Archive for the ‘leisure’ Category

Fukkk Offf

Friday, January 9th, 2009

A while ago I attended a concert by Fukkk Offf to do some video journalism for SPIN Magazine’s new online video platform, SPIN Earth (beta). The video I made was a bit too long for them to use, but haven’t had time to cut it down since. I figured it might be appreciated by some of the blog’s audience, especially since you can meet the real me. ;-)

Fukkk Offf in Istanbul from Bas Grasmayer on Vimeo.

Shot at Club Dirty, 13-Dec-2008 for SPIN Earth.

Music by Fukkk Offf (Rave Is King):

More of these?

Celebrating Christmas in Istanbul

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

So what did you do for Christmas? Christmas isn’t really celebrated in Istanbul, but our university organised a Christmas dinner for the exchange students (and their families, if they had come over). Free food and free drinks (incl. alcohol) is an easy way to make international students happy, but they also threw in some Turkish folk dancing. There were two groups and the picture above is of the second. Two guys, dressed up as above, danced in a playful way depicting some story. Very cool.

More pictures up soon! For New Year’s Eve we’re renting a boat and throwing a party on the Bosphorus… I’m DJing and my means are quite limited so I have to do some preparing. Speak to you in the new year!

Best wishes to you all!

~ Bas

So what did you do for Christmas? How are you spending your New Year’s Eve?

“Slowly! … Slowly!”

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Recently I went to an international student party here in Istanbul, but I don’t want to talk about the party. I want to talk about our way to the party. We were hanging out in an apartment on the Asian side of Istanbul, where we all live. We had dinner together, some wine and around 11 we decided to get on our way to grab a bus to the Taksim/Beyoğlu district of the European side of Istanbul; it’s where all the parties happen.

So we got on our way and into the bus… As we were sitting in the bus, waiting for it to leave, it was noticeable that we were attracting some attention. Of course, we were all chatting and foreigners in Turkey generally attract quite a bit of attention.

As the bus started moving, we started getting some ugly looks from people turning around and looking at us… Maybe it was not just us being foreigners, maybe we were a bit too loud (even though we weren’t loud, especially by Turkish standards).

Then, upon one guy’s third turning around and staring at us, he said in a very direct and rather rude tone:

“Excuse me!!!!” There was a pause.

“Slowly!” Another pause.

“Slowly!!” He kept staring at us.

One of the girls present said okay and then the guy turned around to start a conversation with his neighbour. No doubt that it was about the nuisance and the suffering he had to go through, with us in this bus.

Even though the guy was quite rude – and drunk, as was obvious upon him exiting the bus – this small anecdote says something about the culture in Turkey, or at least Istanbul. You will hardly ever see someone eating in a bus, or even on the street. When two friends get into a bus together, they usually lower their voices and speak rather softly. This is quite different from other countries I’ve visited, where people generally talk with each other in a normal volume.

Also, a lot more so than in Holland, people will actually immediately get up for a woman, an old person or a person with disabilities. Not 100% of the times, but a lot more than in Holland. Over here I started feeling that the whole bus should be ashamed of themselves if there’s an old lady standing while there are young people sitting.

However, all of the above does not mean that the guy yesterday wasn’t completely out of line. First of all, you’re in the bus to Taksim at 11 o’ clock on a Friday night… What do you expect? Second of all, he was eating when he got into the bus. Thirdly, he could have asked us politely at least, or just have made some gesture instead of shouting at us.

Photo above by ibcbulk on Flickr, shared under a Creative Commons license.

How is the bus culture in your country? How are people’s manners? Can you comment about some of the things mentioned in this article and how it is in places you’ve been to? is about my life as a Dutch student living in Istanbul. I regularly write about my adventures in Istanbul and travels in the region. If you’d like to stay up to date, you can subscribe to my RSS feed or get email updates in your inbox. You can also follow me on Twitter.

The Dutch Tradition of Sinterklaas

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Photo by FaceMePLS

Said to be the origin of Santa Clause, the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas is one of the most typical traditions one can experience in the Netherlands (besides Queen’s Day). Sinterklaas means Sint Klaas, or Saint Nicholas in English. On December 5th, Dutch families get together and exchange gifts. If the family has young children, Sinterklaas himself brings the presents to the door or through the chimney, usually in secrecy (especially when using the latter ;-) ) or it’s done by one or more of his helpers. This leads me to the first oddity about this day of the Greek-Anatolian saint, Saint Nicholas of Myra.

