My Pharmacy in Tunel

another nugget from the past



The pharmacy I go to is just beyond Tunel Square, part of the Narli Han. It has been there for 60 years and now the upper shelves are lined with old brown bottles once used for dispensing medicine. It is run by three pharmacists, two of whom are in at least their 60s. One has quite taken to me and when I walk in his faces brightens, and he touches his finger to his heart to mean I touch his heart. I think it is mostly meant as a sweet joke and I treat it as such.

The shelves are stocked with all the modern-day products that people need—medicine, shampoo, ointments, and so forth. In Turkey you can get a lot of medicines over the counter that you would not be able to get in North America without a doctor’s prescription. This is partly because many people cannot afford to go to a doctor, so the pharmacists become a sort of general practitioner for minor ailments.

One time I went in because I had a corn. I didn’t know what the word was, so drew a picture (now I know the word—nasir, sounds sort of like misir, which is the word for the corn we eat). The pharmacist gave me a choice of a product in a box, a kind of plaster, or their own product. I went for theirs. He gave me a brown bottle with some strong-smelling goop in it. He showed me how I needed to take the fluff off a cotton swab, dip the stick in the bottle, and dab it on my corn. He said to do it twice a day for three days and then the corn would fall off. When the goop was applied, it turned a turquoise blue. It really did work.

They gave me another little brown bottle at another time for athlete’s foot. It looked and smelled like iodine and was meant to kill the fungus. It worked too.

The most interesting visit was when I went in with a sore toe, possibly an ingrown toenail (you are learning all about my foot ailments here!). My toe was a little swollen and sore. The pharmacist was busy changing the roll on the machine, so he told me to sit. Then several customers came in, so I had a chance to sit and watch the flow. Lots of foreigners go in there, as it is on Istiklal Caddesi and they are usually on their way somewhere. They usually needed something for colds or other minor illnesses. I looked into the back room, where once upon a time they prepared their medicines, and probably still do. The pharmacist went in there and brought out a biggish brown bottle and a cotton swab. When he set it on the counter, the young assistant sniffed at it and made a suggestion. The pharmacist returned to me and dabbed the stuff on my toe, twice. He then put some cream on it. I was amused by the attention, especially since there was a young man and his girlfriend in the tiny office, probably the son of the third pharmacist. He didn’t know I am a regular, and was kind of cool, though by the end he also was smiling.

This was an interesting experience, one of many little adventures I have in my dear Istanbul.


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