Archive for www.regdafishthinktank.com Here in the Day
 


       www.regdafishthinktank.com Forum Index -> Strange plaices
lebowski

Istanbul

Going with work in a week or so - anyone been before who could give me some pointers ?
bearing

I bet they've got caf...

YOU'RE GOING WHERE?  
lebowski

bearing wrote:
I bet they've got caf...

YOU'RE GOING WHERE?  


Point a - I do not have much choice

Point b - Do you think it is right to write off a whole nation of human beings because of one incident ?
lebowski

Clacker wrote:
Know there's history as far as Leeds are concerned and respect that, but I've been and found it a fantastic city and a real mix of cultures, religions etc etc.

Really vibrant. East meets West, Europe meets Asia, Christianity meets Moslem. A real melting pot. Population about 15 million I think so it's a really bustling city.

Stay in or visit the old part of the city if you can. Visit the Blue Mosque - it's an amazing, historic place. And the Bazaar. And Topkapi (?) Palace.

We did a walking tour of the old city and bus tour of the whole place - both recommended.

Too many highlights to mention, really. Hope you enjoy the trip.


Ta clacks
bearing

lebowski wrote:
bearing wrote:
I bet they've got caf...

YOU'RE GOING WHERE?  


Point a - I do not have much choice

Point b - Do you think it is right to write off a whole nation of human beings because of one incident ?


I was jesting Leb, I quite fancy holidaying in Southern Turkey myself.
lebowski

Got back Thursday Night, lots to tell, but first a tip.

If you are flying back to Leeds/Bradford, with a dark complexion, slightly scruffy hair and two weeks of stubble, and you have also stopped off at Amsterdam on the way. And when the UK customs man asks you where you started your journey sir ?, and you reply Istanbul, and his eyes light up............don't expect to get through unscathed.
Tank Girl



i am reading a book that is kind of about istanbul east meets west  at the mo, called My Name is Red
bearing

lebowski wrote:
Got back Thursday Night, lots to tell, but first a tip.

If you are flying back to Leeds/Bradford, with a dark complexion, slightly scruffy hair and two weeks of stubble, and you have also stopped off at Amsterdam on the way. And when the UK customs man asks you where you started your journey sir ?, and you reply Istanbul, and his eyes light up............don't expect to get through unscathed.


Did he grease up?
lebowski

What to make of Istanbul ?
Well, the fates conspired to send me there this week for a working trip, not a place close to the hearts of many Leeds United followers I know, and I must confess that my watching ‘Midnight Express’ many years ago at the Hyde Park Cinema hadn’t exactly sent me straight down to Thomas Cooks  in my exuberance to visit.

Anyway, there seemed no good reason not to be paid to take a look so I set off on Monday Morning for Manchester airport to fly Turkish Airways direct to Ataturk Airport Istanbul with an open mind.

First thing I noticed was , amongst the young Turkish lads who were my fellow passengers, trousers or jeans tucked inside of your boots is definitely the order of the day. (A little fashion tip for Foo and Dock there).

A lot of the passengers were obviously Turkish and they seemed to be broadly divided into two distinct groups, the traditional groups, woman covering their heads with scarves at all times, men stepping out at the head of the family group and the more trendy, westernised and generally younger people who dressed no differently to anyone you would see on the streets of any town or city in the UK ( OK not necessarily the strides tucked into boots bit).

My wings were severely clipped on this trip , the onset of another attack of gout on my big toe had started the day before so my usual foreign practise of walking miles through a new city never happened to the extent I would have liked.

Anyway, the flight was very comfortable, the stewardesses very pretty, apart from one very harsh one that was the spit of Stanley Baxter , and the food very tasty. The only souring note was the 5 page spread on Manchester United in the in flight magazine ( That lot are sponsored by the airline) where there were a number of quite obviously fictitious interviews with the Manchester United squad  along the lines of – Rio Ferdinand – “ It gives me bounteous and full pleasure to play for glorious team such as Manchester United, it gives my heart much joy and my chest is bursting with the pride that such an honour represents to me and my family “ – You get the picture ? It was actually quite entertaining reading in an amusing way and I wish I’d kept my copy. I think it had been written by Borat.

When you arrive in Turkey, the first thing you have to do at the airport, before collecting your luggage, is to pay the man. Its all very official these days, you queue up, pay £10 or 15 euros for a visa and they put a little sticker in your passport.

So once luggage collected outside to the taxi rank and my first introduction to the world of taxi drivers in Istanbul. Believe me this was to be the main theme of my visit.

I landed at 5.30pm turkey time so no time to go to work so went straight to the Hotel, the Hotel Conrad in the Besiktas area of Istanbul, just on the European side of the Bosphorus River.

