Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas ın Turkey

Father Chrıstmases ın Bursa, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We celebrated Christmas in Turkey but although there were plenty of Turks, there was not a single turkey to be seen. A Thai restaurant advertised a special Christmas menu but the only special thing about it was the price. Lots of fish, so no good for Fred and there were plenty of other places to eat… even though we did end up in a fish restaurant being served by a young chap who insisted he came from Kingston, Jamaica even though his colleague told us he was from Diyarbakir.

Before that we had entered into the Christmas spirit by having a few drinks with a couple of friends down one of the back alleys off the Istikal Caddesi. We came to this street one afternoon in 1991 and all we saw were shops, and shopping not really being our thing we had avoided the area mostly. However, last year when meeting up with another friend in the area, we discovered a few side streets with cosy little cafes, seating outside ion cushions, fairy lights and so on. We came back here the first evening we arrived and were a little shocked to be charges € 7 for each beer we drunk, so it wasn’t going to be the top of places to go.

However, on Christmas Eve, we decided to go to a gay bar which was advertised in the local Time Out magazine as being the sort of place two overweight middle aged gay men might want to go and sure enough it was! However, the point of this is that we finally, after 16 years of coming to Istanbul, found the beating throb of the famous Istanbul night life. All sorts of clubs and bars and cafes and restaurants and so on, down a whole warren of little streets. And the best thing about the place we found yesterday was that the beers were only € 2.40 each (for the same 50 cl size).

The gay bar has a Turkish name, but its English translation is One Way and when we were approached by three charming young men on entering we thought it might be one way to the brothel…. But no such thing… they were just the friendly bar staff and for the first half an hour there were more staff than punters, but later on, as we were getting to the tired stage it started getting busier. We are told that on Fridays and Saturdays it is so busy there is hardly anywhere to move. Whether this is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen…

Anyway, back to Christmas morning, a normal work day for the locals, even the local Christians as they keep to the original date of Christmas, being 6th January, the date the Western Church celebrates Epifany (Bafana). Due to our late night the night before, we were up a little late and with the hotel catering almost exclusively to western clientele, it would have been nice to have been greeted by a Merry Christmas by the staff or in the hotel newspaper, but we were not. So we had our normal bowl of Turkish yoghurt, mixed with fruit, to which we add honey from a honeycomb, hazelnuts, walnuts, muesli, figs in syrup and slices of quince, for a wonderfully healthy start to the day.

After two days on the western side of the Golden Horn, we thought we would take to the water and cross to the Asian side, taking a ferry to Kadikoy, where there was supposed to be a big market. We didn’t find it and we were not so impressed so we quickly caught a bus up to Uskudar, which was a lot more to our taste. Some impressive mosques, a quaint market, busy piazzas and wonderful views back to Taksim area. We pottered around here, having lunch, taking photos and visiting the mosques, before taking another ferry back to the European side… where we ended up along Istikal Caddesi meeting our friends in a posh coffee and ice cream salon opposite the Lyceum, which seems to serve as a general meeting point for people.

Not exactly the best day we had had sightseeing-wise, but it ended up OK amongst the backstreets off Istikal and we could say we enjoyed our Christmas Day. Just a little sting in the tail, in that when we arrived back at the hotel they told us that the ferry to Bursa would leave at 7.30 in the morning, which meant we would have to have an early start. A good thing we were already back at the hotel before 11.

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