In Istanbul with the byACRE Ultralight

Cheri Hunter July 05, 2024 9 min read

In Istanbul with the byACRE Ultralight
[Left] Cheri Hunter with her byACRE Ultralight in Taksim Square, Central Istanbul. [Photo credit - Judy Reidel].
[Right] Ortaköy Mosque and Bosporus bridge, Istanbul. [Photo credit - Meric Dagli]

Introduction

I’ve been a world traveler most of my life, at last reckoning to 47 countries.  The country I return to, time and again, is Türkiye.  Since 2000, I’ve visited there an average of twice a year, venturing throughout the country and all along its Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.  I always go back to that fascinating city, Istanbul—ancient Constantinople.

Perched on two continents along the Bosporus Strait, a metropolis of historic mosques and palaces on winding, hilly cobblestone lanes in the Old City, and of high-rises and freeways in the expanding suburbs, at the world’s crossroads of East and West, Istanbul has been a captivating place for me for twenty-four years. The wealth and beauty of its sights are enthralling: not only the glazed and bejeweled possessions of the sultans in museums, but the wonders in the bazaars, which have spurred my special interest in oriental carpets and ethnographic textiles of the world.

 

Evening terrace view of 5th c. CE Aya Sofia.
[Photo credit - Cheri Hunter]

 

In 2007, the International Conference on Oriental Carpets (ICOC) was held in Istanbul.  These conferences consist of two days of academic sessions at a large international-style hotel, plus visits to receptions at multiple outside exhibitions.  For that ICOC, I served as the volunteer Chairman of Communications.  I will never forget an enquiry I received from a potential conference participant, who wanted to bring her elderly relative to the conference, and wondered if it would be possible for her to get around easily in Istanbul. 

I had to be candid with this woman: Istanbul is NOT a disabled-friendly place.  The truth is, Istanbul is a “walking” town, even with taxis, trams, metros and ferries, and for so many years, I have hiked my way around the city.  Envision a topography like San Francisco’s: low but steep hills rising sharply from the shoreline of a narrow body of water.  So imagine my dismay when, in 2017, I fell victim to a serious case of sepsis, which infected several of my lumbar vertebrae and discs.  For months I was hospitalized and in recovery, and it has caused me permanent discomfort when standing and walking for more than a few minutes, and a real loss of stamina.  Then, as COVID hit, my traveling stopped, and I spent a lot of time sitting at the computer, which exacerbated my lower back weakness.

In 2022, I resumed my visits to Istanbul, mostly to see my now large group of friends there.  But by my October, 2023 trip, the limitations on my ability to walk any distance, and the need to sit and rest my back so often, were creating real inhibitions in my ability to travel. There was no way I could ever keep up with group travel, and in Istanbul, I was limited to taxi-ing, or to meeting friends at my hotel, and unsteadily walking no more than a block to a restaurant.

 

Cheri and local friend Peter’s dog, Alfie, at my Istanbul hotel with the byACRE Ultralight.
Cheri and local friend Peter’s dog, Alfie, at my Istanbul hotel.
[Photo credit - Peter Fisher]

 

I realized that with an upcoming ICOC carpet conference scheduled for Istanbul in June, 2024, I could not participate without some kind of walking assistance. I began to research rollators, both in local medical supply outlets, and online.  As a person with university degrees in design and film, and a life-long appreciator and consumer of visual art, I was immediately struck by the design of the byACRE Ultralight.  Wow, something that did not look clunky!  And the light weight—just over 10 lbs., easily folded flat by inserting one finger into the seat and pulling up; easily lifted into my car; and easy to take on a plane in its travel bag.  After communication with the Danish manufacturer, I asked them for a list of US distributors, and was pleased to discover Let’s Roll Mobility, close to where I live.  When Sam offered to bring samples to my home for me to try before I bought, I was thrilled, and when I “road-tested” the Ultralight in person, I was sold and ended up going for the Ultralight in a Comfort track.  Sam even made a special order for the Ultralight to be available in time for my trip, before their expected mid-June shipment of my size and color.  Outstanding customer service.

