W is for Where Two Continents Meet, in Istanbul, Turkey.
The job came in, go to Uzbekistan (see my photographs of Uzbekistan). So I begin talking with my trusty colleague, Mr. Orange from New York, who’d also be going, to make the logistical plans for the assignment. “Ok, we can get there by flying via Istanbul, but hey, I need to have a quick meeting in Istanbul, so lets have one night there. Book your ticket to arrive on…” etc etc, is what he said. Great.
So I arrive in Istanbul, taxi to the Hotel Turkoman, a great little place, one of my favourite hotels. I go out for tea beside the mosque leaving Mr. Orange a note on where to find me.
We meet, laugh at our good fortune once again, another adventure about to begin. But first Mr. Orange needs to go and meet a correspondent, someone he may work with, a gentleman known as ‘Tommy The Turk’. Now as far as my memory serves me this gentleman wasn’t actually Turkish, but had gained the name due to the length of time served reporting from the country. A good nickname none the less.
Up to Taksim district we go, as Tommy The Turk’s directions had noted. Down this street, past this mosque, round here, over there, down that street. And then the directions stopped. The notes Mr. Orange held petered out. It all got a bit vague. We were on a certain street corner, and from there the directions purely said “Shout for me”. So we did. We stood on a street corner, and in a very disbelieving that this would ever work way, we shouted “Tommy ! Tommy! Tommy the Turk!”. And of course, like idiots, we stood, looking around, looking at each other. “Tommy !”. Nothing happened except the locals gave us frowns of annoyance.
Minutes passed and then we phoned him from my mobile, an international call to the next street via Scotland. We were given more directions, directions which took us a good few minutes walk away from where we’d been told to stop and shout his name from. Scepticism about the meeting was rising, annoyance building, but on we went. We found his building, we pressed the buzzer, up we went.
And the door opens, Tommy The Turk exists. A real guy. If my memory serves me correctly, a real guy with a big moustache. He ushers us in. And all of a sudden, as we enter his living room, our spirits rise, we’re glad we came, glad we made the effort. Glad we stood like idiots and shouted his name out loud a few blocks from here. Glad we’d stood our ground in the midst of the unfriendly frowns of locals.
Tommy The Turk had done well in Taksim, finding himself a good place to live. We stood just inside his living room door, a few sofas light in colour, a few book shelves. And straight ahead, two complete walls of glass windows, floor to ceiling. And beyond them a view. A view only Sultans should be allowed. A view of Sultanic proportions all visible from one window, without moving our heads. A view of Asia, the Bosphorous, and Europe. Tommy The Turk had done well.
So we sit, we marvel at Asia, we look over the buildings and minarets of Europe, we discuss the shipping on the Bosphorous. And the afternoon goes on like such, tea is served, talk of the Caucuses, talk of politics, talk of Turkey, anecdotes are swapped. Tommy The Turk asks us if dinner on the rooftop would be ok, we suppress our squeels of good fortune, and say sure. The door to the roof should be open now and I’m free to go up he says, and I take the opportunity.
Up on the roof the view is larger, two continents from one roof. There’s a young man cleaning, doing chores of some sort. He offers to take my picture for me and I let him.
As the afternoon light begins to fade, everyone moves to the roof. Some of Tommy The Turk’s friends arrive, coming over to meet the visitors, to eat dinner. Some rice is cooked, a pilaf of sorts, with a crusty burnt rice layer at top, a specialty from somewhere in the region apparently. Cushions lay around and we make use of them. Tommy The Turk cooks some wild boar meat that he tells us he’d hunted himself, and as I eat it I forget all meat I’d ever previously enjoyed. From now on this is what meat would be compared with.
We talk, we laugh, we drink the heavy red wines and marvel at Tommy The Turk’s cooking. Around us the minarets call their muezzin, the ship’s horns declare their navigational intentions, the shouts of locals in the street drift up from Europe, into the night air and on across to Asia.