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More contrast between expectation and reality.

TURKEY | Thursday, 12 February 2015 | Views [796] | Comments [1]

The internet lied to me. I never thought that possible.

The internet lied to me. I never thought that possible.

I must have looked like a Google street view car for the two days I spent walking up and down all the little alleyways that lead off Istiklal Street. Everything I saw seemed photo worthy. And not just click, click, click now-delete, delete, delete later. I could frame these images and sell them like hot cakes. Or I could just bake hot cakes. And shove them down my pants because I don't understand why anyone would chose to live in a place that gets this cold?

Alleys running one direction provide shelter from wind, all precipitation except for light drizzle, and Smaug. Alleys running other directions are wind tunnels you could use to smash atoms together or train astronauts in high velocity situations. Had I not brought a jacket that denuded at least 100 ducklings with me, I wouldn't go out without wearing every article of clothing I own. And a doona.

I wondered why all the shisha pipes had this large, saucepan like vessel on top of them. I thought they merely housed industrial sized serves to sate people who have lived and breathed the stuff for generations. Turns out it is more to stop your coals burning holes in the neighbours table cloth. No wonder nearly everyone smokes here though. It's probably more life-saving giving bodily warmth than it is lung destroying.

When the cold became too much for me, I sought refuge in some fine dining establishments. The vegetarian restaurants sold fare so delicious it made a mockery of anyones claim that the Turkish don't do vegetarian well. They may prefer not to do it, but even the non-vegetarian places had choices for me that my wallet and waistline couldn't exhaust. So far it has been a bit of a white bread extravaganza thanks to the bowl full that comes out as frequently and as cheaply as table water back home. It's such a delicious digestive cement though really.

A vegetarian feast in the shadow of the Little Haghia Sophia

Even though it has been eating out that has brought me into closest contact with the locals, Turkish people on the whole seem extremely friendly. Most seem to know English well enough to excuse my piss poor attempts at using any Turkish. We Aussies have made it easy for travelers when hi, bye, ta and soz are the only syllables you need. Thank you in Turkish is teşekkür ederim. A cat could meow that with as much legibility as I can utter it.

On that topic, there is so many beautiful pussies in Istanbul, it is crazy. Big hairy ones that even though I am tempted, I haven't built up the courage to pat one yet. What? They are huge and the closest I have gotten is one swiping at my feet as I ate lunch one day. Unlike Indonesia, at least there are dogs here as well, although I don't recognise the breeds, or mix of, in the ones I have come across. Some of them look like they have Black Bear in their geneology.

A Black Bear somehow mated with an Alsatian.

On another tangent, Turkish women are absolutely stunning. Istiklal might be the place to be seen, if being seen is important to you, but a couple of wines at night lulled me back onto Tinder to determiine if the average Turkish woman is above average. If I swiped to the right as much back in Broome, I probably would never have left in the first place. I'm just window shopping for now, but it certainly proved my point that the majority of them could model as the latter in before and after ads.

Not one right swiped to me. Ladies be making sound decisions.

Not one right swiped to me. Ladies be making sound decisions.

My hostel room was right in the heart of the action, but didn't offer more than a bed and enough space to gently turn a cat around a little more than 180 degrees. It had served its purpose of compensating for Gow's Abu Dhabi apartment, but with my Turkey boner subsiding somewhat, it was time to move to the luxury apartment. Don't cringe, that was a vegetarian joke......and don't worry, I don't really know what I meant by that either.

Once my dreams for the next week in Istanbul, fuelled by the images used by the internet to sell me the place, met the reality of what the apartment actually is, I got Fosters flop without touching a drop of alcohol. Yes, it is extremely luxurious compared to a room with more bed bugs than floor space. But when 'sea views' should actually be written as 'surrounded by half demolished crap shacks' the charm is somewhat lessened. I could actually swing a cat in here, but it's best left to use the 'terrace' considering no person could fit out there.

The terrace was the only reason I had booked the room. I had visions of sipping wine on a terracotta balcony, the sun setting behind the Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia, while I write poetry inspired by the many calls to prayer and dreamy Arabian nights. Instead, I'm staring out the window of my first floor room watching the rain fall gently on a broken down Mercedes with the spire of the smaller Haghia Sophia just visible above a tree line. And admittedly, a quick review of the season I was visiting in would have told me that sunsets were probably out of the equation, as was the desire to even sit outside.

The call to prayer starts up as I write and it's so close that I feel like it's coming from the kitchen. Then another one starts up from what I think is across the road, but that's a budget hostel. It's beautiful, and timeless, and hangs heavy with a heady aroma of the exotic, and the mysterious. This was ground zero for the Ottoman Empire for a millenia and the time since has not diminshed the implorations impact, only added a certain nostalgia to it.

Coming from truly epic structures, it is not surprising that the mellifluous voices resonate with such harmony that I imagine the Prophet had a voice like Jeff Buckley. Even though it is a tiny minority that uses Islam as a justification for acts of violence, I find it irreconcilable that they can be motivated for anything other than awe and surrender to the divine upon hearing such sounds come from their place of worship. Then again, when the call to prayer, or ezan as it is known in Turkey, starts up at 6am, I'd do some crazy shit and blame it on religious zeal as well.

Not to speak ill of the tiny mosques near Claires house in Jakarta, but when their call to prayer issued forth, I pictured a pimple faced kid getting severe feedback from the microphone at his first poetry slam in some dingy Jazz club. Here, I envisage the Three Tenors trying to outdo each other using that sort of sound system that would put a U2 concert to shame.  

Such an audial treat reminds me that I am thankful to be right in the heart of it. It is just a little unfortunate that everything worth looking at from my room is in the opposite direction to the way the windows face. Helping myself to whatever isn't nailed down in the apartment will go along way to compensating me for my disappointment. Given that the purpose of this trip will not be fulfilled, adapting to that has helped me to accept I'm paying for the Waldorff yet staying at a Big Western.

I should have been a builder.

The time in Taksim was good to let go of the fact that too much misfortune is befalling friends for them to go through with the plans to see me. A change of plan was needed and it's now more normal tourist type stuff. Travel here, eat this, photograph that, buy a stupid hat, get pissed, blow your cash and live life to the fullest. If my Europe friends can get involved in that, I pity their purses. If not, well, at least I have gone somewhere other than Asia for once.

Tags: cold, food, istanbul, scam, turkey, wind, women



You write so well…….
I had a similar experience when I arrived in Casablanca. Traveling alone I felt completely out of my depth!! But I kept my mind open and ended up loving everything about Morocco. It is excellent that you've travelled further afield than Asia. I can utterly recommend some time in Moroc while you're in that part of the world. The country is so vast and the people are very interesting.

  sharon moore Feb 12, 2015 5:41 AM

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