Istanbul Trip Day 1 ~ Desperately seeking Kuzey... and Cesur and Behlül!
What an amazing adventure! On April 15th, six of the Kivanc Tatlitug North America (KTNA) admins met up in Istanbul with some fifty other Turkish Drama fans on a trip put together by a few members of the Turkish Drama Appreciation Facebook Group. Most of the organized tour centered around historical sites, but being the rabid Kivanc fans that we are, our passion was to scope out the film locations where Kivanc mesmerized us with his performances.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing details, photos, and memories of our unforgettable journey. Strap in and get ready for a wild ride!
Kuzey…. We all love him, and knowing that we were so close to his neighborhood, we set out to find it on our very first day.
Our intrepid KTNA leader Lila arranged a private van and driver, and five of us KTNA admins and two tag-alongs took off. Giddy with anticipation, we headed to Uskudar, the small community within Istanbul that Kuzey called home.
Crossing the Bosphorus and winding along the water, we got our first real look at Istanbul. On the waterfront side, long stretches of walkways were dotted with benches, and clusters of boats were moored at the shoreline. On our other side, stucco houses in Mediterranean hues of aqua, yellow, and coral were interspersed among mom-and-pop shops opening onto narrow sidewalks. Istanbul really does look just like the scenes we see on all our Turkish drama shows.
Within an hour we turned onto “the street” and erupted into whoops of joy as Gulten's salon, Hasan's photoshop, and the Tekinoğlu bakery came into view. What a thrill to see the very street and shops where so much of Kuzey's story unfolded! As we flitted about with shrieks of delight, our driver Sinan (who spoke almost no English and whom we affectionately nicknamed “Abi”) must have thought we were a bit crazy to be going gaga over such an “ordinary” Istanbul street.
Hussein’s photoshop is still EXACTLY as it was in the show—same yellow counter and even the same photos on the wall! The owner was very friendly, and get this—his name is Hussein, just like in the series. He was flattered that people from the other side of the world knew his store and were so excited about what had taken place there.
Gulten's salon across the street was a little harder to pick out. There were two similar vacant shops side by side, but the one with big picture windows and pull-down security gate confirmed it was the right one.
The Tekinoğlu bakery on the corner was easy to spot, although the outside had been painted white and some of the interior walls had been removed. As I stood on that corner, I couldn't help but envision all the times Kuzey stood at the back of the bakery van parked on that very spot.
While many of us were still taking photos at the bakery, Lila appeared around a corner a block away and shouted, “Hey! Ali's bar is right over here!” With more whoops of delight, we swarmed to the side street. Although disappointed the bar was closed, we peeked through the window. Wow! It was virtually unchanged from the days when Kuzey and Ali sat at their table and talked over life.
The street was familiar, but also fresh and new. We saw not only what the show’s camera showed us, but also what wasn’t shown. There’s a building across from the bakery that is nothing like the rest of the shops—it appears to be the back of a large government building. Ali’s bar is right around the corner from Gulten’s Salon, not a few blocks away as the show portrayed. And if you walk from the bakery, then pass the salon and photoshop, you’ll find yourself in a park, not another shop-lined street.
Thrilled with our morning's success, we were now eager to press our luck and search for Cemre's
house—and a search it was. We drove around for several minutes and knew we were close but couldn't quite find it. Then we turned up a random street and got a whopping surprise when Kuzey's house appeared right in front of us!
With shrieks of delight we piled out of the van, took photos, and congratulated ourselves on our serendipitous luck. I even climbed up on a retaining wall across the street (in a dress!) to get a better shot.
Then, a block or so away, we erupted into cheers again stumbling onto the original Tekinoğlu house with bakery below! We only had time to snap a few pictures before a huge truck repaving the road threatened to flatten us if we didn't move on. But wow! We were discovering more than we’d hoped for!
With heightened anticipation, we set out again for Cemre's house. After exploring several more Uskudar streets to no avail, Abi asked directions and determined that we couldn't find the house because there was a street bazaar lining the road right in front of it.
With Lila presiding in the navigator's seat and Abi at the wheel, we were now hot on the trail.
