Clockwise from top-left: Saba smokes a hookah with her Turkish coffee; puppies abound on the streets of Ağva; the "Yeşilçay," or Green Tea River.
My friend Saba and I decided to take a trip outside of Istanbul to Ağva, a vacation village in the mountains, by the Black Sea.
Saba is a native Turk, but she majored in American Literature, resulting in an American accent. This at times misleads Turkish people, who assume she's a foreigner when she speaks English. This was the mistake our waiter initially made when we first ate at the hotel restaurant. But people in small towns like to talk, and it somehow came about the next day that he had verified a rumor she was Turkish by viewing copies of our identification, left at hotel registration.
Feeling insulted in a majorly asinine way, he belittled her the next morning, insisting she “speak Turkish!” My dear friend was ashamed, having been publicly humiliated, and this led to a series of misadventures one evening as we hopelessly chased after an elusive tequila shot.
In September, days in Ağva pass by quaintly. You can paddle down the Green Tea River as the foliage turns from deep greens to the golden browns and yellows of autumn. You can rent a bicycle, and, if you don't mind the occasional surprise of a thunderstorm, easily ride around town. Wild dogs fill the streets with their last season of romping puppies. Little cafes offer hookah, accompanied by hearty Turkish coffee.
It wasn't Party City, but still, at night there was dance music playing from across the way, and we did notice a lit up “Club Bar."
At the hotel, our stay had become quite awkward, with Saba avoiding the waiter and his constant stream of snarky remarks. She actually resorted to sneaking around, and one evening, she sneaked her way down to the bar. Perhaps to Westerners, he just looks like an idiot for harassing her, but it is literally against the law in Turkey to insult “Turkishness,” and posing as a foreigner was culturally unacceptable.
Also, a foreign woman drinking alcohol is one thing, but for this little mountain village, a Turkish girl at the bar drinking was a tad bit scandalous.
She ordered a tequila shot anyway, and was dismayed to receive it sans salt and lime. She attempted to explain to the bartender what she was expecting, but it being hopeless, she simply demanded the ingredients and created it herself. She received a lemon and table salt, and made do. But the waiter was always lurking around, and she felt uncomfortable staying at the hotel. Undeterred, she ducked back upstairs, asking me if I wanted to go to the club blaring 90's Turkish dance music across the way.
Of course I did!
Turkish dance party
The lights in the club dazzled, lighting up the dance floor occupied by three young dancers – and by young, I mean under 10 years old.
Awkwardly, we went and stood by the bar waiting for the bartender – or any adult, really – to come out. Finally, a guy appeared and asked us what we wanted to order. We watched with bemusement as he searched around, unable to locate which alcohol bottle was the tequila. He called over a friend, who also searched, and then called over a third person.
The third time was the charm, because the woman found it. She poured it, explaining to us they had only lemon. She insisted we wait a couple minutes for them to walk to the market up the road and buy the salt. After 15 minutes, we left. We felt pretty confident there was just one place in all of Ağva that was going to have our tequila shots. Club Bar.
Club Bar, at last
We approached the lit-up sign, and I couldn't help but note the stark silence. I'm muttering, “Are you sure this is even a place?” as Saba pushes the door open, and we step inside to a small crowd of men.
The men are sitting on patio furniture in an enclosed yard. In fact, it probably was literally someone's backyard. They look as surprised to see us as we are to see them. Saba asks, “Where is the bar?” and they all raise their eyebrows, seemingly confused. Incredulous, one asks in return, “What bar?” Apparently, we had pushed open the gate and stepped into the Twilight Zone.
We started stepping backwards. She's pointing behind her saying, “The sign says there's a bar here...” The men begin conversing in genuine bewilderment. One jumps up and hurries outside to look up and physically read the sign she's referring to; we skedaddled. We got out as fast as we could, holding each other and laughing hysterically.
I suppose if you're going to be partying in Turkey, you'd best stay within major city limits, or you risk ending up in a fifth dimension of imagination – a place we can only call Club Bar.