3 Şubat 2014 Pazartesi

Visitor's Guide

Why is the driving so bad?
So, you’ve noticed? In a bumpy car chase scene in the TV series ‘Leverage’, when asked by Parker where she learnt how to drive, Sophie answers, ‘From a taxi driver in Istanbul’. It’s not like we take pride in it or anything, but we accept it: the driving is bad enough to replace the age-old saying ‘smoking like a Turk’ with ‘driving like a Turk’. The ‘why’ part is a little shady, though. We generally have no respect for fellow human beings; we think we’re always right, and we don’t like waiting in queues. So, yes, there you have it. (But you’ll really enjoy how hospitable we are.)  In our defence, driving is bad, but pedestrians are worse (read: slow).
Why do people keep running into me?
The same reason why the driving is bad. The only way you can prevent people from running into you is if you run into them first. Crowded and wide avenues with little to no car traffic such as Kadıköy’s Bahariye Caddesi or Taksim’s İstiklal Caddesi operate according to invisible traffic rules that no one knows. You should watch out to gauge when to go faster, when to slow down and when to cut someone off. Also, walking very solemnly, as if you’re in a lot of hurry, usually helps.
Who’s the blonde guy with blue eyes whose photos are in every shop?
[Sigh] That’s Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic and the country’s first president. He was also an accomplished military offi... Actually, just Google him.
Can women enter the mosque? Do they have to cover their heads?
Yes and yes. Covering your head with a scarf is a symbolic gesture of respect and will most probably be expected of female visitors. Covering your shoulders, legs and chest is also a good idea. Miniskirt, tube top, flip-flops: good for the beach, not so much for the mosque. (Also, guys, leave your Bermuda shorts at the hotel and opt for a pair of jeans when you’re on your way to Sultanahmet.)
Why aren’t there more Turks wearing fezes?
Do you see any? Originally a Moroccan invention, the fez was an indispensable part of the Ottoman attire, especially for governmental officials. As part of his clothing reform in 1925, Atatürk abolished the use of the fez (along with other headgear such as the turban) and replaced it with European-style hats. The fez remains a touristic novelty item, and the fate of those who expect to see people wearing fezes will be the same as the fate of those who expect to see camels on the streets: disappointment.
Are there any brothels in Istanbul?
Why, yes, of course! Istanbul offers a multitude of corporal pleasures with thousands of female, male, transgender and transvestite sex workers. But need we remind you that Istanbul isn’t your top destination for sex tourism? When the passport police at the airport asked you the nature of your visit (‘business or pleasure?’), that wasn’t what he meant. Still, you can find brothels in Karaköy and Beyoğlu, and a number of hostels/ hotels in Laleli, Kumkapı and Aksaray are used as venues where you can hook up with prostitutes.
Is prostitution legal?
Technically, yes. But there’s no guarantee that the transsexual hottie eyeing you has a valid permit. By the way, there are also really nice museums in the city you might want to check out while you’re here... Just sayin’.
Can I drink beer on the street?
At your own risk. There have been incidents where non-suspecting young people drinking beer on the street have actually been beaten. It all depends on the neighbourhood, really. Üsküdar, for instance, definitely isn’t a good place to try daredeviling acts with alcohol (although the Maiden’s Tower view from the shore at night will definitely tempt you to grab your nearest fling and a few cold ones), whereas Kadıköy and Beyoğlu are much freer districts. When in doubt, don’t. 
Can I drink tap water?
Only if you have no taste buds. Tap water in Istanbul is generally accepted to meet world standards in treatment and purification, but we still wouldn’t recommend it. We wouldn’t recommend brewing tea or coffee with tap water, either, as it will spoil the taste.
I went to use the toilet and only saw a hole in the ground. What gives?
That’s called a squat toilet (also flat toilet, alaturka toilet or simply Turkish toilet). While it’s generally accepted to be much more uncomfortable than the regular, European kind you’re used to, there are some who claim that squatting is actually more hygienic (no contact, no germs!). These types of toilets aren’t really all that common except in older, lower-income neighborhoods and public restrooms.
What’s proper tipping etiquette?
It’s not customary to tip cab drivers, but do go ahead if the driver has pleasantly surprised you with his spotless car, perfect driving, extensive navigation skills and courteous manners, and be sure to give us his number. In restaurants, a 10-15 percent tip is acceptable. Any other place where you feel like tipping (the bell boy, the girl who did your nails, etc), go with your instinct.
Where can I eat pork?
So Islam prohibits drinking alcohol and eating pork. But while you can find alcohol and people drinking alcohol everywhere, pork is somewhat of a taboo. Weird, right? Still, pork is no longer as unconventional or hard to find as it once was. You can find pork dishes in many hip restaurants such as Miss Pizza (Cihangir), Que Tal (Şişhane), Num Num (multiple branches) or in high-end delicatessens such as Namlı Gurme (Karaköy), Şütte (Nişantaşı) and Macrocenter supermarkets.
(For single males) I heard/read that if a man approaches me and tries to take me out to a nightclub, I should politely but firmly refuse him. What’s the deal with that?
Istanbul is an eclectic metropolitan with all kinds of beauties the World has to offer – and all kinds of dangers, too, many of which can be avoided with some common sense. Do doubt the good intentions of a stranger approaching you at a touristic location, asking if you’d like to get a drink. You may end up getting swindled or wake up in bath full of ice cubes with your kidneys missing (the first one is more likely). Do not go to strange places with people you don’t know, and definitely don’t accept any candy from them.

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