How to Get Lost in Istanbul

Bogazici to Istinye Park

The second day after my arrival in Istanbul, my laptop charger broke. I think I probably spent the next thirty minutes furiously experimenting with my charger, attempting to get it to work somehow, hoping the real defect was not in my charger. I plugged it in to every outlet in my room. I tried every adapter I own. I tried it with and without the extra extension cord. I read online forums about how to fix it. I even put my charger in the freezer for fifteen minutes to no avail. (But thanks anyway, username “cq cqray”!)

Okay, so things happen. I just needed to get a new charger. So I contacted Alican, one of our program coordinators, and asked where I could get one. He told me that there was a certified retailer in İstinye Park, a huge mall only five miles from Boğaziçi campus. He told me to take the 59RK bus from my dorm, stay on it for thirteen stops, get off at Maslak, transfer, and get off two stops later. Easy.

Something you should know about me: I have absolutely no sense of direction. I’ll walk into a store on a street, come out, and not know the direction I came from. I’m usually walking confidently in a direction exactly 180 degrees off from the one I should be headed in. But these instructions seemed easy! And I needed a charger.

I was planning on going alone, but two of my friends here, Nina and Camille, heard what I was doing and volunteered/insisted on joining me. I thought at first that it was really unnecessary, but in a few paragraphs you’ll understand why I was retroactively incredibly thankful. We left for the bus stop really excited for our mini-adventure and first experience traveling alone in the city.

It’s still unclear whether or not the original instructions were correct. I’m willing to take a hefty portion of the blame for what came next, but certainly not all, since other people have since told me that the 59RK perhaps was not the right bus from the start. But in any case, the 59RK wasn’t coming, so we decided to take the 59R headed in the same direction. Bad decision. We rode that bus for an hour and fifteen minutes, counting out the thirteen stops. We passed a sign that said Maslak about five stops in, but Alican had said thirteen! Of course, he had also said to take a different bus, but I guess we were choosing which instructions to follow and which to completely disregard.

So it’s getting dark and we still haven’t gotten to Maslak. We pass Taksim Square, which is mildly concerning only because I know that Taksim is south of campus and İstinye Park is north. The bus goes through an intersection, turns around, and starts heading back. We’re way past thirteen stops at this point, and it’s time to ask the driver.

Using our ever-improving pantomiming skills, we manage to communicate to the bus driver that we want to get off at Maslak. He nods and a few stops later motions for us to get off. Finally! Our spirits are lifted as we watch the bus pull away. Then we turn around. The name of the station is not Maslak.

One bus ride in.

We’re not sure what to do, but then the 59RS pulls up, which we were supposed to transfer to at Maslak anyway. We jump on, but decide to give Alican a call just in case. After laughing at us, he tells us to get off this bus, get on the subway, then take another bus a few stops to İstinye. Thankfully, this part of the travel goes smoothly.

We’ve made it! Three bus rides and one metro ride in. It’s taken us two hours and fifteen minutes to get to a place five miles from our dorm. But we’re thrilled! There’s still a (minor) sense of accomplishment at having gotten to our final destination despite the fact that we were simply following, or not following, instructions. Buying the charger is actually quite a gratifying moment.

After eating, we feel pretty confident that we can find our way back. We’re getting to know the 59RS route pretty well and the order of the stops, and we decide we can handle the return trip. I text Alican to let him know that we’re on the bus headed back to campus.

But not so fast. Even though we press the stop button, the bus whizzes by the Maslak station, where we were planning to transfer to get home. We get out at the next stop, cross the street, get on the same bus headed back towards İstinye Park, and this time get off at Maslak.

Five bus rides and one metro ride in.

We plan to cross the street again and transfer, as if we had never missed Maslak just a few minutes before, but the Maslak station has three separate stops all going in different directions. We know generally we want to be going south, but we have no idea what to do. At this point, it’s 10:45 and the buses stop running at 11:00. We wait at the station but no buses come. It’s time to take a taxi. We try to get a cab, but none stop on our side of the street. So we cross the street to where four taxis are lined up, probably because the drivers have noticed three very lost American women walking in circles and desperately trying to hail anything with four wheels and two headlights.

We tell the driver we want to go to Boğaziçi University and we’re off. It’s taking a little longer than we expected, however. We pass signs for Etiler, a neighborhood near our dorm, and the driver goes the other way. Eventually, the car slows to a stop. Are we back? Nope. The driver rolls down his window and asks another cab driver on the side of the street how to get to Boğaziçi. This is hilarious. Not even our cab driver can get us back to campus! He gets instructions and we leave— Boğaziçi-bound! But not quite. We’re on the road for five minutes when he again pulls over to ask directions from another taxi driver. We’re in hysterics. Where is Boğaziçi? Why can’t we seem to get there? We’re joking that we’ll never get back to campus when our driver whizzes right by our dorm. Stop! We tell the driver that we want to get off, pay the fee happily, and leave the cab.

After five hours filled with five bus rides, one metro ride, one cab ride, a delicious dinner, and a new charger, we’re home. I say goodnight, get to my room, and plug in my new charger. The indicator light emits that beautiful, orange glow.

This night that I’ve just described, for all of its frenzy, was probably one of my favorites since I’ve been in Istanbul. Yes, we were lost for the better part of five hours, but the three of us decided to just enjoy the ride. Or rides, I should say. In the end, it was almost as if we took our own bus tour of Istanbul. We saw all different neighborhoods. We familiarized ourselves a little more with the public transportation system. It wasn’t very time-efficient, but it was in no way a waste of time! This excursion taught me to be comfortable getting lost in what will be my home for the next few months, which I think is an invaluable lesson no matter where you are. I’ve felt so much more at ease in this overwhelming city since this night, and far more independent. Thank you Nina and Camille, for a fantastic outing and for not letting me go it alone.

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