Today we decided to go visit the famed 'Taksim Square.' Our plans were to eat a traditional Turkish dinner, pre-game at a bar, and then head to the popular club 11-11 followed by wandering the city for a hookah bar afterwards. This would be my first trip to Taksim Square but other students had been there previously and had met up with a with a local half-German half-Turkish girl named Yasemin. She had offered to show us around Taksim Square; and followed through by taking us to the restaurant, the bar, and Club 11-11. Eventually it was by our own perseverance and exploration that we would find the only hookah bar open at 2:30am...
|Stuffed Bell Peppers|
The restaurant we chose was a tiny three story Turkish cuisine restaurant that was very moderately priced. The quality of the food was the best I have yet to have had while in Istanbul and the portions were very generous as well. Being tired of a chicken overload, I decided tonight to go with the Lamb Shish Kabab meal with a cold meat & rice stuffed bell pepper that had been dusted in cinnamon. I had the classic choice of an Efes Pilsen with the meal and had the traditional Turkish tea to go with the appetizer. The meal was spectacular and the conversation with friends was just as fulfilling.
|Lamb Shish Kabob|
|Waiting for our Meals to Arrive|
The dinner went off without a hitch, except for the low-tech bathrooms and the confusion of paying the bill. As I remember from traveling western Europe last summer, the quality of the bathrooms in small restaurant are the only ones that are seemingly more hazardous and decrepit than the ones I had experienced in San Fransisco's China Town nearly a decade ago. The low-techness of their facilities would rival an Amish out house; they were a ceramic hole in the ground, with a pitcher of water in the corner to rinse one's deposit down the drain. As aberrant as this was it would not be the most annoying part of our dining experience. The most aggravating part would come when we asked for our bill; it took nearly an hour for them to get their ducks in a row, and when it did come time to pay the employees informed us that they did not provide change. We were in complete dismay for this lack of common sense that the establishment was displaying. How exactly would 11 people, ordering different menu items, be able to come up with exact change? This would lead to another kerfuffle. After another half hour of wasting time, but successfully calculating and paying our bill, we were off to pre-game at a 'secret' bar that Yasmine knew of that would be able to seat our entire group and not be overly crowded.
|Finishing 2.5L of Efes Pilsen|
The next place we went into was a great selection from our de facto tour guide. We got a nice little private enclave to ourselves still in range of the musician playing live Turkish bar music. We started off our night of intentional intoxication with a round of tequila and then proceeded to order our drinks. Myself and another guy from the group ordered a 2.5L beer tower of Efes Pilsen. He and I were able to finish it in the hour and a half we had before we were to depart for the 11-11 dance club. But yet again our experience at the bar would again, for the second time that night, end on a sour note. Everybody had accounted for the money we spent, but yet we were 20TL short of the bill's total. After my quick recalculation of our individual purchases, it became apparent that we were erroneously charged the extra amount. We called over the bartender, explained our case, and as a result had our bill corrected. After that stressful buzz kill we proceeded to our final destination for the night, Club 11-11.
|at Club 11-11 with Friends|
After walking through the rare occurrence of Istanbulite rain, we arrived at Club 11-11. Apparently due to the volume of our group, we were not charged the usual 10-20TL cover charge. We proceeded to dance and drink the night away. Well, by dancing I mean fist pumping, and by drinking the night away I mean 2-3 drinks as they were about 15-25TL each. The prices may have been steep, but the experiences were priceless. We listened to the cliche Euro-trash music and popped our collars. We stayed for quite a few good club tracks, but as a result of the poor weather, the club wasn't as lively as we had hoped, so we proceeded to find a taksi back to the SuperDorms. Between the time of trying to find a taksi and finding a place for late night food, we reached a consensus that we were down for a 3:00am hookah session. The only problem was that nearly everything was closed and our search would prove to be difficult, but ultimately rewarding. With a stroke of pure luck, the last place we went to was just closing as we walked up. But the owner let us in and escorted us down the the private basement, were it was furnished by tables and comfy pillows. Our group ordered two hookahs, apple and mint, and we talked about our collective experiences in Istanbul so far, as well as got to know each other better. we stayed at the hookah bar for another hour before we grabbed food and took a taksi back to the dorms. The takeaway from the night was: even though we had a few unpleasant moments in our pursuit of dinner and drinks, the amazing luck of catching the hookah bar at the precise moment made this night easily one of the best yet!
|3am Hookah Session after the Club|