After reading TurkeyTravelPlanner.com’s detailed post about Istanbul Metro and the Zetytinburnu-Kabataş tram last night, I felt confident enough to give it a go today. Afterall, I was with DH. Had I been alone, it would have been a different story altogether.
Getting to the Metro station was a breeze. Buying the Jeton (token) was easy, as well, thanks to the kind assistance of a friendly Turkish employee at the station. The tricky part was getting off at Zeytinburnu station and switching to the Zeytinburnu-Kabataş tram.
Technically, the switch from Metro to tram should have been very easy. Afterall, what’s so difficult about looking for the signboard that says ‘Sultanahmet’, right? Wrong! It turns out there were two trams, each going the opposite way. And as luck would have it, we took the wrong tram.
The only thing that saved us was my audible counting — in Malay — of the number of stations from Zeytinburnu to Sultanahmet. Because it made the nice old Turkish lady who was sitting next to me realise that I’m not Turkish, ergo I must be a tourist, ergo I must be going to Sultanahmet, ergo I am going the wrong way. And so we managed to change trams before it was too late.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of the time my mum and I took the Paris Métro from Châtelet/Les Halles — said to be the French equivalent for New York City’s Grand Central Station — to Charles de Gaulle airport. (NB: That’s pronounced as [sharl-deh-gol], by the way.) Somehow we ended at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile station instead! (NB: And that’s pronounced as [sharl-deh-gol-et-wal].) I remember looking around and thinking to myself, “This doesn’t look anything like the airport.” Trying to look calm (so that my mother would not panic), I asked the couple sitting nearest to us if we were at the right station, i.e. Charles de Gaulle airport. And that was when things got interesting. All the passengers in the train who previously looked disinterested (read: snobbish) suddenly sprang into action. Someone hollered “You’re on the wrong train!“; someone else shouted “Get off this train NOW!“; a third random stranger pushed the train doors apart to stop them from closing as we scrambled to get out with our luggage.
But that’s not the end of the story. After talking to some people who were waiting for their train at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile in my halting French, we headed back to Châtelet/Les Halles and got ourselves on the right train to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Now here’s the crucial point when you’re taking the Paris Métro: for certain stops, especially for the airport, you need your ticket to exit. As Murphy Law goes, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and somehow, the machine at the exit refused to recognise our tickets! For some reason or another, the Métro officer who was nearby motioned us to just get out anyway. And so we did — my mum by crawling under the bar, me by jumping over it! Oh what a sight we must have made at the time! But as they say, all’s well that ends well. We managed to catch our flight to Amsterdam, had a great time at Keukenhof, and enjoyed our stay at a houseboat…and my mum and I can now look back and laugh at the entire incident.
So that’s one French myth busted for me. I’ve always thought that the French are snobs. Our brief stay in Paris showed to me that they’re actually very nice people. Many of them can speak English. In fact, many of them reply in English even when I ask them in French. I suppose the key is to learn a few basic French words, exercise some basic courtesy (e.g. greeting salespeople ‘Bonjour‘ when entering a shop, leaving a decent tip at restaurants, keeping your voice down in public places), but at the same time, realise that, somehow, somewhere, we are still bound to meet rude people who do not necessarily represent the rest of their entire country.
But the most importantly, both near-miss incidents at Zeytinburnu and Charles de Gaulle – Étoile reaffirmed my faith in human kindness.