Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.
I was thinking of this quote when the ever-cheerful desk clerk at the Dedeman Hotel in Istanbul said to me, “But sir, it is raining now.” He was looking at me like a was a bit daft. And perhaps he is right at that, but still it was only 7:00 after our reception for the tour and I was in a mood to walk somewhere, ANYWHERE in this fascinating city! He finally directed me to Barbarosa Street and told me to make a right and keep on walking for about 20 minutes till I reached to Bosphorus, the straight that separates European Istanbul from its Asian half. Perfect. THE perfect destination, and an easy walk. My legs needed stretching after the nine-hour cramped flight on Turkish Airways. Well, I am learning that Turks have the endearing quality of having no idea of distance or time. Forty minutes later I reached my goal. It was a wonderful stroll on a wide sidewalk with small swirls of brickwork to guide your way along the tree-lined street.
As with the Vietnamese, the Turks have NO idea what a zebra crossing is. It is only that I am extra cautious or otherwise I would have been hit for sure. Turks also love to stop anywhere they please and put up two fingers to signal, “Just a minute,” to the long line of honking cars and minivans who have the audacity to want to make the same turn, but can’t because of the afore-mentioned car. Now mind you, he was blocking the entry ramp to a major north-south road! I also learned that Turks stop for no one. Pedestrians are fair game. And don’t even think you have the “right” of way just because a little green person is flashing to you on a signal saying you still have 25 seconds to safely cross the road. The car that almost got me was going at least 35-40 mph as he or she negotiated the intersection I was trying to cross. So within the space of those 40 minutes or so walking to the Bosphorus through the wet streets, I learned a lot about Turkish driving habits. Observation today on just day two, has confirmed each and every bit of the above as not even being remotely an extraordinary occurrence.
When I finally reached the Bosphorus, I was surprised by the number of people out enjoying the evening in this area called Besiktas. The rain had mercifully stopped or at least had slowed down to an occasional drizzle. Great little narrow, cobble-stoned side streets full of small shops, cafes and the like that cater to the largely young crowd as it is a university area were full of people just enjoying life. One thing I also have already learned is that the Turks love a water view. There are many homes built to a maximum possible density along the sides of the seven hills of the city. At night as you look across the Bosphorus, you see what appears to be thousands of stars twinkling away to mirror the joy of the festive crowd around you. There is the ferry slips here, so people for 2 Turkish Lira (about $1.00) can cross over from one side to the other quite easily. As European as this country can be, they also seem to place a high value on cafes and al-fresco dining and drinking in the trendy cafes and restaurants that line the waterway.
I also enjoyed watching the fishermen catching what appeared to be sardines from the dock area as live rock bands blared music from the outdoor Kucuksu Pavilion. And wherever there are concentrations of people there are the inevitable street vendors selling little dolls, shoes, and clothing. One vendor has sweet-smelling roasted corn, another lamb grilled with peppers and tomatoes and served up on what looks like pita bread. It all looks good, but I’ll give my system a little to adjust before jumping into that adventure! An old man sits in the shadows with his scale at the ready for people to weigh themselves for a lira. I later found out that these guys often tip the scales back, so that they register a few pounds LESS than you actually weigh. This does not stop people from getting on the scales and smiling that the wonderful meal they just enjoyed did not add an ounce.
I began to sense that the crowd was thinning out and thought it advisable to return to the hotel to get a good sleep to catch up from the trip. It takes me about 50 minutes to make my way up the steep road and to the hotel.
It was a wonderful and promising way to start this adventure!