Well, I have never in my life seen such traffic problems as they have in this city. The taxis are all yellow, all of them have the seat belt clips tucked down the back of the rear seats so you can’t wear a seatbelt (Apparently the locals complain about the clips digging into their backs) this all adds to the thrill of being driven at breakneck speed by a disinterested, smoking, texting and yawning taxi driver through built up areas with queues of traffic all around you. Only Two lanes ? No problem - just make a third by forcing your way in between the cars in front of you. Major Junction ? Dont you worry about that , just keep texting your girlfriend whilst you speed glibly through it. It was actually light relief when he was just talking to his girlfriend on his phone, meaning that his eyes were raised a bit more towards the horizontal. Lots of people actually picnic on the motorway embankments and sit there in small groups watching the traffic.

We slowed down as we approached the city centre and my driver turned around to me , still hurtling forwards at a suicidal velocity towards a line of stationary traffic “Smoke Mr ?” Proffering his packet of cigs towards me. “No thanks “ was my reply, barely able to peel my eyes off the doom fast approaching us, he hadn’t finished the conversation though – “ Me ?” gesturing to himself ...... “Please, smoke away mate....” with more than a hint of panic and desperation in my voice.

So as we approached the city we drove alongside the river, in the distance I thought I had seen a couple of bridges lit up but it turned out to be the same bridge , just that the lights change colour every now and again.

Long lines of traffic stood to our right, queueing to get onto the literally dozens of small ferries that shuttle people across the vast body of water  that is the river. The hawkers and vendors were out in force selling anything imaginable, flowers, roasted sunflower seeds, lighters, all sorts of food, bubble making machines for kids , dodging the traffic, grimy faces and an entrepreneurial glint in their eyes.

By now the smoke had filled the taxi so much that to avoid it I had wound my window down and I could hear the Mullahs wailing from the nearby mosques calling people to prayer, I look up and see neon signs “ Erotic shop” “ Sex Palace “ at first floor level windows and the contrast was striking. Having said that The Turks seem to have found a way at most levels to live and let live and no-one seems particularly offended either way.

So we get to the hotel, I ask him for a receipt and make a scribbling motion with my hand, the international gesture... “Feesh” he says and hands me a blank one with a knowing smile on his face.

I should mention, to get into the hotel concourse every vehicle was inspected for bombs by security staff and as you enter there is an airport style x-ray machine that you must pass through with your luggage, we are clearly a long way from Kansas, Dorothy.

So,  into the hotel for an uneventful evening, foot continuing to worsen I hobble across the road for multiple bottles of water, a packet of what turns out to be roasted chick peas and a bit of bread and tuna. Living the high life this was not.

So next morning I limp down to the front of the hotel to catch the shuttle bus to the office, my mate who had been before told me to look out for a white mini bus with a registration plate which began with 34. A fat lot of good that did me , I had flagged down a couple before I realised that every single vehicle plate moving in the city began with 34, and there were literally hundreds of white minibuses everywhere. Companies in Istanbul have tried to make the traffic problems easier for their employees by picking them up in various parts of the city, the company I am working for is a major electronics company and I would estimate that they ran about 25 different routes with White minibuses. So I eventually get onto the right bus and we crawl though lines of traffic eventually crossing the vast Bosphorous suspension bridge leaving Europe behind and for the first time in my life I was in Asia.

Half of the city seem to work in Europe and live in Asia and vice versa, meaning that at all times,  huge bottlenecks were to be found approaching the bridge from either side.
Even on the motorways there are people standing in the carriageways selling to the lines of traffic, parked up traffic policemen choose not to notice, or maybe they really don’t notice, who knows ?

We passed  lots of new building sites, office blocks crammed with major western companies , advertising hoardings for Burger King and Virgin Radio, this country is definitely looking west, all of the number plates have a small blue area on the left hand side, just waiting expectantly for the addition of the circle of golden stars that the EU vehicles have.

I eventually arrive at the office where I was greeted by two very attractive mid-twenty year old young women who were to be my colleagues for the duration of my stay. I was regaled with coffee, fresh orange juice , cans of pop and several plates of pastries piled high, sweet and savoury, including small ones that are apparently traditional Turkish fare but were basically mini Cornish pasties with poppy seeds on top.  Lunchtime arrived and A banquet of Turkish food is brought  in to me , flavoured rice wrapped  in  vine leaves, chicken and lamb ‘kebab’ (but really like BBQ chicken/lamb) stuffed peppers, eggplant etc etc......absolutely delicious food.... and this continued for the duration of my stay and their hospitality was sensational.The food and drink conveyor belt must have kept a few people busy in the background.

So the first day ended , I have got to know my colleagues a little better, we covered many subjects in between a mountain of work, discovered that they are both recently married, that it is not the thing to do in Turkey to live together before marriage, that it is very hard to survive for young professional couples in Istanbul. Property prices are sky high and to get a decent education there you need to pay for private schooling for children, unlike other parts of Turkey. And, by the way, what nationality was I ? As I looked Turkish to them. So, it seems that the verbal encouragement I occasionally receive from semi-innebriated social critics of West Yorkshire has indeed been nothing less than accurate, if not particularly welcoming.
So my transport awaited.

