Fez Bus Tour - Back to Istanbul

Istanbul Travel Blog

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My time is finally drawing to a close in Istanbul. After six months living in Istanbul, we just completed an amazing three-week tour of the country. Now, it is time to go back to the US. Here are some of my best and worst experiences of this schizophrenic city.

+The ferry commute. If you have to commute, I can’t imagine a better way than the intercontinental journey across the Bosporus. On any given day, you can see seagulls dive-bombing for simit (Turkish bagels), dolphins jumping in and out of the Marmara Sea or in the water near the Dolmabahce Palace, ocean liners that are the size of several city blocks, massive cargo ships from China, Ukraine and other exotic locales or imposing Turkish military ships sailing by.

Not to mention the other ferries and sea buses which always seem to just narrowly avoid collision in the early morning sea traffic. I had to wake up before the sun was up, but these sights made the journey, at the very least, tolerable and occasionally unforgettable.

-The bus commute. Any positive experience from the ferry was quickly wiped out by the connecting bus I had to take into the business center, Sisli. In the midst of Turks squeezing onto buses like sardines and riding in the door as if we were wannabe firefighters, it was less than than an enjoyable way to get to work. The funniest and most absurd part was that if you waited only five or ten minutes, the same bus would come around but with half the number of people. Some things are worth the wait.

+/- The commute back home.
Unfortunately to get home, I had to walk for a good 15 minutes to a different bus because the ferry only left twice an hour. My favorite sight in the busy bustling business center was the man and his fruit-filled horse cart driving through the traffic-jammed streets like it was 100 years ago, completely incognizant of the modern world surrounding him. Unfortunately, while lost in reverie gazing at the fruit man, I was once almost hit by a car driving on the sidewalk, in typical Istanbul fashion, going in the opposite direction of the street traffic.

- The traffic. You have never experienced traffic until you have been to Istanbul. The Turks would appear to be the world’s worst drivers, but amazingly, I have never seen one accident in all our six months. There was the aforementioned driving-on-the-sidewalk, which is a daily event here.
There is also a lot of backwards and wrong way driving. One of my favorite moments was just outside of our apartment, a narrow and (supposedly) one-way road cluttered with parked cars. The cars were stopped in line and waiting to turn onto the main road. However one of the cars in the middle was facing the opposite direction and driving slowly backwards as they inched out onto the main street. How he got turned backwards in the middle of a row of traffic is a mystery I will leave for the physics police. And this isn’t even the worst (or best?) of Istanbul driving. When crossing another alleged one-way street, we were almost hit by a scooter who was passing on the other side of a bus – in the wrong direction. The dolmus (a shared taxi-minibus) drivers speed so erratically down these narrow, cobble stoned streets that it feels like most of your trip is spent airborne. All street signs and road rules are optional here.

It is sad to leave behind such a fascinating place. I feel that there are few other places in the world could quite capture the chaotic beauty of this ancient city. Gule gule Istanbul!

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photo by: Memo