Cappuccinos and Rent Boys

IzmirOur hotel is equidistant between the city centre proper and a trendy, Sohoesque district called Alsancak. No one would describe Izmir as beautiful. Much of it was burned to the ground in 1922 during the Greco-Turkish War, and the city was unsympathically rebuilt with block upon block of mediocre concrete box architecture that surely wouldn’t withstand even the slightest tremor. However, the place does have a certain appeal and Alsancak, in particular, has a real buzz, all trendy shops and pavement cafés.
We decided on a trip to the Roman agora, the largest market place ever excavated from the period. We strolled through the modern pazar and delighted in confounding the catcalling hawkers by responding in German, French, Spanish, and a little Turkish, anything but English. We found the agora remains on the wrong side of the tracks and gazed through the railings. Having been spoilt by the glory of Ephesus, I’m afraid an enormous hole on the ground with a few old stones randomly scattered about looking like London after the Blitz really didn’t impress. We didn’t bother going in.

Alsancak is where the few gay bars are to be found. We had done our internet research and went in pursuit of the twilight world of Turkish deviants. It was hopeless. We found only one dismal little bar down some dark alley. It was a tawdry, dirty dive, virtually empty and pounded by deafening techno. The drinks were absurdly expensive and even the ‘free’ bar snacks came at a price with a specially prepared bill. The bar staff were so bored they poured alcohol on the bar and set it alight for a laugh. Taking a leak was a surreal experience as the entrance to the toilet was guarded by a head-scarfed granny in pantaloons demanding a lira to spend a penny. The few punters were rough rent boys in cheap shell suits looking for punters of their own. As they began to circle us like a pack of hyenas, we knew it was time to leave. We sprinted to the entrance fully expecting it to be locked. Thankfully, it wasn’t. That was Izmir.

Terminal Blockage

We bought three shit bins for the toilets. It’s the custom in Turkey to deposit soiled tissue in a bin next to the pan. Apparently, no one has thought to install large enough pipes to flush the waste away effectively. Subsequently, toilet paper poses a real risk of blockage. In any case, Turks use very little tissue, preferring to rinse their rings with the bidet-style water pipe installed in all pans. It’s a novel idea and one which could be exported globally as the toilet/bidet combo solution for the smaller water closet everywhere. However, I’m told that there is an obvious design flaw as, in the depths of winter, the jet of cold water can result in a nasty icy surprise (or an instant climax, depending on one’s proclivities).

As Liam is a bit squeamish about the whole shit bin thing I delicately raised the matter with Clement. This is one quaint Turkish tradition he refuses to indulge so we have decided to follow suit. From now on, the only solid objects dropped in our bins will be empty jars of Clarins Beauty Flash Balm and Boots No 7 face cream (for men, of course).

Terminal blockage is proving to be the least of our worries. Turkish plumbing in general has a uniquely Anatolian flavour. S-bends are shallow affairs and when the water seal evaporates, noxious fumes leach from every drain. Top tip for Turkey: invest in bleach production.