I was guided back to the minibus which was crammed full, this was to be vehicle one of the five vehicles I was to get into in order to take me back to the hotel that night.

We set off with the wail of traditional Turkish music blaring from the radio, the driver paying little attention to the road, smoking and chatting to his passengers, , suddenly and quite incongruously Greenday came on -‘Longview’ and I wonder to myself if my fellow passengers realise that this is a song about teenage masturbation? They all seemed to enjoy it anyway, I’m listening to the lyrics.... ‘NO time for motivation, smoking my inspiration ‘  and then ‘Bite my lip and close my eyes,Take me away to paradise,I'm so damn BORED , I'm going blind”

Just at that moment there is a loud bang from the front of the minibus and we are all flung forward in our seatbeltless  seats – the minibus has rear ended a smart VW but no-one seems that surprised, so we have travelled about 750 yards from the office and we all have to pile off the bus.The radiator is gushing water all over the road.
At this stage I’m thinking ‘Taxi’ but am approached by a young Turkish woman who realising I am a visitor, suggests that I go with the rest of the passengers, get a shuttle that will take us in the right general direction and then a taxi from there. I thanked her and followed the group uphill to another minibus, limping along behind when I reached  it , in last place, I get on to be met by a bus full of indifferent Turkish gazes, and not a bit of room to spare, I have to get off and the minibus drives off.

I limp back to the main road, see a petrol station and walk to it thinking I can either flag a passing taxi or catch one as they fill up. I did the latter and got into the back(Vehicle three)  “ Conrad Hotel” I ask , the driver turns and looks at me, I may as well have been saying  “ Dime bar “ as there was not a hint of recognition in his face. We had a short conversation where we both spoke, not understanding a single word that the other said and I realised that he wasn’t taking me anywhere, as I got out, the can of sprite I had put in my pocket for the journey fell out, rolled into the road and was crushed by a passing truck.

I am beginning to feel a long way from home, it is getting dark, I’m limping around with my laptop bag over my shoulder and my foot is really starting to hurt. I hobble on, looking like some character in a John Le Carre novel, crouched and limping from shadow to shadow along the streets of Istanbul. I finally manage to collar another taxi at a junction, I write down ‘Conrad Hotel’ on a piece of paper and give it to him, he clearly has never heard of it but gestures for me to get in. He chatters on his radio and they come back with ‘Besiktas’ and off we head, near miss followed near miss, swerving around other vehicles and pedestrians alike we plunge into a gridlocked city, 45 minutes pass.

We have gone about a mile. MY driver keeps sounding his horn (they all do this) mainly for my benefit to show me that he was giving his best and would turn to me and shrug his shoulders and smile. The journey was interminable but at least the gridlock meant that when we had the inevitable collision it would be at a speed where we both may have a chance of survival. The driver ,clearly bored with his task, shrank further and further down into his seat. At one stage I actually had to lean over from the back seat  to see if he was still awake, sensing my anxiety he sounded his horn a few more times and gave me a gap toothed grin.
He opened his window and leant out as he was driving, I think he was trying to keep himself awake, we approached the bridge.

We came alongside another taxi and my driver shouted across to the other. Next thing I know he is pulling over and indicating that I pay him, pointing to the other taxi which had pulled up behind us mumbling ‘Conrad Hotel’ and nodding encouragingly. So, I pay him and ask for my feesh which he gives me without filling it in and smiles knowingly.
And so to vehicle number 5 of my journey, this driver, whilst still sounding his horn and shrugging ( Clearly a key part of Istanbul school of taxi drivings curriculum ) decided to get around the traffic jam by driving past the queueing traffic at the motorway exit and drive up the entry slip road. I kid you not. At this stage I had resigned myself to my fate and felt destined to die in a foreign field.

We somehow made it back to the hotel , the journey from office to hotel had taken exactly half of the time it took to fly from Manchester to Istanbul .

I had to go for a lie down to recuperate (Feesh in hand). I must say the hotel TV was excellent viewing, consisting of mainly English speaking  programmes with Turkish subtitles, I was able to learn about how the glaciers shaped the landscape of the Yorkshire dales from Tony Robinson ( That feller who digs things up on a Sunday is my Mums description of him ) and the watch a Young black and white John Steed in an episode of the Avengers. Quite what the Turks make of all this I’m not too sure.

