I informed him that in fact yes, I was. It turned out that he
was the owner of a hotel five minutes walk down the road, and
he could give me a very good rate if I just take a look. Having
established that I was just looking and had no obligation whatsoever
to stay, I agreed to accompany him, and so we set off. As we walked
he talked. I asked him for a business card, but Oh! - He'd left
them back in the office.
usually have my car with me, but it's at the garage today. Must
pick it up tomorrow. How about we get a taxi?" he said as he flagged
thought your hotel was just around the corner?" I replied, but
it was too late, he was already giving the driver directions.
It was then that I adopted the attitude of "Oh well, let's just
see what happens."
minutes later the taxi was stuck in traffic.
walk from here," my guide told me as I realised that I didn't
have a clue where on earth I was. I'd been so distracted by his
incessant chatter during the ride that I'd barely noticed us pass
over the huge bridge that spans the Golden Horn inlet. We were
now in the New Town, an area I hadn't even had a chance to read
up on, so I felt it would be safest to stick with this guy even
though I was beginning to doubt his story.
a couple of alleyways and out into a large street packed with
seedy venues for soaking up your dollars. and it was into one
of these that we turned. By this time it was about 9pm, I was
almost drunk with tiredness and quite happy to follow my "friend"
- providing I didn't have to spend any money. I knew that someone
was probably going to try to con me, but I figured I could deal
with that when the situation arose. As my "friend was frisked
by the security on the door he said something very quickly in
Turkish, the doormen then gave me huge smiles revealing their
yellow teeth, and waved me on in without hesitation. Once inside
things became a little clearer. On a small raised stage were seven
Russian girls wearing not too much, doing their best to look ever
so attractive. My "friend" and I were escorted up to a table on
a balcony overlooking the scene - I now appreciated that everything
this chap had told me was a lie and in fact I was on my own! I
considered my options. My mother would have told me to stand up,
collect my jacket and walk out, but I reasoned with myself that
that would be no fun. Also, providing I ordered no drinks how
could I spend any money? - I was unaware of how scam really worked.
As soon as we were settled, exotic fruits, beer, champagne and
sticks of carrot were brought to the table. Thinking no more of
it I began to indulge, perhaps this was a courtesy snack. "Little
do they know that they'll get nothing out of me" .or so I thought.
Our entertainment for the evening soon arrived in the form of
two of the dancing girls. They must have been little over 18 years
old, attracted by the large sums of money to be earned by hostessing
(in comparison with wages back home in Russia). Within seconds
of sitting down beside me my "partner" had her sweaty hands on
my leg, which at the time I really didn't appreciate - I was smelly
enough from my train journey as it was! Having established that
we shared no common language, when asked by the manager "Is the
girl ok?" I replied that no, it would actually be kind of nice
if I could at least have a conversation with someone in this dingy
afterwards, "Helen" was summoned from the dance floor - she spoke
very good English. I've always been interested in how people who
work in this kind of industry feel about their jobs, and so I
set about trying to stop her using all the corny lines and instead
to tell me about her life so far and her dreams for the future.
It turned out she was actually a very interesting, intelligent
girl. She had a degree in English and was intending to set up
her own translation bureau - in order to do so she needed to raise
a fair bit of money, and this was one of the quickest ways to
do just that.
it ok if the ladies have another bottle of champagne?" I was asked
- the three girls had finished off several bottles by this time.
It was only then that I realised that in fact everything was on
my bill! However, I was now quite drunk and really didn't care
about money - as a result the drinks kept on coming. At one point
I had a sip of the "Champagne" only to discover that it was the
cheapest and nastiest sparkling wine to have ever been produced.
night wore on. Things got quite interesting, even more so when
the manager asked me "Cash or Credit Card?".
it depends on how mush it is!" I slurred. A moment later the bill
was produced. Now, it's hard enough as it is to figure out how
much something really costs in turkey under normal, sober circumstances.
The exchange rate is approximately 1 million Lira to the pound,
so the bill wasn't immediately clear, all I saw was a large number
of zeros following the number 18. However, with the aid of a pen
I finally realised it was time to panic.
I double-checked, and sure enough, it was £1,800... champagne,
carrot sticks, beer and women. that's three months worth of savings
from Switzerland gone! Looking round I saw the door was rather
a long way away, and security had become unusually interested
in my table. I had no choice but to pay. It pained me to do so,
but I tried to console myself by reasoning that at least it was
a good experience and I'd enjoyed it while it had lasted! It had
all been a complete set-up, but there was nothing I could do.The
grinning manager informed me that my drinks were on the house
for the rest of the night - oh yes, Very Generous!
first night in Istanbul had turned out to be the most expensive
of my entire life. Still, at least I knew I had a bed to go to,
and that would only cost 4 dollars!
The following day I spent 6 hours in 4 different police stations trying to get them to believe my story. Boy would a bit of Turkish have come in handy!