Sailing Through Istanbul

Cruise editor Marilyn Green blogs from Istanbul setting a course for the new Seabourn Odyssey

Do you mean? Istanbul - Sainte-Sophie // (C) 2009 Etienne Cazin

Istanbul - Sainte-Sophie
// (C) 2009 Etienne Cazin

I had checked with the information desk in the Istanbul airport about how much it would cost to take a taxi to the port where the new Seabourn Odyssey was waiting, but that didn’t change my dismay when a quick run-through showed that my driver and I had not one language in common. I knew the cruise port was quite a distance – around an hour’s drive – and I really don’t know Istanbul at all.

Fortunately, I did have a pen and paper. So as we stood in the hot street outside the airport I drew a cruise ship, and to be on the safe side I drew lots of little people getting on with suitcases. “Ah,” said my driver. I wrote Seabourn Odyssey on the side of the ship. “Ah,” said my driver again, and went to discuss the drawing with the dispatcher, who also spoke Turkish only. Lots of nods later, he opened the door and I got in, relieved to be going somewhere after nearly 11 hours in flight and no sleep for more than a day.

I soon forgot the no sleep part as we came closer to some of the incredible lacy domes and minarets of city and I was drawing away when I realized that the driver was peeking through his mirror. I showed him the sketches and for the rest of the trip he pointed out the most beautiful buildings, holding his cupped hand upside down to signify domes. I was getting drunk on architecture and didn’t mind at all when we hit bumper to bumper traffic.

The driver bought me bottled water from a carside vendor and showed me pictures of his children – I didn’t have one of mine with me. I kept drawing and showed him each one as it was finished, and by the time we arrived at what was obviously a cruise port, he spoke to the security officials to find my ship. The drawing came out again and a chorus of Ahs. Ten minutes later we arrived at the terminal.

How much do I owe you? I asked him, showing him the amount of money the Information desk had indicated. “No, no,” he said; it was too much. We argued with gestures until we hot a middle ground with the total reverse of the kind of argument I had been told to expect. We shook hands warmly and I watched his taxi pull away from the door, reflecting on the basic kindness and friendliness in every corner of the world.