In Turkey and I imagine most countries in that area, a notary is well respected and well paid. This is the place one goes to have legal documents attested to when buying property or doing other business. I owned property for a time and also ran a business, so I was known at my local notary.
The notary system has been in place since Roman times. The person was known as upstanding and could write (as many people couldn’t, even into this century). I suspect that the system used in Turkey was handed down by the Byzantines, who were famous for their bureaucracy.
When I first started going to the notary, it was in the Narli Han on Istiklal Caddesi. It was amazing how one could step in from the busy cadde and find a quiet place. The han was fairly ramshackle and had a colourful past, from being the Russian consulate to being occupied by many artists and writers. When I was there the bohemians had moved on and only a few places were occupied.
The notary was at the back of the courtyard. It was a room full of papers and boxes and the activity of adding yet more papers and boxes. The floor was peeling linoleum but there were still some columns in the room that at one time must have looked very elegant. Eventually it became too much for the business, so the notary moved around the corner.
This office was in an old building fronting Istiklal Caddesi, though we went in the side. I say we because often my accountant or someone else was with me. It was on the second floor so we took a slow elevator. We entered the room and then had to go down some stairs into the main area. To the left were some booths where we submitted our papers and identification. I usually dealt with a plump young woman who was there for the several years I went there. Actually, everyone was the same in those years. There was also a youngish man who combed his thinning hair back from his face. He also took papers and did much of the photocopying. Another thin youngish man was in charge of doing the stamps and seals, which he did with a flourish. There was another woman, petite, blonde, a little hard looking. She was a kind of junior notary.
While the first clerks were doing their parts, we would sit on a chair and wait, not long usually. It was a good opportunity to possibly feel nervous, as this was, after all, an official business. It was also a good opportunity to look around at other people also waiting. Some were businessmen or women, others kind of village folk, all ages. And even nationalities.
The notary was a small middle-aged man who combed his thin wavy graying hair back from his bony face. He was smooth like a rock. He multitasked and was very civil. He did not smile often, though he was not being negative. He certainly did not chit chat, as most Turks do, though he would enter into conversation. At first I think he was curious about this yabanci woman coming in to do various kinds of business, but then they all got used to me.
Then one day my accountant and I went to the notary and everything was different. The notary had died and now there was a new office with a rather brassy middle-aged woman as the new notary. She had brought some of her own people, of course, though the plump girl was still there. We did our business there then but it was a different atmosphere.
The next time I needed to go to the notary, Yasar, the accountant, and I, instead of walking up from Galata to just above Tunel, made a much shorter walk down the hill to Karakoy. It turned out that the small blonde, the smooth haired man and the virtuoso stampist opened their own office on a small side street near the Persembe Pazar (or as I called it, hardware heaven). This office was small and it was certainly not historic, but it was a shorter walk– down. It was a fairly hefty walk up, so I would walk out to the main avenue and on to the tunel.
The tunel is the shortest subway in the world and the second oldest. It was mostly built to carry people up that hard hill to Tunel Square. It takes two minutes either way. From Tunel Square one can go up into Beyoglu or down to Galata or Sishane.
Going to the notary was often a fairly smooth undertaking and it was always interesting. I was able to get inside some different buildings and offices and watch a process that has been going on for hundreds of years. It was easy to imagine these people in clerical frock coats or Ottoman working robes.