I tend to summarise much of my “city breaks” rather than give day-to-day accounts. I will do the same this time, but as my stay is for an unknown duration, they could number quite a few...
First thing Monday morning I go to the Iranian embassy with my reference number. I follow the instructions of the clerk and hand over the required documentation – including a hefty $150. I'm asked to return the following day...As I leave the embassy I allow myself a jiffy of excitement – surely it's going to be harder than this!! They must want to interrogate me or something. Twenty four hours pass...
As my watch beeps 10.00am I'm being frisked by the huge bald guy at the consulate entrance. I'm the only one in the “tourist visa” queue and don't have to wait too long to be seen. The clerk hands me my passport, complete with thirty day tourist visa. YEEEEHAAAA!! Iran has been a very important country to me for some time. I have no idea when my fascination started, or where it came from. I knew it would be one of the visa uncertainties, and would have a strong impact on my route if I was refused. But for now I can continue as planned.
In the hostel I meet Stuart a cycle tourist from Cairns, and Pavel from Melbourne - whos travelling before doing an internship in the Middle East. We have a great night on the roof terrace with a group from Germany – one of whom plays guitar, as does Pavel. One of the girls has an excellent voice and is more than happy to wail all night long. Lots of free style blues about Istnabul.
Many more friendly faces come through the hostel including Jacopo, Myriam, Martina & Aileen, Jun and Jeff.
Pavel buys a Saz (Turkish stringed instrument) from a local shop. Stuart (a man after my own heart) is travelling with a didgeridoo, and I'm on guitar. Jun rips on harmonica and shaky love egg. We take our odd arrangement to a few bars in Sultan Ahment and even manage to record some tunes on Pavel's audio recorder.
The days are pretty uneventful. In the evenings we warm up with wine, raki (Turkish Spirit, like the Greek Uzo) and some jamming. And then we head over to Taxim for some live music. In a bar called Araf we watch some very talented musician playing Turkish tunes. Various arrangements came and went. My favourite was a gypsy band consisting of cajon, drums, guitar, bass, accordion, oud, and clarinet. They churned out great beats as we cut some obscene shapes on the dancefloor. Sadly the live music finishes early and we are kicked out somewhere between three and four in the morning. Unsatisfied with this we buy beer and take the party to the gutter. As we sit drinking a couple approach us.
“Congratulations guys, you've decided to drink in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the city!” says the girl.
“Is that wine?” We say.
-cue communal wine slugging.
We had seen a few shifty looking characters, along with a few dollops of odd behaviour, but thought nothing of it – any observers may have thought the same about us. We make it home without drama – or atleast we have no recollection of it
It was a great few days with the guys. Although I was sad to see them go, my wallet and liver were perhaps a little relieved...