Black Petes

That’s the name of the helpers. When Sinterklaas comes to Holland on his steamship from Spain in November, he brings along his cheeky helpers which then give out candies to the children. Yes, he’s from Turkey, but comes from Spain, I don’t know why. I suppose he’s an expat like me. Back to the helpers… They have different functions. One is the guiding Pete, the other does poems, the other sings, the other climbs, the other rhymes, the other wraps the presents and they all have nicknames based on their function, much like the Smurfs.

Originally the Petes looked like south Europeans, but over the course of 50 years, they started getting darker and darker and around 1900 they looked likedarkies‘. Until this day, this is still the day us Dutchies dress up to entertain our kids, as shown on the right (picture by Merlijn Hoek). The Saint and his helper, that was called a servant and a slave in a book that influenced much of current day traditions, are normally seen as friends and the Petes gladly help Sinterklaas, because he’s old and cannot go around the whole country on his own. You can view the 19th century book that established much of the current day Sinterklaas tradition online.

When people started saying that this is racist, we started saying they’re black because of all the chimneys they have to climb through to deliver their presents. It’s a well-known scientific fact that soot from chimneys of houses with children living in them also causes afros and big red lips. Political correctness created Petes with faces painted in purple, green, yellow, you name it. This was not a big hit. Back to the chimney explanation it is.

Through the chimney, into your shoes

When Sinterklaas is in the country in the weeks leading up to the 5th of December, the children are allowed to put their shoe under the chimney twice a week or so, depending on the parents’ generosity (and willingness to spoil their kids). I suppose the tradition varies a bit from home to home, but when I was young my brothers and I would first draw a picture for Sinterklaas. Then before going to bed we’d put one of our shoes under the chimney, with the rolled up drawing in it, a carrot for Sinterklaas’ horse, and we’d sing Sinterklaas songs at the chimney. We would then go to bed and the next morning we’d find a small present (usually candy) in our shoe! Schools and even supermarkets also let children leave their shoe overnight for Sinterklaas.

Photo by poederbach

Usually the candy you get will be kruidnoten or pepernoten, which are small ginger-bread like biscuits or speculaas-like biscuits (as seen above). You’re also likely to receive a chocolate letter of the first letter of your name. These are cleverly nicknamed “chocolade letters”, because this holiday’s a feast of creativity! I have an aunt whose name begins with the letter I, so when she was young she always got the first letter of her second name, the R. Much bigger, at least to a child, since they all weigh the same. So, candy from the chimney!

Oh, unless you’ve been a bad child that is.

Kidnapped and taken to Spain

Children are warned that if they are not behaving well during the year, Sinterklaas will look in his Golden book and will not be able to find your name (which means no presents). One popular song goes “Wie goed is krijgt lekkers, wie stout is de roe” which means that who is nice will get something sweet, but who’s bad will get a bundle of sticks in his shoe (a roe). If you’ve been particularly bad, you will be put in one of the sacks which Sinterklaas and his jolly slaves Black Petes use to take all the presents to Holland and you will be taken back to Spain. In recent years Sinterklaas has condemned this practice, saying that it was a thing of the past. Still 400 children are reported missing in Holland each year though. What are you hiding Sinterklaasje?


That’s what he’s hiding. Usually they’re dropped down the chimney overnight and unpacked in the company of family in the evening of the 5th of December. In my youth we’d be at our home with my relatives on the 5th and as my parents were cooking or doing whatever in the kitchen, someone would ring the doorbell and the presents would be there. As we grew older, faster and more familiar with what to expect, my poor parents had to increase their speed to run from the frontdoor around the house and back into the kitchen. If I remember correctly, usually my mom would come into the room and keep us busy for a moment saying “Heeeeeyyyy! Who do you think that is? Could it be…?” andddd it’s a blurry memory, but I think they made us sing a song before having a look at the front door.

The presents are often accompanied by poems, composed by the Poetry Pete (or the Rap Pete in families with parents that try to be too hip). The child receiving the gift has to read the often wittily composed poem out loud as seen on the right (picture by hondjevandirkie). The poem often says things about the person receiving the gifts and hints about the content of the wrapping paper.

The unravelled wrapping paper is usually a welcome and interesting object for pets, cats and dogs alike. I am not aware of turtles’ attitude towards wrapping paper lying all over the living room floor. But then again, I don’t care.

If the parents actually managed to convince Sinterklaas to come to their home to deliver the presents personally, children are often left arguing at school over who had the real Sinterklaas coming to their home and who had a “helping Klaas” over. It’s very important to be right in this case, even though in the end you’re all wrong. Some kids already know this and spread seeds of doubt among their fellow classmates over the reality of Sinterklaas, those damn fascist toddlers.

