Best Taxi Driver in Istanbul - Tuesday, August 27, 1991

Tuesday, August 27, 1991

We woke up at about 0900 and had breakfast in the Vienna café. All we had was pancakes, bread, and juice and came out to like $10 per person. After breakfast, we took a cab to the Aya Sofia. It’s an old church and it one of the wonders of the Ancient world. It used to be the biggest church until they built St. Peters in Rome, Italy. When we got there, we discovered the Blue Mosque across the street from the Aya Sofia and went there first.

As we walked there, we were bombarded with kids selling postcards, hats, tops, and film. They were pain in the asses and followed us to the entrance of the Blue Mosque where Anne and Fab bought hats and tops. To go inside the mosque, we had to take off our shoes. I was reluctant to leave my shoes, but this other guy that Donna met (his name was Mehmet too) told me it would be fine. Thinking back I must have thought my shoes were made of gold or something.

The mosque inside was beautiful. It’s all in a shade of blue with lights hanging from the ceiling. The bulbs have to hang low because in the old days that the only way to keep the mosque lit was to change the bulbs. The bulbs had to be reachable. After the mosque, Mehmet walked us through the market (not the Grand Bazaar). Conveniently, his cousin owned a carpet store and he invited us inside the store for Turkish tea.

Fab, Anne, and I had apple tea and Donna had the Turkish black tea. It was hot, but really good. We were in the store for a fucken hour. His cousin was trying to convince us to buy carpet. They were real nice, but the cost was from $600-$6,000. We were told they were all unique, handmade, etc. We still found them to be quite expensive. Anne almost bought a $100 one. It’s interesting because all the carpets are made by 8-12 year-old girls. It takes them about eight months to do just one! Also, they could only do it for about two years because they could go blind if they did it any longer. That’s incredible!

After the carpet store, we waked to the Aya Sofia. It was okay, but it was pretty much under construciton. We heard the chanting prayer of the Muslims, so it was cool. After that, we walked to the TopKapi Palace which was closed. The let us peak in, but that was about it. As we walked down the street, we wanted to hire a cab to drive us to the Asian side. We ran into Isham (The Best Taksi Driver in Istanbul or so he claimed). This guy was unbelievable. He had the best personality and the gift of talking. He would not shut up, but was fascinating and made the whole Turkey experience very memorable. He gave us this business card:

Isham said he would take us for about $40 so we agreed. Donna was reluctant, but we convinced her. It was probably the best thing we could have done. He knew IST like the back of his hand. He is originally from Ankara, but he has lived in IST for 19 years. He is married with three children. We saw pictures of his family. This guy was the coolest. In the front seat, he had all these Slam books of all the people who he has taxied around IST. He even took Carrie Fisher to the airport one time. He didn’t know she was a star until some other customer told him.

He drove us through town and took us over the Bosphorus bridge to the Asian side of IST. We stopped to see the view and to this teahouse called Camilica. It was funny because when we were ordering drinks we were asking how much everything was and it embarrassed Isham. He was cracking jokes and flirting with Donna the whole time. At the teahouse, we had our passports stamped with an Asian seal and we even rode a rickshaw. After, we went to this small neighborhood called Cuskadar to have a typical Turkish meal with Turk beer. The beer was awesome. Anne, Fab, and I didn’t want to eat because we had no money, but Donna agreed to pay so we said OK. She ordered a little bit of everything: ham, cheese, tomato-like sauce, bread, meat and potatoes, vegetables, etc. It was good and the beer was awesome. I do not usually drink beer, but something about this trip has turned me into a beer-loving freak.

After the meal, we signed some books that all customers write in to say how they felt about the meal. As I looked through the book, they had people from everywhere. Isham probably brought all of his customers there and had a connection with the restaurant. The Turkish seem to be wise marketers and help each other out which is quite nice. We drove around the neighborhood and saw some wooden houses and more of the skyline (see video for visuals). It was getting late so we headed back to the European side.

As we headed back, we hit some traffic. He kept on bothering us and cracking jokes. Donna was drunk so he was big time flirting with him. All she kept saying was that she was going to bring her sister because she would drive the men crazy with her big boobs. Before going to the hotel, we stopped at Isham’s friend’s carpet shop.

Again, we were shown carpets for over an hour and offered us tea and coke. Donna looked the most interested so the guy was hammering her. She was funny because she would get him pissed off by not seeming too impressed or interested. She kept sucking her teeth with her finger and telling him she wouldn’t pay $15,000 for the rug. Later, she was talking about doing business with the guy so he wanted to talk some more. He was trying to convince her to buy 15-20 carpets to take back to NYC to see how they would sell. He told her he would guarantee that the carpets would sell. He thought she was rich because she kept telling him she was going to go home and come back the following week. This went on forever. Anne and Fab went outside and bought junk: shoes, boxes, earrings, etc.). After we went back to the hotel.

When Isham was dropping us off, he said he would take us to a typical Turkish dinner with a show for $20 per person. Anne and I wanted to stay because we had no money and the flight was early the next morning so we said No. Fab felt bad for Donna because she wanted to go. She was older than us, but she wanted to party 24 hours a day. Up in the room, Fab changed her mind and Donna left for the evening on her own.

NOTE 10 YEARS LATER: I received a postcard from Isham at my parents house (i.e. my old address). I will let the postcard speak for itself.

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