Asking for directions in Istanbul
After a year here, i’ve learnt that when you ask a local for directions, always take them with a pinch of salt and still follow your gut feelings or your damn map. A Turkish person can argue with me on this but somehow, after having been misled too many times, it really grinds my gears when my initial plan led me to my destination instead of their less than helpful directions. They want to be helpful but sometimes, they probably don’t know the way and out of courtesy, (why?!) they just point you in any direction, usually opposite to where you thought you should be going.
Today was one such instance. I was headed for Midpoint on Bagdat Caddesi. The school bus dropped me off along Kazasker and I know that I just have to go downhill in a general direction towards the sea. I was happily following the maps app on my BlackBerry when I suddenly found myself standing in front of a blocked-off railway track. Short of climbing up the 2 metre or so of concrete, my map had no way of showing me where I should be going. I did however, see a tunnel for cars that went under it but wasn’t sure if it was safe for pedestrians. I then walked a little along the wall before trying out my impeccable Tarzanca (tarzan language, usually accompanied with wild hand gesturing) on a 30-something year old guy who was walking his massive dog.
"Do you speak English?" he asked and immediately my asshole-meter went all the way up. I wonder why.
He insisted that I walk further down along the wall before turning first left then right onto a road that will lead me to Bagdat Cad. I pointed to Bagdat Cad on my phone before he proceeded to tell me not to look at the map. What?! Excuse me? Choose to follow your long-winded directions instead of a map with GPS?
(Makes a Grumpy Cat face) NO.
Against his advice, I walked back to the tunnel before discovering a nice set of stairs just for poor yaya (Turkish word for pedestrian, I swear I didn’t make that up). He yelled, “That’s a longer way!” but I continued on my way and two streets later found myself in Krispy Kreme off Bagdat Cad where I made a beeline for the loo as I was busting for a pee. It was made worse because it is so cold outside tonight!
So dear friends, next time you ask for directions in Istanbul, remember NOT to follow everything they tell you. Ask yourself, is this person trying to be helpful or very sure of his directions. Also, never ask anyone who has a dog who will make a pile of poo bigger than the owner.