Saturday, January 29, 2011

Maybe you can take the city out of the girl ...

I've been struggling for months now with the sheer size of Istanbul. Perhaps it's not the size, though, but the insufficient, inefficient infrastructure, particularly when it comes to transportation.

I know that in order to exist comfortably in a big city, one needs to live close to work and in a neighbourhood that meets one's needs. And we do. But in a city with as much to offer as Istanbul, there are things beyond my neighbourhood that beckon me. And that's when I start to question whether four years in Tarsus/Adana have rubbed off on me.

Last week, I went to a book club meeting with some fellow North American women for the first time. We were meeting in Taksim, a fairly central location, and I suspect closer to where I live than many of the other women there. Still, I had to consider whether to take a bus, taxi plus Metro, or just taxi. Obviously price is a consideration, but so are time and comfort.

Let's look at option one, the most practical and economical: one bus, from my doorstep to the doorstep of the cafe in Taksim. Easy, right? And cheap. But it would take about an hour, and the bus would be crowded; chances are, I'd have to stand the whole way. Also, the direct bus to Taksim doesn't come by all that frequently, and I might have to wait for it.

And so there's option 1b: take any of the buses passing by my doorstep, and then transfer to the funiculaire.

Now let's look at option two, which is considerably more pricey, but a lot more comfortable. For about ten Lira, a taxi will take you to the nearest Metro, from where you ride underground and emerge in Taksim 5-10 minutes later. Door-to-door, you're there in half-an-hour. If only we lived closer to the Metro!

Option three: taxi all the way. A little pricey at close to 20 Lira, and not always advisable, even in the greatest hurry, since if there's a match or it's rush hour, even the best cabbie can't avoid the traffic and you'll be en route for an hour.

I wasn't even going to mention option four, since I never consider it: drive myself. Between the traffic and the scarcity of parking spots, never mind the fact that I haven't yet even learned the best route to take, I'm far too intimidated to drive to Taksim. My husband recently drove to Taksim at 7:30 in the morning on a weekday, though, and got there in under fifteen minutes.

I wish Istanbul were a city with a bicycle culture.

Anyway, all this takes me back to my original question: did the relative quiet of Adana, a city of 1.5 million, suit me better? While I lived there, I cursed its provincial aspect and lamented the absence of museums, galleries and gourmet restaurants almost daily. But now that I'm here in Istanbul, with the latter at my doorstep, how often do I venture out into the big city and actually take advantage of them? Far too seldom, I'm afraid. I find myself too tired, or too lazy, and prefer to take walks in the neighbourhood and take Baby to the local park.

Which begs the question: if that's the kind of life I'm living in the big city, wouldn't I perhaps be better off back in Adana?

Unless I resolve to start really living in Istanbul.

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