It all started as an innocent plan at to walk to class at Miniaturk, Istanbul’s outdoor miniature museum/park. (Much like Lego land, but of Turkish buildings and monuments, and not made with Lego’s). I was alone, because nobody else was interested in a 5 km walk. I had nearly two hours to get to class. No sweat!
I leave accent study center near Galata tower. I briefly glanced at Google maps before departing. Estimated walk time 1 hour 20 minutes. Miniaturk is at the end of the golden horn, so I just assumed it would be a simple walk along the waters edge until I arrive at my destination.
I came to a fork in the road, which splits me away from the waters edge into an unfamiliar neighborhood. This was not planned, but I used the compass on my phone to stay relatively parallel (I thought) to the golden horn.
I haven’t seen anything familiar in a half hour, have no idea where the golden horn is, but assume I am going the right way. I continue on my path in hopes that I will see something familiar to help me orient myself. Unfortunately, we have not been in this area of town before, so trying to orient myself was useless.
I make the decision to get on top of all the hills I encounter, in hopes of finding a vantage point with a view of the golden horn. It was just my luck that the first hill I climbed looked out left to a valley, with a cemetery hill on the other side. To the right, I could see another smaller cemetery hill. I thought these were familiar to me. If the cemetery hill was on the other side of the golden horn, which I thought it was I would have been on the right track. How many cemetery hills could there be in Istanbul? I continued in the direction that my new orientation was telling me to go.
I am dangerously close to some skyscrapers (those pictured above, but way closer), and I know that there aren’t any near Miniaturk, so I decided I must have ended up being a little northeast of Miniaturk, where there is a group of skyscrapers, kind of closer to Taksim. Street signs are directing cars to Taksim and Besiktas, so I figure I need to go west.
I decide that in 15 more minutes of walking, I will hail a cab and get to class on time if I do not find Miniaturk. Right around this time I get to the top of a hill, and look down into the valley below. Water! The Golden horn! Maybe I wont be late after all!
I gave Jordan a friendly phone call, to see where everyone else is, and let him know I am lost, but should be to Miniaturk right around 1 maybe. If I don’t get lost again. I walked down the steep streets to the valley where I saw the water, hoping Miniaturk is right there.
Unfortunately Miniaturk was not at the bottom of the hill, and I was in a pickle. Was Miniaturk to my left? Down the golden horn, towards Eyup? Or up the golden horn, away from everything familiar? I chose left, towards Eyup, but figured it would be a good time to call Ozayr, and just make sure I was as close as I thought I was. I had no idea where I was, so I explained to him that I was underneath a large concrete bridge, which spanned over the water about 200ft in the air.
Ozayr told me that Miniaturk was located at the mouth of the golden horn, and therefore I should go north towards a triangulated structure at the end of the stream, which would be Miniaturk.
This went against my instinct, but I turned around and went north, following the shore up to a triangulated dome structure, which turned out to not be miniaturk. I called Ozayr again, and explained that It was a weird Triangulated dome building. He asked me if It looked like a conference center, which, I thought so. He instructed me to get on a bus going north along the shore, and that I was far south of Miniaturk, and would need to go up along the waters edge a ways to get to Miniaturk.
I was unsure which bus to take. There were many many buses going by with random numbers. So at this point I decided to run. It would be a lot easier to follow the water if I was on foot. Plus I wanted to get to class on time, which wouldn’t happen if I took the wrong bus. The clock was ticking, only 9 minutes till class starts.
An out of breath phone call with Ozayr, updating him with my location. Near a mosque in a park. I was “on my way” to Miniaturk, and would meet them inside the park. I was looking for a large white tent and the triangulated structure. Unfortunately there were a lot of obstructions, and I could see no such monuments. I recalled seeing the tents from one of my hilltop moments, but could not remember which direction. At this point I was certain I was headed the right way. Running, I passed many industrial buildings, hoping I was almost there.
I came to two more large concrete bridges, high in the air. They are very unfamiliar, and beyond them I see rolling hills of forest. Uh. Oh. I don’t think I’m in Istanbul Anymore.
I called Jordan, who I knew would be able to help me get directions to Miniaturk using his smartphone. Ozayr had led me astray, and I had no Idea where I was. I was basically on the side of the highway, next to a bunch of scrap yards, and what I still thought might be the golden horn. I listed everything I could see, to have Jordan try to locate me, but it was no luck, nothing came up on Google. I ran up a few more blocks and saw the Turk Telekom Arena. Turns out I was nowhere near Miniaturk, and had run really far in the wrong direction. I was standing on the edge of the Belgrade forest, which is really far away from everything, outside the Istanbul we are all familiar with. I am so far north that my only solution is to take a taxi home, I wont make it back to Miniaturk with enough time to see it, because they close pretty early.
The Taxi man drops me off at Taksim. I walk home, and when I got to the door, I realized I didn’t have my keys! I had left them at accent in the morning, and forgotten to grab them off my studio desk! I was tired, and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep, but now I had to go get my keys from the center.
I arrived at accent and picked up my keys. But it is now 2:30, I am pretty hungry, after having walked/run so far. I decided I’d go get Corba (lentil soup). Going the opposite direction from home, I stopped and ate, and then decided to try some new streets to get home. I ended up finding Sisane park for the second time today, and took a metro home. No more walking for me!
I am home safe (don’t worry mom, I’m o.k.) But realized that I had one crazy experience today. I pulled up Google maps and recreated my route (estimated by what things I remember seeing. It was about 15 km not including the trip back for my keys. I somehow managed to walk 9 miles today in this city that I’ve been in for a month, and not recognize a single thing. The cemetery hill? It was a different one than I thought it was. The Golden Horn? Nope, that was the stream that feeds the golden horn.
The worst part about it all is that I came within a few hundred meters of Miniaturk (it was right around the corner) at 12:45 when I was first calling Ozayr for help. I would have been on time if I had trusted my instinct and headed towards Eyup, and not called him. My poor description of where I was led to me heading north, instead of south. A few hundred meters! The whole day was a guessing game for where to go in a city of 20 million people with no map, and I missed by a few hundred meters! No Way! So if anyone reading this post is in Istanbul and interested in going to Miniaturk, Let me know, because I am looking forward to making up for the lost trip, but probably shouldn’t try to go alone again. Sunday Fun-day at Miniaturk? I think so!
Signing off from the comfort of my home,
*Ozayr did not lead me astray on purpose it was just a funny miscommunication about where I was. oops!