In the sixth installment in the series looking at
the world of James Bond, we visit Turkey...
The World Of James Bond - Turkey
11th November 2004
When Bond eventually appears in From Russia, With Love
he is sent to Istanbul, one of the most vivid locations of all
the books. Here he meets the larger than life Darko Kerim who
acts as his guide and companion while in Turkey, an ex-circus
strongman and Head of Station T.
The area that is Istanbul was probably originally inhabited 3000
BC and colonised by the Greeks in the 7th century BC and named
Byzantium. Situated on a peninsula at the entrance to the Black
Sea, the city lies either side of the Bosphorus, which divides
Europe and Asia. Well placed to flourish from intercontinental
trade, it became part of the Roman Empire in the first century
BC and in 306 AD became the Roman capital, when it was known as
Constantinople. After the collapse of the Empire the city came
under attack from the Persians, Arabs, nomadic tribes and members
of the fourth crusade. The Ottoman Turks captured the city in
1453, and it remained the capital of the Ottoman Empire until
its downfall during the First World War. The Republic of Turkey
was established in 1923 and the capital moved to Ankara. Often
known as Stanboul in the 19th century (probably a contraction;
"[Con] stan [tinou] pol [is]"), the city was officially
renamed Istanbul 1930.
Above: Istanbul and the Bosphorus
Bond's first night in Istanbul is spent is a "dingy room at the
Kristal Palas on the heights of Pera", which he regrets immediately.
However, he does manage to sleep well and was not disappointed
by breakfast: "The yoghourt, in a blue china bowl, was deep yellow
and with the consistency of thick cream. The green figs, ready
peeled, were bursting with ripeness, and the Turkish coffee was
jet black and with the burned taste that showed it had been freshly
Now more usually known as Beyoglu, Pera is on the Asian side
of the city behind the Galata Tower, which dates from 1348. Originally
named "The Tower of Christ", it dominated the Genoese colony of
Galata and today visitors to Istanbul can view the city from the
balcony at the top. Until the 15th century the area was full of
gardens and vineyards and as Muslims were encouraged to settle
in the area, mosques were constructed. Embassies were built there
when European ambassadors were appointed to the city the 16th
century, while foreign merchants began set up home and Pera became
the European section of the city and today the area is undergoing
On his first morning in Istanbul Bond is met at his hotel
and chauffeured in a Rolls Royce "through Taksim square
and down the crowded Istiklal and out of Asia" across the
Galata Bridge. He is on his way to meet Darko Kerim, "a
very large man in a beautifully cut tussore suit", Head
of Station T.
The two men get on well from the start and after explaining
his work in Istanbul and then ordering coffee for the two
of them, they then get down to business: "Coffee came again,
and then more coffee, and the big room grew thick with cigarette
smoke as the two men took each shred of evidence, dissected
it and put it aside".
Bond goes back to his hotel to find out whether he has
received a message and "to see if anyone has been inquisitive"
only to find that he as been moved to the honeymoon suite
while away: "Bond had to approve. The sun streamed in through
wide double windows that gave on to a small balcony".
Right: Galata Tower
Later on, meeting Kerim for lunch, "the car went back over the
Galata Bridge and drew up outside the vaulted arcades of the Spice
Bazaar. The chauffeur led the way up the shallow worn steps and
into the fog of exotic scents". Kerim is waiting at the Misir
�arsisi (Fleming spells it Misir Carsarsi), the Spice or Egyptian
Bazaar, and is immediately offered a glass of Raki,
which Bond finds identical with Greek Ouzo.
For a starter Kerim recommends a sardine dish that to Bond "tasted
like any other fried sardines", while he himself has strips of
raw fish, explaining that "I am not a faddist, but I once trained
to be a professional strongman" and "my trainer insisted that
I should only eat raw food. I got the habit". He goes on; "I don't
care the hell what other people eat so long as they enjoy it.
