Well, I had an interesting day.
I took the metro for the first time today. It was great – easy, straightforward. I have a little plastic Istanbul card that I loaded with credits, and I can use it for the metro, tram, buses, ferries. I can probably add more to that list once I expand my transport repertoire.
(I did have a bit of a thing at the ‘otopark’ – parking garage – at the metro. It was PITCH DARK inside! Not sure if there was some kind of light malfunction, or what, but unwilling to descend anymore into the black abyss of the lower garage levels, I took my chances and parked in a spot not necessarily designated for parking on the still-pretty-darned-dark ground floor. As it was, I had to keep hitting the ‘lock’ and ‘unlock’ button on my key to flash the lights so I could find my way in / out of the garage.)
I took the metro to Taksim, a busy shopping and business district in the heart of the city. I had a 10:30 meeting with a photography group I had joined as part of my ‘explore and document Istanbul’ action item. It was the kick-off meeting for the group, a collection of novice and experienced photographers who tour the city and take photos, have photo challenges, as well as instructional and other seminars.
(I now have my very own Flikr account which, when I get around to it, I’ll post on this site. More as an FYI of what things look like here because I don’t think amateur me or my little, fully automated Canon digital camera will be producing any award-winning pictures.)
I was thirty minutes early, so I sauntered over to Starbucks for a bit of java before meeting the group at the Taksim Hill Hotel. The hotel was located just across the street from Starbucks, a Garanti Bank and a side street separating the two, so it would only take me a couple of minutes to walk over to the meeting place.
When it was 10:30, I stepped out of the cafe and onto the sidewalk…or tried.
The whole area had been blocked off with tape.
Some gentlemen indicated to me where to go, and I followed their lead. The entire area between Starbucks and the Taksim Hilton Hotel was blocked. I had no idea why. People didn’t seem overly concerned, so I continued to the hotel. There (after mistaking a group of Germans for our photo group) I met up with another new member of the club, a lovely woman from Moscow. We chatted about Moscow, etc. etc. as we waited for the other members to show.
But they never did.*
(Maybe they knew about what I am about to share with you.)
And then a big BOOM! drew our attention to the street.
Where a scene from Hurt Locker played before our eyes.
A man fully dressed in bomb-resistant (is there such a thing?) gear was walking toward an abandoned suitcase that stood just in front of Garanti Bank. The BOOM had been from a fuse the security team had set off inside the suitcase.
We asked one of the German ladies if she knew what was going on. She replied that they had been told it was a scene being shot for a movie.
Which was our cue to go (our third one…the BOOM! being the first and the man in the big, padded, green suit being the second…and, yes, in hindsight, the tape should have been my first cue…next time, it will be…but I sincerely hope there won’t be a next time).
Which we did.
Carefully and quickly skirting the area and heading toward a metro stop away from the Taksim point of entry.
Here is a link of the coverage that my fellow photo-group-member-and-bomb-scare-companion sent me: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/luggage-causes-bomb-scare-in-busy-istanbul-square.aspx?pageID=238&nID=31017&NewsCatID=341
The green you see is on the Garanti Bank building, in front of where sat the abandoned suitcase. We are just to the right, across the street in the building with the black awning.
Too close for comfort.
Even though the suitcase was harmless.
An abandoned suitcase just isn’t the same as it used to be.
It’s not just a forgotten piece of luggage. It’s a potential bomb threat. A reminder of things we need to be aware of.
While still going about the business of living our lives.
Which we did.
Taking the funicular down the hill to the Kabataş port area, we walked along the sparkling sea under a sunny blue sky to the beautiful Dolmabahçe Palace where we enjoyed a glass of strong Turkish tea on the palace grounds.
And toasted to good health.
* Apparently, the group was at the hotel, but in a different area. Happily ignorant of the drama being played out on the street as they got acquainted and engaged in photo chat.