Yesterday, I again rode the dolmuş (minibus) into Sariyer. The word “dolmuş” (phonetically, DOLE-MUSH) is literally Turkish for “full,” an appropriate name for these minibuses that get so crowded with people that one can barely move. Most people stand up, holding on to metal bars for balance (a necessary support, considering that the dolmuş careens down hills and speeds past other cars, joyfully taking its place in the frenetic traffic of İstanbul. The rate for a ride from Koç (my university) to Sariyer is 1,4 Turkish liras. But you do not pay right when you get on, because the dolmuş begins to move again immediately, and you need to grab onto something fast! So you take your place, perhaps at the back of the bus, and tap the person in front of you on the shoulder. You then hand that person your liras, who hands them the whole way up to the dolmuş driver. The dolmuş driver takes the liras, deposits them in a tray, and makes change, all while continuing to navigate the congested and chaotic streets. He then passes the change the whole way back the bus, until it gets back to you. So the whole time you are on a dolmuş, there is a relentless clink of change, and a chorus of lütfen (please), tesekkür ederim (thank you), and durağı (“stop,” which you must say when you wish to alight the dolmuş, as it has no planned stops).
So anyway, yesterday I got on the dolmuş, and just happened to stand at the very front. And of course, everyone keeps handing me handfuls of liras, which I then have to give to the driver. Before long, it gets a bit too fast, because not only do people hand you their money, but with each fare that is passed up the bus comes additional verbal information, such as how many people the fare is paying for, and where the people intend to get off the bus (which determines the rate). Seeing my confusion, the dolmuş driver laughs and says oturmak!, which I soon figure out means “sit down!” Then he makes a little place for me to sit, at the very front of the dolmuş, and I am suddenly the official dolmuş money-taker. It was honestly great fun, and all the locals seemed to have a good attitude about it. I’m not sure why I’ve gone into such detail about this little occurrence, but it felt worth sharing.
In Sariyer we went to a little shop to try Çiğ köfte (phonetically, CHEE-KOF-TA), which is an interesting (to say the least) culinary experience. Çiğ köfte means “raw meat” in Turkish, and as my Turkish friend Naz told me, “Çiğ köfte is like meatballs that are not cooked, with spices.” Fortunately, though, the shop I bought mine at does not actually use raw beef (most do). Instead, they make the Çiğ köfte with ground wheat and spices. So they give you this tray of “meatballs,” and also a head of lettuce and some flat, tortilla-like bread. You then pick apart the meatballs and wrap them in the lettuce and the bread. My assessment: Çiğ köfte is delicious. I’m not sure I would eat the raw version, but I’m sure it’s good too. Here is a picture of Çiğ köfte:
After returning from Sariyer, some Turkish students took us to Beyoğlu, the same place we went the other night.
Here are some pictures:
Here is just a random video from when we were standing in the middle of Istiklal Cadessi late at night. At 10 seconds, I am trying to zoom in to capture a man playing the guitar, but he was too far away:
At one point, I had a ridiculously humorous conversation with my Turkish friend Sena, in which we spoke in all the different accents we could think of (particularly funny was Irish, Southern American, and Russian). There is something precious about little moments like these, when all the apparent barriers that one would think exist between two students from very different places evaporate. Or perhaps in moments like these, we realize that whatever barriers do exist are exponentially trivial in relation to the potential for two people to laugh over a good joke.
And finally, we make the walk out Istiklal, very late at night, but still hearing the beautiful chaos of music, interaction, and joy:
Tonight: Huge dinner with all the exchange students from all over the world, and (I am told) free rakı.
Tomorrow: the Aya Sofya, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, and Grand Bazaar.