Thursday, 2 August 2007

Begün hava čok soğuk

Went to see a Turkish movie called 'Riza' at the International Film Festival at the weekend. A bit of a lugubrious number to say the least, but rather good in any case. It also got me thinking again about the six months I spent there in 1992, especially the views around Sultanamet and across the Bosphorus toward Taksim Square. Got me thinking about whether that great red light district is still nearby Taksim Square, not that I ever took my love to town, primarily because my credit card was still dry and the wares the ladies were offering looked decidedly low grade or a couple decades passed their used-by date. I got to know Sultanamet reasonably well during the first 10 days of my Ottoman sojourn because that's where I holed up following my financially ruinous four-day train ride through Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria from Tubingen in Swabia. Originally, I had purchased a DB ticket to Istanbul via the Skopje Express. I naturally asked whether the train still ran to Macedonia through Croatia given that the Serbs and Croats were engaged in genocidal warfare, but was assured by the Swabian trainmeisters that there was nothing to worry about. Following my arrival in Munich I suspiciously wasn't able to find my connection to Skopje. Upon further enquiry in the information office I was incredulously asked whether I knew the Serbs and Croats were engaged in genocidal warfare. If I filled out these forms in triplicate and waited two months I might be able to get 75% of the cost of my ticket back. Thanks Deutsche bahnhof. That's when I made the fatal decision to purchase the fateful additional train fare via Hungary.

Once I finally arrived in Istanbal I quickly escaped the company of the deadbeats that I'd latched onto during the journey in order to scavenge some food from their tables. I immediately made a bee-line for the language school in Kadikoy that had so eagerly accepted my
£300 in exchange for a four-week TEFL course of very dodgey repute. They told me I'd have to wait 10 days before accommodation became available, so I hustled on back to Sultanamet and booked myself into the cheapest hostel I could find in the shadow of the Blue Mosque. This hostel was run by a group of likely young lads whose main purpose in pursuing this line of work was clearly to try to get jiggy-jiggy with as many Western women as possible. And despite their very amateurish attempts and glaringly obvious modus operandi, they often succeeded, especially with the shrill Aussie sheilas. Apparently this was because they'd never heard a bloke saying they loved them so much. Hmmm. A sophisticated tactic.

Because of my lack of cash in those days I wasn't able to do a helluva lot. One of the ways of whiling away the time was to lurk about on the waterfront where the ferries took on passengers for the 20 minute trip to the Asian side of the Bosphorus. That was where you could watch the fishermen come in with their catch for the day and buy some freshly grilled fish, roasted pistachios or sheep's intestine. They were also building the tramline from the railway station up through Sultanamet at the time, so gazing at the workers humping around large blocks of concrete while assuming the eastern crouch also killed several hours of each day. And of course I also managed to pick up some very important phrases, such as the title to this post: "Today is very hot"; it's a lot more practical than 'seni seviyorum', which means 'I love you' or 'siktakit' (that's a transliteration only), which I used only once, to my cost: 'Fuck off!'

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