 

Cheri and local friend Peter’s dog, Alfie, at my Istanbul hotel with the byACRE Ultralight.
15th c. carpet fragments in the Turkish and Islamic Museum (TIEM) at the 2024 ICOC conference in Istanbul
[Photo credit - Judy Reidel]

 

Out and about in California

I started by taking the Ultralight to a smaller, local California rug & textile conference about two hours’ drive north of my home, which took place at a large hotel.  I popped it into the back seat of my 2-door hard-top sports-model coupe (the trunk was full of luggage,) and drove to the conference.  From the handicapped parking spot in front of the hotel, I was able to load it onto a luggage cart with the rest of my bags. For three very full days I used the Ultralight to negotiate the large hotel lobby, the long corridors, and the meeting rooms, at a comfortable walking speed and with much more stability than without it. During the programs, I could compact the Ultralight when sitting on a chair in the audience, so that it was not in the way.  Talking to other registrants during breaks, I could sit immediately whenever and wherever I wanted.  It was also handy to instantly fold it up next to my table at restaurants.  Everyone commented on the cool design.  I was convinced that it would really assist me at the much larger and more logistically challenging conference in Istanbul.  And I was right!

Taking the Ultralight on the flight

I had purchased the byACRE Ultralight soft travel bag, and consulted with the airline about checking it as baggage.  Yes, it flies for free as a medical device!  And here’s a tip for baggage check-in: Print out a full-sized photo of the rollator from this website, to show to the airline check-in agent, along with your ticket.  Otherwise, you may have to unzip it to prove that it's not a harp! 

I packed it up, along with the large shoulder strap, in the bag; the backrest snaps off, and fits into the curve of the case.  I equipped the rollator itself with an Apple AirTag in a tiny, lockable waterproof holder that loops over the Ultralight’s lower crossbar, for tracking with my iPhone in case it got lost in transit, or worse.  A baggage ID tag can be connected with a standard key ring to the travel bag’s exterior metal ring for the strap, and an adhesive address and contact info label placed on the bottom of the rollator itself.  I also double-wrapped the travel bag with a red baggage strap through the carry handle, for extra security. 

I now use airport wheelchair services when flying, due to the distances in airport concourses, so the Ultralight traveled in its case as a checked bag.  After it was tagged by the check-in agent, it needed to be delivered to, and retrieved from, “Oversized Baggage,” something new to me.  When I departed Los Angeles’ International Terminal, a baggage service person took it to Oversized Baggage for me.  Upon landing in Istanbul, I retrieved it from the Oversized Baggage arrivals office adjacent to the baggage carousels; on my return to LAX, it appeared on the main baggage carousel.  You could also use the Ultralight to get yourself to the gate, and check it like a baby stroller or wheelchair at the door of the plane (you could use a short bungee cord to keep it compact, without the case.) 

byACRE versus The Grand Bazaar

Once in Istanbul, it became a godsend.  I was able to double my walking pace from last fall’s visit, due to the security and support of the Ultralight, and to sit down whenever I needed to rest my back. Taxi drivers whipped the rollator in and out of their trunks for me, and I could get to any destination in town, including by tram and metro.  By the way, Turks are extremely helpful and aware of people who need assistance, and always offered me a seat on the tram; I immediately compressed the rollator (the “one-finger lift” of the seat,) and moved it out of the passageway for the standing commuters. 

 

Cheri in the Bazaar, with dealer friends the Deregözü brothers, and conference colleagues.
Cheri in the Bazaar, with dealer friends the Deregözü brothers, and conference colleagues.

 

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of my favorite haunts; it is a 15th century labyrinth of 4,000 shops on 61 narrow covered “streets”. Several times on this conference trip I took participants around the Bazaar, and was able to keep up with them, although one of my favorite sayings is that “to take more than one person through the Grand Bazaar is like trying to herd cats!”  For the first time in several years, with a few brief sit-downs to rest, at day’s end I was able to walk all the way from the deep interior of the Bazaar to my small Sultanahmet district boutique hotel—more than a mile, albeit downhill.

Although I was in Istanbul for more than two weeks, the 3-day carpet conference was the main focus of my trip, and the Ultralight was again a life-saver.  I rollated easily through the conference activities; the wheels moved smoothly on both the carpeting and on hard floors. The high-rise hotel’s large meeting hall was located about nine slippery travertine steps down from the conference check-in level, and the roll-in mini-elevator designed for wheel chairs was not functioning!  With no handrail on the stairs (typical in Türkiye,) I needed assistance.  However, each time I approached the top or bottom of the stairs, at least 8 times daily during the lecture breaks, I compressed the Ultralight, and helpful conference-goers, both men and women, swiftly lifted it down or up the stairs for me, and gave me a hand for balance.  With a hand-rail, I could have lifted the rollator myself.

