Istanbul’s Got Talent



Sunset is the best time to see Istanbul’s varied people doing varied things. Unfortunately there’s been no sun here so far – but dusk gives you some interesting sights, including the fishermen crowding along Galata Bridge, presumably hoping to catch their dinner.

Rod and his mates at the Galata Bridge
This is one of the first sights that passengers would have been met with at the end of the Orient Express. The journey from Paris used to take three and a half days but the last time it ran the full route was in 1961. It seems a bit of a shame, really. Though these days you can still travel from Istanbul on long distance trains to Budapest, Syria and Greece. Oh, and there’s that sodding local service that clattered past the Kaftan Hotel every fifteen minutes.
End of the line – you’ll wait a long time for the Orient Express

If you want to see a slice of real life in Istanbul you can do it one of two ways. You could pay a tour company a small fortune to take you to an evening of belly dancing, a traditional Turkish meal or – as one leaflet boasts – a real Turkish wedding. Now in the Uk wedding discos once used to be notorious for gate crashers eager to get a bit of free booze and food, and perhaps one of the bridesmaids. I didn’t really think that was the polite thing to do as an Englishman abroad, so I took the second option – and found a bit of local tradition myself.

Sunday isn’t the busiest night of the week in Istanbul, but I stumbled into the Cafe Turco, just off Istiklal Street – the main road where the city’s nightlife is based. Inside it’s open mic night, where a selection of performers entertain the young crowd with traditional Turkish songs.

Altogether now - music at Cafe Turco

To the untrained ear, this could sound like Now That’s What I Call Eurovision 1983, but that would be unfair on both Eurovision and these performers. Several musicians take to the PA system and almost everybody sings along. Except me, of course. This isn’t Bobby Darin or Robbie Williams so I’m left on the sidelines.

The street itself was rammed with revellers last night – but tonight I get to see the full range of shops and cafes, still open for business late on a Sunday evening. There’s also an interesting form of advertising going on around here, with giant shopping bags and illuminated booths.

Absolutely Fabulous - advertising Turkish style

The photo doesn’t really do justice to the stunning display. And it’s really effective. I’m sure that if it were tried in the UK there’d be all kinds of issues planning permission and Saturday night yobs vomiting all over them, but there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work.

Sultenahmet, the area where I’m staying, boasts some of the biggest tourist attractions in Istanbul. But it’s not so good for nightlife. as I head back across the bridge I end up at the Sah Bar, described by Time Out as “rocking to a backpacker vibe”. The only vibes are loud bass speakers pumping out Dire Straits to the two bar staff and a couple of drunk German men.

“I wast in dis same bar TWO years ago” says one of them to the bartender, who has no idea what he’s saying. “Ze music wast ROCK. You have ze rock?”

The bartender looks apologetically at his guest and pours him a large beer. Rock or not, Hans is happy enough.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s