All aboard the metrobus!

I never want to get on another bus as long as I live.

I can’t recall ever having seen anything like the scale of traffic congestion that exists here. Not in Tokyo or Seoul, not in Beijing or NYC.

It. Is. Mental.

Tonight, after a meeting with an employment agency, and a pleasant few hours spent wandering aimlessly down delightful side streets, I found myself back at the Galata Bridge. It’s like instinct… I can’t help it. I love water. And I especially love the bustling hive of activity that is the fishermen / boats / ferries scene described in my earlier post about this area. It’s magical, and I could spend hours there just wandering around or sitting and watching the world go by. I got another out-of-this-world fish sandwich for my dinner, and ate it at a tiny table, looking out over the black, shimmering water and dozens of brightly-lit boats. It was perfect, and I was feeling very good about life in general as I hopped on board a bus that had my temporary home district written on the side.

Holy jumping catfish is all I can say about that journey. I was rather pleased with myself for getting a seat on public transport for the first time since I arrived here, but my joy dwindled away as I peered out at the sea of brake lights twinkling away as far as the eye could see, and realised that the journey I’d reckoned on taking about half an hour had so far taken over an hour… and we weren’t even halfway there. A guy in front of me got up and hung out the window at one point to take photos of the endless lines of red lights, which did look pretty spectacular, albeit in a losing-the-will-to-live kind of way. Sadly I couldn’t do the same, as my phone battery had died due to an excessive reliance on the Google Maps and camera apps when out and about lately, but I’ve found this on someone else’s blog to give you an idea:

traffic

It looked a bit like the top left picture, only with at least double the number of cars, bumper-to-bumper, and inching along at a speed of about 2 inches per hour. Unbelievable. Why do people drive here if it’s like that? I’d go insane.

As I was resigning myself to the fact that I would be spending at least another hour on that sodding bus, I happened to spot a platform on the road below the one we were on. The metrobus! My heart singing with joy, I leapt off the bus at the next stop and made my way down to the platform.

The Istanbul metrobus is a brilliant system. It’s one long route crossing almost from one end of the city to the other, with the stops well connected to trams and underground metro stations. Each stop has a platform like a train station, with “tracks” on either side, one for each direction. Except, instead of proper tracks, it’s just two extra road lanes that are solely for metrobuses (cars physically can’t get on to them, so it’s not like the often-ignored concept of “bus lanes” at home!). They run as punctually and speedily as trains, having no traffic to deal with, and they seem to come along once every 5 seconds, in all seriousness. I have not yet waited on a metrobus platform. You go through the turnstile, go down the steps, and by the time you’ve walked along the platform you’ve probably already seen 2 or 3 buses depart. It’s great, because if one turns up that has distressed-looking human faces pressed up against all the windows, you can just let that go on without you and turn your head to see what the conditions are like inside the next one, which is just pulling up.

Somehow, though, they are always full. As I said before: it is mental. You could drop the entire population of Northern Ireland into this city and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Walking down an ordinary street reminds me a bit of walking through Belfast after being at a sold-out concert… only ten times busier. You can imagine, then, what it’s like on the public transport. Seats are a luxury I have yet to experience on the metrobus, and I hate standing on moving vehicles, as I may have mentioned before. I can walk around for hours and miles, but standing still for just five minutes makes my legs start to ache. Up to an hour on a bus is just painful.

Still, I couldn’t complain tonight, when I fought my way through the crowds to secure the last nose-to-door position on the metrobus, which then proceeded to whizz triumphantly past all those lanes of depressed, honking, immobile motorists, and got me home within 10 minutes.

Thank you, metrobus. You are my new favourite thing.

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