 

Cheri in an antique silk ikat kurta (tunic) from Uzbekistan from her collection at a gallery reception.
[Left] Cheri in an antique silk ikat kurta (tunic) from Uzbekistan from her collection at a gallery reception.
[Right] Enjoying rugs and textiles from the Topkapı Palace, exhibited in the Dolmabahce Palace galleries.
[Photo credits - Judy Reidel]

 

For the nightly outside events, I was able to navigate on and off the buses and taxis, as well as through crowded exhibitions and receptions, some in quite ancient buildings without elevators, and with zero seating.  At the Tophane (“Tope-HAH-neh”) cannon factory, built in the 1450s by Sultan Mehmed II when he conquered Constantinople and now a cultural center, in addition to a small elevator, the last part of the 4-story climb to the galleries involved a steep slope, which I was able to manipulate downhill by squeezing on the secure brake function of the Ultralight.

 

Awaiting the return boat ride to downtown Istanbul, warm wind whipping quayside on the Bosporus.
Awaiting the return boat ride to downtown Istanbul, warm wind whipping quayside on the Bosporus.
[Photo credit - Judy Reidel]

 

On our last conference day, a surprise boat trip was offered to take us up the Bosporus, the 19-mile channel that separates the Asian and European continents, to a special private exhibition opening.  It was a warm and breezy day, so I was able to enjoy the deck-top ride and views with the entire group, the kilim exhibition itself in an old, seaside summer mansion, and a gourmet buffet luncheon (the rollator seat held my plate) at the top of a terraced garden, just down the quay at the Sadberk Hanim Museum.  As we boated back to the city, a fiery setting sun was reflected in the Golden Horn waterway, framed by silhouettes of mosques along the horizon of the Old City; it was a fabulous ending to a wonderful trip, totally made possible for me by the Ultralight. 

Almost Perfect

Although I am delighted with my experiences using it, I am looking forward to some minor design developments and advances in the Ultralight that Let’s Roll is working on with the Danish designers for the American market, including a slightly deeper seat with an option for a longer-around backrest.  It would be good to have a lockable zipper on the travel case.  Although red is my favorite color, in the end I selected the black model, because it disappears visually into my own, and into my home’s, environment.  I would love to have a different color for each outfit: maybe a metallic burgundy red, or a teal turquoise!

 

In “textile paradise,” the Deregözüs’ depot of new production hand-woven Uzbek velvet ikat yardage.
[Left] In “textile paradise,” the Deregözüs’ depot of new production hand-woven Uzbek velvet ikat yardage.
[Right] Cheri in an antique Uzbek chapan (coat) and friend Paul from Denver, at a private gallery reception and exhibition.
[Photo credits - Judy Reidel]

 

Closing Thoughts

Meanwhile, not only my home city, but the world of national and international travel, has been re-opened for me with the byACRE Ultralight: its stability, its light weight and portability, its elegant design suggestive of a Japanese brushstroke, and the security I feel using it on cobblestones, steep downslopes, stairs and curbs, has made this possible.  I am already planning my return to Istanbul this fall, and to other exotic destinations wherever the whim, and the Ultralight, take me.

Learn more about the byACRE Ultralight that Cheri uses

byACRE Carbon Ultralight Walker in Black with Backrest

About the Author

My image's alt text

Cheri Hunter

Cheri, a native and resident of Southern California, is a former film editor. Since retiring, her life has focused on travel, on her special interests in photography, art, writing, and entertaining friends, and in particular on the hand-made textiles of the world, and their cultural contexts, concentrating mostly on Asia. For the past thirty-nine years, Cheri has been the off-and-on again volunteer president of Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, and since 1992, its program chairman. This non-profit/NGO organization offers monthly programs (now mostly virtual via Zoom) on antique and vintage handmade textiles, ethnographic weavings and dress, and Oriental rugs, presented by nationally and internationally renowned curators, scholars, authors, collectors, dealers and other experts

Cheri's Website