The walking treks can be intense as it's hot and climbing sand dunes are much harder then they appear. But, if you still want some of that, you'll get it. Jeep tours are 95JOD for 1 person or 55JOD if you're 2-4 people.
Below, are some of the awe inspiring spots that the Nomads team will show you along the way.
The first stop on the tour ties is connected to Wadi Rum's most famous story, that of T.E. Lawrence or more famously known as Lawrence of Arabia. The Brit who helped lead the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in WWI. For the Bedouins, the spring has been a major life force for centuries. Now, the water flows through piping, but you can climb the rocky hillside and simulate what the Bedouins used to have to go through to get a drink. With gorgeous views of the Red Desert ahead of you it's a great introduction to the beauty and strain of the valley.
This quick jaunt is a break from the sun, but also protects ancient Arabic inscriptions and ancient Nabatean hieroglyphics. The mountain appears daunting; however up close it's a quick walk to see the inscriptions that put into perspective the history and alien nature that desert holds in all its nooks and crannies.
The hardest walk of the day tour, but still a moderate hike. Words don't really do justice to the experience - walking through the middle of sandstorm, the only respite being a lush oasis encapsulated by a silver haze. The thing I least expected about Wadi Rum (and Jordan, in general) was its palatial size. Unlike pink sand beaches in the Bahamas that are beautiful but manipulated on Instagram, out here everything was bigger and more striking than I'd seen before.
The most visited locale in the preserve, this bridge is worth the vertigo-inducing climb. It's also much easier going up then down. However, the view is worth it. A 30 meter climb with nice panoramas, make sure you arrive early as it can be difficult to get a shot of you on your own.
This dune is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Some days there will be those elusive watercolor-like skies. However, ours was almost like a negative photograph. There were all the colors of the desert streaming across the ground with white and silver streaking through the sky. A truly unique view, that taught me those cotton candy skies online aren't the only immaculate sunsets. Weather permitting around here is where you'll sleep.
The full day trip will also bring to a massive red sand dune, which is a bit arduous, but worth it to sand board down; Lawrence of Arabia's house, where he stayed to endure the tough desert winter, but more interestingly, the home was supposedly built by Nabateans; and also the Little Bridge, which is smaller than Um Froth, but fun to climb around nonetheless.
The most beautiful bit of the evening came after an unexpected disappointment. Weather prevented us from sleeping out under the stars in a bivouac tent, instead we were brought to one of the guide's uncle's camp where we were treated to Bedouin music and home cooked food, as we fell asleep beneath the stars or in a makeshift cabin. A magical way to end the night.
When you need to walk off all the delicious food, it's best to stay local and look at the capital of the city's illustrious street art. One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, it maintains its character while embracing the city's graffiti takeover.Read More
During celebrations many people wave about the colors red, green, and yellow. They have a beautiful hue when the flags wave about and, not coincidentally, these are also the colors of the Kurdistan flag so many Kurds hoist their flags during the parades. In many parts of Turkey this practice can be extremely polarizing. The tenuous relationship between the Turkish government and the Kurdish people has the bloodstains of terrorism and military intervention drowning the diplomacy that is barely treading water.Read More
Chris and I were lucky enough to sit down with improv comedian/jack of all trades, Tyler Denison, to talk about the comedy scene as well as his personal experiences in Istanbul - with some great anecdotes and life lessons thrown in for good measure. Give it a download on iTunes (and us a rating while you're at it!) or if you prefer you can find the link on soundcloud.
A heads up - there's a foul word or two thrown in, but otherwise the content is still pretty PG. (Sorry, Ginny!)
In episode 2, Chris and I delve deeper into the idea of living in Istanbul by talking to long time resident, Tarik. He runs the website yabangee.com, which is a resource for all things Istanbul. Chris and I have been contributors over there for the past 2 years, so we knew Tarik would be a great person to ask about what's really out there in Istanbul for those of us who stayed past the usual vacation period. You can listen here or find us on iTunes by searching Into Istanbul.
Giving us a rating and a comment (or even just a listen) would really mean the world to us. If you missed our 1st episode don't worry you're not going to miss any vital information, but we do provide some more background on what we're doing.
So, if you want to check that out you can find it here.
Thanks and hope you enjoy!
