First night in Istanbul was pretty amazing!
We touched down at 5:30pm local time and got into our apartment at about 8:00pm which is basically 8:00am pacific. We all felt surprisingly awake despite having not slept at all during the 20 hours of travel so it was time to hit the town!
Lucky for us our landlord Elif was quite willing to let us tag along with her as she and her husband hit up Club Babylon for some local music. Which was lucky for us, not only for the music tip-off, but also for helping us find the place. This district of Istanbul (we’re kind of near Taksim) is crazy! It’s clear that the city has just been building up on top of itself for thousands of years with little input from city planners. The streets are all exactly the width of a car, they ramble up and down the undulating terrain in labyrinthine patterns and are chock a block with tea houses and ancient looking apartment buildings. It is a thing to behold.
So we arrived at Babylon with about 1/2 hour to kill before the show started. Babylon, by the way, is spelled with a 1-in-a-0 on/off symbol. Which made me assume it was a geek bar, which made me feel at home. We got to try the local beer for the first time! Our driver was all “you have to try Effes, it’s the best istanbul beer!”. But it also appears to be the only Istanbul beer so it was a pretty easy choice when we sauntered up to the bar. I approve of Effes pilsner. It’s not great, but it doesn’t have the sickly taste of a Molson. It’s tastey enough and even at the club it was like 3$ Candaian so big win. We also had a few Efe Raki which I was looking forward to. Raki is _the_ Turkish liquer. It’s got this Ouzo/Absinthe thing going on so it’s my kind of drink. They serve it in a glass mixed with water along with another glass of water, and I can attest that it is a nice drink indeed. Although much more expensive at like 10$ CAD. We were almost the only ones drinking at the show. I discovered later this is because the booze at shows is considered too expensive and people mostly get their drinking in before and after. Although having witnessed the first night of a three day weekend I would say there was generally less drunkeness than a typical Canadian night out.
The club really was more of a concert than a club. Which is awesome by me since I kind of hate clubs and the music was fucking rad! It was a band called Baba Zula. They played this Turkish folk/rock/regae music that was so fucking cooool because it was all middle-eastern sounding but also rocked the house (think early Tea Party). Their lead man played an electrified Tambur wich is Turkey’s historic solution to the guitar/madolin/shamisen problem. Their bongo dude was crazy. I had no idea you could do that with bongos. All the stoned undergrads in the world combined cannot hold a candle to this guy. Plus belly dancing, sexual inuendo, and political commentary (although most of that was in turkish). They put on quite a show (and the Raki helped get through things when they dipped into the reggae spectrum)!
From there we wandered (not stumbled I’m happy to say) out to find our first meal since the plane. Which was also my first real meal in over 24 hours since I don’t eat on planes. Elif pointed us to the fish district with instructions to obtain Mussels. And obtain mussels we did! 2$ for 3 Mussels stuffed with rice and delicious delicious spices. I also had a lamb intestine sandwich which is, in my opinion, the perfect bar food. The other’s don’t share this opinion.
We managed to get home thanks to Leah, Sarah, a map, and only a couple wrong turns to fall unconcious at about 1:00am local time. What a perfect way to start off Istanbul!