Sunday, May 1, 2011
Um. So, my best travel stories tend to involve slightly sketchy circumstances, and this one is no exception. Perhaps it's the sketchiness that makes it interesting. Sketch = experience?
I had been in Ankara, Turkey for a week as part of a four-month study abroad experience and was going out on the town with a Frenchman, a Danish guy, and a German (this sounds like the start of a bad joke...). We started at a dive bar and stayed until they closed. Then a slightly trendier bar, entirely decorated in shades of orange, and closed there, too. I recall my companions teasing me that they were going to sell me to a taxi driver for three camels to carry them to the next watering hole. 'Not the most culturally appropriate statement, but when inhibitions are lowered, well, it could have been a lot worse.
2:00am in the capital of Turkey is not the most happenin' time. In fact, everything was closed except for one last bastion of neon lights, which the crew promptly entered. We sat down in one of the high-walled, red pleather booths. At 20, I was not much of a drinker, and this night was no exception. While the guys each ordered a beer, I went for a çay (Turkish tea). We refused the mezze dishes offered to us and watched as a blond-haired woman sung on a low stage in front of us. Smoke hovered in the basement we were seated in, and we finished our drinks.
We get the bill, and for three beers and a tea, it's $53 USD. $15 USD per beer. The guys, at this point way past the legal limit, argued with the waiter, asked men in neighboring booths if this was typical (yes, it was). I convinced them to pay the bill, and we were out the door and in a taxi quickly.
A week later, my German friend pointed out that the expensive, smoky restaurant was actually some sort of illegal brothel (prostitution is legal, when regulated, in Turkey). I guess that would explain the waiter asking my companions if they had girlfriends (amongst other obvious indicators). Sometimes my naïvete takes me to strange places.
$7 USD is hopefully the most I will ever be overcharged for a cup of tea.