Moving in Istanbul: One place to another

Moving in Istanbul: One place to another

Wilco Van Herpen
Moving in Istanbul: One place to another Last week was a very hectic week. I moved… The funny thing is that I moved just 700 meters. The house I am living in now is next to the forest. When I wake up I can see wild boars, foxes, all different kinds of birds and trees, hundreds of trees. So far I have seen just trees and birds, I dream about seeing all the other animals but I am convinced that one day I will see them.

Moving in Turkey is not an easy thing. There are hundreds of things that have to be arranged and checked out over and over again. In the best case you will see the house just after the old inhabitants have left the house. This gives you the chance to see if there is anything wrong with the house. There might be cracks in the wall, fungus or a water leak that left its traces on the ceiling and the wall. At least you see the problems and you can have them fixed. Unfortunately, most of the time the former renters have left the house already before you had a chance to see it after which the owner quickly moves in with a platoon of painters to work on the famous make-up cover up of the house. You do not notice anything until you have moved in and to fix the problems might become a nightmare.

Everybody moving to another house is facing the same dilemma; how to ‘clean up’ the house so you can have a new start in the new house. Cleaning up means throwing away things and this time I was facing an incredible problem. I had (yes, you are right, I wrote had (!)) a beautiful old cupboard for my clothes. I bought this cupboard after I separated from my former girlfriend. This cupboard became for me the beginning of a new life. You know that when a person emigrates and starts a new life in another country that person has to go through a U-turn. The U-turn started when I left the Netherlands. I did not speak the language and did not know about the written and non-written rules of Turkey.

Beautiful old cupboard

In Çukurcuma, where I found my new house, there were a lot of second hand shops and it was in one of them that I saw this beautiful old cupboard. It took me a sec to decide that I wanted it and the guy who sold me the cupboard came to my house and put all the pieces together. I was very proud of my first big piece of furniture I’d bought and enjoyed looking at it. Weeks later I suddenly realized that by buying this closet I also had made the decision that I would not leave Turkey. This was the place where I had to be, Istanbul was the place where my future was waiting for me.

For years I shared my life with my closet and now, in the new house, there was no place for her anymore. The day when I moved and was about to close the door behind me I one more time walked to my beautiful dear cupboard. She was still standing there, proud and beautiful, as if she was waiting to be taken apart and being moved to the other house. I thanked her for her services, switched off the light and left…

Moving in Turkey is so different compared to the Netherlands. Amsterdam, an old trading city and therefore filled with warehouses, has a different architectural style. Three- or four-floor high buildings with narrow stairways situated in narrow streets; this is the worst nightmare for removers. When I was living in Amsterdam I moved a couple of times and every time I moved I called my friends. Together we packed and loaded a special bike for moving goods or minibus and brought all my stuff to another house.

The fun part of moving in Amsterdam was “the hook”…. One of the characteristics of houses in Amsterdam is a big solid hook that is integrated into the roof of all the buildings. The hook is nothing more than a winch, a very primitive system but it works very well. You connect the block to the hook and through this block goes a long rope. Downstairs people rope up the goods and upstairs someone is pulling and dragging the goods into the (ware)house. This system makes it very easy to load or unload goods from the street to the floors of the houses and vice versa.

When moving we always used this system and the fun part was to attach as much as possible and hoist it up to the right floor without any of the goods falling down. Of course sometimes something went wrong and I have seen people crying when something slipped out of the squeezing grip of the rope. A couch, a piano or a beautiful table; with a big bang it squatted into a thousand pieces on the street. I have been lucky, nothing ever fell down but what we used to do, when the moving was finished, was to pull our friends up to the floor where I was moving in. From that perspective a three floor high building turns into a skyscraper.

Movers are tiny men

In Turkey I did not have this fun while moving; in Turkey you call in the movers who pack, transport and unpack everything. In the past this used to be a one days job but nowadays there is a new fashion; the movers pack the first day and load the car and unpack the second day. This is where it becomes interesting. The movers are all tiny men, when you would see them walking in the street you would not expect them to leave a dent in a package of butter (Dutch saying which means they do not look strong at all). But when I saw them working I was impressed. One guy, he was about half the size of me and I am sure that when there would be a strong storm his mother forbids him to go out because she was afraid of him being blown away. This guy took three big boxes filled with books and carried it as if he was carrying a box with toilet rolls. It must have been at least 60 kilo’s…

Without any problems he took it up two floors and put it down. Although it looked quite easy for the man I cannot imagine this is good for your back. How many years can you do such a job? How many years before you cannot walk properly anymore or maybe even worse? What kind of work can a man do after working as a mover for years? I felt sorry for him; working conditions are still very bad for a lot of people. So much has changed since I came to Turkey 15 years ago but I realized that a lot of things still have to change.