Istanbul in the Times of Corona

View on the empty bridge over the Bosphorus during the 48 hours lockdown. Source: DailyNation on YouTube

I am writing these lines during the total lockdown – the longest so far. During the past two weekends lockdown in 31 cities across Turkey lasted 48 hours, right now, however, we are in the midst of 96 hours long lockdown. The reason for the longer lockdown is the National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, a national holiday observed on April 23rd.

The first total lockdown in all major cities around Turkey was on the weekend of 11-12 April and it was announced only 2 hours before it has actually started. This, of course, caused a type of panic. Many people left their homes at 10 pm to buy food and bread. In certain places, this chaos turned into violence. And why such panic? During the lockdown grocery stores and popular food delivery services, such as Yemek Sepeti, were not running. The only opened places were bakeries and you could also order water delivery. (This latest is crucial since tap water is not drinkable in most of the major cities in Turkey.) Luckily, the second lockdown was announced in advanced, so people (and markets) could stock up accordingly. Now, this third lockdown (from midnight 22nd/23rd of April, until midnight 26th/27th of April) is again a bit different. Grocery stores were opened longer on April 21st and 22nd and will be opened half day on April 23rd and 24th, but then again closed on Saturday and Sunday. One of the reasons for this is that on April 24th Ramadan is starting and many people will start fasting here in Turkey. Even though they won’t eat and drink during the day, many families will still gather and have a big dinner meal at iftar time (breaking of the fast). In other circumstances, the breaking of the fast would have been a big social get-together, but this Ramadan will be different. I am not Muslim, however, I do like the month of Ramadan myself and here is why.

A Usual Day in Istanbul

April is usually the tulip month. If it’s not too cold or too warm, tulips blossom in Istanbul in April. There are many tulips blossoming also this year, however, parks have been closed around the city for a while, so we can only watch tulips from behind the fence. In another kind of circumstances, crowds of people would be going to the Emirgan park and enjoy the beautiful views. Or at least trying to. On a beautiful weekend day, one would actually see more people than tulips in a park and our social media accounts would have been over-flooded with tulip selfies. Besides the closed parks, we cannot take walk by the sea or in the forest. This actually makes this Coronavirus days more difficult as a walk in nature has many positive, anti-stress effects. But on the other hand, green areas would have been overcrowded, which is a good reminder that Istanbul doesn’t have enough green areas, which are easily reachable. (It is well known, that many parks were turned into Shopping Centre Complexes in the last years.) Besides that, on the weekdays, we can take a walk and do some sports on the streets of Istanbul, but only those of us aged between 21-64. Those younger or older cannot leave their homes, or they can be fined 3150 Turkish Lira (approx. 420 €; which is higher than the minimum wage of approx. 310 €.) Use of masks in obligatory when using public transportation, going to the grocery store or open-air market, that is in commonly crowded places.

Working from Home – a Solution for Istanbul’s Horrible Traffic?

As in many countries around the world, most of us are grateful to be able to continue our work from home. This, of course, caused some confusion and adaptation at the beginning. Not everyone is/was tech-savy or eager to adapt, but we all have to adapt and crisis can also be an opportunity for a new beginning.

For Istanbul this also meant an unexpected solution – there is far less traffic and, if you need to go somewhere, you can reach your destination much much faster. After closing down schools and shopping centres, morning traffic was only at 13% of its usual rate. (Source in Turkish) This is a piece of good news to everyone who commutes to work in Istanbul. For those of you, who haven’t experienced Istanbul’s traffic: it is normal to commute an hour to work (one direction). If you have to cross the bridge between Europe and Asia, this time might be much much longer. I hope that after the pandemic is over and we return to our offices, our jobs would be more flexible and we won’t be required to commute to the office every single day.

Unfortunately, there are still many workers who cannot work from home. What surprised me the most is, that not so essencial works, mostly in building sector, continue even during the total lockdown.

Grocery List: The Essentials

How many rolls do you have?
(Source: The Guardian)

What are the essentials? In many countries this was the toilet paper. Well, not in Turkey (and I would guess that neither in any of the Muslim countires). The reason behind that is simple: toilets have a little wash inside, in some cases the wash, like a little shower head, is placed next to the toilet. (Oh, how I wish that everywhere in the world this would be a standard!)

The most wanted items was kolonya – cologne water to “disinfect” hands. In Turkey, it is usually offered to visitors or to “wash” your hands in a restaurant after eating. It was believed (I guess to a certain extent it still is believed) that it can kill the virus. Last week, I have also noticed a lack of flour and yeast. When it comes to online shopping, Turkey might have been a step ahead before the pandemic, as online shopping is very popular here. Most of the biggest grocery stores have been offering home delivery for years now, but higher demand has caused longer waiting lines for your delivery. Before the coronavirus, I was able to order my groceries in the morning and receive my delivery in the evening, or latest next day, not one needs to wait at least 4 days. I hoped that grocery stores would cooperate with local parcel delivery companies when necessary.

This is all for now. I will share more #ronadairies soon.

About spelayla

Welcome! My name is Špela. I love to travel, read and learn. And of course, share all these experiences.

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