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The Istanbul Hash


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Last Sunday, after a night of carousing, I woke up to a beautiful, sunny day and climbed aboard a ferry to the Asian side of the city. There, I intended to go running with the Istanbul chapter of the Hash House Harriers, an international organization that has been around since 1938 and is frequently described as "a drinking club with a running problem". My buddy Iceman is an enthusiastic Hasher in San Francisco, and Double-Barrel and I once joined him for what proved to be an energetic hour through the streets and hills of that fair city. The SF chapter was full of fit, athletic Bay Area types.

The first clue that Istanbul would be different was when I noticed that most people had shown up in jeans. One guy (who, incidentally, was still drunk from the night before) wore flip flops. The second clue that athleticism was not of paramount concern became apparent when a girl pulled out her first cigarette.

While most of the crowd walked, a few of us actually ran the course, which like all Hashes, was planned beforehand by a "hare", with the remaining runners having no foreknowledge of its path. It was very beautiful, passing various obscure monuments and mosques near the Asian banks of the Bosphorus. At one point, we stopped on a cliff overlooking the water in order to, as tradition requires, sing a peculiar Hash song. It seems that this lookout was the preferred location for local teenage couples to escape from watchful parental eyes and enjoy a little privacy. I felt rather bad for the fellows who had their romantic trysts ruined by our loud and boisterous antics. Tough break, gentlemen.

During the course of the run, I got to know the Istanbul crowd, most of whom are a fun bunch. The fellow in flip-flops, it turns out, had run into me briefly in a bar last October, when I was on my reconnaissance trip to Istanbul. Others were either expats from various nations or Turkish people who had lived internationally and had learnt to appreciate the Hash.

At the end of the run, we returned to the European side where we engaged in a drinking ritual, honored a member who had completed his five hundredth run, and then went out for fresh fish on the Galata bridge. Much later, we headed to a bar in Beyoglu, where I ran into The Ubiquitous Iraqi. Another girl who joined us late turned out to be part of the Alabama Crew, and knows many of my friends. I'm only mentioning this to point out how astonishingly small the expat circle sometimes feels.

By the end of the evening I had consumed a fair portion of beer and had accomplished very little in terms of getting back into shape. But that's just how this town rolls.


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About me

  • I'm Sunset Shazz
  • Living the dream in Istanbul, Turkey
  • I grew up in the hardscrabble streets of suburban Ottawa, Ontario, committing petty crime, insulting the elderly - basically the classic misspent youth. When I was 19, I moved to West Philly, where I put myself through the Wharton School by dealing crack and hustling. After stints in Paris and London, I eventually graduated and moved to San Francisco, where I put in eight years hard labor working for The Man. But now I pop bottles with models, deciding cracked crab or lobster - who says mobsters don't prosper?
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