Sunday, August 14, 2011

My neighborhood... 1. Levent

Dear readers,

I don't know how many of you have read my "about me" section in my blog... but just very quickly, I returned to Istanbul for good in 1995 after having lived in NYC for about 30 years. I was born in Istanbul and went to the USA when I was 4 years old with my mom and dad (dad was in the hotel business). However, through the years and until finally moving back, frequently visited Istanbul - sometimes for long stretches of time - with my family and sister (she was born in NYC).

On one of our trips back to Istanbul, my parents purchased an apartment in Levent...  Then (1966), friends and family thought my dad was nuts for buying an apartment in a neighborhood that was almost totally deserted! The only thing standing was the apartment building and the Zincirlikuyu Cemetery - literally, there were no other buildings in the area and what is now the Headquarters of Garanti Bank was an area where sheep grazed! Levent or 1. Levent as it is known has come a long way in the past 45 years!

Hi everyone! I wrote the above 2 paragraphs on Wednesday August 10th after I left the house for the first time in 4 days as I have this miserable cold. I went out for several hours - visited mom and ran some errands in Levent - took some pics and had every intention of writing my article on Levent the same day - well, guess what - I felt soooo knocked out that I had to stop and now - 4 days later... and after a relapse, I'm just getting back to it! I am STILL sick and my cold just does not want to go away!! Well.. here goes my second attempt at finishing this article!

My mom still lives at the house that my parents purchased 45 years ago (dad passed away in January, 1992)! Now, the area is full of skyscrapers, hotels, shopping malls, cafes, restaurants - you name it!

When my sis and I moved back to Istanbul in 1995, we lived with mom too and in fact, until last year, I was still with her!!! My sis moved out in 1999 when she got married. Ok, I am not a kid and "living with mom" at my age might seem odd - but I was comfortable there and did save lots of money on rent - which I spent on travelling, socializing and LV bags (I have one hell of a collection!) instead!

However, last year I finally made the decision to move out - I felt bad, mom is not getting any younger (she is 85 years old), but I really did need my, now I buy less LV bags and shoes!

I found my apartment - still in the neighborhood in Levazım - also part of Levent via the internet!!! Instead of visitings tons of apartments, I first surfed the internet to see what was out there. Thank god for technology!!! Now, you can 'visit' apartments without physically going there and wasting lots of time!

2010 turned out to be a year of changes for me. I moved to my new place in March 2010 - I am in a housing complex, a famous Turkish singer lives in my building... I have 3+1 rooms, 1 1/2 bath (and still can't fit all my clothes and have some still at mom's house) and a partial view of the Bosphorus Bridge - and most importantly, I am still in my neighborhood!

Then in November 2010, I resigned from my job! I felt it was time to go out on my own... even though it was a risky decision! Just think, after December 31 (I agreed to say on until the end of the year and finish the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of The Guide Istanbul) - no more salary!!!

However, as I had announced that I would be freelancing as of 2011 right after I resigned, I did start getting requests from several companies to do freelance work for them so that did make me feel better.

Freelance life is great!!! I am very fortunate because I have been working non-stop since January 2nd and have worked on lots of different and interesting projects. I mentioned this before - but I am currently working on the section of "Central and Southeast Aegean Region" for Fodor's new guide on Turkey that will be coming out in March 2012... my deadline is the end of this month. Then, I will be translating from Turkish to English a "bestseller" novel written by a prominent Turkish journalist that was released in 2009. I am not giving the specifics on the book yet as I haven't checked to see if the author wants me to announce this yet - so more info later!

The next big change in 2011 was when Luka came into my life on May 10, 2011. 

This little guy (a maltese terrier) is now almost 10 months old.. he will be a year old on October 21st based on the info on his paperwork from the pet shop that he was purchased from by his previous owners... they couldn't take care of him... were giving him away and that's when I became his new "mom". This pic was taken in Çeşme 10 days ago and he loves his cucumbers! I think I have a vegetarian dog! He prefers cheese and cucumbers to chicken, meat and fish! Did I mention he refuses to eat dog food??? Well, that's a totally different story now!

As usually, once again I gave digressed! This article is supposed to be about Levent and I went off tangent again... but then again, this little "detour" also is part of my life in Levent!

1. Levent or simply also called Levent is in the middle of Zincirlikuyu and Etiler. There is in fact 2. Levent, 3. Levent and 4. Levent too! But, we will only be talking about 1. Levent now.

