Archive for the ‘Traffic & Travel’ Category

The Papal Traffic

As it is already known, the Pope is in town. This historical visit is a test in multiple levels, but i suppose there is at least one who fails the test. Many Istanbulites got angry with the traffic yesterday. Because of security reasons which streets would be closed were not announced and many people who just left their work had to spend incredible amounts of time to reach home or wherever they were destined to go. I can understand the logic of security reasons but i wish the officials in charge would also care about thousands of their own citizens. I am sure our pain could be alleviated with a better organization. But would our officials care about that?…

Cell phones and public buses

I knew it, I knew it. I always hated that cell phone ban in those ‘green’ public buses. Supposedly, it is for the security of us: cell phones may interfere with the electronic devices of the bus and cause accidents. That is not true according to a Sabah report. Even if that was true, then one should ask why we would be using them. I cannot imagine all Istanbulites would obey the ban, in fact they did not- that is also a matter of civility of course. Then, as a public official, you shouldn’t have imported that kind of buses. That is itself a threat to public safety.
Cell phone ban also provided some people to satisfy themselves in a weird way: Mostly, older men shout at younger women – as I witnessed today once again- The guy did not say anything to an older woman, but when a girl began to use her cell phone, he shouted at her…. (I am sure, most of us have other interesting occasions to witness). I always turned off my cell phone and probably continue to do but not because I really believed in the ban itself. If only I was let to take karate courses in my childhood, I would be bolder, I guess….

Iftar

I had imagined people being grumpy and easy to anger during ramadan. Maybe these things also happen, but I have yet to notice. During the shift to iftar today I was riding a minibus from Kartal to Kadiköy along Minibus caddesi. At every bakery along the road people were lining up for the plain ramadan-pides (that Erkan wrote about) and inside the minibus first one and then another person started to talk to me. Both joyfully wondering what a guy in such a red beard was doing in Turkey.

The street was extremely crowded with both cars and pedestrians., but it was one of those moments when Istanbul feels more like an enormous village than metropolis.

Taxi Trends

Someday I am going to spend the time to taxi around “Taxis”. Istanbul’s Taxi fleet has got to have some of the best compositional cloth for commentary I have ever seen. There is a wealth of material to be worked on this subject.
Today, regrettably… I will procrastinate once again, and leave you with this unique tidbit to tease your thoughts.
Grabbing a taxi today I happened to get one of our newer models. The driver was proud of his car and watched us closely as we boarded with our parcels. He was pleased when I noticed the additional “Taxi” indicator he had mounted to the dash board.
IMG_3670_edited-1.jpg
He made sure that I was aware that he was the owner of “two such signs” one on the roof…and this one on the dash. It’s a nice sign, and the first one that I have ever seen installed on the inside of a taxi…..screwed firmly into place over a panel that has the words; “SRS AIRBAG“. Only in Istanbul.

Beware of the September 18 traffic!

That is the next Monday and it is the first day of all pre-college schools. In order to ease Istanbul traffic, first timers, that is primary school first years, started this week- in fact that is not the main reason, but that can still be counted-
People in charge are declaring that they are taking care of that and all but I believe it might turn out to be like Tuesday’s Galatasaray game with Bordeaux. GS people invited their fans for days and they promised that all is taken care of and there would be no traffic problem. Some of us just know well enough what happened. Today UEFA warned Galatasaray because of the traffic problem on the game day.

Anyway, my point is that one should be careful about the Monday morning. All Istanbulites will be on the street for one reason or another. Today my colleages were discussing to come to work very early. Like leaving their apartments around 6 am. But then what are they gonna do in their offices at 6:30 something? [they live in Asian side of Istanbul and our campus is in the European side] So I thought maybe we could have a party. We have some wine in the stock already. That wasn’t accepted though. And people don’t believe I can make at that time:(

This warning is all for you dears, I live by 10 minute walk away from my work. I myself won’t have traffic problem but because of proximity I sure know I will be a little late while trying to exploit every minute I supposedly have as bonus time…

Moleskine Diary

Breaking in a new Moleskine Diary, smacks of the Sacred. If there was ever a time to inaugurate one, this was it, west bound from Istanbul on the famed rails of the Orient Express toward exotic destinations. For some distance we would share these historic rails with the likes of Inspector Poirot and Agatha Christie, before skewing south towards Thessaloniki. I cracked open the smooth black cover of my pocket size journal and put pen to paper.