I ventured out later that night and explored , very slowly,  the commercial area of Besiktas, a maze of narrow streets with multiple bakeries, kebab houses, barbers, coffee houses and bars I have to confess that I did not have a single drop of the local beer ‘Efes’ during my stay, there wasn’t exactly an abundance of bars and the ones I came across didn’t tempt me. Many of the doormen seemed to be ready to refuse my entry anyway as I must have resembled much more a vagrant than a customer with my lumbering shuffle and heavy stubble. It had rained a bit and the pavements, which are in a terrible state of repair in most parts, became as slippery as ice.
A yellow taxi spun a 360 degree skid in front of me down a hill, passing pedestrians did not miss a beat, I skidded and limped back up the hill, believe me, no-one bothered me. Some fierce looking wild dogs in the park en route took me in and decided to wander in the other direction.

So, the next morning I overslept and missed the shuttle so I hurried on  down to the front of the  hotel.

When I had first arrived I had been getting out of the taxi when a big chap in his doormans grey suit and top hat had asked me if I needed any help with my luggage, I had politely refused and this seemed not to be the done thing and on the occasions I had passed him since he had given me a sneering glance. Its not because I’m a careful Yorkshireman, its just that I am terrible at tipping.
I always feel awkward, do you go the Tony Soprano route of the rolled up notes surreptitiously passed from hand to hand ? Or the more ostentatious approach ? I have never got the hang of it and have consequently avoided such situations much more out of embarrasment than thrift.

Anyway as I emerged from the hotel  he was there on the frontage and I passed unacknowledged over the road to a taxi rank I had spotted the day before, there was one man standing there in line and no taxis on the rank. Several taxis passed and I realised that he was re-directing them away from the rank with a combination of hand signals and whistles, onto the hotel frontage where a succession of guests were emerging to be guided into their transport by aforementioned large framed doorman who looked across at me with a satisfied look on his face. This happened about 10 times and I realised that, until he had exhausted his supply of guests I wasn’t going to get a taxi. So I could either swallow my pride and go and enlist his help or wait . What did I do ? I started trying in vain to flag the passing taxis down. One or two veered towards me only to be shooed away by doormans mate. Eventually, when they had had their fill and I had lost the battle, they graciously allowed a taxi to pick me up.

An older guy was driving, with hair like the  Doc in Back to the future and Marty Feldman eyes. I asked for my office destination. I received the ubiquitous blank look. I showed him the address and he set off, turning around and heading back down the hill, the wrong way down a one way street. At the first bend he was forced to swerve violently to avoid an oncoming car and came to a screeching halt, jumping out to remonstrate and shake his fist at the other vehicle which was disappearing off into the distance. By this time I was very late for work and in a dilemma, do I stay in this taxi or bail out now and try my luck in another ? I decided to stay.

Wrong move.

We raced off again through the city and over the bridge once again . The driver pulling off some of the most outrageous manoeuvres I have ever seen, veering between lanes at speed. I decide to try and find the seatbelt clip so put my left hand down the back of the rear seat, I felt something knobbly and plastic and pulled out what turned out to be a large blue dildo which was now vulgarly sticking out from between the seat back and the seat cushion . What conversation could be possible regarding its provenance with my driver ? None, so I tucked it back down where it had come from and left it at that.

Once over the bridge it became evident that once again my guide had no idea where he was going, stopping to ask several  randomly chosen pedestrians but noticeably ignoring the opportunity to ask directions from the local constabulary. Eventually one of the pedestrians got into the front passenger seat and we drove off. They chatted on like old friends sharing roll-ups whilst I could not help laughing out loud in the back seat at my predicament. The new passenger got dropped of at his place of work, a satisfied man and I, having realised that I wasn’t far away from my destination bailed out, paid an exhorbitant charge and walked the rest of the way, with yet another feesh for my collection.

I could go on, but the trip continued in the same vein, including a mile and a half speed along the hard shoulder on the way back to the airport, an exchange of football allegiance with my Galatasaray supporting driver when we passed their new ground and an argument about the fare when we got to the airport, I just gave him what I had and left him there.

To be honest I got to the airport with a sigh of relief. I then learned that a trip back to Leeds from Istanbul via Amsterdam would not be a wise choice for any prospective drugs mules. My baggage should have been glowing with radiation it had been x-rayed that many times en routeand it was swabbed, sniffed and searched on arrival back in Leeds.
I did go for a walk down to the river on the last night and took some pics, I’ll post em up later.
I promise you, every word of this is true, its a crazy place.
bearing

Did you find any woods to shit in?

