Istanbul/Palandöken 2012
Yet another different SCIJ event

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It started so wrong in my part!
Did I pack at night what I found clean, as always! No.
Did I take the 4 AM bus to Helsinki airport, as always? No.
I had washed and ironed all the clothes I needed and packed them carefully, including the black suit to meet the Minister of something and the tux for the Gala Dinner, and I had a nice, unhurried noon departure.

 

Of course I arrived late in Istanbul and missed the late dinner, but not all the hugs that the lobby of World Elite Hotel was still full of. Also, the THY's dinner had been quite substantial with decent wine and all.

However, "The Lost Boys" had been scouting around the day before and in a minute I found myself sitting outside a bar with a pint of Efes in my hand.

On SUNDAY morning Istanbul stung us in bed with sharp sunrays and hushed us to Besiktas Harbour, just in front of Bahcesehir University where I had attended a congress two years ago.
Off we went along the Sound of Bosbhorus towards the Black Sea.
As the borderline between Europe and Asia is not drawn on the water, the boat couldn't follow the line and we couldn't jump from the port side to the starboard side and back and to and back... repeating Asia–Europe–Asia–Europe–Asia...
        Unfortunately Ertugrul Gunay, Minister of tourism couldn't make it to our little boat tour. I understand him. Who wants to waste a beautiful day in the company of foreign journalists admiring the magnificent views of the magic city. Well, we did, didn't we. At least I enjoyed it. The minister probably knew every view by heart.

        Back to the harbor and by bus to Sultan Ahmet Park and the inevitable Haya Sofia Museum, Topkapi Palace and Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). It was my third visit and still worth the footwork.
By then the sun had already left us and the cold was sneaking inside my clothes and hunger into my stomach.
        Time to leave the higher spheres and enter the underworld. Constantine the Great had Binbirdirek Cistern built AD 330. Luckily emptied of water it made a great restaurant for a great diner and a great concert.
        To me Hüsnü Senlendirici's 1,5 h consert was the highpoint of the event. Beats even my XC bronze. Gold could have been different. May be.
       Hüsnü is a celebrity in his genre, but the second top artist was famous outside hers. Yellow papers and gossip TV, as well Queen Elisabeth's Palace or Tina Turner's birthday party have been the arenas of Asena, Turkey's most famous belly dancer. Her love life has caused scandals, she's been shot at, but she has put back belly dancing and gave it a prominent place in the Turkish public's agenda. Her absolute control of her muscles, sense of humor in her delicate motions, almost irony on her own expense was a show of absolute skill, but was it art and was it sexy? Well, to me she was an admirably skillful aerobics athlete, but did we see any one-arm push-ups? NO!
Anyway, I think there was more sex in the audience.
Knowing that she's a kickboxing champion made me worry for Hüsnü's sake: one wrong note from his clarinet and a kick in his groin would correct it.

On MONDAY morning Istanbul shed tears on our departure. At 9.30 we were far away. Well, physically only some twenty kilometers at the Atatürk Airport, but mentally already in Palandöken. After two hour's flight we had happy reunions with our skis we had left to an honest looking man upon our arrivals at the Airport on Saturday.
        Palandöken welcomed us somewhat hostilely trying to blow us back down from the mountain and her efforts didn't weaken much during the whole week. Well, however, we came to ski and ski we would from the first afternoon till the last.
        Opening Ceremony with colours. Ski show with torches and flags. Young women and men in their light traditional costumes dancing for us in our skiing outfits for twenty minutes with the fierce wind trying to break the flagpoles.
        National teams tried to gather in front of the corresponding flags. Someone had evidently considered the Greek flag mine as it is white and blue with a cross. Whatever, as long as I don’t have to pay for it. If I do, I demand a security for it. This may be gibberish to you, dear reader, but it refers to the negotiations on a loan from Finland to Greece.

 

TUESDAY To the unknown territory of Konakli
No idea non so ever what Konakli would be like, but when after some serpentine turns of the road the downhill came in sight only one word came in my mind: WOW!
        We almost had to walk the last half a kilometer or push the bus, but finally, from somewhere our driver found the attacking attitude and through the masses of snow we flew to the parking place in front of the restaurant building of the resort. I saw another slope like the downhill, but to our disappointment, only a kilometer long slope and the lift back to the building were open. The slope was an enjoyable blue, but got soon boring.

