Posts Tagged ‘Istanbul’

Fog, traffic, tango – part 4

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Last weekend I went to Turkey for the Istanbul tango ritual, staying with a tanguera friend I met in Buenos Aires. This is the story of the final day of my visit.


Cigdem, my hostess for the weekend had to leave for work at 6:30 on Monday morning. At 6:25 I dragged myself out of bed to thank her for her hospitality and to say goodbye. After she left I went straight back to bed and slept for a few more hours. An airport shuttle collected me at 11am and whisked me through the sunshine – yes, the fog had finally given up – and almost no traffic to Sabiha Gökcen airport.

Squeezyjet did a fine job of getting me back to the UK, just as they had done a fine job of getting me to Turkey on Friday. The return flight was longer than the outbound due to a headwind and the battery on my Kindle gave up an hour into the flight. So much for ten days on one charge; I think I got more like ten hours. Emerging from the cloud at 400′ the pilot made one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever experienced. Fifteen minutes later I was stood outside Luton airport waiting for my taxi. It was cold – only 5 Celsius (41 Farenheit), windy and raining and generally horrible. The temptation to walk back inside to the ticket desks and buy a one-way ticket to anywhere hot and sunny where they dance tango and/or west coast swing was very strong. I hear Buenos Aires is nice at this time of year…

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.