Tuesday 22 April 2008

Colognial Tang

There is one particular element of the Turkish culture that I feel deserves a post to itself. Something that any visitor to Turkey will encounter in one form or another. So as to avoid blank stares when offered, I'd like to introduce you all to the omnipresent lemon cologne:

Taris is the most famous brand of Lemon Cologne and generally a huge company. According to the website:

"Taris, the first and the biggest Union of Agricultural Sales Cooperatives Turkey, consolidates the conscious of responsibility it bears and the superior service comprehension exceeding the borders of Turkey with the devotion to its principles and targets."

Yeah, I have no idea either. I was too busy consolidating my conscious of responsibility to fully comprehend what the fuck they were on about.

Lemon cologne is everywhere and used for everything. Primarily it's offered after a meal (especially fish) to clean hands and mouth ...then rubbed round the back of the neck before finally covering the nose with hands and taking a deep breath. The result is an awakening comparable to smelling salts.

Upon exiting a restaurant, you will usually find a man standing by the door with a dimpled bottle in his hand. Your move is to offer both hands in a begging fashion and wait for him to douse them with the cologne until you say "sag ol" (literally meaning "stay healthy" or "thank you"). This cologne is then yours to distribute to any part of your body you deem fit (just remember this is a muslim country).

If there is no man with a bottle, you'll be provided with packets of cologne sodden wipes. The principle is the same; hands, mouth, neck, nose, breathe.

Lemon cologne kills all known bacteria. Other uses include:
  1. Pre-dinner hand cleanse.
  2. Mid-dinner hand cleanse.
  3. Post-dinner hand cleanse.
  4. Post-defecation hand cleanse.
  5. Mid-day wake up (see breathing into nostrils)
  6. Post-mosquito bite cooling relief.
  7. Post-spillage all surface cleaner.
  8. Facial aftershave.
  9. Post-genital/anal grooming aftershave balm (Joke. Do not, I repeat, do not try this. Trust me).
  10. Post-haircut massage oil.
  11. Post-minor (note: not major) injury antibacterial lotion.
  12. Post-bereavement 'coming-to-your-senses' lotion.
  13. Spermicidal lubricant.
  14. Cheap prison booze (my grandfather got 2 weeks in solitary for making a punch out it this. Fact. He subsequently temporarily lost the use of his legs. Whether this was due to 2 weeks standing in a sesspit or simply the result of drinking a single measure of lemon cologne is open to debate).
  15. Foot coolant ...and any other areas you choose. Just, choose carefully.
  16. BBQ igniter fluid.
  17. 'Welcome on board our plane/bus/taxi/boat' celebration cleanse.
  18. 'We're about to land/pull into the garage/moor/crash' thank you cleanse.
  19. 'Thank you for a wonderful evening. What was your name again? Anastasia? How much do I owe you?' gratitude hand and mouth cleanse.
  20. 'What a cute little kitten/puppy ...now decontaminate me' hand and body cleanse.
The Turks are a clean people. They have rules to cleanliness that I'm starting to learn. Meals are rarely eaten without washing hands. Food is rarely touched directly.

I love watching the people around me on planes refusing to touch the sandwiches they're eating. Resulting in a hand, wrapped in a tiny napkin, clutching a sandwich as though they're recovering a family heirloom from a public toilet bowl.

Food dropped onto any dinner table surface is considered contaminated and thrown into the ashtray. Personally, I'd eat a dropped ice-cream off a gravel path. Surely a quick blow and a wipe with the wrist is good enough (FYI, that's my general motto for most things). Not here.

After dinner, if available, diners will go to the lavabo to wash hands and mouth. Now, doesn't that make sense? You've just sploshed your way through a pile of food swimming in olive oil. Your lips and chin are glistening in the moonlight. Shouldn't you go and rinse before kissing your friends goodnight?

After bowel movements, shaved nipsies are washed with water via a little pipe at the back of the bowl. It's sense.

When I first arrived, I asked the plumber to remove the little pipe because it looked vicious. He gave me a look as though I'd just wiped my arse on the curtains. Then, after I told him I'd changed my mind and I'd like to try the pipe out for a while, he hugged me.

I'll get onto Turkish baths another time. That's a whole post in itself.

If you're coming over, expect to see cologne and know how to use it. Take some back home with you. My life, and the life of all Turks, would be empty and filthy without it.