IMG_3086.JPG Leaving Istanbul

This particular journey was not on “The” Orient Express itself, but rather the Dostluk Filia, an overnighter run to Greece. We had booked two sleeping compartments and we’re looking forward to being caressed to somnolence as we journeyed across western Turkey and into Greece. We were comfortably settled in as we made our way out of Istanbul and into the setting sun.

IMG_3120.JPG West of Bakirkoy

This night would prove to be one of the most wretchedly enchanted evenings of my life. A journey through the midnight hours racked by jerks, stops, sways, mosquitoes, and the repeated rapping at our door for passports and inspections. Making our way across borders that are less than “Filial” (as our tickets proclaimed) was an unexpected ordeal.

The ancestral tension between these neighbor countries was the
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On My Way Out

Well, in about an hour I will be entering Ataturk airport in order to get on a plane to Hirvatistan(Croatia), and then home to Los Angeles. I just had my final hamam at Cemberlitas and my final Turkish breakfast at Guney restaurant, in view of the Galata Tower.

I had fun here, and will be back someday soon.

When I get back to California on the 10th, I will be adding pictures and text to my blog about my time and Istanbul, as well as the Turkish road trip that brought me to this fine city.

So long, and thanks for all the balik! And thank you to all of you that read my posts and emailed me!

Automobiles Have The Right Of Way

One thing that I had to get used to Istanbul is that fact that cars are king and that if you are a pedestrian, you better get the hell out of the way or get honked at, or maybe hit (does this happen often, or do people mostly try to scare you?). This is totally alien to my California mindset that dictates and enforces the policy that pedestrians have the right of way.

That said, I can imagine that it would be very hard to drive in Istanbul. Being from LA, I consider myself to be a good driver, and I would not even venture onto the street here. I did it in Konya maybe a week before getting here and that was hectic, to say the least. I am guessing that it pales in comparison to a place like Istanbul.

Sultan Kayiks

sultankayiks.JPG

Well, this is too touristy but in case you wanna feel like a sultan (!), you can try these kayiks from Dolmabahce palace to Eminönü… If the kayik people would work on their performance, it could be more interesting but now it is only funny and to my naivete I though the kayik would not have an engine. But it does have…. I was told that their website is not updated regularly, so you should have a call to their office… And I see that they have other routes too…

sultan2.JPG

Dolmus

I don’t like hot, crowded places and I don’t like to let other people drive. And yet, here I was, weaving in and out of traffic on a hot, crowded Dolmus, on the Asian side of Istanbul, with a nearsighted madman at the wheel…. and I was smiling. Something was wrong with me.

First, they call this little bus a “dolmus” because just like the Turkish and Greek dish, “dolmus” (that grape leaf thing they fill with rice)…they keep packing it until it is stuffed. And this little blue bus was stuffed today.

As you walk or drive through the city of Istanbul you can’t help but notice the thousands of Dolmus’ competing for passengers and lanes on the crowded roads. If you miss one at a bus stop you only have to wait a few seconds until 3 or 4 more race to the curb to pick you up…or pack you in.

Designed for 14 passengers, this dolmus had over 25 people in it. The windows were closed and nobody seemed to realize that we were all close to asphyxiation but me. I tried to open the window next to me but it was held fast by a bolt. It had to be 95 degrees in this hot little box and nobody cared.

In fact they were bundled up in jackets, scarves and sweaters. I was wearing my new safari shirt, (and looking very “adventurish”) and I was still dripping wet.

From somewhere in the back I heard the small voice of Stanley, our 10 year old boy, I heard him talking to someone but couldn’t see him. He had been caught in the wave of boarding passengers and ended up behind me. Eventually I caught sight of him sitting on the backrow with 3 big Turks. One of them was an elderly man dressed in a suit, he was sitting next to Stanley with his big arm around my son’s shoulders.
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