Have fun!

That wraps it all up (no pun intended). For expats in the Netherlands, you can have a look at the Sinterklaas survival guide on Expatica. For lazy Dutchies, you can make your poems using a Sinterklaas poem generator.

I wish everybody lots of fun with Sinterklaas this year! Especially my family. Sorry I can’t be there for the festivities for the second year in a row. Last year I celebrated Sinterklaas with some international exchange students while I was living in Sofia, Bulgaria (see the pictures). This year I’m avoiding the tradition – even though I live in Saint Nicholas’ country… Turkey!

I know similar traditions take place all over the world, especially in Europe. What about in your country? Can you tell me a little about the December traditions where you’re from or where you currently live? is about a Dutch student living in Istanbul. I regularly write about my adventures in Istanbul and travels in the region. If you’d like to stay up to date, you can subscribe to my RSS feed or get email updates in your inbox. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Marmara Sunset Cruise

Monday, December 1st, 2008

A few weeks ago, or was it a month, we (the exchange students) received a special invitation from the rector of our university (or chancellor/president, if you will). A special boatcruise was planned and we would be having dinner with the rector on the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Amazing!

Afterwards we would dance and the rector might teach us some Turkish folkdancing. “Wow”, I thought, “it’s really incredible what this university is willing to do for their exchange students”. Everyone was excited about it, partly because of the promise of free food and drinks ;-) , and most of the 100 exchange students at Yeditepe University planned on attending.

On the day of the cruise we arrived and it turned out the boat had already left. Miscommunication. The boat left 2 hours earlier than was announced to us. The university bus took us to another dock where the boat would come to pick us all up. When we got there, the boat was a lot bigger than I anticipated and what surprised me was there were a lot of people on board already…

We were then told that kids from high schools and their parents were already on board and that the rector had ordered the boat to come pick us up. Great! I let the new information sink for a minute and then realized that it had all been a great PR stunt. There were hundreds of people on the boat and this way Yeditepe could show off their international character. The cruise was quite different from what I expected and definitely not as intimate as it was made out to be, but it helped me achieve one of my goals for Istanbul:

To party on the Bosphorus! The Bosphorus is the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea (and thus ultimately to the Mediterranean) and runs between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

As we got on we sailed out to the Marmara Sea and saw the Prince’s Islands (I think) and witnessed the beautiful sunset pictured above. Later, as the skies turned dark we sailed through Istanbul. The lights are beautiful and as I’ve said before, the best way to see the glory of Istanbul is from the water. We partied on the deck of the ship with a bit too many high schoolers and very loud Turkish house music. Oh, and free beer (which finished within half an hour) and free wine!

View the pictures of the trip on Picasa! Pictures of the sunset and the sea and of course the party! Sorry, I don’t have the right equipment to catch Istanbul by night. You’ll have to come and see it for yourself. ;-)

If you took a ferry or boattrip in Istanbul before, how did you like it? What was your experience? In the past I’ve partied in an empty office building, under a bridge, in an abandoned church (controversiaaaaal), a parking lot and in the forrests on a mountain in the Balkan range. What’s the most spectacular location you’ve partied at? is about a Dutch student living in Istanbul. I regularly write about my adventures in Istanbul and travels in the region. If you’d like to stay up to date, you can subscribe to my RSS feed or get email updates in your inbox. You can also follow me on Twitter.

spacescape – WombTomb (DJ set MP3)

Sunday, November 30th, 2008
Another mix by me for my project ‘spacescape’ with which I aim to take listeners on a trip through emotions, moods and mental states. Enjoy! Scroll down for tracklist and download link.
Electrons and neurons connected. Soundwaves versus brainwaves. Can this leave your reality untouched? A progressive and experimental mix of chilled out yet energetic electronic music.

