If we follow the movie industry at all in the U.S., we hear a lot about foreign box office and how films are made in part for audiences in various areas of the world. So Meredith and I thought it would be fun to go to the Sinema in Istanbul, to see what watching a Hollywood movie with Turkish people might be like. We hopped the bus last evening and headed to the nearest movie house at Ak Merkez.
We bought our tickets to The Bourne Legacy and went into the theater. No one was there (we saw the movie with one other couple), and so we plopped ourselves down into two very comfortable seats, the best “chairs” we had been in since we left our house in Northfield. The film came on, and what was really fun was hearing English dialogue but having Turkish subtitles, so that we could drop our eyes down to look at Turkish words that we thought me might know after our “survival Turkish” language course.
To our surprise, in the middle of the film, right when Marta Shearing (the female lead, Rachel Weisz) was about ready to burn her house down, the lights came on and the screen was rolled back. I looked behind me, where an usher was standing, and gave him the palms up, shoulders raised gesture of “what’s going on,” and he gave me the hand signal for “time out.” Meredith and I laughed, left the theater, used the restrooms, and returned to our seats, where in two minutes the lights dimmed and the film resumed.
We ate dinner afterwards and then headed outside into the always lovely weather and caught the bus back to the dorm. It had been a fun night, not all that different except for the public transportation from what we might have done on any Friday.
Many American travelers want “authentic” experiences in the countries they visit, which often means experiences that feel really different than what they might have back home. If so, don’t go to the Ak Merkez, which is a Turkish variation of hundreds of upscale shopping malls in the U.S., except that it’s better maintained. I know little about fashion, and so the store names didn’t mean much to me (except for Adidas), but the clothes and goods were beautiful. The mall even had a food court near the theater – with Burger King and Dukkan Burgers and a Schlotzky’s Deli, among about twenty choices including some Turkish food – though compared to American food courts this one was spacious and beautiful and even had outdoor seating several stories up, a view that would raise prices in an American establishment. But here’s the irony – Meredith and I saw no tourists, heard no one speaking English.
What is an authentic Istanbul experience? If you read some travel books, you have authenticity only when you get off the beaten path, only when you go back in time, figuratively, of course. Travelers flock in Istanbul to the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar or the Blue Mosque, which are hundreds of years old and seem to provide something authentic, but such places certainly aren’t off the beaten path. If you’re looking to do what “real” Turkish people do, at least people who are young and relatively affluent, and there are a lot of them, perhaps you should simply head over to Ak Merkez.