        In the evening a discussion panel on freedom of press and new journalism.
Mustafa Akoyl and Haluk Sahin told us about the conflicting reality of the Turkish media. First the privatisation of the media gave freedom of speech to the journalists. Then ownership of the free media going to conglomerates re-reduced it, because the new owners competed e.g. of the building contracts with the state. The negotiations could by no means be endangered by loose words in the media owned by them.
Marco Pratellesi warned us of dangers social media produces to our profession. E.g. the death of Whitney Houston was in Twitter before the professional media had the foggiest of the news bomb. The good old grapevine has grown longer and tighter branches.
        The social media has a lot to learn. The personal assistant of Ms. Houston's should have photographed her, sent thumbnails to the media and started an auction for the photos.
        After the panel we were ready for the Nation's Evening and the freedom of the media to have fun. The hosting team and the guests from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan brought back the spirit that has been missing for some time from the nation's Evening. Traditional costumes and delicacies were warmly welcomed to the languished atmosphere of the event.
        Well, Christopher Ungar tried his best to market the Swiss table by taking off his T-shirt, but there was sex even less than in Asena's belly dance. Anyway, we had seen it already in Jasna, and please Christopher, do something to that six pack of yours for the next time.
        The old disco music managed to heat up the dance floor in such extent that Tatiana Pigareva opened a window and started a snowball fight. The peace was quickly declared as the floor was getting dangerously slippery.

WEDNESDAY and Grand Salom competion - to some members the most important event of the week.
The race was bound to start at 9.30.
The race was postponed to 11.00.
The race was postponed to 1 PM.
The race was postponed to Friday.
        The day was perfect for skiing, but the track was too soft for the race. So, we skied a lot but without numbers.
        In the evening we were transported to the Atatürk University to attend to the Conference on Turkey’s Regional and International Role in Changing World. There we learned that "the Arabic Spring" is not possible in Turkey because Turkey has started it's own spring years and years ago.
Standing an outstanding dinner after the conference at the lobby of the auditorium.

On THURSDAY the most beautiful day greets the scijers on their narrow and unstable XC skis.
Kandilli has a real XC stadium with machine-made ski trail. At the height of 1750 m the track for SSW, SSM, SW and JW was reduced to 1300 m and 2600 m for SM and JM. So-so the 100 m climb took the breath away of anyone and the downhill turn did the rest; at least half of us fell on that turn. However, the weather was so fine that no sour faces could be seen. The Dutch pea soup and American turkey prizes us all.
        The prize giving ceremony took place in front of the gate of Yakutie Madrasa. The over hour long wait outside for the ceremony to begin was a bit too long for some of us and the couching and sneezing got louder, but the wait was worth it; the prize givers were of the highest level, a dozen ministers, mayors and professors. I got my XC bronze from the hands of Mr. Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister of Agriculture of Ghana. 
        A great dinner at a local restaurant, “Erzurum Houses” finished the great day. The highlight of this night was not the traditional wedding ceremony but the belly dance on a chair by Ms Quicksilver, Barcin Yinanc.

FRIDAY and finally the GS race. The snow was still soft and it had been peeled so thin that at least one of my turns was on frozen grass. I can always say that that was the spot where I lost my speed just before the gentle part of the track where the speed was most needed.With all duties over we took the gondola up to higher slopes. Then first down the blue piste. Not much skiing there, though. I wonder if a blind man's white stick would have helped us down faster. Then up again and down the black piste. I wouldn't call that one black, rather white darkness.
        So, it was time to call it a week in the sense of skiing the General Assembly was about to begin. An obligatory one-minute silence was held in memory of Leopold Unger, Gene Kramer and Sepp Thayer. The place of the next SCIJ meeting was still a bit open, but negotiations with Civetta, Italy were on. However, the 2014 meeting would be in Chambery, Switzerland and 2015 meeting in Paqueira-Beret, the largest resort in Spain. A Vice President was chosen. Marica Finnsiö from Sweden it is.
        The culmination of the week was still waiting: the gala dinner in my tuxedo at the Xanadu Hotel. The ladies were beautiful like Olivia Newton-John and men were handsome. Once again the dinner was great and music loud. The highlight of the night was Hartmut Krause's performance of "99 Luftballons", a German Top 1 hit by Nena, old next-door-girl of Hartmut's. Dancing was as wild as it usually is the last night and it didn't end at the restaurant. The disco was opened and some of the leavers on the morning flight spent the whole night there.

On SATURDAY morning when I woke up, half of us were already long gone. Slow breakfast, slow packing, slow departure. An aftermath with a couple of friends taking in the last of the atmosphere in magic Istanbul and flight back home relaxed but sneezing.