Jul 062010

It’s almost mid-July, blazing sun, people holidaying and I’m going to be deliberately perverse and write about getting to work in Istanbul in all other seasons.

During my first year in Istanbul I biked more in the city than out of it. First of all, I cycled to work everyday: from Acıbadem to Koşuyolu and back (my first workplace) or from Acıbadem do Kadıköy and back (my second workplace). They were short routes and I don’t think any would take quicker by car – considering red lights, traffic jams and the fact that I could cycle on pavements or go the wrong way up a one-way street (not that I’m encouraging anyone to do the latter, but in Istanbul sometimes it’s difficult not to…)

I had to remember to take a change of clothes (including a pair of shoes to match a skirt) and it was not only because I sweated buckets uphill. Most of the year Istanbul is very much like London or Dublin, it starts raining in October and doesn’t stop until April or even May, sometimes just for just 10 minutes a day but it rains almost every day (my Irish friend says this depressive-melancholic weather makes him feel at home here).

For rainy days I put on a pair ofrainproof trousers that I originally bought for hiking in the mountains but was glad to discover they had other applications too. Only once did I get caught in a sudden downpour – the sky was blueish and cloudless when I was leaving so I decided not to take any clothes for change – I ended up teaching lessons in trousers which were soaked and muddy almost up to my bum.

Let me also remind you that 2007/2008 winter was not a fake Turkish one, we enjoyed real snow here, with snowmen, snowfights and all. And snow makes the Istanbullus panic: schools are closed, most people don’t go to work. I had no idea about it when I was leaving for work on the first white winter day and anyway, there was just a trace of snow on the roads and it melted away by midday. It was nice to be riding on deserted roads for a change, I got to work earlier than usually but it was all for nothing. All lessons had been cancelled and the secretary thought it was so obvious she didn’t even bother to call me in the morning.

Interestingly, for some people in Istanbul rainfall or snowfall are really good excuses to be even later than normally, though paradoxically either might be a good opportunity to get somewhere in time. Of course, it wouldn’t be possible if everyone was out just as on an ordinary day but that’s the thing, a lot of people here don’t like leaving their homes in foul weather and traffic is minimal. So, if someone decides to get somewhere it should take them less time than usual. Unfortunately, somehow things don’t work that way and I have no clue why.

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