Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More Istanbul

Where were we before that brief hiatus? Ah, yes Istanbul, about two months ago.

Istanbul in Feburary is like Manchester in February. Grey up, grey down. It's just as wet, but has more mosques, and fewer children dressed like security guards.

It's easily done. You arrive in a new city, one that is throbbing with eating potential, all confident and well travelled, ready to take on the best that Istanbul has to offer.

Then you end up in a tourist trap. Twice.

Our first foray into the aforementioned TT occurred in the Cicek Pasaji just off the Istiklal Caddesi. At a cellar restaurant filled with a mix of tourists and young locals where we're promised multiple courses plus all we can drink for about 30 Euro. I can drink a lot, so this seems like a good deal. There is entertainment as well. Goody.

The food is unremarkable, as I should've expected. A variety of fridge-cold dips and mezze introduce an overcooked Bream, followed by a plate of pale fruit for dessert. The drink flows liberally though, which adds to my sense of well-being.

Entertainment is in the form of a drunken band. Perhaps a shambolic act, or perhaps just a general shambles, I'm not sure. They periodically interrupt their routine to argue threateningly with each other as they make their way between tables. The sweating guitarist grimaces at me and indicates his top pocket. I cotton on sharpish, fill his pocket with the green folding stuff, and mutter a gentle instruction to shut up and piss off.

A belly dancer arrives, her torso tight as a drum, her face like a rucksack full of broken bells, hips alternating between "drugged snake", "angry wasp" and "malarial cat". I blew the last of my baksheesh on the band, so she goes in search of a more generous/drunk target.

Thankfully there are some good bars in Beyoglu, playing old fashioned rock and roll.

The next evening is Valentine's night. Can there be anything more depressing than walking up the Istiklal Caddesi in the pissing rain, fighting against a tide of umbrella wielding couples (while your valentine is on a different continent)? Yes there can. You could go to the Haci Abdullah restaurant, which looks alright from the outside - all jars of preserves and air of authenticity. It's not until you're inside and seated that you discover that it does not serve alcohol.

This time the entertainment comes from an adjacent table filled with British IT contractors. We listen in to their awkward stories and tedious anecdotes about mobile phones and facebook. One man announces that it is his birthday, and his colleagues look at the ground and mutter happy birthday. The food is grimly unmemorable. I may have had meatballs. And maybe some things wrapped in vine leaves. My colleague remarks that the conversation of one the gentlemen on the adjacent table (blessed with a foghorn voice) was so stupid and inarticulate that she worried that he might have been bitten by a zombie. The Dawn of the Dumb.

Things got better in Istanbul though...

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