Berlin, March-April 2007
As Christian moved to Zurich, I had no more bad feelings in dating someone else. On Monday the 17th of March I had a date with Sjors, a Dutch guy I had got to know in the Internet, who had been living in Berlin for the previous ten years.
We arranged to meet in front of the Rote Rathaus in Alexanderplatz at 9pm, five minutes before the agreed time, I was there and five minutes later, Sjors arrived. The Dutch guy introduced himself and as soon as I did the same he said: “Wat fuer nen komischen Aktzent haste?” that in Berlin dialect means: “What kind of strange accent do you have?” I replied that I was born in Milan but I had lived in London and America for a while and that I had been living in Berlin for about two years. Sjors and I had a couple of beers at “Café Alex” and we walked to Hackescher Markt to a bar called “Gruselkabinett”.
Between a drink and the other, Sjors told me he was having problems with his alcoholic boyfriend and although I really liked the Dutch guy, I decided to keep a certain distance and advise him, that he should try to solve the issues he had with his partner. I was not really keen in falling in love with a guy, who was still in a relationship with someone else. Sjors was handsome, smart and he had beautiful blue eyes. We stayed out late talking about every sort of thing, from politics, to science, from his experiences in Sweden and Holland to my life in London and the United States. When we reached Alexanderplatz again, he asked me out for a second date and we agreed to meet on Thursday. Then without me expecting it, he kissed me on my lips and I walked home half drunk, half dizzy, happy and scared at the same time. Adriana was awake and we spent two or three hours smoking cigarettes and talking about my interesting night but also about her ex in the United States, my time with Jørn in the United Kingdom, her political career in Germany and some of my exotic journeys of some years before.
London December 2002
In December my home was finally ready and as a prize for my hard work, I booked a five-day trip to Istanbul to spend with my family over New Year’s Eve and a week in Gran Canaria with my buddy Ricky for February. Three days before flying to the Turkish city, where I was supposed to meet my parents, I got sick and I was stuck in bed. Jørn, a half Italian half Danish guy, who I had got to know through the Internet, insisted so much to have our first date before my departure and eventually I asked him to come to my place. The tall Scandinavian guy rang my bell late in the night of the 28th of December. Jørn was so kind to take care of me and cook tea and hot soups for me for the two following days until the morning of the 30th of December. That day he took me to Heathrow and I flow to Istanbul Atatürk International Airport, where my parents were waiting for me at the arrivals.
Istanbul December 2002, January 2003.
Once past the Gümrük, the Turkish customs checkpoint, I met my parents, who were waiting on the other side of the glass door. We took a cab to the district of Karaköy, where we reached our hotel about half an hour later. The sun was shining in the blue sky and the temperature was mild, a much warmer location compared to Paris the year before. After unpacking our luggage, we had a Türk kahvesi, the Turkish strong coffee and we planned our sightseeing tour for the evening.
I could not believe it: I was in the Bosporus metropolis! Istanbul had it all, the sea, the hills, history, good food and a Middle East and European flair at the same time. When we left the café in Galata the sun was setting, the darker silhouette of minarets and domes marked a clear line on the red sky and that fascinating inlet called “the Golden Horn” took me away. My thoughts went to the “Hamam – the Turkish Bath” the film directed by Ferzan Ozpetek, about an Italian married man who feels powerful new emotions for another man. I remembered of that time when I was 14, on the deck of a cruise boat moored in Luxor on the Nile river, the sunset, the men on the minarets calling the devotees to pray and the good looking French guy a few years older than me, who had talked with me. I never saw him again, as the day after my parents and I flow to Cairo. There was energy in the air in Istanbul, an energy that I can never forget. My thoughts were pleasantly interrupted by an S.M.S. from Jørn. ”I miss you!” He wrote.
On the morning of the 29th of December we visited Sultanahmet Camii, the Blue Mosque built at the beginning of the 17th century, adorned with blue tiles on its interior walls and the former patriarchal basilica, later Mosque and now museum of Hagia Sophia. The majestic building was built in the 6th century and it was originally named in Greek: Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας. In the afternoon we reached in Kapalı Çarşı, Istanbul Grand Bazaar, the covered market with tens of streets and thousands of shops. We entered from the Beyazit Gate and we soon realized that it was almost impossible to walk a few meters without being called by some carpet sellers, who claimed to have a deal for us. As the third seller asked us to visit his shop, we follow him, just to satisfy our curiosity and see how one of the carpet shops looked like from the inside. The carpet seller showed us marvellous hand made rugs of several colours. “Sir, that one is 400 Euro, please” He told me, pointing at the carpet I was looking at. “No, Thanks.” I replied. “300 hundred Sir, 300 and it’s yours!” He insisted. “I am not really here to buy…” I confirmed. “200 Euro, but I can’t go lower…” The seller did not seem to give up easily and when he reached the 100 Euro price I accepted to have it packed and sent to London. My mother also bought herself a small Aladdin-style Lamp and some incense, which she paid a few millions Turkish Liras. After she left the shop, the seller came after us running and he gave my mother the change she had forgotten. In the evening we walked through Taksim Square, where I saw men holding hands, which I later found out, in Istanbul is a mere expression of friendship.
The 31st of December came and my parents invited me for dinner to a typical Turkish Fish restaurant in Üsküdar, the Asian suburb of the city and later at night, we partied with millions of Turks in Taksim Square, watching the amazing fireworks which welcomed the new year. 2003 had started.