Archive for 2010

Fog, traffic, tango – part 3

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

I’m in Turkey for the Istanbul tango ritual, staying with a tanguera friend I met in Buenos Aires. This is the story of the third day of my visit.


Today I wake at least an hour later than on Saturday. Again no classes or seminars for us. The fog is really only mist today and there is no need for multiple bridge crossings so the sightseeing should be better. But after a long leisurely breakfast and faffing about we don’t actually set off for the European side of the city until about 3:30pm. Given it’ll be dark in about 2 hours that doesn’t leave a lot of daylight for sightseeing. Oh well, I’ll have to come back another time.

The traffic is the lightest I’ve seen it and we park up in the Fatih district close to the Spice Bazaar and the Yeni Mosque. We wander fairly purposefully around the outside of the mosque and through the bazaar. Cigdem buys more green tea since I’ve drunk most of what she had left when I arrived. We stop at a bakery and I sample (pistachio) baklava for the first time. It’s delicious and I learn that the Turks, like the porteños, all have a sweet tooth. We move the car closer to the evening milonga venue – the Armada Hotel – and resume the sightseeing just as dusk settles over the city. We walk past the Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque and then around Hagia Sophia in the dark before stopping to eat in a renowned traditional Turkish restaurant. The walls are decorated with letters of thanks and commendations from the rich and famous of the last 90 years. I play safe and stick to Turkish meatballs which for some reason aren’t round but rectangular. Apparently there are all sorts of conditions that will be imposed on Turkish restaurants  by the Brussels bureaucrats if they join the European Union. Whether their meatballs will have to become round I don’t know.

Over dinner we both decide that actually we’re pretty tired and don’t need to dance tonight. The milonga won’t start for another hour anyway. So no tango for me today making for a pretty lightweight festival performance.  We head home past the Armada Hotel and across the Bosphorus for my last time. It’s still misty, and the traffic is pretty minimal. Tomorrow I’ll be flying back to Blighty.

Fog, traffic, tango – part 2

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I’m in Turkey for the Istanbul tango ritual, staying with a tanguera friend I met in Buenos Aires. This is the story of the second day of my visit.


Awaking at lunchtime on Saturday I look out the window to more fog. And on the highway 100 metres away, traffic. There are festival classes and seminars we could go to but sightseeing is the order of the day for me. In addition we have a wedding to go to this evening, starting at 7pm in the Asian side of Istanbul. Two bridge crossings in one afternoon, followed by another two for the festival milonga is a silly waste of time so our sightseeing is confined to the Asian side of the city. We go to Maiden’s tower, normally a nice viewpoint for both sides of the city, but today really only the Asian side is visible. The European side is almost completely lost in the fog. The drive there takes about an hour. Afterwards we spend nearly another hour getting to the Kadikoy part of the city and wander around for a while before sampling some traditional Turkish food. Another 45 minutes gets us back to the flat to change and head off to the wedding. Now we’re running late but another similarity between Buenos Aires and Istanbul is timekeeping. We arrive at the wedding venue, very close to where we spent the first part of the afternoon at about 7:30pm, a good 30 minutes before the bride and groom make their entrance. About 3 hours later we leave and rejoin the traffic across the Bosphorus to the Saturday night milonga.

This one is held on an artificial floating island called Suada. There is a ferry service from the shore on the European side to the almost invisible in the fog floating resort. The milonga venue is much larger than YEM on Friday night and there are about 400 people here. There are rows of seats on three and a half sides of the square space, a bar, the entrance and stairs to an upper seating level on the other half side. Through the floor to ceiling glass walls there is nothing visible in the murk. There is a nice wooden floor but probably due to the humidity in the air from the fog, it is incredibly sticky. Several people liberally scatter talc on the floor and lubricate the soles of their shoes but the effect doesn’t last long. I dance one tanda and decide I probably won’t dance many more.

The dancing tonight is more nuevo than on Friday night with more couples moving in random directions, lots of dancing large, lots of high flying Comme il Fauts and more than a few collisions. I am reminded of Brownian motion. The music is traditional tango, arranged in tandas and again just a little on the loud side. The exhibition performance is earlier than I expect given the scheduled 6am finish and is called “Generations”. In addition to last night’s performers it includes father to two of them, Gustavo Naveira, and his partner Giselle Anne. It’s far too choreographed and drags on far too long for my liking although the comedy elements are slightly amusing,

By the time the exhibition performance is over the fog has thinned considerably and the European side of the city can be seen twinkling in the murk. Possibly coincidentally the floor is now less sticky but the dancers are no better behaved. Despite me dancing very defensively in collision avoidance mode two of my partners get stabbed by followers and/or trodden on by leaders. I don’t hear any apologies.

We stay until about 3:30am, just missing out on a Pugliese tanda which starts as we leave. There is still traffic on the roads but no delays and we’re home in less than 40 minutes.

Fog, traffic, tango – part 1

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

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.