Getting to Know the Heart of Istanbul
Fare Issue 1: Istanbul is a collection of stories, vignettes, and beautiful imagery, bringing you on a well-rounded, inspiring, and insightful journey into the heart of the city like no other guide or magazine can. We chatted with Ben Mervis, founder of FARE Magazine, about Istanbul and why he chose the fascinating metropolis to be the focus of the magazine's first issue.
Please tell our readers about your background and upbringing. Where did you grow up? Has traveling and storytelling always been a big part of your life? I grew up in Philadelphia in the American northeast. I went to university in Scotland and it was only then that I started to break outside my comfort zone and start traveling around my environs, and then further abroad.
Once I’d gotten a taste for living and traveling abroad I was hooked! I don’t think traveling was so much of an aspiration for me growing up, but I do recall being so fascinated and impressed by one set of grandparents who had been around the world and would always send us postcards.
Where did the idea of Fare Magazine come from and why was Istanbul the first featured city?
Fare is the convergence of my personal and professional interests: food, history, and travel. When I was ready to launch issue 1 Istanbul was the obvious choice because it was my favourite city; so surprising, with this tangible bittersweet nostalgia, the grandeur of its imperial past, and of course the depth of the country’s culinary tradition all on display.
Tell us about the FareMag team and the magazine’s biggest goal for the next 5 years. I operate everything from the back-end. It’s fun to have a hand in everything, and to learn on the job. As a small magazine the biggest goal would be to still be here in 5 years! At the moment it’s one issue at a time.
You covered so much ground, you can feel the heart behind the stories and photos ! Is there a specific person and/or a certain place that you didn’t get to feature, but wanted to? Yes! In fact, it was one of my favourite restaurants too. Musa Dağdeviren of Çiya Sofrasi. He’s a standout figure for me in the Turkish scene but for some reason we didn’t end up doing a piece with him. I definitely regret that.
What do you love the most about Istanbul and why? It transports you to a different time, to a different mood… the intermingling and contrast of cultures is particularly fascinating. And, as I said before, the imperial and nostalgic aspects of the heart of the city as well.
Did the socio-political situation cause any issues for you while you were creating your first issue? Actually it didn’t. I was a little worried that it might but we were totally fine. The worst that happened was that we had a journalist drop out because she was moving away from Istanbul after some of the bombings, but besides that everything went well. Things definitely seem to have calmed down a bit. It was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the months I was traveling there, but since then it has stayed out, and the climate seems to have settled somewhat.
What has been the biggest challenge the FairMag team encountered? Do you plan to focus on more Middle East and North African cities in the near future? Probably just learning to make a magazine, as boring as that sounds. Extremely rewarding and challenging, as you have to learn everything on the fly. I’d love to get to Tehran or Beirut one day. Those might be the top of my Middle East list. It’s the food, culture, and history that draw me in—for sure. I’ve not been to either of those places yet though, so I can’t get any more specific yet!
Do you have anything you would like to add- a final comment, quote, or hope? If readers are interested in exploring Istanbul in a more analogue sense (rather than the digital options of Top 10 lists or tourist guides) then I’d really encourage them to give our little magazine a shot!
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