Monday, June 21, 2010
With my dear friend Tilly back in town, nights are fabulously long and bursting with lively conversation, intense discussions, delicious food, wine, and some kind of magic. It seems as though whenever we hang out together, something in the universe aligns and we fall witness to extraordinary things. We began the day with a stroll down Istiklal, watching some new street performers play what sounded like traditional Turkish and Gypsy music. Generally street performers fail to hold my attention, but this little troupe of five bohemian twenty and thirty-somethings were so compelling, we stood and watched them a while before heading off to a rooftop café for some çay.
Pretty much every building around Istiklal has a rooftop terrace where you can watch the city breathe and sigh while sipping on a Turkish coffee or a little glass of tea. We climbed the stairs of a lovely place in Galata, just past the tower, that I had walked past a thousand times without noticing, and selected a free table in the shade with a stunning view of the Bosphorus. The seagull on the roof in the picture below decided it would be a great idea to sneak up and bite Tilly's toe for no apparent reason— how we didn't see it coming is a mystery, as seagulls are quite large.
Hunger crept into our bellies as stealthily as the seagull, so we made our way through the back streets of Beyoğlu towards Hanımeli in Cihangir, for a bit of home cooking. We stumbled upon the opening night of a most marvellous exhibition of drawings by artist Gabrielle Le Roux, Proudly African and Transgender. On each of the drawn portraits, the subject, a transgender African activist, wrote about his or her struggle and hope, about who they were as a person. The pieces were so powerful and visually stunning, Tilly and I felt that universal alignment, lucky to have happened to be walking down the right road at the right time to have caught this show. I must say I was surprised— happily surprised, that a show of such subject matter was being exhibited in Turkey. Granted, this part of Istanbul is more open-minded than other parts, but I would have thought that the topic of transgender would be something so taboo here, that a show like this wouldn't be possible. I'm very proud that it was. Istanbul is full of surprises.
Our minds sparked by the show, we navigated our way down narrow curving streets to Hanımeli, where we feasted upon various salads, stewed zucchini and içli köfte, a sort of stuffed meatball with bulghur. I can't sing the praises of this little restaurant enough— the food is absolutely delicious.
Night fell, and we wandered off to a rooftop bar for a cocktail and discussions about life, love, art and adventure. On our way back down Istiklal, the same performers had started a dance party that was taking over the street.
Music, voices and the clapping of hands echoed into the night, fluttering with the wings of a hundred orange moths, that seemed drawn not to the street lamps, but the beat of a drum.