My friend Chris and I have been working on a podcast that documents individual stories from our current home city of Istanbul that pertain to a certain theme that's relevant to not only our city, but to all of you listening at home. Our first episode titled, "Istanbul as Home", relates our own impressions of home as well as that of our friend, Amer, who came to Istanbul from Palestine by way of Syria.
Currently you can catch "Into Istanbul" here on Soundcloud. This episode and future episodes will also be up on iTunes and Stitcher, hopefully very soon.
Our next episode will be, "Istanbul as Worth Discovering". We will be hosting Tarik Yassien who curates the website yabangee.com.
If this is at all intriguing check us out. Or, if you have a topic you want us to cover (or want to join us on air) shoot a message over to email@example.com.
When I travel and meet people, the ones I’m most envious of aren’t the ones living opulent lifestyles nor the people who are hustling to follow their professional aspirations. I admire the ones who have nothing holding them backRead More
Beer in Istanbul is a touchy subject for a lot of expats, who generally fall into a few camps when it comes to preference. You have your beer snobs that scoff at the idea of drinking Efes or Bomonti, or pretty much anything else you can buy at a grocery store for less than 8TL. We get it, your favorite microbrewery brews on their organic farm on the top of some mountain in Vermont with hops plucked by the hands of virgins; we just don’t want to hear about it every round (who am I kidding, I sometimes fall into this group). Then there are those who drink alcohol like water. Mosquitos don't go near them because they smell permanently of rakı and they will guzzle down whatever swill you throw at them. Finally, there’s the rest of us, who are just tired of having only one or two choices at a pub that are actually from the same company (look it up — Efes owns and brews most beers in Turkey) and occasionally like drinking something a little different. Thankfully, it seems that because of rising beer prices in Turkey, there are two new Turkish options that are becoming more prevalent and reasonable (if you can find them): Gara Guzu and Pera. I’m going to try to guide you to your best option regardless of whatever camp you fall in.
Gara Guzu — which is how “kara kuzu,” or black sheep, is pronounced in a regional dialect — has two styles available right now: Amber Ale and Blonde Ale. Both are a little easier to find than Pera. With that said, I’ve still only seen the Blonde Ale at bars (and only at Joker No. 19 and United Pub, both in Beşiktaş). It ran me 12 TL, but at Koç Market in Cihangir I found both for 5.50 TL. If you really want to try these beers on a night out, the aforementioned pubs have them, as do a few other places in Beşiktaş. I’ve also seen them in Urban Cafe, located off of Istiklal. Finally, you can try your luck in markets around Taksim and Beşiktaş that carry larger liquor selections.
As for their flavors, I prefer the Blonde Ale. In fact, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It has a crisp and slight citrus flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s a lighter beer with a matching golden color that goes down smooth. The blonde has a 5% ABV so you can put a few down without feeling too heavy. It’s probably best when the weather starts heating up. I suggest eating it with lighter fare: chicken, seafood, salads, and greens. It also can take the bite out of spicy foods.
The Amber Ale is also pleasant. It would be a somewhat run-of-the-mill option in parts of the world with a heavy drinking culture, but here it’s the Dom Perignon of amber ales. It’s got a bitter and hoppy taste, but it’s not overpowering. It has a 4% ABV, and is a good choice if you’re tired of the sweetness of Efes and want something to go with your burger, wings, or anything fried.
Pera, which was allegedly the original name of Beyoğlu, was a little harder to find, but you’ve got more options when you do. They produce a saison dubbed 2. They also have a malt that’s more of a kölsch called 1. Finally, they have 3 (big surprise on the name) which is a smoked beer. The saison has a similar taste to wheat beers like Hoegaarden or Blue Moon. The others are styles that you probably can’t find anywhere else in Istanbul. I will warn you now: These last two aren’t for the casual consumer and definitely are more geared for the beer snobs of Istanbul.
The first one I tried was the kölsch, which they labeled as a malt. It has a light golden color like other kölsches and is 4.1% ABV. It’s sweet and smooth when it first goes down, but is followed by an aftertaste that’s eerily similar to how Icy Hot smells. It didn’t leave a great impression on me, if you couldn’t guess, but I’d definitely take it over Miller Lite or something similar. At a store, I found a 50 cl can of this beer for 5 TL. Compare that to the bar, where it was 17 TL. So I recommend picking this one up at a store and drinking it at home with some spicy food.