Great reporting Leb, thanks
Sir Bulldog Craggwood

thanks for sharing with us! but it was a good hotel no?

i hoped it would be a happier story with you perhaps being welcomed into the family by your attractive colleagues who were bellydancing Leeds fans on motorbikes who could rescue you and provide some good photos for on here
Tank Girl

fantastic.

an englishman abroad
lolwarlol

To say i enjoyed that feels wrong, that i may have enjoyed your pain, your fear and near death experiences. I did enjoy it though. Thanks for posting it.
lolwarlol

By the way, when i wear my boots, i tuck my strides into them.
Sir Bulldog Craggwood

to think what trouble Lebowski couldve got in to if was wasnt limping, stubbled, dishevelled and slightly local looking  tryyryo.gif
lolwarlol

It is the sort of look i aspire to,
Late Doors

Fab. loved reading that Leb, ace, i feel the pain too brother, ive had a massive attack myself just lately (In Bristol as well, Massive attack, y'see ? no ? ooooh please yerselves then.)

Re Tipping
Quote:
I have never got the hang of it and have consequently avoided such situations much more out of embarrasment than thrift.


same here 'cept it's the thrift rather than the embarrasment for me
sheeps

Good stuff Leb.
Seal

Great, involving report Leb.
Mick McCann

You should go to see one of them footistricians, whatever they're called. Great reporting Leb.

The oldest ar'kid had an interesting one in Istanbul a few years ago.

Someone yanked his camera off his arm and stupidly he chased him, a long chase through alleyways and crowded streets. finally the bloke ran out of puff and he caught him. An arguement and wrestling match ensued, the bloke broke away and pulled a knife on him. By this time he was also surounded by a crowd of people shouting abuse at ar'kid like he was in the wrong. He kept shouting for help and police and stuff like that, the bloke got nervous and gave him his camera back. Patting him on his shoulder and chatting away like they were best mates. Ar'kid said that was the scariest of all cos he was hemmed in and was expecting to get stabbed with a smile.

When he told me about it I couldn't believe how stupid he'd been but I suppose you react and think later.
Mick McCann

Clacker wrote:
The locals I met were just brilliant - so proud of their country and heritage and most of all of being a successful, secular, Islamic state.


Could be an important example given what's going on at the mo.
Dock

Mick McCann wrote:
Clacker wrote:
The locals I met were just brilliant - so proud of their country and heritage and most of all of being a successful, secular, Islamic state.


Could be an important example given what's going on at the mo.


Mick, if you start an 'Istanbulness' thread I promise not to ruin it this time.  
Mick McCann

Dock wrote:
Mick McCann wrote:
Clacker wrote:
The locals I met were just brilliant - so proud of their country and heritage and most of all of being a successful, secular, Islamic state.


Could be an important example given what's going on at the mo.


Mick, if you start an 'Istanbulness' thread I promise not to ruin it this time.  


You dint ruin it.

I have no idea about the folk of Instanbul. Maybe the knife thing is cultural, maybe not, dunno.
Dock

lebowski wrote:
What to make of Istanbul ?
Well, the fates conspired to send me there this week for a working trip, not a place close to the hearts of many Leeds United followers I know, and I must confess that my watching ‘Midnight Express’ many years ago at the Hyde Park Cinema hadn’t exactly sent me straight down to Thomas Cooks  in my exuberance to visit.

Anyway, there seemed no good reason not to be paid to take a look so I set off on Monday Morning for Manchester airport to fly Turkish Airways direct to Ataturk Airport Istanbul with an open mind.

First thing I noticed was , amongst the young Turkish lads who were my fellow passengers, trousers or jeans tucked inside of your boots is definitely the order of the day. (A little fashion tip for Foo and Dock there).

A lot of the passengers were obviously Turkish and they seemed to be broadly divided into two distinct groups, the traditional groups, woman covering their heads with scarves at all times, men stepping out at the head of the family group and the more trendy, westernised and generally younger people who dressed no differently to anyone you would see on the streets of any town or city in the UK ( OK not necessarily the strides tucked into boots bit).

My wings were severely clipped on this trip , the onset of another attack of gout on my big toe had started the day before so my usual foreign practise of walking miles through a new city never happened to the extent I would have liked.

Anyway, the flight was very comfortable, the stewardesses very pretty, apart from one very harsh one that was the spit of Stanley Baxter , and the food very tasty. The only souring note was the 5 page spread on Manchester United in the in flight magazine ( That lot are sponsored by the airline) where there were a number of quite obviously fictitious interviews with the Manchester United squad  along the lines of – Rio Ferdinand – “ It gives me bounteous and full pleasure to play for glorious team such as Manchester United, it gives my heart much joy and my chest is bursting with the pride that such an honour represents to me and my family “ – You get the picture ? It was actually quite entertaining reading in an amusing way and I wish I’d kept my copy. I think it had been written by Borat.

When you arrive in Turkey, the first thing you have to do at the airport, before collecting your luggage, is to pay the man. Its all very official these days, you queue up, pay £10 or 15 euros for a visa and they put a little sticker in your passport.

So once luggage collected outside to the taxi rank and my first introduction to the world of taxi drivers in Istanbul. Believe me this was to be the main theme of my visit.

