THE ISTANBUL EFFECT: BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED

Up to now, I thought I was indestructible.

I’ve been around the world, and conquered cities all over it, from the United States to Europe to South America. From Britain to France to Spain to Germany to Italy.

With Istanbul, though, I think I finally may have met my match. Color me daunted and overwhelmed. First, let me clarify that I absolutely adore the city. It’s gritty and lovely. The people are fascinating, and the guys are unbelievably hot and sexy.

But everything about it is so over the top. The size. The architecture. The swarms of people in the area around Taksim Square. For the last three days, I’ve walked around in a daze, marveling at the grandeur of it all, but not quite able to wrap my head around it. I’ve chucked my map, and just depend on the kindness — and honesty — of taxi drivers to get me from point A to point B.

And don’t get me started on the language. Most people I’ve encountered have some very basic knowledge of English — usually numbers, as in how much money things cost — but when they start to speak Turkish, they completely lose me. Even written, the language, with syntactic combinations the likes of which I have never seen and squiggly thingies protruding from the top and bottom of letters, confounds me.

The florid manner in which Turks give directions doesn’t help matters any. Take the following exchange between me and this guy I was supposed to meet today at the guest house where he works.

Me: where can I find you?
Cute Turkish dude: sahkulu mahallesi serdari ekrem sokak kadir bey ç?kmaz? no :4 kuledibi bey?lu
close to alman lisesi
Me:
that is the address? which is the name of the place and which is the address? turkish is really confusing!!!
Cute Turkish dude: 0090 555 577 18 15 my number
sahkulu mahallesi area name serdari ekrem sokak street name and kadir bey ç?kmaz? apartment 4
there is germany hight school very close-

Me: okay, serdari ekrem sokak is the street name, but is there a street number. i’m not sure what “kadir bey c?kmaz?” means. sorry for all the questions, but i’m afraid of getting lost!
Cute Turkish dude:
if you go etap marmara hotel there is pera taxi if you say eklektik hotel they know here and u can come very easy
only 4 tl taxi 🙂 it is to easy

Me: ok. i am coming now.
area name: sahkulu mahellesi
street: serdari ekrem sokak
place: kadir bey ckmaz
apartment: 4
right?

Cute Turkish dude: yes but if you take to taxi from etap marmara hotel from pera taxi very easy

He dropped so many names that he might as well have been on the moon. What happened to the old-fashioned way of giving directions: street name + street number? Are the cab drivers as clueless as I am, so you have to give them as much information as possible? Maybe. Last night as I was taking a taxi back to my hotel, the cab driver spent the entire ride alternating between looking at the road and staring at the business card for my hotel, whose name I still haven’t a clue how to pronounce.

In the back of my mind, I knew there wasn’t a chance in hell that I’d get to Cute Turkish dude. But I was willing to give it a try. I got into the cab and handed the driver a piece of paper with the following written on it:

sahkulu mahellesi
serdari ekrem sokak
kadir bey ckmaz
No. 4

He stared at the paper, muttered something in Turkish as if he seriously expected me to understand, and looked at me as if I had three heads. I quickly exited the taxi, ripped up the paper, and moved on to plan B.

Cute Turkish guy would have to wait until another day. I was going shopping.

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