I am way behind on blogging, so I was getting ready to post some catch-up items on Fame & Forests; Mother Tulip; etc. However, those posts were all bumped by today’s little adventure.
Since my last post, I have bravely ventured out more and more into unchartered streets, neighborhoods, and parking lots with my Toyota Corolla (aka the Silver Bullet, or SB). However, today was my farthest foray yet into central Istanbul. I went to Nisantasi.
Now I think I have mentioned this neighborhood before? It is an upscale shopping district with designer names galore. Case in point: it is the only place you can find Nespresso (forget about Ferragamo; Gucci; Hermes; Marc Jacobs and the like; let’s focus on the really important stuff). I know because I have long coveted the milk foam maker that Nespresso makes (ok, maybe not that long, but I have coveted it strongly ever since I tasted the oh-so-fluffy-and-rich foam my neighbor served up for me from her Nespresso foam-making machine). You cannot buy it anywhere but in the Nespresso shop which, as I mentioned, is located ONLY in Nisantasi.
(You can also drool over it in fancy household stores in upscale malls, but they’ll all point you to Nisantasi if you want to actually take one home, something that is a tad frustrating.)
I have made my way to this illustrious Nisantasi twice, but neither trip was navigated by me. However, today I was feeling adventurous and decided to drive there. All alone. By Myself.
You may ask what is so difficult about driving to Nisantasi? Well, it’s not the getting there that is so difficult (although people here do drive pretty crazily, and when you put a lot of drivers driving crazily into a small, cramped place like Nisantasi, things can get pretty interesting…an automotive free-for-all). Rather, what is difficult is the parking. I had been told not to venture on my own to this place due to the sparsity of places to leave one’s vehicle. However, I was feeling rebellious, explorer-like. I wanted to push my comfort zones, as well as wean myself from the security of the taxi system. I was going for a little personal growth.
So, after I had driven 45 minutes and arrived at Nisantasi, I wasn’t ready to pat myself on the back just yet knowing that the bigger challenge was still ahead of me. However, when I saw a parking space open on the street, just before the roads narrowed and become near to impossible to navigate, I was ready to give myself a hearty back-pounding. Granted, I would have to walk a bit, but I reasoned (a) I could use the extra exercise (especially after indulging on a 6-inch baklava-like phyllo roll w/nuts, honey, butter) and (b) by parking a bit away from the rest of the throng, I would be outmaneuvering my parking-space-seeking competitors.
As I navigated SB between an Audi and a Honda, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I had driven into the heart of the city AND successfully parked without resorting to an expensive car park. I locked the car and noted its location.
(I lost the car in a mall’s parking garage the other day…now you would think that I would have learned my lesson after the same happened in a Chicago parking garage years ago…I had to be chauffeured on a golf cart by the garage manager for an hour, up and down the humiliatingly many rows and levels…unfortunately for me, no such lesson was learned).
An hour later, I was sauntering back to my car and(wait for it) it wasn’t there.
It wasn’t anywhere.
The Audi and Honda were also gone.
As well as all other cars that had been parked on the street. Instead, in their places were official-looking buses. Period.
I walked up and down the street, wondering if I was on the wrong side of the building or if I was further down the street. Nope. This was the spot where I parked my beloved SB, and she (my car is feminine) was gone.
Now this would be an interesting-enough situation in a country where I was somewhat familiar with, um, the language. With anything in fact. But that is not the case with Istanbul. So I did what any self-respecting, language-ignorant expat would do: I called my husband’s secretary (I know I have mentioned her before because without her help, we would be LOST).
Unfortunately, she didn’t answer.
I then sent an urgent text to her accompanied by a photo of the street where my car was kidnapped.
What to do?
I saw a car park across the street (of course, NOW I would see it). I crossed over to it thinking the guy who works there might know something. Of course, how I was going to convey my question to a guy who I was 99.9% sure would not speak a word of English, I had not yet worked out. Luckily (and thanks to my army of guardian angels who have saved me more times than I care to admit…let’s just say they are earning overtime and then some), I spotted a policeman walking in my direction.
Even luckier? You’ve got it. He spoke some English. AND he knew my car. And the place to where it was dragged away. He oh so kindly hailed a taxi for me and explained in length to the driver (who didn’t speak English) where to take me. Thank you thank you thank you.
Of course, the driver had no clue where to go. Luckily, the driver did speak Turkish and could therefore ask another taxi driver where to go (and another 6 taxi drivers after that…after the first 4, I was getting seriously worried about his ability to understand directions…but realizing that I was being negative, I decided to adjust my attitude and told myself instead that he just wanted to be 100% sure to deliver his customer to the right destination…that he was not going to dump me in some alley…or charge me an outrageous fare…or steal my possessions and then skid off into the urban sunset).
The car stopped, and the driver indicated that we have arrived at my destination. I looked up and what did I see? A huge Toyota sign. Oh, no. He thought I wanted to buy a Toyota, not get my own Toyota back!
Ahh, but no. There was a car park just beyond the Toyota store and therein sat the Silver Bullet. Unharmed.
The taxi driver charged me 12.50 TL (about $7-8) and drove off. After I scaled the metal wall barrier and navigated the very busy highway separating me from the car lot (good thing I was wearing pants), I was greeted kindly by the car park manager. He had me sign a piece of paper, pay 70TL (about $40) and off the SB and I went, homeward bound (with the help of my trusty GPS system and its homing device, without which I would be in deep doo-doo).
The whole detour: less than an hour (during rush hour no less)
Total cost of lesson learned: about $50
I am not going to contemplate how long or how costly this might have been somewhere else. Say in the US. Or Russia. I will just say that I don’t think a car-towing situation can get much better than what I experienced today. What could have been a major pain in the you-know-what, my wallet, and my time, was not. I am sure that at some point I will have a less-than-positive experience here. It’s just bound to happen.
However, in the meantime? I am just going to baste in the afterglow of my positive experience.