83% of adults in Turkey are tee-total. This isn’t coz it’s illegal, it’s a choice. How the fuck to they get through the weekend? How do they meet potential life partners? How do men work up the courage to dance?
Now, I really do understand that not every culture think it is grown-up or clever to drink an expensive mild poison that dulls your judgement, makes many violent, some arseholes, some incredibly funny and wonderful dancers but will also rot your insides and increase the chances of an early death. I understand the point of view as a logical one, but you really can stuff it up your arse.
When walking along a sea front in the sunshine, I want to stop for a beer. I don’t want a frighten mocktail, or fruit juice, or to smoke some sweet smelling tobacco surrounded by miserable looking blokes with beards. It’s for this reason I could probably never fall in love with Istanbul. It’s just too friggin hard to get a beer.
Other than that, it’s rather nice…
We did heaps of tourist stuff; took the hop-on, hop-off bus, took ferries on the Bosporus, visited the Topkapi Palace Museum (excellent), the Hagia Sophia Museum (ok but chaotic), and the cisterns (ok), went into Asia (no friggin beer), went to the Grand Bazar (reasonably pleasant and interesting, but no friggin beer) and watched the religious whirling dervishes ceremony. This last one, in my humble opinion, is crap.
The history behind it that the founder of the Sufi movement decided that dancing in a circle got you close to God, so an overly elaborate ritual was devised. There are about 5 parts to the ritual. To my eyes, 4 were identical and involved 4 men spinning on the spot (ish) whilst slowly circling a man spinning on the spot (proper), in the middle. The last had all 5 men on the outside and no one on the inside. The choreographer was obviously a bluffer. The music is whining crap.
You can’t take photos and if you were inclined, can’t clap ‘coz it’s a very special religious ritual’. Bollocks more like.
We really did only touch the surface of the city but found modern bits, old bits, good food (the Privato restaurant is particularly good for breakfast), lovely views, a sense of energy and we know there is lots and lots more to see. Despite the lack of copious bars, I would be happy to return and explore more.
We were there just before the re-run of the election for the Istanbul government that was being held as Erdogan didn’t like the outcome of the last one (his party lost), so it was a very, very political city. Mostly it was Erdogan’s man that was evident, and there was thousands and thousands of posters/billboards with Binali Yildirim’s face on. I think there was probably 50 of the Justice and Development Party for every one of another party (justice and development for those that aren’t gay, those who do as they are told, etc). There was also lots of very noisey JDP supporters in squares, at ferry ports etc. As an outsider, it looked like not very subtle brainwashing. The very visible heavily armed police presence added to this a bit (riot trucks, armed personnel carriers with remote weapon stations on top, Tourist Police with more weaponry than the SAS etc). Anyway, it was great to see that it didn’t work, and despite all this effort, the opposition won again.
If all goes well, when we next return it will be to a country a little more tolerant than it is now.