At times it feels like 16,000,000 people are all trying to access the metro, metrobus, bus, minibus, tram, trolley, LRT, funicular and ferry at the same time. Together with the taxis, dolmuş, private cars, shuttles and scooters, they complete the meaning of the word trafik.
Trafik that is more stop and less go means drivers (including bus) think nothing of talking on their cell phones accompanied by a constant soundtrack. Honk! Wake up and drive! Honk! I’m coming around the corner! Honk honk! Get in my dolmuş or minibus or taxi! HONK! Get out of my way!
I thought a private car and driver would be ideal. So they are, especially for action-packed sequences such as jumping out into and running through trafik to switch cars, entering exit ramps, driving in reverse with the trafik or driving up steep hills in reverse against the trafik.
Taxi drivers challenge newcomers with a preference for landmark destinations followed with turn-by-turn directions. One driver, after stopping for directions and driving miles out of the way (adding 20% to the fare) finally caved and used his GPS, but this is always a last resort. One rainy night I stopped three taxis. None could understand my google map, even after retrieving glasses from the trunk. Two offered me their GPS but I got stuck at the Turkish language prompts and ultimately gave up and went home.
Fixed-route minibuses present a new challenge in that drivers can never understand a) where I want to go or b) where I want to get off. Happily I can often commute by foot (similar to walking in a parade on Istiklal or in Nişantaşı or Beşiktaş) or by metro, which is the cleanest to be found anywhere; stations and cars are scrubbed fresh every morning.
The prepaid Akbil keychain or Istanbulkart enable travel out to the Sea of Marmara and up the Bosphorus to the Black Sea on public transit! Commuting by ferry actually relieves stress and cares (they just slip off to go for a swim) and so can easily turn into an addiction. I take the ferry on the flimsiest of excuses, just for the sheer pleasure of being out on the water.
Waiting for the first ferry of the morning is a rare feeling of solitude in a sleeping city. The stream of vehicles on the two bridges look like an exquisite children’s toy. Cityscapes and open sea are freshly marvelous rain or shine, day and night. Previously unseen coves hide former villages and protected forests.
Traveling on the open deck of a ferry reveals a secret known for eons: the magic of Istanbul is on the water.
below: multitasking bus driver, waiting for the first ferry of the day, fishing boat, my neighborhood, ferry