“I’ve been in Istanbul for two weeks now and have met a lot of people and have seen quite a few new places, but today it was neat to see a different part of the city. The area around Kadıköy was really interesting to me. I liked how there were narrow streets that cars couldn’t drive on and people could just walk through to the different places they wanted to go to. I would love to go shopping for my groceries the way that they do. When each store specializes in a different product you’re bound to get the best of each and for a better price and the outdoor shopping would be fun.
. . .
Today we visited Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, and the Museum of Islamic Art. Ayasofya was such an interesting place to visit. The history behind this museum is so intriguing to me. While I was inside I tried imagining it as a former church, with the beautiful mosaics and all of the special detail and how it would look without the minarets. It’s so unique that it was once Christian then converted to a mosque then to museum. I think this is a perfect example of the history of this city. From Byzantine empire to Ottoman empire to the present day Republic of Turkey.
The Blue Mosque was the first mosque I’ve ever been inside. Again the size and attention to detail really fascinated me. The Islamic Art Museum was also another neat place to visit. I didn’t know that rugs were a popular Turkish product. At this museum I learned about the history of the rug weaving and saw replicated rooms throughout the years of how they made the rugs and how they used the textiles.
. . .
The highlights of today were visiting the Spice Bazaar, Archaeological Museum, Topkapı Palace and the Underground Cisterns. We also visited a small mosque. To me the most interesting thing about this mosque was the route we took to get there. We went down winding narrow streets filled with small shops and people selling things on the street then went up a small doorway to old steps. I felt like I was in a secret passageway back in time. It made me think about how people have been taking this path for a long time.
The Spice Bazaar was very colorful. I’ve never seen anything similar to this before in my other travels. Although it is one of the oldest bazaars in the city it is still one of the most popular place for locals to shop.
The Archaeological Museum was very fascinating. I couldn’t believe how many artifacts there were. There were a lot of sculptures of people. Walking through each of the rooms you could see that the artifacts were small in the earlier ages and then progressively got bigger. The room with tombs was probably my favorite. I loved seeing all the detail put into each tomb. I also liked that there was a garden outside filled with artifacts too.
Topkapı Palace was so amazing. It’s neat to think that an entire empire was ruled from there. There were views of the city and the water and my friend and I thought about how powerful the Sultans had to have felt being in that position overlooking the city knowing that they ruled this empire. The artifacts in the cases were absolutely stunning. Our last stop for the day was at the Cisterns. I thought it was interesting that before it had supplied water.
. . .
Today we started the day with a lecture from a very distinguished historian. He taught us about the Ottoman Empire. I didn’t know anything about the Ottoman Empire previously so I found this very enlightening. He gave a very good overview about the history and kept my attention. There’s a lot of information but I think he did a wonderful job of informing us without confusing anyone. After the lecture we were hosted for lunch and he ate with us. The hospitality from Yeditepe to host us and serve us wonderful Turkish food was great.
. . .
I really enjoyed today. We went to Dolmabahçe Palace and the Rumeli Hisar Fortifications. I was so glad we had a guide at the Dolmabahçe Palace. It exceeded my expectations of what a palace would look like. All of the chandeliers were stunning. I thought it was interesting that everything was perfectly symmetrical…. The Rumeli Fortress was also very interesting. It was built in 1452 by Sultan Mehmet II before the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. I read that it was built in less than five months! This amazes me especially considering the year it was built in. I don’t know how they could have built that without the kind of construction equipment we have today, especially with how heavy the stones are.
. . .
Today we went to a park for presentations, the Grand Bazaar, a museum about Islamic Technology, the Beyazit area, Istanbul University, Süleymaniye Mosque, and Istiniye for dinner. The museum was very nice. It was interesting to see how they made clocks, learned about astronomy, chemistry and so much more. The Grand Bazaar was exactly how I expected it to be if not a little more crazy. It’s so neat that people have been doing trade here for hundreds of years. While walking around I thought about how this used to be a very important place for trade linking the two continents and all of the different kinds of products and people that were there.
Today it’s still very similar. There are all kinds of things to buy and sell and filled with foreigners haggling for the best price. I liked looking at the ceiling and seeing the original details. It was bigger than I imagined too. There are so many windy paths and different shops. Everyone wants your business and comes up with such “clever” things to get the attention of tourists.
We went to the Beyazit area and visited the University of Istanbul and got to talk with the Dean of Social Sciences which was neat to have that opportunity. We also went to a famous mosque that was closed but got to see the outside and the cemetery that surrounds it. We went on a boat ride through the Bosphorus that was so relaxing. It was such a nice way to unwind after a busy day.
. . .
