The people in my neighbourhood, Istanbul Edition

Friday, December 4, 2009

(Alternate title: It’s Canada Day, up in Istanbul way!). Rob, you’re gonna love this one. People, people, people!

After I got back from Sulçik on the overnight bus I was, understandably, I think, a bit out of sorts. I arrived at the hostel too early to check into my room, so I was effectively homeless for the day. To kill time I decided to do a bit of shopping to replace at least one of the shirts that was trashed by the Washing Machine of Doom in Athens. (Did I ever tell you about the Washing Machine of Doom? Perhaps not. When I did laundry the day after the marathon everything came out of the wash looking like it had been soaking in hot water with a very large, new black towel. My short-sleeved shirt – already getting uncomfortably tight across the middle – now also looks like it’s been dipped in a big vat of sad. Time for a change.) I walked all the way across the Galata Bridge to the Outdoor and Travel Supplies District, but all the shops were closed for the Bayram holiday, so I was really flummoxed. It was one of those moments when I need a plan but lacked any motivation to conceive one.

Dejected, I walked back across the bridge and decided to have a wander along the lower level, a strip that’s lined with restaurants. Like all restaurants in Istanbul, each establishment on the bridge employs a sort of tout whose sole purpose is to engage with every person who walks by to try and get them at a table. As I was walking by one of these places, I passed a couple of guys being worked over. One of the opening gambits the restaurant touts always use is “Where are you from?”, and when I heard the reply “Canada” I turned around… and that’s how I met Murray and Tim! They were a couple of guys in Turkey for work, and were having a day off in Istanbul. We chatted for a bit and I ended up walking with them for a ways. (It even turned out that Murray was a hasher!) We were having a nice time talking, so they invited me to have lunch with them, and we sat and had a mountain of fish and a few beers, and a lot of nice conversation.

They didn’t have much of a plan for the day, other than a desire to hit the Grand Bazaar. I had a guidebook and a map and knew the way, so after lunch we struck off through the madness. It was fun just pushing through the streets with them and talking and seeing the city. So much so that when we arrived at one of the gates to the Bazaar to find it locked up tight for Bayram it was just a minor wrinkle in the total-lack-of-plan.

Eventually we stopped for coffee in a little side street and sat and talked some more. I think all three of us were just happy to have some friendly conversation, and someone new to talk to. For my part, I was surprised at how nice it was to speak Canadian with complete abandon. I don’t think of myself as having much of an accent, but when I got going with Murray and Tim, well jeez, eh, I was just givin' 'er! I had no idea how much my ear craved hearing those sounds, or how much my tongue itched to form them. And both of them were surprisingly well-traveled. One minute we’d be talking about Tim Horton’s and then one of them would come out with something like, “Well, in Nigeria…” or “This is a lot like Abu Dabi….” or something equally improbable. We traded email addresses – they insisted I take theirs in case they and their extensive international connections might be able to help if I got into trouble somewhere. I gave them the blog address, so I hope they drop in and check it out. (Hi guys, thanks again for lunch!)

Murray, me and Tim, with our Turkish coffee. Tragically, the cafe where we stopped did not have double-doubles or sour cream glazed donuts.

It really was a nice afternoon – Murray and Tim completely rescued my day, and I bounced back to the hostel feeling cheery and content. I would have been happy to just cozy up in the hostel after such a great afternoon, but the day’s riches did not end there.

It had been too long since I’d hashed (Lisbon! God, that was a hundred years ago!). Luckily, the Istanbul hashers are a friendly and active bunch, and it was easy to get in touch with them. Not only was I able to run with them, they also organized a beer night during my first sojourn in Istanbul, and there was a second beer night on the Saturday I arrived back from Selçuk, following my great afternoon with Murray and Tim. After that particular beer night, perhaps unwisely, I joined a few of the hardier souls and plunged into the Beyoğlu bar-scene. Of course anyone who knows me knows that’s totally my thing – sweaty, packed clubs, ear-splitting music, dancing… just try and stop me. (Errr… not. In my defense, let me just say the company was good and the music was fun, especially the medley of songs from “Grease”… ) Somehow it ended up being 3am and I was getting a cab back to Sultanhament.

There should be a photo here but Sibel has not sent it to me yet, so you just get to use your imagination, which is probably more fun anyways.

The hash the next day took place quite a ways from the tourist track, in a wooded area in Bahçeköy.

Getting ready for the run, and yes, that’s an aqueduct in the background

It was a short trail but pleasingly muddy, and since it was the first time I’d run since leaving Greece it was probably as long as I needed. Circle was appropriately raucous, and included the theft of a running shoe by a wild dog which necessitated a brief interruption to the proceedings and a merry chase around the area.

After circle we all decamped to a kebab restaurant where the Turkish locals put up with us (though we had to drink our beers outside…)

At the restaurant

And then there was another trip into the bar district and a few more beers consumed, though this time I wisely did not stay out until three in the morning. Thank God they did not play “Grease”, that’s all I have to say.


Laura C said...

Your posts just keep bringing a smile to my face. What an adventure! Keep happy travelling,
(and the girls are still telling people "my friend Pam?...she's travelling?...all around the whole world!)

Unknown said...

All 3 pics had people in them!
Very good.

Glad to hear your plague is on the mend.

Can't wait to hear about the Holy Land.

Cheers, Rob H.

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