Scuba – Hard Boiled [SCB Edit] (00:00 – 08:49)
Fatboy Slim – What They’re Looking For (07:56 – 13:45)
Josh Gabriel – Recife (12:44 – 16:51)
Vibesquad – Lone Salamander (16:38 – 20:28)
Talpa – Still Dreaming (19:10 – 25:54)
Shpongle – Flute Fruit (25:35 – 27:41)
Plastic Shell – Gutbucket (27:34 – 34:20)
Michael Knop – Fiddel Fiddel (34:03 – 41:31)
Butch – Mushroom Man (40:03 – 45:54)
Kaya Project – Saranghi Breaks (45:29 – 50:00)
Orocol – Crooked (49:37 – 55:05)
Aphex Twin – Digeridoo (54:42 – 61:47)
Paper Squad – Endless Mindput (61:28 – 69:05)
Shitmat – More Fire ['93 Ting Mix] (64:03 – 68:30)
Oren Barkan – Misra Malok [RMX] (68:12 – 77:05)

Download here: (MP3/VBR/126MB)

Much thanks go out to the producers of the tracks used. Support the scene! Buy their records or go to their live shows!

Presented by The MiX-Files (subscribe to email updates or follow the RSS feed to get the newest mixes first!). Opinions very welcome!

Republic Day Fireworks (Video)

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

On the 29th of October, Turkey celebrates the foundation of its Republic in 1923 by founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This goes together with Turkish flags hanging from every window in Turkey as well as some free parties in Istanbul and some amazing fireworks above the Bosphorus.

Click here to see the video on Vimeo

They spent quite some money on the fireworks, as you can tell from the video. Last year the show was even bigger and they also had a lasershow showing important images from Turkey’s history. This year the show was a bit shorter allegedly due to terror alerts. Still an amazing show and I bet it keeps the Turkish people in Istanbul proud of their nation for yet another year. ;-)

It’s every year, so if you have the chance to be here around the end of October, seize the opportunity!

Dawn in Istanbul

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

click on the photo for alternate version

Just before dawn, Istanbul’s fishermen get in their boats and move onto the Bosphorus or the Marmara sea. If you walk or sit along the coastline, you can hear them talking or listening to music. A great place to visit in Istanbul, if you want to sit along the coast, is Kadıköy, which is also where this picture was taken. Inspired by the work of Michael Kenna.

Tell me, which is better, the above or the alternate version?

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The Inheritance of Loss

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I got tagged by a dear StumbleUpon friend, shpongolina. Usually I don’t participate in this type of things, but because it offers something interesting and it comes from a great person, I’ll make an exception. ;-)

The rules are as follows:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Post a comment and then tag five more people.

The Inheritance of Loss

by Kiran Desai

Gyan was twenty and Sai sixteen, and at the beginning they had not paid very much attention to the events on the hillside, the new posters in the market referring to old discontents, the slogans scratched and painted on the side of government offices and shops. “We are stateless,” they read. “It is better to die than live as slaves,” “We are constitutionally tortured. Return our land from Bengal.”

I wrote about this book a while ago. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m still reading it. Worse yet, I’m not even halfway through, even though it’s a great book. My excuse is that I’m an expat in Istanbul and there’s just so much to see and do here. ;-)

I love this book, because it talks about life in India at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the north-eastern Himalayas around the time of the Nepalese independence movement in the mid-80s. This is something I knew nothing about in terms of facts, let alone in terms of experience. That’s the awesome thing about books; they let you experience something like you’re there. It’s the power of writing. It’s a very moving story and has many elements in it. Classes/castes, love, freedom, happiness, travel, work, study, war, conflict, poverty – many things which I either have never been in contact with, or that I have always taken for granted.

You can read more about the author, Kiran Desai, on Wikipedia. Check out the book, including reviews, at Amazon.

I would like to tag Dori (From A Yellow House In England), Chris (Beyond Taiwan), PJA64X, Emm (Emm in London) and lala (Coastal Commentaries).

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We Found BATMAN!

Monday, October 27th, 2008

After a few weeks, we finally found the ‘batcave’ where BATMAN resides. No, not the fictional Batman. No, not the real Batman either. Since we moved into our flat here in Istanbul, we’ve spotted a strong connection all throughout our apartment which is named ‘BATMAN’. Online 24 hours per day, stronger than all the other connections in our area… Where’s BATMAN when you need him?

Well, no more daily trips to the coffee bar around the corner (it’s still an awesome place though and I’ll gladly take you there). After ringing all the doorbells in our flat, talking to everyone, showing our note written in Turkish, asking strangers if they were Batman… Nothing. Then we went to the apartments nextdoor… No Batman to be found. Finally, after trying everything, we discovered that there were 2 apartments in the -1 level of our building… Could this be… the batcave?

Yes! We did it. We proposed to share the costs for an unlimited internet account for the next few months in exchange for a password and access to BATMAN. Internet at home’s a ‘luxury’ in Turkey, but for students used to European standards, it’s a necessity. Imagine what it’s like for a blogger. ;-)

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