Going to Eyüp Sultan was a lot different from other places we have gone to. It was neat to be in a place where there weren’t tourists but instead there were people to whom this area was holy and so meaningful to visit. It was interesting to see the group of Muslims from Malaysia and their different dress. It shows how large the religion is and the aesthetic differences between the different regions. They were completely covered in the same dress but theirs was mainly white with blue fabric that had white tropical flowers. It was apparent that they were devout Muslims because they were covered but at the same time you can see the differences in styles in contrast to a women wearing all black, a woman in a nice coat with designer scarf and women without covering.
Today was also the first time I’ve ever seen men wearing a turban in real life. I’ve only seen men in turbans on the T.V., particularly in the media. They have always been depicted in the worst light of associating turbans with angry men that are terrorists. These men were obviously wealthy and smiling, laughing and obviously happy. I enjoyed seeing them socialize, because to me it was another example of how people are just people. I wish that this was something other people in the U.S. could see because people have such negative views of the Islamic world.”
We met with the Director of International Students in the School of Law building and he explained how the exchange program worked and talked about the University and its goals and basically how he runs the program. Then we took the number 19 bus into Kadıköy . . . we walked up through the narrow streets and took pictures of the markets, the people, the boats, the churches just about everything. . . Some of us needed to run errands, buy a phone, change money, and find cable for the internet, so we were able to experience typical everyday errands that anyone anywhere would have to do, and so it made for an interesting afternoon trying to get these things done, but really it was mingling, immersing ourselves into the community and doing what everyone else was doing, living their lives. In between we visited an Opera House that was quite old and still in use, as well as a huge Greek Orthodox Church that was just incredible, huge chandeliers, fresco artifacts from over a hundred years old, and apparently the church is still in use but mostly by the older population in the community. And during the day the call to prayer echoed throughout the area, quite different.
This was a really good day. . . We took a boat ride over to the European side and walked up through this really neat neighborhood. The streets are cobblestone and windy up and up with really neat old buildings and tree lined streets. Eventually we came out at the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Museum. Now I know why everyone oohs and ahhs over the Blue Mosque and it is impressive, especially from a distance because it is so big and imposing and it looms over the area, but my favorite was Hagia Sophia. It was more Godly, more Saintly, not so much a tourist attraction, which it is, but just seemed like a more special place, there was more reverence and respect in a sense, I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. I think because historically there was more you could relate to as far as who actually used the church, and the surrounding grounds. They used to hold chariot races; in fact the stone obelisk that is in the parks was the marker for the chariots to turn around. The grounds are beautiful, with a huge fountain and gardens. . .
We took a boat this morning over to the Galata Bridge and walked across taking pictures and watching all the fisherman, I mean lined up bucket to bucket. The transportation system here cracks me up, you take the number 19 bus, to the boats that leave frequently and most importantly on time throughout the day, and then across the street is the tram running through the center lane of the highway across the bridge and in the near distance a gigantic mosque. It’s quite the contrast. We visited a mosque built around 1544 or somewhere about there, old, and very pretty inside with all the colorful tiles. I bought some post cards that represented each of the different tile patterns. Then we went to the spice market, man, does it smell so good in there. Bought some Turkish candies which were very good and I bought some coffee, but now my suitcase smells like coffee. . .
Today we met with the Director of International Students at the University again for a lecture on Ottoman history, which was very interesting and then we had lunch at the faculty lounge. . . [In the afternoon,] we went to the Archaeology Museum and spent an hour or so looking around, it’s amazing. The museum is huge, and apparently built specifically to hold the giant carsophagous’s that have been excavated. I got turned around more than once, and it is incredible how large and vast the Ottoman Empire extended. The artifacts that have been discovered from Israel to Syria and back are just breathtaking, some artifacts date back to the Bronze Age, and the crypts of the Romans are so ornate, just beautiful. We also went to the underground cisterns, now that were interesting, you go in one entrance and come out down the street, and it’s really pretty down there. . . Later, we went to a place called Ortaköy and attend prayer at a mosque right on the water’s edge, so pretty.
Today we went to the Dolmabahçe Palace, (think that’s how you spell it) and I have to say, they really put on a show of wealth back then. The palace grounds are really pretty, I liked the swan fountain in the front, but the tour through the palace was great because you really learned a lot about not just who lived there but about the building itself. And to know that the building is still used today for visiting dignitaries is interesting just because of the location, massive size of the building, and the chandeliers, one being over 4 tons. . . [Later in the day,] we hiked up to the [Rumeli Hisar] fortifications. . . it was the best view of the water, the bridge, the boats, just gorgeous. . .
