Holy Whirling Dervish!! Whooooooo!!!
Trip Start Sep 07, 2006
9Trip End Sep 17, 2006
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To start from the beginning, today we flew from Ankara to Istanbul, where the main road outside the airport is Kennedy Boulevard, which also leads to the vicinity of the hotel, which is just as well because this is the only road name that we are able to pronounce to the cab drivers, 99% of whom are illiterate and 100% of whom speak no English. The hotel is a restored wooden 16th-century (=Muslim/Ottoman period in Turkish history) fisherman's house, which is hardly surprising because every hotel around here is a restored Ottoman house, which automatically gives them the right to increase prices by 50%. But we have a lovely room with green curtains and matching bedspreads overlooking a green garden where, tomorrow, I will scrutinze the breakfast. We were greeted by Mr. Murat Aydogdu, whose last name sounds like some weird yoga/sex position, doesn't it? and who shoved a tray of miniature Evil Eyes at me, encouraging me to pin one on my clothes "as protection". Protection from what? I thought. Our entire time in Istanbul is about to be spent in mosques, churches and (if I get my way on this one) a hamam (Turkish bath) in which the prospect of seeing shrivelled you-know-whats and sagging boobs would be enough to deter the most desperate mugger/evil spirit.
For Istanbul, like Lourdes and the Vatican and Bukit Mertajam, is all about places of worship
But today I was just happy I got to see the Whirling Dervishes. Admittedly, the counterclockwise whirling, though graceful and silent (all you hear are the skirts swooshing), can get a bit monotonous, not least because there are 4 whirling cycles involved, each progressing to a higher state of purity (sounds like washing machine advertisement) and culminating in "the junction of Non-Existence within Divine Existence". Sounds a bit like Buddhism to me, which is ironic since the founder of this Mevlevi Sufi order, the great poet Rumi, was all about love, ecstasy (passion, not the tablet) etc while all this Non-Existence stuff usually necessitates breaking free from desire, love, etc
Had dinner in the district of Beyoglu = the Bangsar of Istanbul. Unbelievable. We ate at a Meyhane, a type of joint described by LP as "an Irish Pub cum Tapas Bar cum Turkish Wedding Party". Believe it or not, this was an underexaggeration. It was more of "an Irish Pub in Ko Samui during World Cup Season (I've been there)-cum-Tapas Bar-cum-Turkish Street Wedding Party". The whole street was Meyhanes, meaning tables and chairs had taken over the road itself (yeah, this doesn't just happen in PJ mamak), waiters balancing large trays sashayed dangerously between tables of inebriated patrons, everyone talked loudly and excitedly while the cigarette smoke rose, and rose, and rose. My father was slightly horrified. I felt as if I had just found my home.
We had octopus, mussels with rice, pickled anchovies, fried eggplant (is there any other way to prepare eggplant?!), vine leaves stuffed with rice/herbs/pine nuts and several other nameless things. All these were meze, meaning they are small (like tapas), and cold, but very fresh. I decided to give the Raki (aniseed-flavoured liquor) another go, and this time it was better. Or was it worse? You-lah judge, from the barmy content of this post.