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Come on, it’s Turkey!

15 Eylül 2013

Anne von Breitenstein

Istanbul, the place of longing, a mixture of the Orient and the familiar Europe

I am a student from Germany and came to Istanbul to study for one semester. This city is not only a geographical but also a cultural clash of Europe and the Orient. I will share some of my experiences with Istanbul in short articles in which I try to figure out what’s behind my amazements.

A Turkish saying is: “When two hearts are one, the barn becomes a palace.” (Iki gönül bir olunca samanlik seyran olur.) I arrived very relaxed and happy and considered the Turks to be even more relaxed than me. The address of my new flat in Kadiköy in my hands I landed in the dark of the evening. One bus driver assumed to be smart by just taking my heavy bag inside of his bus and at the same time indicating me to get Turkish money first. Argh, should I really leave my back with him? – Ah come on, it’s turkey! [That was the first of many times I would say this winged words.] While I went to change money at a currency counter he just started the bus. What?! I grabbed over the counter, took back my euros and hopped in the bus where my luggage already was. Of course without Turkish Lira. Whatever! The bus driver shrugged his shoulders. Whatever! I still had my luggage and even all my European money, everything was there – but were was the address? I had forgotten it at the counter. Oh my god, here my relaxed arrival mood was finished. I went through the stops showed on the screening trying to remember the name of my new flat. No chance! So I just picked one that sounded familiar to me. [At this time I had now idea about distances in a city like Istanbul.] I just hoped of. In Kurtköy. The “barn” of Istanbul.

In an instance the bus was gone. It was 7pm, February, dark. Oh my god, I was in the middle of nowhere. I am not an anxious person but here I was on an intersection in – what I would call – a better slum. I felt extremely stupid and weak on my high heels, with my Laptop bag in one hand and my huge Trolley in the other. I was prepared to be robbed in the very next second. But apart from cars there was not even somebody who could know where I was. I tripped, stumbled, slipped and rolled my heavy suitcase behind me over damaged pavements with cobblestones filled with muddy water craters. I felt horrible. Finally in the middle of all the shades of grey and dark I saw it: A bright shining modern bakery. My rescue. I opened my laptop and called my new flat mate: “What the hell are you doing there?” followed by “Don’t trust anybody!!” Frightening. The chief of the bakery (nobody spoke English) carried me to the next bus stop from where it still took me more than an hour. I felt even more stupid but relieved.
When I finally arrived in Kadiköy my flatmate took me to a birthday party where everybody was excited about my crazy trip – It felt as if I had seen the backside of the moon. When I than saw the Bosporus for the first time and had my first Cay on the deck of the ferry I felt like in a dream, proud and honoured to be finally welcomed in the Palace of Istanbul.