Bodrum was the venue for our inaugural Turkish New Year revelry. The pretty town has been draped in festive adornments and Harbour Square next to the Crusader castle is graced with a chic snow-white Christmas tree in the shape of a multi-layered hooped skirt. We jostled with the cheery crowd of many generations to catch the act performing at the free concert. An energetic Turkish diva pumped up the volume with catchy Turkopop tunes and the animated audience swayed in happy recognition.
As 2011 dawned, the midnight sky was set alight by a cacophonous pyrotechnic bonanza that dissonantly clashed with the rhythmic Turkic beat. Liam and I embraced and no one minded. With gunpowder spent and smoke hanging in the air, we looked about to observe the assorted assembly; the mobs of mischievous young men, the pantaloon’d grannies with their infant charges, the courting pairs of trendy young things and the gaggles of covered girls variously sporting elaborate head-scarves or Santa hats. We were the only yabancılar in view and we loved it.
We waded through the throng in search of a watering hole and happened upon Meyhane Sokak, a narrow lane off the bazaar and home to a cluster of small crush bars exclusively frequented by Turks. We delicately forced our passage through the rowdy horde, inching past a pretty thing in a sparkly, silver sequined ra ra skirt shaking her booty in wild abandon on top of a table and snaked around a busking band of moustached minstrels. Finally, we squeezed onto one of the tall bench tables lining the lane to enjoy the drunken scene being played out around us. I’m told that alcohol consumption, particularly by women, is generally frowned upon in wider Turkish society. However, there was little evidence of this among the tequila swiggers.
We sent and received various festive texts. I received a message from London life friends, Ian and Matt, who were enjoying their New Year in a bear bar in Brussels. What a tired old twink like Ian was doing in a Brussels bear bar is anyone’s guess.
Defeated by the cold night air and in need of bladder relief we ventured inside one of the bars to be pinned up against the wall by the maelstrom. We were much taken with a group of grungy fellows who wore their hair up in a bun – in the style of Japanese sumo wrestlers and Katherine Hepburn. Turkish appreciation of music is refreshingly unsophisticated and the melee whirled just as enthusiastically to dirgy Depeche Mode as to the Weather Girls’ infamous gay anthem “It’s Raining Men”. Forgive them Father. They know not what they do.
This was the clearly the last hurrah before a short, sharp winter.