Day Forty: Istanbul
As far as membership of a wider Europe goes, she believes the question is not how much the EU needs Turkey, but how much Turkey needs the EU. Her agricultural system would almost certainly not survive the European competition.
She urges me to go east and see what people think there.
I'm halfway through a plateful of kidney beans, ratatouille, red peppers, beetroot and a glass of the aniseed-flavoured raki when an attractive woman with long earrings and dark hair pulled back introduces herself and sits down beside me. My hopes rise briefly, only to be dashed by the arrival of the house band, a daunting quartet of violin, drums, screechy oboe and a magnificent multi-stringed zither, which clusters around her as she serenades me with a heartstring-tugging number.
She's called Sevval, she sings in ten languages, and has an English boyfriend called Rupert whom she met on a beach. Her songs are part of an old tradition of classical Turkish music peculiar to the meyhani.
'Turkish people really love to be sad, you know. The songs make an imitation sadness.' The name meyhani is, says Sevval, a combination of two Turkish words, mey meaning drink and hani meaning house.
'And you start to drink raki and listen to this kind of music and you start to open your heart and cure your soul.'
'Rather than wine or beer?'
'Oh yes,' she assures me, 'because with this drink, you are going to wake up better tomorrow.'
With this Holy Grail of all drinkers in mind, I have my glass filled and wait to have my heart unlocked, and my soul cured.
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- Series: New Europe
- Chapter: Day Forty: Istanbul
- Country/sea: Turkey
- Place: Istanbul
- Book page no: 102
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