I can't stand sad eaters and sad drinkers". James Bond's choice
demonstrates that anyone can eat like 007; the Doner
Kebab is described to him as "very young lamb broiled over
charcoal with savoury rice. Lots of onions in it". Kerim chooses
a dish of raw meat, which when it arrived resembled "a large flat
hamburger of finely minced raw
meat laced with peppers and chives and bound together with
yolk of egg". Trying a forkful, Bond found it delicious. With
the second course comes a bottle of Kavaklidere, "a rich course
burgundy like any other Balkan wine". Turkey is the fifth largest
grape producer in the world, but the ban on alcohol during the
Ottoman period means that until recently, just two percent of
its vineyards were used for wine production. The Kavaklidere Winery
was established in 1929 near Ankara and is one of the best known
and the longest established vineyard in Turkey.
Above: Istanbul's Spice Bazaar, or
After lunch they return to Kerim's office for more coffee and
then, putting on workmen's overalls, disappear into "an ancient
stone-walled tunnel that sloped steeply to the right". The two
men walk through the rat-infested tunnel for about fifteen minutes
until they reach "a deep alcove of newly faced brick in the side
wall of the tunnel" from where they will view the Russian's afternoon
meeting. "Kerim reached up and untied the tarpaulin cover and
pulled it downwards. Bond understood. The cover protected the
shining butt of a submarine periscope, fully withdrawn". Kerim
claims that it is a lost drain from the Hall of Pillars, built
as a reservoir in case of siege.
Above: The Hall of Pillars
That evening Kerim takes Bond out of Istanbul to see a
gypsy friend who supplies him with information. They find
they have arrived on a bad night: "Two girls of the tribe
are in love with one of his sons. There is a lot of death
in the air. They both threaten to kill the other to get
him". As Kerim is a close friend they are invited to dinner
consisting of "some sort of ragout smelling strongly of
garlic", accompanied by bread and a bottle of the ever present
raki and after dinner (eaten with the right hand as the
"left hand is used for only one purpose among these people")
the fight between the girls commences, only to be interrupted
by an attack on the gypsy camp by a group of Bulgars working
for the Russians
After leaving the gypsies, Kerim and Bond head back to Istanbul.
In response to the attack at the gypsy camp Kerim has vowed to
kill Krilencu, the leader of the Bulgars. All the bloodshed is
giving Bond doubts about Istanbul: "It seemed to him a town the
centuries had so drenched in blood and violence that, when daylight
went out, the ghosts of its dead were its only population. His
instinct told him, as it has told other travellers, that Istanbul
was a town he would be glad to get out of alive". The plan is
to shoot Krilencu when he tries to make an escape through a trap
door in an advertising hoarding. Looking at the hoarding through
a German made Sniperscope ("Infra-red lens. Sees in the dark.")
Bond examines the giant poster of Marilyn Monroe minutely. "A
faint square showed in the poster. It ran from below the nose
into the great alluring curve of the lips. It was about three
feet deep. From it, there would be a longish drop to the ground".
Above: The Orient Express
After the assassination Bond returns to his hotel in the early
hours of the morning. Waiting for him, dressed in nothing but
a ribbon around her neck, is a Russian cipher clerk who he is
in Istanbul to help defect. Tatiana Romania, Tania for short,
plans to leave Istanbul on the Orient Express, leaving that night
at nine o'clock. The Orient Express originally started as a service
from Paris to Romania in the 19th century and from 1921 the extended
Simplon Orient Express ran a service all the way to Istanbul.
A byword for luxury travel, the service was characterised by fine
wines, elaborate meals and the company of Royalty and celebrities.
Arriving at the station that evening Bond surveyed the scene:
"Wisps of steam rose from the couplings between the carriages
and died quickly in the warm August air. The Orient Express was
the only live train in the ugly, cheaply architectured burrow
that is Istanbul's main station. The trains on the other lines
were engineless and unattended - waiting for tomorrow. Only Track
No3, and its platform, throbbed with the tragic poetry of departure".
Bond meets the Tania, who is defecting with the top secret Spektor
cipher machine, on the train and Bond has arranged for Kerim to
accompany them. Their escape is not clear though and they exit
Turkey into Greece gloomy in the knowledge that they are accompanied
by a number of Russian agents.
"The World Of James Bond" will continue next month...
Article by David Leigh.