This is Part II of revisiting my travels in Istanbul, Turkey. Read part I here.
On the first day
After introducing ourselves to the local area, our professor Berch took us into the city and we went to a mosque. We were very lucky because we got to go inside and watch the service, which is extremely rare for tourists, especially women. They had scarves available at the door and we had to cover our hair, shoulders and upper arms. We also couldn’t let our ankles show. Despite the criticisms I have of Islam and its treatment of women, the service was beautiful and the mosque was absolutely stunning. I don’t mind doing my part to respect other cultures.
Going into the mosque was a really unique experience. I think it is going to be one of my favorite moments of the trip.
After the mosque, we got to spend some time by the water. I couldn’t help myself and bought a new scarf. We then went to dinner on a terrace overlooking the water and the mosque. It was a breathtaking sight and the dinner was really good. We had these fried feta cheese rolls that are pretty much to die for, and we had a lot of different dishes with eggplant. I have also eaten an insane amount of tomatoes since I have been here. I tried Turkish coffee for the first time and pretty much am in love. It comes in a tiny cup, almost like espresso, and about half of it is full of this coffee sludge, and the liquid is really rich and thick and flavorful. Dinner was great, but I was exhausted and jetlagged and ready to turn in for the night.
Day two started off leisurely. I got a ton of sleep and was feeling great except for the heat, but even that hasn’t been too intolerable and for some strange reason I have been handling it better than the others, and I hate heat. The hotel serves breakfast in the morning which consists of large slabs of feta cheese, slices of tomato, wheat bread, cucumber and some sort of dates. There is also really good tea. There are two parts of the dispenser and one is for the tea itself and the other part is hot water needed to dilute the tea otherwise it is really strong. Breakfast is good although it takes a bit getting used to, especially to eat plain tomatoes. I have eaten sooo many tomatoes so far.
We went to a fortress after breakfast. It was right on the water and so beautiful! The views of the ocean are completely stunning. The fortress was built in 1452 by the Ottomans, a year before their invasion of Istanbul. We hiked all over the fortress and did some of our presentations there. I have to say it was a great place to have class.
We spent several hours at the fortress and then went to lunch. For lunch I had something called a karasik gozleme, which is like a flatbread toasted with cheese and sausage. It was pretty yummy. Oh, and their Coca-Cola is reallyyy good over here. Haven’t figured out which ingredients are different yet.
After lunch, we hopped on a boat and went to the Asian side of Istanbul! I am happy to say that I have now been to another continent. The part we went to was kind of like a giant market.
Once we got there, we went to a pastry shop and had some baklava which was amazing and extremely rich. There were also lots of bookstores and jewelry shops. I bought a present for Andrew and some earrings.
After spending a few hours in Asia, we headed back into the city and I pretty much just crashed because I was so tired. We spent a really long time on a hot and crowded bus, but I don’t mind so much because to me, it’s all part of the experience. I’m kind of tired being stared at everywhere I go and am doing my best to fit in by dressing modestly and not being loud but many members of the group don’t quite understand that.
Day three started off earlier and bit more hectic. We almost didn’t catch our bus to the first university we visited so we had to run across crazy traffic streets in order to get to the stop on time. Crossing the street here is pretty scary. I haven’t seen any speed limit signs yet.
We went to the university to hear a lecture by a man named Caglar Keyder who wrote the book we had to read for the trip. The lecture was about the effects of globalization on Istanbul, both good and bad. I am really enjoying the political discussions we are having and getting to put them into a tangible form of learning. After the lecture we went to the quad and more of the group members gave their presentations. The campus was beautiful… like most things we have seen so far, it is right on the ocean.
After the lecture, we went to a palace! It is called the Dolmabahce Palace and it is where the sultans and members of the harem used to live. We couldn’t take pictures inside so I only have one to show from the outside of the palace.
I was really excited to go to the palace because I wanted to see the library but the library was actually pretty disappointing. You’d think a palace would have a big epic library with beautiful decorations, but no. Maybe my future library will be better!
Poems written abroad
the miles are filling the space
between us -
an open palm held face up,
a longing arm outstretched
we are a ball of thread
pulled taught -
all knots pulled loose
we are tin cans
connected by a string -
your whisper reverberates in my ears
pick the petals
one by one
a coin for each
that falls into naive hands
blind boys with dirty soles
hear the jingle in your pocket
beautiful girls wearing dirty scarves
dance around your wallet
don’t give your soul to the street sirens
the real gypsy is inside you
(Part III coming soon!)