Two minutes later we piled out of the van and trekked through the authentic Turkish bazaar of vendors hawking clothing, household goods, vegetables, and cheese—just like in Kuzey Guney. You can see Nathalie's footage of it below.
Then, at the top of a little hill, there it was, Cemre's house, peeking out behind two box trucks parked on the street. We'd found it! And our timing couldn't have been more perfect. As we approached the house, a woman carrying grocery bags stopped too. She was the owner, and a little sweet-talking by Nathalie got us an invitation inside! I couldn't believe it. We were going into the little house we'd seen in so many episodes.
It was all much smaller that it seemed in the show. The arched gate, front porch, garden, and house were small. Tiny. I don't know how they fit a camera crew into Cemre's room. The living room was so small I wondered if the scenes had actually been shot in a film studio.
And when I stepped onto that back porch where Kuzey and Cemre had their first heart-to-heart conversation, I could hardly contain myself—those mauve curtains are still there! It was tiny too.
Well! The day had already exceeded our greatest expectations, but since it was only a little past noon, why not try for more?
Next target: Cesur’s farmhouse located in Polonezkoy, a community in the hills surrounding Istanbul. It was a bit of a drive from Uskudar, but we were having such a great time chatting it up in the van we hardly noticed that an hour had gone by. Winding on roads that seemed the middle of nowhere we asked our driver, “Abi, nerede? How far?” He replied, “Ten minutes.”
Ten Turkish minutes later (that's forty minutes in US time) the landscape began to look familiar—
rolling hills and fields of yellow flowers. I was sure we would round a corner and recognize Cesur's proposal spot at any moment. The fields of yellow flowers were everywhere!
Somewhere on this madcap adventure over hill and dale, our enthusiasm rubbed off on our driver. “Abi” morphed from a hired driver into a man on a mission. Neither wrong turns nor unmarked dirt roads deterred him. Then we wound down a road that looked particularly familiar... And suddenly that red-tiled roof appeared on our right. I was over the moon! I adored the Cesur ve Guzel series, and being at the very place where Cesur and Suhan spent so much time felt like a dream. I half expected to see Cesur's blue pick-up truck parked on the drive—but my fantasy evaporated when we met an imposing fence topped with razor wire instead. Obviously we weren't the first curious Kivanc groupies to scope the place out.
Moments later our hearts quickened when we spied a pair of red shoes just outside the guesthouse door—someone was there. Would we get lucky enough to see inside Cesur's farmhouse too? Nathalie called out, “Kimse yokmu? Is anyone there?” After repeated calls, a young man finally appeared. But despite Nathalie's best efforts at “Turkish-ese” and even a plea by our Abi, the caretaker refused to let us inside the gate. Darn!
It was disappointing not to see the house up close and take in the view from that fabulous back terrace, but it was still incredible to be right there. Last summer when I sat transfixed watching Cesur and Suhan on my laptop screen, I couldn't have imagined that less than a year later I would be standing on the very ground where they filmed so many scenes.
It was now after 3:00 pm, and our bladders and bellies were calling. We headed to a hilltop restaurant we'd passed earlier whose outdoor tables and inviting checkered cloths fit our merry mood. But after a look around, we changed our minds as it was really too cool to sit outside.
Crossing our legs a little tighter, we set out again. At the next nearest restaurant, we piled out, but piled right back in when the owner told us they didn't have a public restroom.... This time Abi took charge. He stopped at a restaurant and pointed to the mosque next door. He knew it had what we needed.
We clamored in only to find the toilette didn't have toilets—only squatty pottys. But we weren't complaining. As I poised in the necessary position, I suddenly burst out laughing. Slap-happy by the day's fantastically crazy adventure, squatting over a porcelain-lined hole in the floor somehow seemed fitting.
Once I composed myself and 'flushed' the potty via the stall's water spigot and provided pail, I emerged only to see Nathalie emerge from her stall half dressed and wrestling with her clothes. We all collapsed into fits of laughter as we comprehended her predicament—the poor girl was wearing a jumpsuit!
