I met Belkis over Instagram and immediately fell in love with her photos and the atmosphere of her feed. I knew that it wouldn't be long before I ask her to be my guest on the Project: We Travel blog because I wanted to gain insight into her hometown Istanbul through her eyes and her camera lens. I haven’t been to Istanbul so far but I was sure that she would find a way to take me there. And she really did!
After reading this, you won't need anything else besides her tips for your trip to the beautiful Istanbul.
And the good news is that this is just the first of many mutual dialogues on the Project: We Travel.
Can you give us a quick introduction to who you are and what you do?
Of course! My name is Belkis and I am 33, married, a cat owner and a self-employed photographer. I was working as a Human Resources Specialist in a pharmaceutical company for 3 years and suddenly I decided to change my career and become a food photographer. I studied photography and food styling for 4 years. As a freelancer I am now shooting food photos for restaurants and concepts for magazines.
How did your career change affect your life?
My career change affected my life positively and increased the possibility to travel more often. Not only to foreign cities or countries; I also have time to explore new areas in my city. Like flea markets, art galleries, spots for street photography...
You were born in Istanbul and you lived here until you went off to college and, of course, after the college. Can you describe your relationship with the city?
Living in your hometown gives you more confidence. First of all, you live in your own land where you grew up. You can talk in your own language. This town is my comfort zone, my backyard, I know every inch of it, even if it is getting bigger and bigger. I have time to explore new places :)
Sometimes it's hard to handle the difficulties, like traffic jams or crowded shopping malls or waiting in long queues or struggling with angry people and mostly high living expenses. It's still my home, my birthplace. I will never be a stranger in this city.
Could you see yourself living somewhere else in Turkey?
Actually, I lived in Izmir when I was in college. (Izmir is the third most populous city in Turkey and it is situated in the western extremity of Anatolia) and I have to admit that it's still the most beautiful city to live in. Not just because Izmir has a warmer climate than Istanbul and the people are friendlier to the foreigner. It seems like they live with less stress and relax more, like Neapolitans, and you can feel it in the air :) Izmir is a true Mediterranean city. It is also very touristic, but not as much as Istanbul.
If there were more job opportunities in Izmir than in Istanbul, I and my husband would rather live there.
I heard that Izmir is a very modern, open and liberal city. My husband was there 10 years ago and he said that the city was very beautiful and it was not so difficult to imagine that someone would want to move there. But I am more interested to hear your perspective, what can attract someone to move to Istanbul?
The only straight answer is job opportunities, I believe.
You've mentioned that you finally have time for yourself and exploring Istanbul. Where is your happy place in your hometown?
If there is good coffee, beer or wine with good food and good music, plus lovely friends and if I have enough time to catch up, my happy place is everywhere.
Nowadays we're meeting at coffee shops like Cooklife Cafe, Müz Plant and Coffee Shop, Story Coffee, Coffetopia Coffee Shop, Petra Coffee, or bistros like Zucca Pizzeria, Batard, Karakoy Gumruk, Monochrome Brasserie or pubs like Zeplin Pub or Draft Pub.
What is the best time of the year to come and really enjoy the city?
Luckily, there are two options. Spring and fall are good times to visit. There are plenty of outdoor places for walking. Also, the best way to know Istanbul is to take a walk around the historical peninsula. Winters are snowy and rainy, sometimes there are delays or cancellations in public transport, especially for boats and ferries. Summer isn't suitable for cultural exploration. The heat and humidity are disturbing. We spent summer days in the country, walking in Belgrad Forest or Polonezkoy Forest. Going for a picnic or going swimming to Prince Islands or north of the Bosphorus.
By the way, one of the symbols of Istanbul is tulip. And the first week of April is tulip time in the city. Every year all public areas are covered in colorful tulips.
Can you describe a perfect day in the life of a local who spends most of their day outside the house? (let's say it's a weekend day)
If the local were me, I would choose to spend time at the seaside. A good way to start would be an early jog by the Bosphorus. Then I prefer to have a traditional Turkish breakfast with tea. After that, while I'm still sitting at the breakfast table, I start reading newspaper and that is the best time to have Turkish coffee.
After this breakfast or brunch, I go shopping. I hate some of the crowded shopping areas on weekends, but from time to time it can't be avoided. Not only shopping malls, but there is also a famous flea market in Bomonti that I visit twice a month on Sundays. If I spend a day outside, that means two or more hours on the road every weekend, but with good music on Spotify :) Because there is always some traffic jam or congestion in this city (keep in mind, the population is over fifteen million).
Where do you go to get some inspiration?
I always try to go to art galleries and see special exhibitions. There are plenty of places to visit. It should be a part of my job to change the way of looking at things and to understand different angles.
How would you spend your evening?
I would visit my mom or my parents-in-law with my husband. Sometimes on weekend evenings we dine out. We prefer to go to traditional Turkish restaurants or fish restaurants by the seaside.
On some special days, like birthdays, I prefer to meet friends on weekend evenings to celebrate. We go to our favorite pub and have a good draught beer.
You mentioned that you always listen to good music while commuting. Imagine that you are going on a photo walk in your own city, what music would play in your headphones?
It's always changes, depending on my mood or the weather. My favorites are on a playlist on Spotify, the name of the list is "FVRTS". You can find me under Belkis Zora Ozdamar.
These days I am listening to:
Jake Bugg-Two Fingers
Arizona-Cross My Mind
And finally, take us to places where you would take the most incredible photos of your city listening to your favorite music?
I would take some of them from a boat deck and some of them on the Galata Bridge. Naturally, all rooftops are breathtaking for photographers, especially in Taksim, Galata and Cihangir areas.
The last question is something that I would love to see for myself, but until I do, can you tell me what color goes with Istanbul's mornings?
Shades of blue, always :) Sometimes it's bright blue, sometimes turquoise. In winter it changes from blue to grey when it's rainy.
I asked about the morning color of Istanbul because I wanted to know what I can expect once we go out for coffee. She loves discovering newly opened coffee stores in the city and trying out new kinds of coffee beans and different brewing methods. Because “Coffee is my obsession”, she says, and, as many of you already know, I can certainly relate to that.
I promise you that we will soon visit some coffee spots in Istanbul with Belkis. Till then you can follow Belkis on:
To see her perfect photos of food with amazing styling click bellow:
Many thanks to this lovely girl from the city that inspires me to take my camera and go get that perfect morning photo.