“Merhabalar! Cok Guzel, Gel Gel,” (Welcome, beautiful! Come Come!) were the first words I heard when I stepped into the hustling bustling Taksim Square. If you stick around long enough you’re bound to witness a live riot, too! (No, not all of them are peaceful). I was travelling with a bunch of other foreigners and we were all equally excited to explore around what is known as one of the busiest cities in the world, but was it really?
Turkey seemed like the perfect blend of antiquity and modernity topped with some massive eye candy! Beyond what just met the eye, Istanbul was an absolute treat for my taste buds too. They have their famous “Testi Kebabı” where they light up and cracks open a clay pot ready to be served. To my surprise, there were waffle houses in almost every street that made me die for their breakfast culture! Oh and the interior; never have I seen lamps and wall hangings that beautiful, with small cafes that would conveniently be any hipster’s paradise. And of course, the coffee! Must I add, they also tell you your fortune by looking at the patterns of your remaining coffee bits once you’re done, which is quite exciting!
The first half of the trip was phenomenal. But what fascinated me so much at first glance turned out to be a lesson of a lifetime. I was mapping the idea of flaunting the fun I had in Istanbul by updating my social media accounts, when a series of events jolted my narcissism.
Adorning my favorite black skirt, when I went to meet my friends on the fourth day of my trip, I was ripped off by the waiter. He faked to be oblivious to English tricking me in paying extra for the sides that were never ordered. It was my short visit to the restroom that his British English accent gained my attention. My anger was then propagated by men whistling at us on the street, I felt disrespected and utterly enraged. However, I decided to ignore that bit too but one Saturday morning was enough to put such a massive city on my list of ‘Never Again!’
We had to catch a tramp to get to the Prince’s Island Tour but found ourselves lost. We tried to ask the locals for help but they had a very condescending approach, almost as if they were sick of being bombarded by foreigners who couldn’t get a hold of their language or infrastructure. Finally, the day flew by horse riding around the famous Prince’s Islands -which was a bit of drag; the place is quite under developed to be such a massive tourist attraction. Littered streets can’t be considered vintage now can they?
After the tour was over we had to take a cab back to our hotel. It took us almost an hour trying to explain the whereabouts to the taxi driver, who, to my surprise gathered a couple of other taxi drivers and collectively had a good laugh at our situation. That moment, I felt so helpless and degraded. I wanted to scream and shout, but then again, who would comprehend it? Having a language barrier is one thing, but to be made a joke out of is entirely another, there was no sense of respect.
The next morning we had the typical Simit and Cay breakfast. Had to check out all the hype about their atom and apple tea. They used a normal tea bag available at every store back home and all I could taste was sugar. Yes, it was a disappointment and I honestly wasn’t even surprised. I took the tiny cup as a souvenir though, to remind me to never go back.
A series of huge sighs of relief and exchanged glances of ‘what even?’ later we found ourselves boarding flight. Would I go back? No. Although I’ve been told that it was just one bad experience, or a series of bad experiences for that matter, I can’t see myself being put down as a tourist like that again.
‘cok guzel’ (very beautiful) indeed, but Istanbul is the kind of beauty that only runs skin deep. They’ve taken their tourists for granted and I’m sure some people enjoy that, but I certainly can’t risk it. Each to their own, right?