Next, I tried the smoked beer. Again, this is definitely for the niche consumer. I haven’t seen this one in any bars yet, but I did find it at Tekelist in Beşiktaş (along with the others from this article) for 5 TL. It has an amber color with an ABV of 5.1%. The flavor was difficult for me at first because it tastes like you’re drinking the grease from a grill. However, it grew on me. I’ve heard that if you eat smoked or grilled meats with it, the meat offsets the heavy smoked flavor, which this definitely has. Underneath that you can find a roasted malt, which tastes quite good if you can get over the smokiness.
The last one I tasted was the saison aka Magic Quality Beer or, simply, 2. I’m biased because I like this style in general, but found this to be the most palatable of the bunch. It’s 5 TL for a can at Tekelist and 5% ABV. It has a sweet taste and a bright gold color. It matches well with any food I can think of and if you’re a fan of more traditional flavors, this beer should be your go to out of Pera’s selection.
Overall, my favorite was Gara Guzu’s Blonde Ale, with Pera’s 2 following close behind. However, I’ll acknowledge that personal preference is individual, so I included a chart to show which one of these you might prefer:
Note: The blonde ale is closest to a wheat beer. The amber is closest to an IPA, American macro lager, or pale ale. The Kölsch, probably Pilsener (with a bite) and the smoked is nearest thing to a porter or stout you’ll find here. If you get sour on the flow chart, you’ll probably want to get the saison.
If you know any bars that have a large selection of microbrews there’s a chance they have one of these. Also, you can do what I did and call or message the place on Facebook or check eksisozluk.com. People upload on there pretty regularly with the locations they’ve found these beers. Please comment below if you know places that have these beers on offer — help me out!
A version of this article was originally posted here.
P.S. - There have been some major developments in this department in the past year, so I will do some "research" and post my findings.
After that if it’s breakfast time check out Betty Blue, but you really can’t go wrong anywhere down here. If it’s lunch, Met Et Doner is rated the 4th best Dönerci in the city. Work off the food by dropping into the art galleries or figuring out a way into Greek Orthodox Church of St. Panteleimon.Read More
News has reached American soil, but many details are still unclear here in the city about a car bomb in Istanbul that has killed 11 so far and injured 36. An English language Turkish source has this to say about today's terrorist attack. This is the 3rd attack in Istanbul this year. The first coming on January 12th in the historic Sultanahmet district, killing 10--all German and Peruvian tourists. The next on March 19th, killied 3 Israelis and 1 Iranian on Istiklal, the main shopping street. Not to mention, attempted attacks on police stations in poorer suburbs of the city that sporadically occur. In Ankara, the capital, there have been almost 60 killed this year. And, in the southeast there have been countless attacks, shootings and bombings between the military and Kurdish rebel groups.
Generally attacks have come from two groups this year, Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) and Kurdish Separatist groups (mainly, PKK or TAK). Both groups have had a particular M.O., at least in their Western Turkish attacks. Daesh has targeted civilians and popular tourist destinations, while the PKK and TAK attacks have mostly targeted police and military positions.
Today, a remotely detonated car bomb was triggered, seemingly to take out a police bus passing at that moment--where 7 seven officers have died as of publication. 4 civilian casualties and countless injuries blur the intentions of this attack, which took place on the outskirts of the old city and mere blocks from one the city's largest and oldest universities, which so happened to have final exams starting today on the 2nd day of Ramadan.
Thankfully all my friends and family are safe and our lives continue to be as unaffected as they can given these almost desensitizing attacks. But, not everyone else is so lucky has been. The past few months have been relatively quiet compared to the end of 2015 and start of 2016. Let's hope it stays that way.
Coming around a bend on the Anatolian side between the two bridges is the aptly named Çengelköy. The neighborhood, whose name means hook village in Turkish, is for me one of the most picturesque Bosphorus walks. More than just a pretty view, Çengelköy is famous for its tomatoes, cucumbers, and hot chocolate. Like most neighborhoods in Istanbul it can be a little overwhelming on the first trip, so here’s an itinerary of sorts to help you navigate.
The ideal afternoon starts as Kuleli Asker Lisesi. From here, walk along the shoreline taking in the always stunning view of both the first Bosphorus bridge and Rumeli Hisari. If you’re hungry, there’s a whole assortment of Fish and Raki restaurants along the water.
