Istanbul 1 : Getting Lost and finding Old Friends.

Atatürk Airport 9.30 pm on a Saturday night. Check papers, work your way through customs, throw off the term spent in Kazakhstan. Greeted by an old friend and guided to his Gaff. Meet the charming new partner; fantastic dinner with lovely wine.

But then out in the City by midnight looking for a bar that might be showing some World Cup football. I will call it football as I find the term soccer somewhat condescending from the Septics.

Chris somehow managed to get us home by 4 am, which due to the time difference with Almaty my body considered it was 7 am.

‘Hey Mr. M we’ve been awake for 24 hours again,’ it cried out to me as I collapsed into bed.

By 10 we were up and on the go again. First breakfast, as the hobbits would say, consisted of a cup of black coffee, followed as usual by a triple – S. Then into a taxi to head for second breakfast/brunch at a café down by the docks not too far from the Dolmabahçe Palace, a magnificent symbol of opulence built by the 31st Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid. By that I mean he built the Palace not the café; though I’m sure even Sultans sometimes wish they could get away from it all and go for a pint with the lads.

‘Alright Sultan how’s it going with all the affairs of state, political intrigues, bribes, battles and beheadings?’

‘Fuck that, just get the ales in will you!’

Unlike the Sultan I was able to sit anonymously within the café and order a breakfast starter – one litre of Efes beer. Chris of course had one too! Then the next part of this splendid breakfast fair comprised two more litres of Efes; then two more; then two more. ..

It was a time for reflection. Last time I had visited Istanbul I was married; I used to say ‘happily married’ but my definition of happiness has moved on a long way over the years.

History.

History oozes from the pores of the City Streets.

Greeks; Romans; Byzantines; Crusaders; Ottomans; Turks; and everyone else in between and before and to come.

Football too, permeates the atmosphere; the new stadium for Besiktas under construction one hundred and eleven years after their formation, adding to the summer dust of this great city.

Sadly when I think of football and Istanbul I think of murder. Two fans from Leeds murdered; two fans from Chelsea stabbed; riots after local Derby matches. For many young Turkish men football is followed with a religious fervour.

Chris and I discussed this as the litres of Efes flowed. For my sins when I am in the UK I go to watch Everton or Ipswich – similar shirts and places where I have lived! COYB! Arriving at either Goodison Park or Portman Road thirty minutes before kick-off the ground will contain a few youngsters with their grandfathers, or increasingly, grandmothers. Then 15 minutes before the start of the game the ground fills and the chanting begins. Not so for football fans in Istanbul. The ground is full hours ahead of the start time, maniacal chanting, threats to the opposition fans, coins being thrown and bright red flares being lighted; I suppose you could call it pre-match entertainment slightly less formal than that organised by the Septics.

Anyway the ‘breakfast’ litres continued to flow as my belly continued to grow!

Sometime in the late afternoon we prepared for the main event of the day. Apparently Chris was going to dinner with members of his department to celebrate the end of the school year. So onto the ferry, not across the Mersey, but across the Bosphorus, to dip a toe into Asian Turkey. I know we went for dinner somewhere and I chatted all night. I remember gorgeous streets, cafes, bars, restaurants and stunning women. Then a ferry back, to eventually fall into bed, jet lagged and pissed.

No idea what time we got home, though I knew I had the good fortune to be able to stay in bed the next morning.

What a great breakfast!

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