I landed at 5.30pm turkey time so no time to go to work so went straight to the Hotel, the Hotel Conrad in the Besiktas area of Istanbul, just on the European side of the Bosphorus River.

Well, I have never in my life seen such traffic problems as they have in this city. The taxis are all yellow, all of them have the seat belt clips tucked down the back of the rear seats so you can’t wear a seatbelt (Apparently the locals complain about the clips digging into their backs) this all adds to the thrill of being driven at breakneck speed by a disinterested, smoking, texting and yawning taxi driver through built up areas with queues of traffic all around you. Only Two lanes ? No problem - just make a third by forcing your way in between the cars in front of you. Major Junction ? Dont you worry about that , just keep texting your girlfriend whilst you speed glibly through it. It was actually light relief when he was just talking to his girlfriend on his phone, meaning that his eyes were raised a bit more towards the horizontal. Lots of people actually picnic on the motorway embankments and sit there in small groups watching the traffic.

We slowed down as we approached the city centre and my driver turned around to me , still hurtling forwards at a suicidal velocity towards a line of stationary traffic “Smoke Mr ?” Proffering his packet of cigs towards me. “No thanks “ was my reply, barely able to peel my eyes off the doom fast approaching us, he hadn’t finished the conversation though – “ Me ?” gesturing to himself ...... “Please, smoke away mate....” with more than a hint of panic and desperation in my voice.

So as we approached the city we drove alongside the river, in the distance I thought I had seen a couple of bridges lit up but it turned out to be the same bridge , just that the lights change colour every now and again.

Long lines of traffic stood to our right, queueing to get onto the literally dozens of small ferries that shuttle people across the vast body of water  that is the river. The hawkers and vendors were out in force selling anything imaginable, flowers, roasted sunflower seeds, lighters, all sorts of food, bubble making machines for kids , dodging the traffic, grimy faces and an entrepreneurial glint in their eyes.

By now the smoke had filled the taxi so much that to avoid it I had wound my window down and I could hear the Mullahs wailing from the nearby mosques calling people to prayer, I look up and see neon signs “ Erotic shop” “ Sex Palace “ at first floor level windows and the contrast was striking. Having said that The Turks seem to have found a way at most levels to live and let live and no-one seems particularly offended either way.

So we get to the hotel, I ask him for a receipt and make a scribbling motion with my hand, the international gesture... “Feesh” he says and hands me a blank one with a knowing smile on his face.

I should mention, to get into the hotel concourse every vehicle was inspected for bombs by security staff and as you enter there is an airport style x-ray machine that you must pass through with your luggage, we are clearly a long way from Kansas, Dorothy.

So,  into the hotel for an uneventful evening, foot continuing to worsen I hobble across the road for multiple bottles of water, a packet of what turns out to be roasted chick peas and a bit of bread and tuna. Living the high life this was not.

So next morning I limp down to the front of the hotel to catch the shuttle bus to the office, my mate who had been before told me to look out for a white mini bus with a registration plate which began with 34. A fat lot of good that did me , I had flagged down a couple before I realised that every single vehicle plate moving in the city began with 34, and there were literally hundreds of white minibuses everywhere. Companies in Istanbul have tried to make the traffic problems easier for their employees by picking them up in various parts of the city, the company I am working for is a major electronics company and I would estimate that they ran about 25 different routes with White minibuses. So I eventually get onto the right bus and we crawl though lines of traffic eventually crossing the vast Bosphorous suspension bridge leaving Europe behind and for the first time in my life I was in Asia.

Half of the city seem to work in Europe and live in Asia and vice versa, meaning that at all times,  huge bottlenecks were to be found approaching the bridge from either side.
Even on the motorways there are people standing in the carriageways selling to the lines of traffic, parked up traffic policemen choose not to notice, or maybe they really don’t notice, who knows ?

We passed  lots of new building sites, office blocks crammed with major western companies , advertising hoardings for Burger King and Virgin Radio, this country is definitely looking west, all of the number plates have a small blue area on the left hand side, just waiting expectantly for the addition of the circle of golden stars that the EU vehicles have.

I eventually arrive at the office where I was greeted by two very attractive mid-twenty year old young women who were to be my colleagues for the duration of my stay. I was regaled with coffee, fresh orange juice , cans of pop and several plates of pastries piled high, sweet and savoury, including small ones that are apparently traditional Turkish fare but were basically mini Cornish pasties with poppy seeds on top.  Lunchtime arrived and A banquet of Turkish food is brought  in to me , flavoured rice wrapped  in  vine leaves, chicken and lamb ‘kebab’ (but really like BBQ chicken/lamb) stuffed peppers, eggplant etc etc......absolutely delicious food.... and this continued for the duration of my stay and their hospitality was sensational.The food and drink conveyor belt must have kept a few people busy in the background.

