Imagine the time – almost 25 years ago. Imagine the place – Istanbul, Eminönü and the old Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn.
“Up on the terrace of the hostel, the six of us ploughed our way through three bottles of reasonable red wine and one or two bottles of remarkably cheap Black Sea cognac, before taking off on an inebriated wander through the city. After following the tram tracks from Sultanahmet all the way down past the now closed and silent buildings to the water’s edge, we kept Jane company as she waited for a dark skinned young boy to carefully pick out the plumpest of the rice stuffed mussels from his round tray. He handed them to her only after he had solemnly drowned them in freshly squeezed lemon juice. He, along with a growing number of Turkish men, dressed much like the touts I’d seen in Marmaris, watched attentively as she downed mussel after mussel.
After farewelling the large crowd that had gathered, we somehow ended up in a tiny Turkish bar under the Galata Bridge. The bar was only about twelve feet by twelve feet, with an incredibly low wooden ceiling and walls that made it look like a sauna. Even I could only just stand upright in the small space, and it was like being Alice and we were now in Wonderland. This feeling was reinforced by the tiny stools we had to sit on and the way the bar appeared to sway. Given the amount we had already drunk, it would have been natural to assume this was a side effect, but after a while I realised that wasn’t the case. The bar, like the bridge it was attached to, was suspended over the Golden Horn, and it really was swaying. Every time the water moved, so did we. The bizarre atmosphere became even more so when four enormous and frankly frightening looking Turkish men drinking beer at the table next to us decided to engage us in conversation. The lack of common language was no deterrent, and as time and more of the terrible watered-down beer passed, we discovered they were Turkish wrestlers. We spent hours playing a tortured form of charades as they mimed tales of their wrestling triumphs.
The next morning I was very hung over…”
The above is an excerpt from my book ‘Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul’.
Now scroll down to see some of my photos from a walk starting in Karaköy and on through Galata before heading back to the Galata Bridge.
Continuing on with the trend of stylish inner city living, we come to the wonderful Doğan Apartments on Serdar-ı Ekrem Street. Built in 1895 in an Italian architectural style, the original owner was a man called Kazim Taskent. Today they stand as a reminder of Istanbul’s long cosmopolitan history, but tragically they are named after his son Doğan, who died while skiing in Switzerland. There are 51 apartments and two shops in the apartment complex. The blocks are built around a large internal courtyard, and they once boasted their own tennis court. Now the area where the tennis court stood is used as a carpark. Major restoration work was carried out in 2001 and the apartment block is now a popular location for film shoots.
Finally we return to Galata bridge where the same fishermen stand. We feasted on a dinner of calamari and sea bream. Sadly, the incredibly cheap Black Sea Cognac doesn’t seem to be available any more so we had to make do with raki and beer.