Now “relieved,” we perused the poster-sized pictures of sumptuous food pasted on the small restaurant's front window. But each time we pointed at one, the owner shook his head. He didn't seem to have anything on his menu. We just laughed and let him know that we'd take whatever he could fix. We settled our party of seven into a booth of this modest (and unheated and dark) restaurant. It wasn't too surprising that we were his only customers as it was a rural area and too late for lunch and early for dinner.
Within minutes he brought us a basket of bread, then lit the stove and started cooking. Half an hour later with our Abi acting as our waiter, one plate arrived—four little kofte patties with rice, tomato slices, and peppers. About the time we had each taken a bite, another plate arrived, and then another, until we had each eaten off of seven plates in turn. Not the most conventional of meals, but it was all a grand adventure and we were having a fabulous time.
Although late in the afternoon, we weren't too far from another iconic Kivanc film location—Behlul's stone cottage. Were we too tired? Heck no! We'd just consumed a seven course meal accompanied by the obligatory Turkish (caffeinated) tea, so we set off again.
Some thirty minutes later we arrived in Riva, a sparsely populated community with roads that snake among seaside cliffs dotted with vacation homes awaiting summer's visitors.
Confident we were in the cottage's vicinity, we kept our eyes glued to the coastline a few hundred feet below. Then we rounded a bend, and a shout went up, “There it is!”
With squeals of glee, all eyes shifted to a structure on the beach outcropping below, but a moment later our enthusiasm dissolved.
“That's not it. It's a stone cottage. That dilapidated place doesn't look anything like it.”
“Yes! It is it! See that tiny island it's facing? That house has the exact vantage and proximity to the island they showed over and over in the show. That has to be it. Maybe they built a stone facade around it or something.”
“Could there be another house down there that we just can't see?”
We piled out to scout a little closer. In the setting sun and coastal nippy air we found what we thought was the hotel mentioned in the show, but the house itself just didn't look right. After more discussion and studying our notes, we set off again.
Abi asked the locals for directions—twice. They seemed to know exactly what we were looking for, but after winding down a myriad of promising (but unmarked) dirt roads in the fading daylight, we were ready to call it a day. Oh, but Abi was at the wheel and refused to give up. Well, ok, then! With renewed optimism we gripped our armrests as we bumped down yet another rough road hoping we wouldn’t a puncture a tire. But then we emerged onto an overlook, and there was the picturesque stone house a few hundred feet below. Abi had found it!
Squealing like a bunch of giddy schoolgirls, we sprang from the van. There was no doubt this was 'the house.' As we stood looking at the cottage nestled in the valley below, we deduced the show's director used a little camera trickery. 'The house' was filmed here, but the views looking out to the water were filmed at the other location.
Like Cesur's house, the entire site was surrounded by a barbed wire fence—all the way up the cliff to where we were. With a chilly breeze whipping at our coats, we joked about circumventing it, and burst out laughing when we realized the black dots in the grass below were bulls! The risk of being impaled wasn't worth a closer look—even if it was on behalf of our dear Kivanc.
With hearts full, we returned to the hotel in the last ray's of daylight, and topped off the day with coffee at an authentic Turkish restaurant. As we reclined in the pillow-cushioned booth, we chatted and laughed, reliving our incredibly satisfying day. Not only had we explored the streets where Kuzey walked, stood outside Cesur's iconic farm house, and tracked down Behlul's stone cottage, but we strengthened our ties to Kivanc, Istanbul, and each other. It was an unforgettable experience, and this was only day one! What would the rest of the week hold for us? Stay tuned to find out! But first, have a look at a gallery of photos of our day here!
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-Don't miss the next post about day 2 of my trip! Subscribe to my Turkish Drama blog in the red box on the sidebar now. [Update: Istanbul Day 2: An Experience in Church, Water...and Wine has been published here. Day 3 "Kivancing" is here.]
-There are some pretty cool articles on this blog--my account meeting Kivanc, what Nermin Bezmen had to say about Kivanc on the set of Kurt Seyit ve Sura, episode guides for Cesur ve Guzel and Kuzey Guney, and a lot more. Search articles by topic on the sidebar and stay awhile!