On Nov 8, Ambassadors, Consul Generals, journalists, PR specialists and producers entered a building that was once the head quarters of the Ottoman Bank, 1892. These days we know it as Salt Galata art gallery.
A generous Etihad Airways sponsorship brought accents and dignitaries together to launch the ‘Year of Australia in Turkey 2015’.
Australian Ambassador to Turkey, James Larsen, officially opened the evening saying, “Some people say Australia is far away, so we are bringing Australia to Turkey in 2015.”
He spoke the truth. I didn’t have to shuffle right nor left. A waiter served wine and canopies while to my front Australia’s elite improvisation comedians, Colin Lane and Brian Nankervis, entertained the venue.
They mumbled and blundered through some Turkish phrases sounding more like a stuttering baby learning its first words ‘mumumumumummumumemnun oldum’.
Their comedic timing was as precise as the Greenwich meantime.
Even though the Turkish audience may not have been familiar with Colin and Brian’s high profile status in Australia, it seems they have now also adopted an Istanbul celebrity tag.
Yasemin Altuğ, a Turkish local, was representing the elite coffee culture business ‘Ministry of Coffee’ with Australian owner Sam Cevikoz. She said she has attended many government events “but never seen anything this relaxed and enjoyable” and she has “really been introduced to the Australian culture” at this opening night.
I later spoke with the man responsible for these audience reactions, Colin Lane.
We discussed Istanbul and he told me, “I’ve seen a lot of T-shirts around that say ‘People call it chaos, but we call it home’, and I can appreciate this in my very short experience in Istanbul.”
“If you go out your front door and just start walking you will find incredible things. With so much culture, history and alleyways, there are spontaneous things to explore. I think Istanbul is one of the most interesting, fascinating and exciting places I have ever been to.”Colin Lane
He also used the words frantic, alive and vibrant to describe our city.
I was quite impressed that he first came to Turkey 15 years ago. I was even more pleased that he explored Kaş, on the south coast, long before many locals and foreigners had even discovered its beauty.
Behind us at the time was Festival Director Michelle Wild. She is as eclectic and energetic as next years line up that aims to “celebrate contemporary Australian culture” through film festivals, pop-up restaurants, art and music.
The crowd had a first taste of the music line up with Australian/Turkish band ‘Bashka’, combining cultures, describing themselves as “global grooves with Turkish roots” and an “electronic vibe”.
This connection to music was followed up further when Brian Nankervis used his Australian TV show credentials on ‘Rockwiz’ to engage the audience with a girls verses boys music quiz.
I met Brian outside on the terrace after his stint on stage.
He only arrived into Istanbul from Australia at 2pm that day and told me about his first experience with the city saying, “I had an extremely long and eye opening taxi ride from the airport, then landed at my hotel smack-bang in the middle of Beyoğlu (Istanbul’s entertainment district).”
We discussed the famous Turkish author Orhan Pamuk as Brian had just finished reading ‘the Museum of Innocence’ on the plane. This also explains why the exhibition of the same name was his second stop in Istanbul.
“I am so excited, it strikes me as an exciting, sprawling, wild, charasmatic, amazing city. The streets are alive, there’s little winding lanes, it reminds me of Athens one minute, Paris the next, then Rome but a bit grittier, a bit more dangerous perhaps.”Brian
The idea of danger also surfaced when speaking with ‘Deck of Secrets’ Executive Director Michelle Matthews.
After only 72 hours in Istanbul she seems to have immediately grasped the city’s power, only needing two words to describe it – “Dangerously seductive”. We continued our chat and she told me, “At every corner there’s just so much to see. It’s extraordinary.”
‘Deck of Secrets’ is an international success. It is a card deck concept that reveals 52 great places to eat and drink. The ‘Istanbul Secrets’ will be making its official launch early next year. The idea has also conveniently climbed into the world of mobile apps.
I noticed that this entrepreneur is quite intuitive because she did have an inkling that Istanbul was going to become her “favourite city in the world”.
And what’s wrong with playing favourites? It is better practiced with travel destinations, than with your own children.
And so be it, with the connection between Australia and Turkey being established, nurtured, promoted and enjoyed through the 2015 festival events, we can only expect Australia to become a favourite time-out destination for our Turkish friends. Likewise, Turkey, a bucket list for many Australian travelers.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Follow the official FB page /AustraliaInTurkey for updates on events and festivals.
Nov 9, Australian Short Film Festival ‘Tropfest’ was screened at Babylon. Etihad Airways announced Ezgi Girgin as the winner of a return ticket to Australia. Colin Lane and Brian Nankervis selected the winning quote:
If tonight is a trailer of how you guys be like in Australia, then I’m craving to see the rest of the movie!Ezgi Girgin