The funky sounds rang out like never before. That night, same as any other, the half-drunk singers all around looked as if they begged the sun to not rise in the morning. No one, it seemed, was worried that it would take 10 alarms to wake up the next day in order to not lose their job.
That night there was more fun to be had here than in all of Istanbul, as we say. If the alarms fail to wake me up tomorrow, the blame would lie in the strange dream-like sequence of the night before. Was I really chatting with a pretty girl from Sweden who was wearing a David Bowie t-shirt and who almost fainted because the crowd made it hard for her to breath as she waited in line for Rob’s toilet?
The long line for the bathroom made you ask: “why does this bar have only one toilet?” Naturally, after music and beers, the toilet was the next priority.
After we ordered our drinks, the waiter approached us, frustrated with the crowd that would not make room for him. He reached into his left pocket and pulled out his wallet. The warmth of the small enclosed space had made his forehead and neck drip with sweat. In his right hand he held a black tray with our fresh drinks, walking quickly, even though the floor near the counter was slick with spilled drinks from broken bottles. God knows who would be the first to fall and break their neck.
After he arrived at our table out of breath, he opened his wallet and said: “One plastic straw, two Paulaners, one Laško and a mineral water… eight euros in total!”
In order to not make him angrier, as he was probably already sweating even more wondering who would pay and how, this time we decided not to waste his time. One of us paid the whole bill, so we could continue our discussion and so that the waiter could get back to work.
To our left, a voice called out in Prizren Turkish: “Çimën var çakmagi?” (Does anyone have a lighter?) A girl across the table with messy hair, whose gaze was fixed on the red lighter that she kept close to her phone, although doubtful, decided to respond out of a sense of responsibility.
It was as if all the special moments she had had with that light ran through her mind. Perhaps, it had been a final gift from an ex-boyfriend. A sense of melancholy froze her look. For a fraction of a second, she seemed to think that if she lent the lighter to that scrawny boy, he would never return it. In her eyes, he had already turned into a treacherous man, tarnished with the epithet “lighter thief.”
In her mind she concocted potential scenarios: “either he will lose it or he would put it in his pocket. There is no other option.” She stretched out her hand to give it to him, but her gaze remained fixed on the lighter. Harshly she said: “Bak, kaybetma, çevır biżetten!” (Look, don’t lose it, give it back to me!)
By the counter, where the bartenders moved like bees to fill the endless glasses, there are three concrete steps and a small gate, after which a narrow path leads you to the garden –– everyone’s favorite place during the summer days and warmer months.
Visitors from outside Kosovo might wonder why this narrow courtyard is not paved with cobblestones, like Prizren’s city center Shadërvan, which is reminiscent of some cities in southeastern Italy.
As you continue walking along the narrow path, on the left, you see the famous garden. “To build a garden is to see the whole as a living organism, where the constituent elements are closely intertwined with each other. A certain tree cannot be considered separate from the plants or bushes below it, just as roses cannot be considered separate from the green grass that surrounds it,” said Rob, the owner of the bar, who spoke of the flowers in the garden as if they were his children.
The music, which could be heard upstairs, competed with the noise coming from the crowded tables. Even yelling wasn’t working. The only time the atmosphere shifted was when one of us almost burst an eardrum, after having to repeat the same story about a vacation in Amsterdam for a third time.
Near the flower garden, the laughter and strange voices did not stop. Four people were enjoying the conversation, two of them, barely holding back tears of laughter. The conversation took place in Turkish. Specifically, the local variety of Turkish known as Prizrençe.
– Cürdün mi ema, araydi bana zıplama?! (Did you see it or not, don’t make a fool out of me?!)
– Brak be, mabet’tır onlar, ko sen ne der o… eiii! (Leave it, it’s useless talk, don’t listen!)
The conversation became more tense.
– Nasıl be mabet, yorgon, sen bileysin, benim jıersi ailem Zvicra’da, em diverdım hağuttan ona, beklema ofis işi ütede! (What are you saying, dude, you know very well that half of my family lives in Switzerland. I told him from the beginning, they don’t offer you any office work there.)
– Bilmeym valla, kulansaydi aklini biraz yapardi pare bunda’da. Zaten Allah der “Çalış kulum verim”, üle dil mi? (I don’t know, honestly, if he was more persistent, maybe a little smarter, he could find work here too. God says to us: “Do the work, because I’m the provider, right?)
– Amk, hepınız old philosopher! (Damn, you’ve all become philosophers!)
– Kırkaydın. (Stop bothering me.)
A little later, we heard a heated debate taking place nearby with such intensity that the echoes must have reached Sinan Pasha’s Mosque. “I’m exhausted, I’ve been waiting for months now to get my visa. They’ve refused it again. There’s no life here anymore. Enough is enough!”
The cursing came from a girl who had forgotten to ash her cigarette and who had changed the table’s conversation. Her friend looked at her in wonder as she exclaimed angrily and tried to understand if she was really to blame for this unique absurdity, or whether it was the fault of the EU, which has been torturing us for over a decade. It was as if her fate depended on that long night, the four glasses of raki she drank and the two packs of cigarettes she smoked.
Everyone’s at Rob’s
After entering, an unwritten rule made it clear that this bar does not allow anything other than drinks and conversation. The luckiest customers are those who arrive early, whoever gets there first gets the best tables. The improvised wooden tables sitting on the gravel make you feel like you are somewhere in southern Albania by the coast, rather than in a bar in Prizren.
The red and yellow lights remind you of an 1980s disco. On a white wall decorated with small stones, a large poster reads: “TRUTH WILL TEAR US APART.”
From a distance, the white wall and old bricks look like a Mark Rothko painting.
Near an oak tree, where two lovers were dancing like crazy, there is a back door that connects to another trendy spot, Noja.
In an emergency, Destill’s customers can satisfy their hunger in two ways: ordering pizza in the early hours of the morning or eating at Noja. Noja is a kitchen filled with good feelings, which brings life to this part of the city, serving delicious meals and appetizers. The fact that it is Destill’s neighbor is enough. The only difference is that Noja serves more food than alcoholic drinks. They complement each other.
Everything in its place. In front of God and Destill we all are equal. Class divisions melt away into a single community, whose primary goal is to relax and enjoy conversation until late. Writers, musicians, designers, politicians and drunkards all gather here.
In our minds, Destill is more a temple than an ordinary bar. Destill is not at all usual. This is one of those rare places where Instagram messages lose their addictive power and are replaced with conversation.
What happens with the rest of your night depends on how drunk you get.
Destill is not just a bar that offers cold beers and music of a refined taste. The little door leads into a colorful space. Here are the unspoken words of people who are born old and die young.
In the queue for Rob’s toilet, one can hear everything.
Feature Image: Aulonë Kadriu / K2.0.