On Wednesday, I took Luka and we went to visit mom - hadn't seen her in over 2 weeks between going to Çeşme and then being sick. I had several errands to run for myself and her, so I left Luka at her place and went to Levent Çarşı. Çarşı means a place where you shop and Levent Çarşı is about 3 blocks from my mom's house and one of the ways it can be reached is via Büyükdere Caddesi - the main street that runs all the way to Maslak.

On the right hand corner of the street as you enter Levent Çarşı is the newly opened posh Edition Hotel ( and on the left hand side of the street is Metrocity ( - a shopping mall and residence.

The Edition Hotel was once the Headquarters of HSBC Bank and was the site of a terrorist attack many years ago. The original structure was not changed when it became a hotel - I have not yet had a chance to visit the hotel, but have seen many pictures of it in the news - and it is also home to the Istanbul branch Cipriani, the popular Italian eatery. I haven't gone to Cipriani yet either, because since its opening it has received mixed reviews, the executive chef has recently changed and the prices are also very high... I think I will finally visit them in the next couple of months.

I am not really a "shopping mall" person - even though I do love Kanyon ( which is a couple of blocks from Metrocity and also in Levent. Kanyon is great because it is an "open-air" mall - that's why I enjoy going there because you are constantly outdoors. I find enclosed shopping malls suffocating, but they do serve their purpose! So, if I have specific shopping needs, of course I then go to them. But, I go to Kanyon even when I don't shop!

Back to Levent Çarşı... once you hang a right at the Edition Hotel - when coming from the Zincirlikuyu direction - you have arrived!

This street is appropriately called Çarşı Caddesi (Street) and is about 2 city blocks long with 2-story buildings lined on both sides of the street. And... the entrance to the Levent metro is on the corner opposite the hotel. In this small area, there are several banks, fastfood eateries, restaurants, a hospital, pharmacy, photography store, pastry shops, white goods retailer, shoe store, telecommunications store, butcher, deli/butcher, shops that sell dried nuts, fruits and spices and I think I might have missed a few other places!!!

This is "my" neighborhood! Most of the shops on this street have been around for ages!!! Some of the regular places I visit on this street is my bank (Yapı ve Kredi), a photo shop to play the lottery (haven't won anything significant yet!)and Işıklar Et ve Gıda (a deli and butcher) where I purchase white cheese (beyaz peynir), kaşar cheese and from time to time (only around Ramadan) - dried meat called pastırma and sucuk (spicy beef sausage).

Like I said, there are also several pastry shops to include Venüs and Hacı Bozanoğulları where you can find all sorts of cakes, milk puddings, baklava, etc., but since I am always trying to be careful with the sweets - I just "look" but try not to buy!!!

At the end of Çarşı Caddesi, when you hang a right - you are now on Gonca Street. On the left hand side of Çarşı Caddesi is a square with a stationery store, butcher, bakery, pastry shop, a taxi stand and a little further up a watch repair shop, electrician, locksmith and florist.

On the right hand side of Gonca Street are several deli/grocery stores, a burger joint, pharmacy, bank and another one of my favorite places Komşufırın. This is where I buy bread. There are numerous branches of Komşufırın on both sides of the city and besides fresh baked breads, they sell croissants, biscuits, breadsticks and börek (pastry stuffed with cheese, meat, etc.). In the picture below is also pide which is a staple in Turkish homes during Ramadan - straight out of the oven!

And... right across the street and adjacent to Komşufırın is Kahve Dünyası - the Turkish version of Starbucks with a small seating area in an outdoor terrace. Adjacent to Kahve Dünyası is the Levent post office one one side and another cafe on the other side.

Onthe left hand side of Gonca Street is a small park with a newspaper stand where I usually pick up my newspapers/mags and cigs. Across the street from the park is a foreign exchange bureau, bank, stationery store and restaurant. On the back of Gonca Street is an alley lined with vegetable and fruit stands as well as our local longstanding fishmonger - where I have been buying fish ever since moving back to Istanbul (currently closed for the summer season).

This ends our tour of Levent Çarşı... it's amazing that in about a 4 block radius, you can pretty much find whatever you need for your home, do your banking, buy meds if you are sick, etc. - and I haven't mentioned all the shops in this area to really bore you! 

I love my neighborhood! 



  1. Hi Dani! I like your blog and regularly check it out for good tips on Istanbul. Thanks for this overview of Levent! I also really like Kanyon even though I am really not into shopping malls.
    All the best!

  2. thanks for your comment Sarah! Guess what.. part II of Levent will be about Kanyon!!! I was there today and will be writing about it tomorrow... I guess you live in Istanbul?