Disobeying the signs in Istanbul

No parking sign

When the Turkish say “No parking on Wednesdays”, they mean it.

After a long drive from Bulgaria, we arrived at our Airbnb digs for the next few days. Istanbul’s Şişli is a pretty swanky and bustling neighbourhood full of international hotels, gigantic shopping malls, and all the Turkish fast food you could ever dream of. Thankfully our apartment was on a small residential street about 200 metres removed from the chaos.

Our host said we shouldn’t have trouble parking Jagger–a relief in this metropolis of over 14 million people. We arrived and swooped down a few side streets until we found an available space, on a rather steep hill and in front of a sign that looked like this:

No parking sign

I snapped a photo and asked one of the roommates about it. “Ah, this is no parking on Wednesdays, because there’s a market,” he explained. No major issue for us since we were only staying until Wednesday anyway, but we kept it in the back of our mind.

The next night we picked one of our friends up from the airport, and we managed to re-park Jagger on the same street but much further up the hill and away from the sign. Surely it’s safe here, how big could a market be on such a steep hill? When we checked on the car again late Tuesday evening there were still loads of other cars there too. So we went to bed without giving it another thought.

Wednesday rolled around at 9am, and we thought about the car again. But both of us were too lazy (or too afriad) to go down five flights of stairs to check on little Jagger. Little Jagger.

We came down the stairs, finally, at around 1pm, ready to head off to Bursa for a few days. There was a market. A much bigger market than we had anticipated. We walked down the length of it, and at the end we got a surprise.

market3

market2

market4

We were mystified as to how they had managed to move our car up off the street, but there it sat. The market stall keepers shook their heads and bemusedly scolded us in Turkish. Didn’t you read the sign? They told us to come back later after the market closed to retrieve it. Some kids nearby taunted us, yelling “Money! Money! Money!”

market5

We had checked out of the Airbnb earlier, but went back to call the owner and tell him we needed to stay another night. We weren’t going to Bursa today. The owner chuckled about it over Skype. “I thought you guys saw the sign!” We were worried we’d have to pay some kind of fine, but his laughter put us at ease–for a few minutes. Then he got serious. “Make sure you get back there when the market closes. If they tow your car away somewhere, it’ll be a real mess to get it back.”

Our plans for the day postponed, we went to the Asian side of Istanbul and explored their burgeoning bar scene. The market closed around 7pm, and we finally made it back around 8pm. People had begun to clean up, but it was still busy. And our car was still there. Everyone laughed. We bought some fruit from the nearby traders as a vague gesture of apology. “Is this your car?” asked an older trader dressed in a workman’s outfit as he pointed at our VW Golf with the massive “D” country sticker on the back. He gestured to come back and get it–he whirled his fingers around each other either meaning “in an hour” or “tomorrow”. We could’t figure it out.

Everyone was in happy spirits though, and we guess it probably wasn’t the first time they had to do something like that. Thankfully our car is small….

We came back late that evening and the market was gone. Jagger was still there, and we parked him again on the street, careful to leave enough space for passing rubbish trucks that were still cleaning up. We’re really thankful it ended without incident, though Mook says the parking break isn’t quite the same as it used to be.

Our car trapped in the market

kids in the market

All photos except the first and the last are courtesy of Jason!



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