A Real Turkish Delight....The East and the West and the East and the West
The Sun Setting on Istanbul
The Hajji sits and waits along the Danube as Ben and Cous hammer away an update in a cafe in Vienna. We just saw two of our dearest, Foget and Neala, hop aboard a train to a plane to a brothel to a plane to Vancouver as another set of friends rips themselves away. But you havent even heard of their arrival...and are probably in disbelief that they were ever even here. To bring things a little more up to date....
6:00PM, July 24th, 2009 - A sleak red bullet loudly stumbles into a new land, the Hajji arrives in Constantinople
Another easy border crossing (we have yet to be searched or questioned despite our appearances) and we left the EU and headed into the prospective member state of Turkey. Having been slighted by Harry Potter release dates mere days before in Greece, our first stop was the cinema...Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was finally before us. It was fantastic, but we wont say anything more incase you havnt seen it. After the movies we set out to find our Istanbul connection, who over the next ten days was a constant source of joy and pleasure for us. Daniel van Hauten, an accomplished and incredibly handsome German filmmaker was currently at stay in Istanbul with his girlfriend Isa (also an accomplished sweetheart) rendezvous'd with us just off one of the main tourist drags, Taksim. Our stay in the Bul had begun, finally, at last, we (Adam, Ben, Cous, Ren, Tannis and Daniel and Isa) were there.
To run you through the details of our time in Turkey, the longest we had stayed anywhere on the trip, would be exhausting, so here is a selection of our highlights.
-The Wonders of Istanbul: A city that has been hyped by so many, the Hajji crew was very happy to spent such a large chunk of time here. The people are so friendly and humorous, things are so cheap and plentiful, and the weather is so hot and stinky. Our time here was spent mainly cruising the streets, drinking beers in cafes, eating kebabs on the street, smoking nargila (Turkish water pipes) on a magical rooftop terrace, seeing the many mosques and sights, and eating many a many spicy rice mussels with lemon. A city so close to Europe, but so incredibly different, the Hajji crew gives Istanbul a full 1981VWs out of a possible 1981 VWs
- Street Sleeping in Istanbul: We parked the Hajji on the streets and slept around it for almost the entire time there. Waking up on the roof we would get some of the strangest looks possible, with people seemingly believing us to be from Mars. After a bag (Bens) being stolen, we moved to a much nicer location, an autopark. This was one of our most darling homestays. The park came with a large pack of guard dogs who barked at ANYONE who drove through the park but would never do anything but cuddle with the Hajji or other vehicle owners in the park. The attendants were also incredible sweet and very happy to have us living in their parking lot. They offered us tea in the morning and joints at night to boot. It also had an incredible view of the city and only cost 5€ per night
- The Burly Cellphone Bandit and a One-Eyed Angel: One night the Hajji crew split up, and Daniel and Ben set off to get the Hajji and bring it into center and move into the carpark (mentioned above). On the way to meet them, at 11pm on a Saturday night, stopped on one of the main streets in New Istanbul, the Hajji was approached by a somewhat burly man with a devious grin on his face. The Turkish people are incredibly friendly and trustworthy so we thought nothing of it. After reaching into the car to shake Daniels (passenger seat) hand, he began to mutter and seemed quite frustrated. With amazing speed and strength his hand shot into the van and Daniels lap and grabbed his cellphone. It was over before it began, and the stout man made of into the night. We were shaken to say the least, and rolled up the windows, locked the doors, breathed heavily, and stared straight ahead in dismay. We now had no phone or way to contact the other Hajjiers, whose whereabouts was unbeknownst to us. We pulled up 100m and pulled over and thought of what to do. About 5-10 minutes later, we heard a soft tap on the passenger window. We turned our heads right and saw a younger, leaner, and less hairy man staring with one milky cloudy cataracty eye back at us. Oh my lord, dont open the window. Suddenly the cellphone appeared and he indicated he wanted to give it to us. Daniel rolled the window 3 inches down, and the cellphone popped through the crack. The man gave us a smile, and we hurridly said thanks as he also vanished into the night. We would never see our One Eyed Angel again, or know the ultimate fate of the Burly Bandit.
-A Golden Few Days on the Black Sea: Fiending to get away from the muck and the mire of one of Europe's biggest metropolises, Ren, Ben, Daniel and Cousy dressed and primed Hajji, and she took us to a small town on the coast of the African-American Ocean, Agva. This place was pretty touristy, Turkishy touristy though, which is all nice for us. Stole some hours in the sun and surf, took burr, made nice with a loveable Turkish lady who worked at a fancy hotel and was more than eager to practice her English on us and who was to tell us of the place we spent that first night. We drove to a secluded cove with super amazing rock formations, had a supreme dinner on a bluff overlooking the Sea, and whiled away the night playing cards in an abandoned field, owned by three drunk Turks who made their way to the light of the Hajj and ruined our game bigtime. Another day and night in town, and the next day came with formidable news: our dear friend Sean Foget was in Istanbul, waiting for us to scoop him. Away from Agva and back into the din.
-Fenerbahce Versus Besiktas!!!!: Upon arrival in Istanbul we joked of how awesome it would be to see a fanatical Turkish football match. Asking far and wide about when the next game was, we got too many answers to count. Finally we met someone who seemed to know what was going on, and it was perfect, our very last day in Istanbul there was going to be a derby match between two rival Istanbul teams - Fenerbahce and Besiktas. We scurried to the ticket office and bought 6. On the Sunday we cabbed to the Besiktas arena, and got on a bus full of crazy Besiktas fans. One small boy, who was selling cigarettes at the stop, turned out to have a ticket and led the majority of the fan songs on the one hour busride to a massive stadium outside of the city. The game was epic (if somewhat low scoring) with roaring songs and no alcohol and police everywhere and a rain of sunflower shells and a darling police officer who upgraded our tickets to the first level and super salty kebabs and a long very crammed cabride home. Fenerbahce (not the team we were cheering for) won the game 2-0, but who is really counting.
Istanbul saw our darling Tannis and disheveled Adam leave the van, but we had backups on the batting deck. Sean Foget, an old roomate from Western and highschool friend from Ottawa announced just a week before his arrival that he was coming. When we showed up to pick him up, SURPRISE (although we already knew) he was accompanied by another Ottawa (now Vancouverite) resident, Mrs. Neala Kelly, one of Laurens best friends. On our last day in Turkey we added one more to the crew to make an even 6. Morgan Quinn, a friend we met in India some 18 months ago had just finished a 4 week medical rotation in Beirut and was hungry for adventure. Toss the bags on the roof my friends, its time to head back to Eastern Europe. First stop, Bulgaria.....