Fog, traffic, tango – part 1

We land early at 20:35 at Sabiha Gökcen and I’m second off the plane. With only hand luggage I buy my visa, clear passport control and pass through baggage reclaim by 20:50, our scheduled landing time.

Emerging into the public arrivals area, Cigdem, my tanguera friend and hostess for the weekend has not yet arrived. I text her to say I’ve arrived and she replies she’ll be 15 minutes. Outside the airport and in the car my first impressions of Turkey are fog and traffic. It’s Friday night and I’m here for the Istanbul Tango Ritual.

Fog is unusual in Istanbul yet it has been foggy all week. The driving style here is more than a little reminiscent of Buenos Aires and my hostess would make an excellent taxi driver. The only differences I notice between Buenos Aires and Istanbul driving styles are the Turkish drivers are less addicted to using their horns, and if one gives in to the temptation to do so then the others are less likely to join in.

In 30 minutes we reach her apartment. I get the obligatory tour (doesn’t everyone like to show off where they live?) and we change for the milonga. Half an hour later we are back out in the fog and traffic making our first bridge crossing of the weekend. For those that don’t know Istanbul is divided into two parts by the Bosphorus, or Istanbul strait, that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. It marks part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. Cigdem lives in the Asian side of the city and the festival happens in the downtown area in the European side. There are two bridges across the Bosphorus to choose from and both are likely to be full of traffic until much later in the night than this. A handy iPhone app reveals the slightly less busy choice.

The Friday night milonga is held at YEM, in a glass-walled concrete-floored exhibition space. There are rows of seats on three sides of the pista, two bar areas and traditional tango music playing in tandas and a little too loudly. About 200 dancers are present with an excess of followers. The dancing is less nuevo and more close-embrace than I was expecting which is a nice surprise. I dance with Turks and tourists and later watch the obligatory demonstration. Federico Naveira and Ines Muzzopappa, and Ariadna Naveira and Fernando Sanchez dance fairly standard exhibition performances. Shortly after 3am we decide to call it a night and head home. The fog is still present and although lighter, so is the traffic.

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