So the first day ended , I have got to know my colleagues a little better, we covered many subjects in between a mountain of work, discovered that they are both recently married, that it is not the thing to do in Turkey to live together before marriage, that it is very hard to survive for young professional couples in Istanbul. Property prices are sky high and to get a decent education there you need to pay for private schooling for children, unlike other parts of Turkey. And, by the way, what nationality was I ? As I looked Turkish to them. So, it seems that the verbal encouragement I occasionally receive from semi-innebriated social critics of West Yorkshire has indeed been nothing less than accurate, if not particularly welcoming.
So my transport awaited.

I was guided back to the minibus which was crammed full, this was to be vehicle one of the five vehicles I was to get into in order to take me back to the hotel that night.

We set off with the wail of traditional Turkish music blaring from the radio, the driver paying little attention to the road, smoking and chatting to his passengers, , suddenly and quite incongruously Greenday came on -‘Longview’ and I wonder to myself if my fellow passengers realise that this is a song about teenage masturbation? They all seemed to enjoy it anyway, I’m listening to the lyrics.... ‘NO time for motivation, smoking my inspiration ‘  and then ‘Bite my lip and close my eyes,Take me away to paradise,I'm so damn BORED , I'm going blind”

Just at that moment there is a loud bang from the front of the minibus and we are all flung forward in our seatbeltless  seats – the minibus has rear ended a smart VW but no-one seems that surprised, so we have travelled about 750 yards from the office and we all have to pile off the bus.The radiator is gushing water all over the road.
At this stage I’m thinking ‘Taxi’ but am approached by a young Turkish woman who realising I am a visitor, suggests that I go with the rest of the passengers, get a shuttle that will take us in the right general direction and then a taxi from there. I thanked her and followed the group uphill to another minibus, limping along behind when I reached  it , in last place, I get on to be met by a bus full of indifferent Turkish gazes, and not a bit of room to spare, I have to get off and the minibus drives off.

I limp back to the main road, see a petrol station and walk to it thinking I can either flag a passing taxi or catch one as they fill up. I did the latter and got into the back(Vehicle three)  “ Conrad Hotel” I ask , the driver turns and looks at me, I may as well have been saying  “ Dime bar “ as there was not a hint of recognition in his face. We had a short conversation where we both spoke, not understanding a single word that the other said and I realised that he wasn’t taking me anywhere, as I got out, the can of sprite I had put in my pocket for the journey fell out, rolled into the road and was crushed by a passing truck.

I am beginning to feel a long way from home, it is getting dark, I’m limping around with my laptop bag over my shoulder and my foot is really starting to hurt. I hobble on, looking like some character in a John Le Carre novel, crouched and limping from shadow to shadow along the streets of Istanbul. I finally manage to collar another taxi at a junction, I write down ‘Conrad Hotel’ on a piece of paper and give it to him, he clearly has never heard of it but gestures for me to get in. He chatters on his radio and they come back with ‘Besiktas’ and off we head, near miss followed near miss, swerving around other vehicles and pedestrians alike we plunge into a gridlocked city, 45 minutes pass.

We have gone about a mile. MY driver keeps sounding his horn (they all do this) mainly for my benefit to show me that he was giving his best and would turn to me and shrug his shoulders and smile. The journey was interminable but at least the gridlock meant that when we had the inevitable collision it would be at a speed where we both may have a chance of survival. The driver ,clearly bored with his task, shrank further and further down into his seat. At one stage I actually had to lean over from the back seat  to see if he was still awake, sensing my anxiety he sounded his horn a few more times and gave me a gap toothed grin.
He opened his window and leant out as he was driving, I think he was trying to keep himself awake, we approached the bridge.

We came alongside another taxi and my driver shouted across to the other. Next thing I know he is pulling over and indicating that I pay him, pointing to the other taxi which had pulled up behind us mumbling ‘Conrad Hotel’ and nodding encouragingly. So, I pay him and ask for my feesh which he gives me without filling it in and smiles knowingly.
And so to vehicle number 5 of my journey, this driver, whilst still sounding his horn and shrugging ( Clearly a key part of Istanbul school of taxi drivings curriculum ) decided to get around the traffic jam by driving past the queueing traffic at the motorway exit and drive up the entry slip road. I kid you not. At this stage I had resigned myself to my fate and felt destined to die in a foreign field.

We somehow made it back to the hotel , the journey from office to hotel had taken exactly half of the time it took to fly from Manchester to Istanbul .

I had to go for a lie down to recuperate (Feesh in hand). I must say the hotel TV was excellent viewing, consisting of mainly English speaking  programmes with Turkish subtitles, I was able to learn about how the glaciers shaped the landscape of the Yorkshire dales from Tony Robinson ( That feller who digs things up on a Sunday is my Mums description of him ) and the watch a Young black and white John Steed in an episode of the Avengers. Quite what the Turks make of all this I’m not too sure.

