'Oi you , stop , oi STOP!' the guy hissed behind me. Now I still don't know if he was actually adressing me but then he was speaking English , so chances were pretty high he wanted to 'chat' with the tourist.
Still fresh to the area I was feeling expecially cautious so wasn't going to stop for a quick knifing, luckily, at that moment one of the accomodation staff was standing outside the building so I immediately headed at him with a big grin.
'Hey mate hows it going?' I said feeling relieved to see a familiar face.
'You want tea' he said with a big smile back. I absolutely couldn't refuse.
I shared a beverage in the comfort of that downstairs office area with several kurds and the bubbly Hungarian, sipping my refreshing black tea from a quaint little glass.
I mentioned the guy following me but they didn't seem to consider it a big thing , the Hungarian girl said she had never had any trouble in that neighbourhood, in fact I found out that looks are deceiving and although the street looked run-down no one bothered me again day or night. The worst thing I got was the odd glance from the shark eyed youths, all they did was say something quietly at me, some kind of question in their native tongue which was most probably an enquiry as to my weed needs. Also people rarely locked the main door to the building, no one ever came in who wasn't a resident, try risking that in the UK!
A few more people had come down to the office mostly other kurds who were just as friendly but unable to speak any English. The conversations split between Kurdish and English while on a laptop PKK videos were playing including this one:
Those videos did make the experience that little bit surreal for me but it was interesting to experience people's lives.
The manager joined for a while, an expectional character who can speak over 7 languages fluently including Russian and English.
He joked at whether or not , if he became rich, he would wish to visit Disney world because that is what you do when you are rich :). It was almost dissapointing to hear the guy couldn't travel much , although he had left Turkey once to marry his wife in Georgia.
After sitting with these pleasant people for quite some time I decided to get back upstairs. Once at the flat I struggled with the lock , it just wasn't opening. Sheepishly I headed back down those four flights to get assistance.
Like a tool I hadn't pulled the door toward me when I turned the key, which I had been shown earlier. I apologised to the guy who had come up with me to help, he then introduced me to one of the other apartment guests, a tall english ex-pat, also clean shaven (a skin head) which the Kurdish guy thought was hilarious.
'You both look same' he said grinning.
'Oh we all look the same to you don't we' I said jovially realising he wouldn't understand the joke.
And that's when I met Gordon. A crazy ex-pat artist in his late fifties now living in Germany while periodically working for clients in Istanbul. We chatted for some time then ended up going out so he could show me some dining suggestions on the impressive Istiklal Avenue
After crossing a terrifyingly busy road navigating round taxis and mopeds that consider the road theirs we walked along the massive avenue. Gordon pointed out a few places where he would eat before he suggested I go off and explore the place on my own first otherwise he might affect my decisions and therefore experience of Istanbul.
Istiklal avenue is huge, at a reasonable pace it takes around 30 minutes to walk, all kinds of shops and restaurants line this impressive stretch and for this reason it was so difficult to decide on where to eat. I was suffering from a severe case of option overload, everywhere looked good!
The street was pretty packed but you rarely bump into anyone else as you all walk at the same pace. Something I did find was people in Istanbul don't say thankyou if you let them pass but then they don't seem to get angry if you get in their way...obviously don't go out your way to do this.
Mopeds would tear through the crowds at fair speed, trams would traverse up and down the street making themselves known with that all too familiar tram bell tinkle. Kids would hang off the back skirting along the wet pavement with big smiles on their daring little faces.
In the end I found the original place my flatmate had suggested and went in to ask for a lamb doner or "something Turkish".
It is hard to recall what the guy said but he offered up a pre-made plate with two green parcels on it. He might have been trying to get rid of it but I thought what the hell, put some trust in the guy.
My flatmate was there as well having his food while chatting on his mobile in German so I sat with him and tucked into my meal able to offer him privacy by knowing zero German. I am very considerate like that!
It was basically like Dolmades , nice warm sticky rice with a dollop of yoghurt which complimented the dish nicely. Little tins of Sumac added a wonderful heat to the dish which I wolfed down, it was really good.
The one thing I regret about Istanbul now is not learning a few Turkish words prior to my excursion to help with ordering food, even just some pleasantries like please and thankyou.
After my meal I headed back feeling replenished, picking up some biscuits from a local shop while in the process offending the shopkeeper by trying to pay with some invalid notes. 15 lira, given to me by Kanoo travel in Bristol, both pre 2009 , no longer accepted and easily identified as they are larger than all other current notes.
Sat in my room I charged my phone and whatsapped a few friends including a lady I had been on a coffee date with a week before and was going to meet again the following weekend to tell her all about my little adventure. I was buzzing from sitting in a new country , a new place, a vast new city unexplored with so much potential and I had to share the feeling with others.
I slept well that night, although it did take about half an hour for my feet to warm up under those thin blankets. I was in Turkey! It felt unreal that I started my day in the UK! Tomorrow I would do some serious sight seeing. In the meantime I expected an early morning wake-up call from the nearby mosque's call to prayer.
Like the somethingdoing blog?
Then check out more of my writing on amazon....go on, you might just like it