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Famous Turks Series -- Actress Ceyda Karahan is upset about her father's choice of husband for her, in the sex-comedy movie 'Civciv Çıkacak Kuş Çıkacak' (1975)
Famous Turk...
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In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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Driving in TurkeyLearn Turkish Language from delightful Turkish stories -- driving your car in Turkey

In Turkey - Türkiye'de

Tüm diğer müzik fırsatları için tıklayın !

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Driving in Turkey requires preparation. But there really isn't anything available that fulfills the need -- so the best you can hope for are really good reflexes, excellent vision, and an ability to feel comfortable while you make flexible interpretation of Driving Rules You May Have Known (Omigod Press, New Yawk, 1997).

I have never driven in my life with as much intense concentration, as since I've been driving in Turkey.
(Well, once maybe -- when I passed my drivers ed road test in Michigan with a solemn policeman wearing a gun, sitting next to me...)

From what I can gather, in spite of all the published booklets for foreigners, there are no "real" Traffic rules in Turkey. Guidelines -- maybe. That some people follow. Sometimes. Sort of. A guideline would be, say, driving on the 'correct' side of the road.

Speed limits present interesting problems. They are marked here and there, but people usually don't see them because they are driving too fast. This is annoying when you are following the flow of traffic -- directly into a speed trap. I have done this. Three times.

And when it comes to merging right -- from a side street into a main thoroughfare? Well, for the most part, you're on your own. It's a matter of slowly inching into the traffic lane until you force the next speeding car to stop. With that done, you can turn right and become part of the traffic problem yourself ! [Left turns are equally simple, although they take a little longer, since you are obliged to stop two lanes of traffic -- instead of just the one.].

There is also that amazing European connivance known as the round-about. This is sort of a traffic circle (usually containing a large bronze statue, some grass and lots of terrified pedestrians) -- wherein seven or eight main streets merge indiscriminately. The vehicular flow around the circle is usually counter-clockwise, so if you merge into the chaos at, say, street number one and are trying to get to street number seven (which is maddeningly in plain sight just to your left), you must turn and merge right, thereby being swept into the maelstrom.

Some asides, if I may...There are lines painted on the street. Three lines -- which, in our culture, means four lanes of traffic. But remember, here in Turkey they are merely guidelines. In actual fact, there are between 6 and 8 lanes of Turkish traffic, depending on who is double-parked, or whether a bus is stopped, or whether a cab driver is taking his lunch break!

There is also a kind of car "cuddling" that takes place here. Cars often are no more than a hand-span apart. (I have seen drivers fold their side rear mirrors flat so that they can edge past another car...)

And jay-walking pedestrians provide human interest. Their facial expressions speak volumes -- with either the resigned look of a person ready to meet his maker, or the more usual "deer in the headlights" look of foreign travellers -- as they dodge traffic, one harrowing lane-at-a-time.

[Ed. Be warned... Pedestrian road death counts in Turkey are
among the highest in the world.]

Usually though, it's a safe bet -- if you are a pedestrian -- that stepping in front of a bus is the wrong choice...and that stepping in front of a horse or a donkey cart is safer. And speaking of animals, it is a good time to mention horse and donkey carts. FYI, they have the right of way. Think of them as "sailboats" in the marina of traffic life !

To get back to the original thrust of our simple story -- about getting to street seven from street one...It is important to merge (by stopping traffic, as stated before) and then to continue around the circle to get to street seven. For this purpose, a certain attitude must be cultivated. First, never look in the rear view mirror -- it is the person behind you who is responsible for all accidents back there. [Ed. Did she really say that? Oh my.] And since you are following someone who behaves in harmony with the same philosophy, you must be constantly alert.

Second, base your driving maneuvers on the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark -- especially that part where Indy says, "Truck, what truck!" This is an excellent video to watch, to refresh your memory on how to drive in the city.

If you've reached this road-point successfully, another problem arises... You see, as you drove the circumference of the circle, you got nudged into one of the inside lanes -- by the six or seven streets-worth of other "merging" cars. So as you approach your exit street -- you must somehow manage to edge back to the outside lane. Or you will be doomed to continue around and around like the poor man on the MTA (You will never return. Your fate will be never be learned).

And that's when Indy's raffish grin, and a slight turn of the steering wheel, gradually gets you to the outside edge -- and down your favorite street. Whew!

There's an important guideline about backing up that states, "You can back up anywhere, anytime."

Turkish people back up "legitimately" on one way streets, of course, but they also back up when coming up on traffic jams in order to make a U turn and find another route. They back up when they drive past their turn...and discover their mistake one block later. They back up when they recognize a friend walking on the street. And, I have even seen cars in Turkey back up for almost a mile...on the expressway!

I have to mention something about the 'use of the horn' and the 'flashing of headlights'.

I was told that when you start to pass another car in Turkey -- it is your responsibility to call the driver to attention...with a quick flash of the headlights and a shallow beep of the horn.

But I've learned that when I do that -- the other driver sometimes beeps back at me. What am I to make of that? Is he saying hello... even though I have no idea, who he is??? Could he be beeping at someone else...? Perhaps at the car going in the other direction ...Or the pedestrian at the corner? Or the house we just drove passed -- with the gentleman on the second floor balcony? Or the parked car on the shoulder...or or or...? Maybe horns and lights provide other ways to "talk" in Turkey...I'm not 100% sure.

Mostly though, in spite of all these traffic anomalies, I find the need to immerse myself in the Turkish driving culture. The main reason is because it's easier to drive myself -- in order to do the household shopping, to have a social life, to find the airport...And a lot easier than trying try to figure out how the Turkish bus system works! And, besides...there is a certain renewed appreciation of your life, at the end of a car-driving experience in Turkey -- when you realize that you will live to drive another day.
[Ed. Maşallah.]
JS (May '97)

The Maganda explains all to his pal...
Look, m'friend -- there are two kinds of drivers in Turkey.
First there're the stupid ones -- and then there're the crazy ones.
Now, the ones who drive...

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In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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