Posted by: Sam Olsen | October 2, 2012

Ten have fun in Istanbul

As any man knows, what goes on tour stays on tour. Unless of course it’s my old friend Euan’s stag do, in which case anything goes, right? Well, perhaps a couple of words or two.

The thing is, Istanbul is a delight. A city full of two thousands years of culture, and a pivotal performance in the play of European history, is not the normal destination for 10 hard drinking men. But I suppose at least it’s different.

The weekend was naturally devoted, at least in part, to devouring the odd tipple, whether the local beer (Efes, a tad weak for some, very drinkable for others) or the myriad Turkish wines, many of which would not be out of place at a London dinner party.

Yet there was also a visit (two in my case) to the Hagia Sophia, a 6th century church converted into a mosque upon the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and then transformed into a museum in the 1930s. The scale of the building is really quite staggering, with a dome and internal area that is still one of the largest in the world. Huge round shields made of wood and camel skin dominate the corners of the interior, each with a different proclamation in Arabic and a strident reminder of the building’s Islamic interlude. For me the most memorable aspect was the runic graffiti scratched into the marble on one of the balconies, a permanent monument to Halfdan, a Viking no doubt serving in the Byzantine Emperor’s elite bodyguard, the Varangians.

The Turkish hammam (aka semi-naked massage) is a slightly different cultural point of reference. Most of us enjoyed the ungainly joint-pulling by the moustachioed masseurs, although the experience was haunting for one or two. One thing you can say about the place is that the staff aren’t shy at either hard massaging, or indeed asking for a tip afterwards. And that it is good for detoxifying hangovers.

All in all it wasn’t the most run of the mill of stag dos. But it was certainly one to remember, even for Euan who sadly wasn’t stitched up at all. Other than putting on a veil and large hat together when visiting the Grand Bazaar, and subsequently being told off by a stranger for mixing the religious and secular. Not many lads visiting Bournemouth would have that as a story to tell.







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