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September 9, 2009

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    Istanbul, Turkey

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By this time, we were famished. On our walk to lunch, Askin told us of a very clever and sneaky taxi driver trick. First of all, he told us never to take a tourist taxi. Instead, have someone from a hotel or restaurant call one for you. The taxis that are just parked outside the tourist sites are waiting for unsuspecting foreigners. If a local tries to get in, the drivers would tell them they are waiting for a client but in fact they are waiting for any tourist to rip off.

Here's the trick: Say you're trying to pay your fare with a 50 TL note. The driver will sneakily drop it on the floor and switch it to a 5 TL note, which looks very similar. He then argues with the passenger that they've only give him a 5, when in fact they handed him a 50. Most of the time, passengers are in a hurry, aren't paying attention or just assume it was their own error because they're unfamiliar with the currency. Or, let's say you try to pay with a 20 TL note. The driver will deftly rip a corner off the note and then tell you he can't accept a torn bill. This forces passengers to open up their wallets again and chances are, they might pull out a 50 TL note, so he can try his original trick on them. If this happens to you, call the police (polis) by dialing 0090155 from your US cell phone or 155 from a Turkish phone. The police are likely to side with you since they know this old trick and the driver stands to lose his license.

Speaking of crime: Askin told me that Istanbul is very safe and that he feels safer here by far, than he does in any other big city in the US. The percentage of serious crime is very small and the only thing tourists really have to worry about are pickpockets. They do their best business on crowded busses, ferries and trams and even the locals have to watch out. The one place you don't have to worry about pickpockets is in the Grand Bazaar because if a shop vendor catches them, they will be severely beaten since it's bad for business for the market to have the stigma of being full of pickpockets.

Askin asked us what kind of food we wanted and of course we said something traditional and not too touristy. He made a phone call and had an outdoor table reserved for us at Onur et Lokantasi. The owner was very friendly and we asked Askin to do the ordering. The incredible meal began with a fresh green salad (9 TL), followed by a traditional Turkish meze of grilled beef, chicken and lamb (15 TL), grilled fish, rice with mushrooms (7 TL), tomatoes and French fries (5 TL). It was topped off with a traditional Turkish tea (2 TL) and coffee (4 TL) and we split a couple of desserts. One was fried cheese drizzled with honey and pistachios (6 TL) and a rice pudding (5 TL). Onur et Lokantasi, Nuru Osmaniye Cd. Alibaba, Turbe Sk, No: 21/7 Cagaloglu, Istanbul, Tel: 0212-527-12-29.

Right next door to the restaurant is Punto of Istanbul (Tel: 0212-511-08-53), a fine Turkish carpet shop that's owned by a Christian Syrian; the shop has been in his family for five generations. As you can imagine, you can find rugs everywhere in Istanbul but this one is one of the most exclusive shops since they carry only fine furnishings. Obviously, Turkish handmade carpets are one of the most popular souvenirs to bring home and the moment customers walk in they feel welcome when offered a variety of drinks including Turkish tea. The best part is that there's no heavy pressure to buy.

A couple doors up the road is a jewelry shop by Sevan Bicacki. He's a local jewelry designer who is rapidly gaining international attention for his exquisite pieces. He currently has stores in Istanbul and Dubai, with plans for expansion into the United States. Visit for more information.

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Copyright 2009 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Tourist Taxis


How To Call The Police


Turkish Guard


Lunch at Onur et Lokantasi


Turkish Meze


Turkish Tea


Turkish Coffee


Punto Carpets


Welcome Drinks


Turkish Carpets


Sevan Bicacki



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