We stay a week in a shared flat in Sisli (Northwest Istanbul), rest our bicycles. It is hot in our room, we always leave the balcony door open. Never mind the muezzin. On the first night, about 2AM a man walks the street, drumming a fast rhythm load enough to start up the car alarms. I jump on the balcony. Some other neighbors hang out on their balconies and don't seem to care. What the heck? Shall I go down and help that drummer boy? I fall asleep again.
Of course we visit Hagia Sophia, the once and for 1000 years biggest cathedral in the world, that became a mosque after the conquest of the Ottomans. Its outstanding architecture influenced centuries of architects. Atatürk turned it into a museum in the 20th century. Some of the original Christian wall mosaics were restored between the mosque decorations. Another relict from the Byzantine era is the large ancient underground cistern with giant carp fishes, whose roof rests on 300 pillars. At night, the drummer passes by again. Car alarms on. No one cares. Seref, our host, smiles when I ask him what that is about. It is a Ramadan tradition to wake people early enough for their pre-dawn meal.
On a ordinary street market we meet Ahmet, who speaks fluent English. He lives around the corner, and invites me to go fishing on the Galata bridge at night with his friend Orhan. The view over the Bosporus bridge to Asia. The mosques are illuminated. Phrases like "All man are brothers" are displayed in neon writing between the minarets. Wow! Dozens of men fish here every day and every night. For them, it is a nice retreat and social event. Ahmet introduces me to his friends there. We catch a bucket of small fish. I go to bed just after the drummer at 2AM.
Kathrin and I visit the great mosques with their marvelous decorations and we walk colorful bazaars in the baking heat. And last but not least enjoy a tourist boat cruise with a 10TL beer. One day, we meet my ex-workmates Erman and Giray in Taksim. Giray is accompanied by his wife, who speaks brilliant English. Kathrin is more than happy for the conversation. Men in Turkey often did not bother much to talk to her. Taksim is traditionally a very liberal area. Only few girls are veiled here, and beer is served on the streets. A pity the nearby park was about to be doomed for another shopping centre, a pity the protests were stopped so violently. However, our dinner together is marvelous, with dozens of appetizers and tasty bread and finally fish, accompanied by some Raki.
Another day, Kathrin and I are invited to Ahmets cool basement flat for dinner. He is a professional and loving cook. In no time he prepares a lentil soup, a salad, cheese wraps and the fish we caught. Afterwards Orhan and his wife take the three of us on a car ride. We zoom over the bridge to the Suleymani mosque, have Cay (Turk tea) on a rooftop restaurant. "Life is good" is his often repeated mantra. And he is so right with that! On the way back Orhan turns on Turk folk music. We swing and clap hands. Teshekür edirim! After a week, I can sleep without hearing the Ramadan drummer.