Keep walking until the path ends and head onto Kuleli/Çengelköy Caddesi where you’ll pass numerous greengrocers selling the famous Çengelköy cucumbers and tomatoes. In my opinion, though, the best bet is to stop at Çengelköy Borekcisi or Erbap Patisserie and take your food to go. Walk down the tiny street, and you’ll find yourself at the morbidly named “Killer,” a 500-year-old plane tree, supported by steel beams now marauding its way to the seaside. Here you can mow down on your food while sipping on tea or turkish coffee at Tarihi Çınaraltı Aile Çay Bahçesi, or if you’d prefer more of buzz, head next door to the hookah lounge and relax under the tree. Don’t worry about the nickname; the steel supports will make sure it doesn’t live up to its name!
From here its time to move on to my favorite part. After eating borek, sipping on tea, and smoking shisha, it’s time to wander a block or two towards the Bosphorus Bridge and go toÇikolata Kahve for the delicious hot chocolate, that tastes just like melted down fudge in a mug.
Once finished, meander down to the waterfront from Çengelköy Sütiş Ağa Yalısı and snap some photos on the concrete pier. If you’ve timed it right you should be here at around sunset, and you get some stunning Bosphorus views, with the Sultanahmet silhouette visible on a clear day.
Finally, if you’re like me and have stuffed yourself thoroughly, it’s time to head inland to Mehmet Çakır Cultural and Sports Center, the Asian side’s largest public sports complex, and work off all that food by swimming in one of the three pools or merely steaming in the sauna.
This article previously appeared on yabangee.com for their Take 5 series here
For a place that is renowned for its architecture and also its religious fervor, it's only fitting that there would be numerous cathedrals and basilicas that are the quintessential destinations when visiting certain Spanish cities. After taking a breathtaking trip a few weeks ago, I decided to list the most majestic, immense, and important ones in the country.
It's the 3rd largest church, but the biggest cathedral, in the world; The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See is the gem of the beautiful medieval city of Seville. The burial site of Christopher Columbus, it was completed in the 1500's where it surpassed the Hagia Sofia as the worlds largest cathedral. A title held for over 1,000 years.
Here for its historical significance as well as its interior beauty. It's certainly not because of the exterior, which is intentionally dull so as not to outshine the Royal Palace across the street. Inside is a different story with modern renderings juxtaposed against Baroque and Gothic exteriors. Probably because even though the Spanish broke ground in the late 1800's, they didn't finish until 1993. It's the place where King Felipe VI married, making it a significant landmark for Spain regardless of religious status.
The alleged burial site of one of Jesus's twelve apostles - St. James. It is also the final stop on the legendary Camino de Santiago, or in English the St. James Way. The famous pilgrimage trail concludes at the Shrine of St. James in this legendary church.
Also known as Barcelona Cathedral, the heart of Barri Gotic houses one of Spain's most important churches. The church is famous for its jagged spires at its top and the gargoyles jutting out from the side. Personally, I think the most beautiful aspects are within the walls. The atrium fountain and elaborate tombs of Eulalia and Olegarius.
The old seat of the Spanish Empire - this cathedral, like Seville, is the exclamation point on a romantic medieval city. Only an hour drive from Madrid this is maybe the most important and beautiful Gothic cathedral in Spain. And it's about as old as Columbus's "discovery" of America. The whole old town and river bank are worth the walk.
Probably the most famous landmark in a city full of them. This basilica is Gaudi's magnum opus and is a stark contrast from the cold, uninviting churches you find elsewhere. Draped in warm rose windows on the inside and amorphous figures ooze up from the outer walls. With long and one-of-a-kind towers bolting up it is supposed to represent the Earth's attempt at connecting to Heaven. The craziest part is it's not even done yet. But apparently, it'll be even grander by its completion date in 2026.
Since I've talked so much about beautiful medieval city centers in Spain, I'd be remiss not to mention Catalonia's greatest one in Girona. The old town is a major locale for King's Landing and Braavos for the upcoming Game of Thrones season. The Cathedral is the location for the legendary "Shame" scene from season 5. It's also the exterior of the home of the Sparrows.
Its history goes way beyond television, though. A church existed before at least 717 AD, but the earliest remnants are from the 11th century with the Charlemagne Bell Tower. With redesigns and renovations carrying on in the 15th, 16th, and 20th centuries; you can see different styles from the dominant periods of the time as well as artifacts crossing these periods. Even more impressive, it has the second largest nave in the world and the largest Gothic one.
