Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Bosphorus Bridge

I admit I was more than just a little apprehensive at the thought of moving to Istanbul with its staggering population of 19 million. But I was determined to tackle the city head-on and become as comfortable navigating its roads as I had been in Adana and Tarsus.

I just didn't think I'd start so soon!

Within a week or two of arriving, I had to drop my husband off at the airport. He drove while I carefully made mental notes, occasionally checking the map to see the corresponding 'bigger picture.' Still, I was extremely nervous about the return trip.

I gave myself a stern pep talk: what's the worst thing that could happen? What exactly was I afraid of?

Getting lost.

And what will happen if I get lost?

I'll eventually find my way again. Or ask for directions. Or call my brother-in-law, who knows the city inside and out.

I was a little surprised when I actually did get lost, but I corrected my mistake and was one step closer to knowing Istanbul.

A successful trip to to the supermarket and another airport run a few days later further boosted my confidence.

Then came the real challenge: unable to resist a cheap flight to Adana in and out of Sabiha Gökçen, Istanbul's other airport, I now had to figure out how to get myself and Baby there after work one Friday, but before rush hour. Which allowed no room for error. The slightest mistake could set me back just enough to get me caught in traffic and turn a 45-minute drive into a two-hour one. Or so I was warned.

I enlisted the help of experienced Istanbul expat friends, who were torn between recommending the simplest, most straightforward routes and the quickest, most efficient. The problem, it seemed, was getting to the bridge. I was to cross the Bosphorus Bridge, after which my journey would apparently be extremely easy. But there were dozens of ways to get to the bridge.

Bosphorus BridgeImage via WikipediaI became increasingly nervous, until one kind friend said he'd lead me in his car to the bridge. Within ten minutes he was pulling over to the shoulder and waving me past, and I was merging with the cuing traffic at the bottleneck that is the entrance to the bridge. I couldn't believe how easy it had been! The route he'd taken had been roundabout to say the least, and it might be years before I would be able to navigate the roads of Ortaköy and Beşiktaş as expertly as he did, but at that moment, I didn't care. All I could think about was that I was driving myself and Baby across the Bosphorus Bridge. It was a beautiful day, and I dared to take my eyes off the road a few times to admire the view. Stunning. I am not ashamed to say that I was overcome with emotion and my tears welled up with tears. It was a beautiful moment.

Reality set back in once we parked at the airport and I had to face the difficulties of travelling alone with an eight-month-old. But I'll save that story for another day; suffice to say that the exploding water bottle incident, which you can read about here if you missed it, was only a small part of it.
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