I ventured out later that night and explored , very slowly,  the commercial area of Besiktas, a maze of narrow streets with multiple bakeries, kebab houses, barbers, coffee houses and bars I have to confess that I did not have a single drop of the local beer ‘Efes’ during my stay, there wasn’t exactly an abundance of bars and the ones I came across didn’t tempt me. Many of the doormen seemed to be ready to refuse my entry anyway as I must have resembled much more a vagrant than a customer with my lumbering shuffle and heavy stubble. It had rained a bit and the pavements, which are in a terrible state of repair in most parts, became as slippery as ice.
A yellow taxi spun a 360 degree skid in front of me down a hill, passing pedestrians did not miss a beat, I skidded and limped back up the hill, believe me, no-one bothered me. Some fierce looking wild dogs in the park en route took me in and decided to wander in the other direction.

So, the next morning I overslept and missed the shuttle so I hurried on  down to the front of the  hotel.

When I had first arrived I had been getting out of the taxi when a big chap in his doormans grey suit and top hat had asked me if I needed any help with my luggage, I had politely refused and this seemed not to be the done thing and on the occasions I had passed him since he had given me a sneering glance. Its not because I’m a careful Yorkshireman, its just that I am terrible at tipping.
I always feel awkward, do you go the Tony Soprano route of the rolled up notes surreptitiously passed from hand to hand ? Or the more ostentatious approach ? I have never got the hang of it and have consequently avoided such situations much more out of embarrasment than thrift.

Anyway as I emerged from the hotel  he was there on the frontage and I passed unacknowledged over the road to a taxi rank I had spotted the day before, there was one man standing there in line and no taxis on the rank. Several taxis passed and I realised that he was re-directing them away from the rank with a combination of hand signals and whistles, onto the hotel frontage where a succession of guests were emerging to be guided into their transport by aforementioned large framed doorman who looked across at me with a satisfied look on his face. This happened about 10 times and I realised that, until he had exhausted his supply of guests I wasn’t going to get a taxi. So I could either swallow my pride and go and enlist his help or wait . What did I do ? I started trying in vain to flag the passing taxis down. One or two veered towards me only to be shooed away by doormans mate. Eventually, when they had had their fill and I had lost the battle, they graciously allowed a taxi to pick me up.

An older guy was driving, with hair like the  Doc in Back to the future and Marty Feldman eyes. I asked for my office destination. I received the ubiquitous blank look. I showed him the address and he set off, turning around and heading back down the hill, the wrong way down a one way street. At the first bend he was forced to swerve violently to avoid an oncoming car and came to a screeching halt, jumping out to remonstrate and shake his fist at the other vehicle which was disappearing off into the distance. By this time I was very late for work and in a dilemma, do I stay in this taxi or bail out now and try my luck in another ? I decided to stay.

Wrong move.

We raced off again through the city and over the bridge once again . The driver pulling off some of the most outrageous manoeuvres I have ever seen, veering between lanes at speed. I decide to try and find the seatbelt clip so put my left hand down the back of the rear seat, I felt something knobbly and plastic and pulled out what turned out to be a large blue dildo which was now vulgarly sticking out from between the seat back and the seat cushion . What conversation could be possible regarding its provenance with my driver ? None, so I tucked it back down where it had come from and left it at that.

Once over the bridge it became evident that once again my guide had no idea where he was going, stopping to ask several  randomly chosen pedestrians but noticeably ignoring the opportunity to ask directions from the local constabulary. Eventually one of the pedestrians got into the front passenger seat and we drove off. They chatted on like old friends sharing roll-ups whilst I could not help laughing out loud in the back seat at my predicament. The new passenger got dropped of at his place of work, a satisfied man and I, having realised that I wasn’t far away from my destination bailed out, paid an exhorbitant charge and walked the rest of the way, with yet another feesh for my collection.

I could go on, but the trip continued in the same vein, including a mile and a half speed along the hard shoulder on the way back to the airport, an exchange of football allegiance with my Galatasaray supporting driver when we passed their new ground and an argument about the fare when we got to the airport, I just gave him what I had and left him there.

To be honest I got to the airport with a sigh of relief. I then learned that a trip back to Leeds from Istanbul via Amsterdam would not be a wise choice for any prospective drugs mules. My baggage should have been glowing with radiation it had been x-rayed that many times en routeand it was swabbed, sniffed and searched on arrival back in Leeds.
I did go for a walk down to the river on the last night and took some pics, I’ll post em up later.
I promise you, every word of this is true, its a crazy place.


Good post LebLeb, last night the lads said it was a 'must read' so just picked it up this morning. 10/10

       www.regdafishthinktank.com Forum Index -> Strange plaices
Page 1 of 1
Create your own free forum | Buy a domain to use with your forum
I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune