Ortakoy and beyond - unexpected adventures and discoveries

The plan was simple - leave the hotel at 9 am, with all invited and with anyone who shows up. Rob was there; so were Jene, Caitlin R., Zamzam, Meghan, and Sawa. The plan started out as I thought: tram to Kabatas(h) station; a walk past Dolmabahce Palace (here's the first surprise - the changing of the guard!); walk to Ciragan Sarayi (former palace; now luxury hotel) [and here's the second surprise - we ended up at the luxurious Four Seasons, thinking it was the Ciragan Sarayi, but thinking wrong J ). At the Four Seasons seaside cafĂ©, I bought everyone a favorite of mine, and of Turks: fresh lemon juice with mint. Then, it was on to Ortakoy arts’ district.

After enjoying Ortakoy and some trinkets shopping, Rob had a new plan - a major "push" upstream, up the Bosporus to a fort/castle he saw during a boat tour last week. Here's where the day took a whole new trajectory of great surprises, and one minor frustration (traffic).

From Ortakoy, we jumped into 2 separate cabs, and it took at least 30 minutes to go the few miles up the street. This is a Sunday and it's summer time and there is an arts fair in Bebek, so traffic was literally at a standstill. People walking along the corniche ("boardwalk") along the Bosporus were moving farther and faster than we were in our taxis.

We finally made it to the fort (Rumeli Hisari) and climbed up and down the walls and towers. Rob had spotted a restaurant nearby that he was sure was visited by Anthony Bourdain ("No Reservations"). We enjoyed a great lunch there, though when one of the students asked the waiter if this was the restaurant where Anthony Bourdain came, he thought she was asking for the bathroom! Talk about a “failure to communicate”! (English is not widely understood here; and poor us – we have virtually zero Turkish!)

By now it was close to 4:15. No way was I about to sit in traffic for another hour or more plus walk another 30 minutes plus tram for another 20; we were now at least two hours from our hotel, our 'home base'. Instead, the plan was to walk along the corniche and hope to find a water taxi, so we could skip the taxis on land and get back to Kabatas quicker. And indeed, we walked for 30 minutes along the corniche, stopped into the arts fair in Bebek, and I looked high and low for a water taxi.

"Deniz taxi" is water taxi (Deniz, roughly my name, means Sea). Several others had the same idea, so there was actually a line for the water taxis. From Bebek to Kabatas, one boatload would cost 70 TL (roughly $45). A great investment, for 7 of us, considering we otherwise would take two taxis at $15 each taxi, plus the time factor. Our “taxi” was a small dingy, hardly the “boat taxi” I expected. But it had a powerful engine, a great captain, and enough space for us all. This was the most fun transportation we’ve had all week! Safe? Absolutely! Fun? Of course! And quick?! That was the best part – we got back to our tram within 15 minutes!


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