Friday evening in Istanbul or Beyoglu to be more precise, is a shock to the eardrums.
Walking up the hill to and arriving at Independence street the noise was phenomenal..
It was the audible equivalent of opening a very hot oven in your face.
The streets were packed, the bars were packed, the shops were packed and yes the restaurants were packed.
It felt a little like it was the party before the end of the world, but apparently this is every Friday night in Istanbul.
Friday night is fun night in town!
Those not off to eat in restaurants with friends were eating street food … Kebabs.
The very small bars in the side streets were overflowing with wine drinking young Turks, mingled with the unseemly loud and generally ignorant expat banking cliques. These people have the same attributes worldwide. Seen it in so many places from London to Shanghai, a loud authoritarian voice utilised in attempt to hide pretty much total ignorance of the country they are in, its language and culture and not even aware that they are in a little bubble, despised by all around. Right got the dislike of global bankers off my chest !
Apart from the crowds there was the usual massive Friday night presence of the Turkish riot police. Friday is the night when it all kicks off in Istanbul. And as it happens it kicked off again last Friday night as well, this time against the entrenched corruption of the Turkish state, this time with the prime minister’s son implicated or accused by the Islamic movement Hizmet.
If the noise in Independence street was loud on entering the confines of the narrow streets of the Fish Market quarter, Balikpazari, the noise was a cacophony of Turkish music and shouting restaurateurs competing with each other for business,
but as most people were well through their first litre of Raki they probably didn’t even notice these ever present and numerous Anatolian musicians.
We finally chose some fish at one of the fishmongers and ate it on the second floor balcony of the next door restaurant overlooking this street theatre.
Two floors up we could talk without shouting, down below that was an impossibility.
Friday night is something special over the Golden Horn.
Off to the airport for the short flight to Izmir or Smyrna, as it was called until the troubles.
Izmir airport and in fact all the Aegean coast reminded me of Spain in the 1960 ‘ and 1970’s.
Ozdere is a very quiet seaside town built about 25 years ago with mainly clapboard houses and no shops or restaurants except up on the highway.
The Anatolia Motel was the only hotel, motel is used quite loosely in Turkey and here as elsewhere, there was no space for more than a couple of cars and it was nowhere near a main road.
It was an old fashioned family beach hotel with ubiquitous Turkish breakfast, and was like any other mediterranean family hotel although there wasn’t even a beer or bottles of the local liqueur to be seen behind the bar, just soft drinks.
The hotel was built with money the grandfather earned as a guest worker in
Hamburg for thirty years and which was now run, with much interference from him, by his very harassed looking son and daughter in law. It was a real family affair with the son and daughter there to help during summer and handily for us bringing a little English.
The whole seaside village, with a clean sandy beach within what seemed to be swimming distance of the Greek island Samos ( but was not) , was mainly second homes for middle class Turks.
A seaside village in an Islamic country is rather different to any where else and although some women wore the swimsuit equivalent of the burqa most wore western attire but overall it had a puritanical feel.
While we were there on the death of an old lady the family went round the whole village giving away doughnuts to everyone in her mempry.
There were a couple of restaurants on the main road, the highway again reminiscent of 1970 Spain was dangerous, and that like most of the area was alcohol free and it’s is unbelievable how quiet restaurants without alcohol are…It was a rather alien experience.
Ozdere was a short drive from Ephesus but there were so many other small Greek and Roman sites on the Aegean coast that were partly excavated or not at all
A seaside village in an Islamic country is rather different to any where else.
There are many small but delightful archaeological sites in the area, most like Ephesus hardly excavated,. Within a half hour drive north of Ephesus one can visit Kolophon, Lebedos, Notion and Claros and many more to the south.
Before visiting Ephesus we went to Claros. I felt as though I wanted to adopt this ancient settlement.
So strange just to be able just walk into an important site mentioned in Homer with a temple to Apollo with no guards and no ticket office.
It was the sight of the temple built next to an important freshwater spring and today this very green pool full is of turtles or terrapins.
Ephesus is the colossus of tourist sites outside Istanbul having well over 2 million visitors a year and a fair proportion turned up the day we went.
Cruise ships stop at that Kusadasi and thousands of tourists are bussed up the road .
I can give you one piece of advice I chose to ignore..TAKE the horse drawn carriage to the top entrance and then walk down not only saving energy in the heat, but you get the best bits last. And down the bottom/ main entrance there wasn’t the genuine fake watch shop.
The Library, the third largest in the ancient world and the amphitheatre are stunning but it was here in Ephesus that I finally had a link with Anthony and Cleopatra they walked in procession along the Arcadian way from the port to the theatre on their honeymoon and well it was Laurence and my honeymoon as well, having got remarried a few weeks beforehand and we walked down that same Arcadian way..the remarriage I suppose linked us to the other Anthony and Cleopatra, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
The coastline here had been inhabited by Greeks since Homers time, through Roman and Ottoman occupation until the troubles of 1922*** and one could almost feel their ghostly presence.
After Ozdere we drove down to Akyaka to stay at a friend’s hotel the Iskele Motel *, which is right by the sea.
The Turkish coast here is green with beautiful blue sea and few tourists.
Akyaka is unlike any other seaside town in Turkey in that it has a singular coherent architectural format.
The old houses of this very small village were rebuilt and restored by Nail Çakırhan in a Ottoman Aegean style ** and since then all new houses are built in this style with as in the hotel wonderful carved ceilings etc.
Nail Çakırhan was a remarkable man, a marxist and poet and after imprisonment in Istanbul left for Russia to study political economy, married, but had to leave his pregnant wife at the onset of ww2 not to see her or his son until the end of his life.
He returned to Akyaka and started repairing the original houses. He taught himself architecture and started designing houses, so sucessfully that he received the Aga Khan prize for architecture.
His legacy is an unspoilt coastal town at the end of the beautiful Gokova bay.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to let the rest of the world in on the secret but I can recommend to all the Iskele where you can have breakfast right by the sea and look up at beautiful carved ceilings in the rooms, see below. A little further along the coast my Turkish friend has a couple of reasonably priced eco-cabins and a wonderful house for rent right by the sea for those wanting absolute calm.*
It is one of the friendliest areas I encountered in Turkey.
The next day drove back to Izmir airport stopping to have a coffee in the pretty awful seaside resort of Kusadasi, rather like a Benidorm of the seventies where the newsagents had only copies of The Sun.. I’m not elitist, they could have at least stocked the Mirror to show a little balance.
Laurence flew back to Nice and I headed off to Istanbul for a few days before going to Turkey’s eastern border city of Trabzon and beyond !