Taxis and Mosques

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Middle East » Turkey
April 19th 2012
Published: April 19th 2012
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What is it with these taxi drivers? When we arrived at the airport, we got in a taxi, and told him our hotel as we pulled away. He promptly stopped beside the street, wondering where our location could be. We gave him our confirmation email, with the hotel name and address printed on it. He still seemed confused, but started off, calling his dispatcher. We made out "Pera Palace" in his comments. Eventually he handed the phone to me. The dispatcher tried to talk to me in Turkish, with a few English words thrown in.

"We're going to the Pera Palace hotel" I said. What else could I say? He had the address. How could a taxi driver not know where a major hotel is? Or even an address in his city. If he's that geographically challenged, shouldn't he get a gps? Surely those aren't that rare anywhere anymore.

Anyway, we finally got to the hotel, more or less with no wrong turns. He stopped one last time to ask directions. Standing out on the street, I saw the other taxi driver he asked point to the building right in front of us. So he drove 100 more feet and dropped us off.

The next taxi driver was even worse. When we got the cab to take us the short distance from the Pera Palace, across the bridge on the Golden Horn, to our next hotel, the Sultanhan, the taxi driver couldn't make heads or tails of the hotel name and street address we provided him. He drove around by the sea side in front of Topkapi palace, and pulled in to the city. We drove down a charming looking street with lots of outdoor dining, tourists wandering around, and women in the modern burka outfit, which is a trench coat and a head scarf. I saw a sign that said "Sultanhmet" which is where the directions we gave him said our hotel is. But he didn't go the way the sign said. After a while, he stopped to ask directions from another taxi driver, got back in the car, and pulled back out onto the busy road by the seaside, trying to explain something to us.

"Bubbles," he seemed to be saying. "BUBBLES!" Somehow we eventually deduced he'd said "traffic." But we weren't sure we believed him.

He went all the way back to the bridge, then went through very busy streets with stopped traffic. Eventually he got out to ask directions again. The other taxi driver pointed to a hotel on the very square where we'd stopped. Our driver jumped back in, and drove off, one block, two blocks, then began to circle back, along the street we recognized from a minute ago. Finally, he came to stop about 100 feet from where the other driver had given him directions. Our driver pointed at the street, where workers had dug up the ground, showing us we couldn't drive there, and indicating through gesticulations, that the hotel was just over there.

I jumped out of the car to find the hotel, while Janel stayed put to make sure he wouldn't drive off with our luggage. Sure enough, there was the Sultanhan. An old guy at the desk with a very expressive face (more on that later) said he'd send someone for our luggage. I went back to the cab, and when no one emerged from the hotel, Janel, the taxi driver and me began lugging our stuff hotel-wards.

We had arrived.

The Sultanhan Hotel is in a great location. We're about to go off to check out the Bazar and cisterns, and will write more on that later.

For now, you can check out photos of our trip, added daily, here:


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