There are a lot of different people in Istanbul. You hear a million languages when you walk down the street.
are. People here refer to Sultanahmet as Old Istanbul. So much of it is overrun with tour groups, huge air conditioned buses and people with the audio guides that it can be a little overwhelming. But we are all here to see the same things, so I guess that makes it easier. Sure I could be a snob and say I am an artist and I have a better view of things but who wants to hear that, in 30 different languages no less.
So let me get back to the cops, or the polis as they are known here. Like the police at home they carry guns but unlike the police at home they carry assault weapons. Out open. In the streets. It is very intimidating. You add to the fact that there is a very close relationship between the police and the army - essentially, they are the same thing. So they walk around like they own the place because they kind of do. The army has taken over the country to restore democracy a couple of times. You really don't want to mess with these guys. So when they ask you a question, you answer.
So I got up pretty early yesterday with a bad case of shin splints from walking the entire city over. I was a little occupied wondering if I had sold some paintings to give me some additional scratch for my trip, which I may have to cut short because of finances. I also was having some buyer's remorse about a rug I had bought. I thought I would go for a walk and clear my head a bit. I got a coffee (Starbucks IS everywhere) and a simit from the seller on the street and walked to Taksim Square. The photos show Taksim, the Opera House and the Monument to Ataturk. This is where I had a seat and started to eat my breakfast.
These two cops come up to me and say hello, in Turkish and I answer in Turkish. Then one demands to see my passport. I tell him I left it at the hotel, I had just come out to get some breakfast. He tells me I don't have a hotel. I ask him what he means and he looks at my outfit and grunts at me. Granted I am not at the height of fashion, but it is 8 a.m. I have my mouth full and he is asking me questions and I am covering my mouth so I don't spit food on him (and I SO desperately want to spit food on him) and he begins mocking my gesture. So I say to him, "Look, my name is Professor Steve Locke, I'm eating breakfast, I left my passport in my room at the Grand Hotel de Londres." and I smile that grin that every black man learns when a white guy with a gun is giving him shit. It worked of course. It always does. Then I went back to my hotel, changed, and got my passport and my faculty ID. Of course I didn't see the cop again.
Yeah, yeah, yeah he's just doing his job and I should have had my passport and all that jazz. All that is true but riddle me this: If he's just doing his job, why is he making fun of the way I talk? Public servant or prick, you decide.
After this I was very happy about the rug I bought. At least I wasn't frightening people with guns.