Friday, September 17, 2010

How Istanbul gave me an elevator complex

When most people think of Istanbul they conjure up dramatic images of mosques, mosaics, and whirling dervishes. Me? I think of elevators. Elevators that get stuck and don't open. 

I've had the extreme pleasure of visiting Istanbul three times and each time I visit, I enjoy it more. Except for the elevators. The first time I visited, I was there for a conference and I didn't get to see much, but I saw enough to make me want to go back as soon as possible. So when a friend invited me last August to spend a week and a half with her in Turkey, I jumped at the opportunity. 

I've been fascinated with the country for quite some time. It's rich culture and dramatic history peaked my interest, and since I'm an environmental politics geek really sophisticated person...the negotiations between Turkey, Syria and Iraq over the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are nothing short of fascinating. So I'm going to spend the next entry writing in extreme detail about them. 


Just kidding. I'm going to write about getting stuck in an elevator. 

It was in August. I'd been in Bethlehem for just over a month and it had been an amazing month, but I wasn't about to turn down another visit to Istanbul and a few days in Marmaris. 

My friend and I had arranged to travel to Turkey with a Jordanian travel agency who arranged all of our hotels and transportation. They also provided guided tours for an extra charge, but we figured that exploring Istanbul on our own would be more fun so that's what we did. Everything was going smoothly until day 3. We had visited the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern (my favorite), Topkapi Palace, toured the Bosphorus strait, eaten lunch at a restaurant on the Galata Bridge, and explored both the Egyptian Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar. 

Istanbul, 2009

Egyptian Spice Market, Istanbul, 2009

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, 2009

We were now ready to take on the Princes' Islands. Except we didn't actually make it to the island we were intending to go to (there are 9, the ferries generally stop at the 4 largest ones). We accidently went to a lesser known one, and couldn't understand what all the fuss was about until we realized (too late) that we had gotten off the ferry one stop too early. 

If you're the editor of a big, really important travel magazine please note that this was a fluke. I never get lost or have anything bad happen to me while traveling. I always choose the best hotels, the best restaurants, kick it with the locals and am generally one of the most well-versed travelers ever. If you've ever traveled with is a great time to keep your mouth shut. Especially certain persons who accompanied me on an infamous 20 mile hike in Northern California. (If you hike with me and I tell you "just one more mile," just hit me. You won't regret it. Promise). Or certain persons who accompanied me on a road trip up the coast of Northern California and Oregon. Or that trip to Mexico. Or the greyhound bus across the United States (Please. Don't ever, ever do this). The trip to Luxembourg (don't pack while drunk). That overnight bus ride to Hamburg from Heidelberg (19 euro for a reason). Or...ok. That's enough. 

So we wandered around the wrong island --which was a very nice island despite not being the one we had originally wanted to see. We had lunch at an incredibly overpriced restaurant. If you're in Turkey and you go to visit the Princes' islands, you should just bring your own lunch. Unless you like paying 20 dollars for three bits of octopus tentacles and one calamari ring. If you do then, by all means, have at it. You'll be delighted by the restaurants on this island. 

Wrong Island, 2009

We took the ferry back to Istanbul and spent some time wandering around Taksim Square. Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel to drop some things off and rest a bit before deciding that what we really needed was some chocolate. So we attempted to leave the hotel. The two of us shuffled into the tiny elevator and hit the button for the lobby. 4th floor, 3rd floor, 2nd floor, 1st floor, lobby. Push elevator door. Nothing happens. Giggle nervously. Push door again. Definitely stuck. Panic. Begin banging on the door, shouting, and crying for my mom...or Keanu Reeves (see opening scene of Speed). 

And then for some reason we began laughing (I can only blame the lack of oxygen). Because who gets stuck in an elevator? In Istanbul. In summer. With no whiskey water. After a few minutes a member of the hotel staff came running over and knocked on the elevator door (which was very polite of him and we would have opened it if possible). The ensuing conversation went something like this: 

Hotel staff member: Excuse me? Excuse me, ladies? Are you still there? 

Us: (Inner monologue: Um. Yes? Is there another way out?)  Yes, we're still here. How much longer? 

Hotel staff member: 5 minutes. 

Us: It's really, really hot in here. Could you please hurry? 

Hotel staff member: Ok, ok! Two minutes! 

Us: Do you have any whiskey?

Hotel staff member: silence. 

We kept laughing. In fact we tried to take a video, but now when I watch it, it's just a very blurry, shaky image with two girls laughing hysterically. I'll spare you that spectacle. I don't have much dignity left, but I'd like to retain it. I might need it later. 

So we slumped to the floor and waited. And waited. And....

...finally the door opened! We ran out expecting an apologetic manager/mayor/president/world leader/the local media at least and free everything for the rest of our lives, but...strangely everyone just went back to work. So we had some Turkish coffee and chocolate cake and called it a night. 

mmm, Turkish coffee, Istanbul, 2009

We left the next morning for Marmaris. We had spent 4 days wandering around Istanbul and we were absolutely exhausted and needed a few days on a beach doing nothing. If you're in Turkey and you spend more than 2 days wandering around Istanbul and you decide that you need a vacation from your vacation, Marmaris is a good place to go. 

Marmaris, 2009

But it belongs to that category of places that are designed for tourists and are overrun by tourists. Don't get me wrong. We had a great time there. The hotel was lovely, the beaches were perfect, the pools are fantastic, and the food was great. So is the nightlife. But if you're looking for won't find them here. 

Of course, if none of that is really your thing...there is always this option. 

Thanks, but..., Istanbul, 2009




Martha said...

As a person listed in 2 of the above mentioned travel experiences I have to say that I will never again take your (well-intentioned) advice about how far things are again- and that was about 10 years ago. Or whether there will be internet when we get there... (ok that one was my fault also). But, I will take it on negotiations regarding the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers!

Anonymous said...

I love the Hamburg shout-out, but you forgot to mention Hotel Easy Sleep. How could you forget the magical nights we spent there with those East German house painters listening to American Christmas music all night while the club thumpa-thumpa'd below us? Though certainly the Happy Bear Party in the over-heated bus reeking of Europeans was especially memorable.

Jessie Oliver said...

You have a GREAT way of story telling my friend! I cracked up reading this, and can't wait to have an adventure with ya in the future!

Emily said...

Yeah, road trip in Northern Cali and Oregon! Never go hiking in the woods while your best friends argue over something stupid, you're likely to fall in a ravine! Good times, good times.

I love reading about your adventures. Glad to see you writing again. Missed you!

Heart said...

Your way of telling is very nice.I love reading about your adventures.i'm looking forward to your upcoming postings.

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