Not as famous as its counterparts, this is my favorite church that I've ever encountered. It's massive and beautifully lit on the outside, rests on a perfect spot on the Ebro river, has beautiful masonry and paintings, and a fascinating history. Home to some of Goya's most impressive work, it's probably best known for being the spot where Saint James saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary shortly before her assumption. Many churches stood here at different periods of time. With the first coming in the 1st century AD, the current version sprung up between the 17th and 19th centuries. A baroque style church that luckily survived the dropping of three bombs during the Spanish Civil War that thankfully never exploded. Divine intervention? You have to see it to decide for yourself.
Approximately one year ago I visited one of my favorite cities of all time. You may have seen me mention it here. Budapest is a gem of history, architecture, and leisure thriving on either side of the Danube River. There I learned it was actually two cities that have morphed into one in 1873, kind of like Minneapolis-St. Paul. It's full of history, nightlife, good food, and hot springs. So, now the question is where to spend most of your time once you've decided to come here. Because you obviously should see both sides, I've broken it up into categories: culture, nightlife, outdoors, food, accommodation, and thermal baths. From there you can decide where you want to put up your home base and better explore.
From its world famous opera's inception in 1884 in Pest to the Sziget Fetival that draws in 440,000 people to Obuda Island for a week every summer. The city has been a hotbed of culture since the 15th Century with the creation of the 2nd largest library in the world and continued with impressive Art and History museums. Pest has an impressive Parliament building housing the royal jewels and St. Stephens Basilica housing some Saint's mummified hand, to coincide with a world class opera house. But Buda has Buda Castle, Fisherman's Bastion, and Matthias Church all centered around each other on the top of the hill. Across from there the Citadella gives you views of the whole city and all the Danube's bridges, along with a history from the Hapsburgs to the Nazis and Soviets. There's a cave church below it and when you finally make your way back down you can go to the classical Gellert Baths.The museums that are peppered throughout the city kind of cancel each other out in the argument of which side is superior.
The Buda side gives you some of the city's most famous riverboat clubs. However Pest has some of their own and gives you a bigger variety. The urban sprawl provides a range of classic bars & cafes, British & Irish pubs, and romkocsmas (pictured left), which are abandoned houses that have been converted into bars and are difficult to spot without help. If you want to make it a social event and need a little help finding the spots, contact these guys. It's the longest running bar crawl in the city and they take you to a mix of the original ruin pubs and new ones as well. And if that sounds like too much for you or you're looking for something different, they've got a variety of tours and tastings that are a great deal.
Because you gotta eat and Hungarian food is full of delectable blends of meat and spices. Aszu Etterem located next to St. Stephen's Basilica is one of the best restaurants I've eaten at regardless of cuisine, country, etc. With entrees starting at $13 and finishing up with the most tender venison you'll ever eat for $20. Please, please go here.
Pest is pretty flat, but bigger than Buda and that gives it some open green spaces and allows it to house the city's zoo and main city park. Buda however mixes their cultural landmarks with some up and down urban trekking and even houses two caves. Elizabeth Lookout is the highest point in the city, resting in Buda's hills. Kalandpalya is a massive reserve that has a lot of activities geared for kids. If you can't decide and want to split the distance in the summer, go to Margaret Island on the Danube and lie out on the beach or walk through its gardens.
Pest dominates when it comes to hostels, which they have a massive amount of for the size of their city. Buda wins out when it comes to luxury accommodation, and the Danubius is maybe the fanciest in the city. Pest has an advantage when it comes to available area and they have their own collection of luxury hotels and a large some supply of economy and mid-range ones.
Probably the biggest tourist attraction in Hungary. Going is not only a therapeutic experience, but a historical and cultural one as well. The two most famous Gellert (Buda) and Szechenyi (Pest) are can't lose. There are smaller baths all over the city and for this reason you really can't go wrong.
Obviously, there was never going to be a clear winner. They both have their respective strengths and you would be doing a disservice to yourself if you stuck to just one side the whole time. When I was there I stayed in Pest and went out there during the night. You have to take a boat up and down the Danube and spend at least a day walking the hills from the Citadella to the Buda Castle area. In Pest you have to visit Parliament and St. Stephen's Basilica. But honestly, you can't go wrong with whatever you decide to do here because Budapest is awesome any time of the year and has an area of reprieve for all passions.