Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The sound finds you even when you least expect it. Dow a dark alley on the footpath, there is no escaping the gentle rattle of the dice and you know that you are in Tavla town, any backgammoners paradise... KP Welcome to Istanbul.
Istanbul was unlike anything i had expected, i thought that my 5 days would be reminiscent of something out of Arabian Nights, perhaps a little like Ali Baba but i was wrong. Istanbul is a sophisticated secular European city that is exciting, charming and interesting.
Arriving at the airport i was delighted to see Paulius, dressed every bit the successful aristocrat we jumped into a cab to trendy G-hanger (ok it is not spelt that way), a cool neighbourhood filled with rich turks and X-pats.
I was gobsmacked- Paulius had always has had nice digs in Oxford but this was something of another dimension- with 270 degree views of the city, a post card panorama that encompasses the Blue Mosque, the water, cruise liners and a sunny outlook, i felt like i had stepped onto the set of 'lifestyles of the rich and the famous'.
Paulius set about making me a gin and tonic and we relaxed on his terrace, overlooking the city and watching the night come alive with fairy lights, call to prayer and sunset.
Next we opened a bottle of champers and set about celebrating our reunion in style, we successful to an upmarket restaurant called lips of the seas (where the two seas met - it happens in Istanbul apparently) and together we sipped cocktails till dawn.
Next day, i awoke with a fairy extreme hangover, but with no rest in sight, Paulius and I tackled the major sights, a fantastic host, Paulius told me of the Romans, the architects, the sultans and the harem like a professional. We saw my favourite building this side of Angkor- Hagia Sophia a Byzantine church renovated into a mosque some 1000 years ago, the blue mosque and the head quarters of the Ottoman empire.
Next it was my turn to teach Paulius something and i gave him my skills at tavla. We sat on the Galanta bridge and watched the sun set. Paulius with impressive instinct and natural intellect was a master after one game and was soon my equal and even sooner my tormentor, beating me consistently within 30 minutes.
The next day we went on a boat ride to asia and that took in the mighty bospouhrs and afterwards we had cocktails and a quiet dinner before I persuaded a Turkish man to play me at gammon.... I was out with something to prove. At first the gent laughed figuring me to be easy oposition but he was soon surprised when some of my NC skills came into force and i gammoned hm twice before defeating him 5-4. I was then asked to play a local legend, i nicknamed him the champion and before i even begun i was defeated- the guy was something of an enigma to me and whilst the games lasted on average 3 minutes i feel that i learnt from his greatness at the table and i achieved what i set out too in turkey.
The next day with Paulius at work, i went to the grand bizarre and was slightly disappointed- it was significantly less consuming than expected. I purchased a new backgammon set and a couple of prints for my London flat before meeting Paulius in the eve to sip one final bottle of champagne before i headed back to back to London and into the arms of my brother.
Posted by KP at 5:30 am