A night in Istanbul

I arrived in Istanbul in December and I landed in Europe. At the airport I got the first surprise.

I went to the toilette and I was expecting the typical “Turkish toilette” as we called it home, but the toilette was just “normal”. Easily I took the metro and tram to go downtown to Sultanhamet where my Old City Hostel was located.

I had a second surprise when I found out that in Turkey you are not allow to smoke in bars and restaurant like a growing number of European countries which are following the no smoking religion. I asked myself whether I was in the right country... In our popular imaginary we believe that Turks smoke a lots, instead here it seems there is a crusade against the evil smokers.

I was lost, my mind lost all the stereotypes that I used to orient myself in this spherical world. I got it, I’m not prepared to this yet.
After the first night spent trying to beat Mr Backgammon in the hostel, drinking “Vole” beer, and bothering travellers from Spain, England, Wales, Netherlands, France and Australia, I had a proper introduction to Istanbul by a special guide, my friend Isik (please note that the i’s in Isik are without dots in Turkish...).
She picked me up at the hostel and we wonder around visiting monuments and catching up. In the evening they put me to the test. We met the rest of the group in Taksim and we went for dinner.

Taksim is the part of Istanbul where shops eat customers during the day, and at night the survivors meet to create the resistance against the shopping and to better plan the actions they all meet in the countless bars, restaurants and, I still to understand why, in fruits and fish shops... Hordes of young people of Istanbul, meet here at night to drink Raki, beer, wine, anything that makes people friendly and to get fat eating delicious food. Hours after hours the happy people do not grow tired and the party goes on till early morning.

Isik and Gokan expected me to show weakness points under the heavy hits of the Raki, but they underestimated my ability to drink without falling that I had developed in several “hospoda” in Prague and bars in Brussels where the beer taste as good as it is strong. At first I was shy in front of the magic rite that transform holy clear mineral water “no bubble” in a foggy drink once you pour Raki in it. A chemical reaction, that I thought was a gift of ancient Anatolian population that didn’t know what to do during the cold winter.

An happy musical band jumped from table to table singing popular songs moving slowly, but inexorably closer and closer. The catching rhythm flew to our table despite the loud singers that each table showed off. It seemed you cannot go to the restaurant if at least one person in the group hasn’t the voice of Pavarotti. The Raki was taking posses of my Italian roots and mixing them with the Mediterranean souls that makes the people living at the shore of the “sea between the land” one unique spirit. We tried to erase the this row material for the last one thousand year, but luckily the Mediterranean spirit is stronger and doesn’t let the TV, the Media and the governments corrupting it.

While the dangerous magicians were approaching our table with their hellish instruments hypnotizing customers that were obliged to make fun of themselves singing pretending that there was other hundreds pair of eyes who witnessed their shame, I was able to follow the lyrics and to participate to the fun. More or less my contribution was:
“oh, oh, oh” or “ah, ah, ah”, and if I was really paying attention and use all my Turkish vocabulary learnt in a couple of hours I could continue with “uh, uh, uh”.

Without noticing it, a slime guitar was shouting is FA# in my left ear. I thought I was prepared for it and be able to handle the situation and by hoping to wave them I said “I’m Italian”, meaning “I do not understand anything of what you are saying, please go on to the next table. Thanks”. Never before I was more wrong. The Godfather’s theme started. I looked around in the amusement of my friends. “Did I do that?” Gokan saved my reputation and from this embarrassing moment by filling in the malicious clarinet tube with few Turkish Lira. The clarinet swallowed it and decided that he liked that and moved on.

A night in Istanbul couldn’t have finished without a Turkish coffee. Right before the sun would show up for his daily duty I was in bed hoping that Marlon Brando wouldn’t show up and force me to play the whole soundtrack of the Godfather.