Istanbul + Raki vs. Tash Round 1.


So while I have basically had a quiet, detoxing month as such; I still managed to sneak in two very large nights somehow.  The first Saturday night I was here, I got set up on a play-date – you know the one, where a friend gets in touch, says that she has a friend that is going to be in Istanbul and you should totally meet up. Being as though you don’t have any other friends, this sounds like a great idea. It’s weird though, even though it is another girl, you still get kind of nervous, and it’s almost like a real date:
“what if they don’t like me, what should I wear, what will we talk about…”

Anyway so I head into Taksim to meet up with my new friend, but thankfully Emre is coming with me (the Turkish guy in the office that can speak English and is good fun) because there is no way I would have found it. Walking down İstiklâl Caddesi, is crazy – 

Wikipedia describes it as:
“One of the most famous avenues in Istanbul, visited by nearly 3 million people in a single day over the course of a weekend. Located in the historic Beyoğlu (Pera) district, it is an elegant pedestrian street, approximately three kilometres long, which houses exquisite boutiques, music stores, book stores, art galleries, cinemas, theatres, libraries, cafes, pubs, night clubs…”

This is all very correct, but seems to miss the point. This street is like no other in the world, there really does seem to be millions of people just walking down it and where are one million people all going at 9pm at night?? Who knows. This looks like a massive festival just finished and everyone is leaving at the same time – except this happens every weekend! There seems to be no etiquette to the momentum of human flow either, common sense would dictate that each side should flow in a certain direction. But no, this is a ridiculous idea, let’s just all try get to where we’re going in no particular order. I try following Emre by weaving in and out, trying not to step on children along the way or get distracted by bright shiny things. As we make our way to Nevizade street where we are heading to a Meyhane for some traditional music and drinks; I cannot help but think this is one place where you would never want to be on acid… it is an assault on the senses sober, you would absolutely drop balls if you were high down here!

Anyway, we find the Meyhane (again there is no way I would have found this by myself, that’s why you stick with a local), and manage to locate my new friend after awkwardly staring around at all possible tables – having not really studied what she looked like on facebook. We join them and all of a sudden we have the makings of one of those great ‘non-racial’ jokes – so there was an English, Irish (my new friend), American, Turkish (Emre) and New Zealander (me)sitting around a table…” Love it.

Me and Emre just order a bottle of Raki, some cheese and some sort of dip that is similar to tzatziki  to go with it as we have already had dinner. But Emre tells me this is how you drink raki, you have a decent sip of it, then a nibble of the cheese and some dip; he says if “raki were a prostitute, this dip would be its pimp” as it keeps you coming back for more.


I wasn't sure on his analogy OR convinced on the combination of flavours, but... trust me, if you have to do Raki, this is definitely the way to do it! Anyway the raki starts flowing – along with political talk… never sit a Turkish guy next to an American guy and add raki to the equation… but all harmless banter.

A small word on raki here: it is like a silent, stealthy ninja. Sitting in the background quietly, just biding its time…

We leave the Meyhane, having finished the raki, heard some traditional Turkish music and had a belly-dancers breasts in our face (she wasn’t much of a belly dancer, just walked around the room shoving her breasts in the guys’ faces until they gave her money) – typical night in Turkey. We carry on to a bar where there is more live music, except this time it is a Turkish guy on a guitar, the same acoustic melodies you would find in any bar – except he was singing in Turkish.

A beer – which by the way does not go down easily, I have always struggled going from spirits back to beer, and what is the old adage “beer and wine, you’ll feel fine. Wine to beer and you’ll feel queer” – something along those lines anyway. And this adage rings very true in the morning.. but we are not quite there yet.

So having downed the beer, the ninja senses it time to strike, and BOOM Tash is up, and “Tonight Mathew I would like to be… Amy Winehouse” (stars in your eyes reference for those that don’t get it...)

That’s right, somehow drunken Tash ends up singing the lead vocals for 'I'm no good' by Amy Winehouse with a Turkish guitarist, in the heart of Istanbul. If you can't laugh at yourself, what can you laugh at?.. I am pretty sure I nailed it, and in my mind the crowd went wild, though I would not be signing up in a hurry to see the playback footage.

From here it is off to a club, and all my memories of it fade in and out - you know like what it would look like if you were slowly blinking while walking...or one of those old black and white movies, where the images freeze with the characters in the background and then the next image is the characters up close – what happened in between, we’ll never know.

To explain it in words in went something like: Club (blink). Bar (blink). Upstairs (blink). Downstairs (blink). Bar (blink). Upstairs (blink). Outside (blink). Hotel (blink). Bed (blink).

I wake up at 12pm the next day with a mouth like the Sahara, and a head like mighty Zeus himself had recklessly launched a few lightning bolts through it.

Okay Istanbul + Raki, you win this round...

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