This was the longest day, but one of the best. The tram to a park outside Topkapi Palace that used to be the Istanbul Zoo, and had our presentations. . . then we went to the Museum of Islamic Technology and Science. There were some interesting things there, some were replicas, but all in all a really nice museum, with nicely done exhibits and interpretive material. Then we walked over to Istanbul University and walked through the campus. . . We met with the Dean of Political Science Faculty. His office is like no other, I mean the university is over 500 years old, or the Ottoman Empire built the school as a symbol of education. Over 70,000 students attending the 17 different colleges, amazing. . . Then it was off to the Grand Bazaar. Now, I’ve heard so much about this place, but you know, unless you have an idea of what you want it can be a bit over whelming, but a great place to spend an afternoon, I mean there is a lot to see, a lot to hear and a lot to bargain and then buy. I enjoyed it, I think the historical background of the Grand Bazaar is what holds the mystery and excitement, to think that for hundreds of years people have been buying and selling in those same stalls and hallways is to me what is so intriguing. But then there was the boat ride. Now I had been looking forward to taking the boat to the Black Sea and I understand that time was an issue, so that was a bummer, but we ended up in the prettiest marina, with nice sail boats, motor boats, fishing boats, you name it. Families were out taking walks, kids were playing, it was really an idyllic setting. Berch had made arrangements to have dinner in a seaside restaurant and the table was on the window, the array and assortment of dishes they provided was amazing, and the fish entrée was really good. I ate way too much and then still had desert, a Turkish dish of fruit, nuts, and of all things, white beans. It was very sweet and very good. I just chalk it up as another Turkish dish that I have tried. It’s fun that way. Then a minibus ride to the metro in Taksim and we’re home. Now that was a great day!
[Today] we had a pretty good discussion about the Islamic religion in regards to the political climate and how the woman’s head scarf has become the symbol of Islam and its political place in the world of nations and the expectation of conforming to the Westernized ideology. The guest speaker so to speak was an employee of the hotel, and it was interesting to hear his opinion and point of view, albeit translated from Turkish to English by Berch, but it was a good way to spend the morning, learning, and discussion. Then off we go to a really neat place, a mosque with Mohammed’s foot print is enshrined, and then listened to the Imam, had lunch, a doner wrap, pretty good, then ice cream. . . Then off to a park that was a miniature of Istanbul and Turkey, with replicas of all the important sites from around the city and the country. . . [Then] Berch took us to the top of the Marmara Hotel in Taksim Square. The view is spectacular, and it would be a very nice place to have a nice dinner and a glass of wine, especially at sunset when the lights of the city begin to come on.
We took a cable car to the top of a cemetery that had a cafe and a view to die for. Ha Ha. Then we took a bus to another area, and walked to the prettiest church, Bulgarian, that supposedly was brought there by boat and is made of metal. It was really pretty inside. We went to another church that was to be the oldest Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul, I didn’t really hear what the story was, but it too was beautiful and very holy, you could feel it. Then we went to Fatih, through the market place, which as an Anthropology student I absolutely loved. This was the real life of these people, the Grand Bazaar is great, but is touristy, this market place today was people living, buying, shopping, and living out loud. That is the type of thing that got me into anthropology in the first place. . . Seeing how people shop, eat, work, live, socialize, treat one another, their families and conduct business. That’s what was happening today: a woman washing her steps, a man pulling a fully loaded cart up a steep hill through the narrow streets, seeing the men in the cafes, smoking, and playing cards. That’s what this is all about. . .
Today we reviewed for the final exam, and then we were off to the modern shopping centers to see the ramifications of westernization and globalization on the cultural, economic and social aspects of Istanbul. The diverse opportunities that is provided for this city specifically is vast, and from one end of the spectrum to the other. Yesterday you had real people living real lives, those that were of the working class and not on the poverty level, but living in an orthodox manner, which is preserving the traditions of the past without change. Women in traditional Muslim attire, typical street food, young kids selling bottles of water, the shopping done outside under tents, people bartering with the merchants. Today, there were economically upper class businessmen and women in western dress (I don’t think I saw one head scarf), high end stores, versatile restaurants (sushi, Italian), outdoor atmosphere, but architecturally modern and high tech. Definitely a contrast in shopping, no bartering, no street food, but sit down cafes and restaurants. Does this mean one way is better than another no, I don’t think so, I think it’s a matter of priorities, religious beliefs, economic accessibility, and global employment opportunities. . .
Today we began the day by visiting Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosphorus. We joined a tour to explore the immense grounds. It was hard not to be instantly impressed by the elegant and nearly excessive décor upon entering, and the entire complex proved to be just as remarkable. The building definitely fulfilled its purpose, as it was built to impress foreign ambassadors as they waited to see top government officials of the Ottoman Empire. It is interesting to contrast the extravagance of the Sultans with today’s modern politicians. It is also hard to believe that these Sultans ruled less than 100 years ago as the Ottoman Empire began to die down. The room where Atatürk died was clearly an important part of the tour. America does not have a comparable figure like Atatürk, and his legacy is still an important part of Turkish culture. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are two of the most popular people in American history, but they do not rival the near divinity of Atatürk.
After the Palace, we made our way to the Rumeli Hisar fortifications along the Bosphorus. The stronghold was built in 1452, a year before the establishment of Istanbul and the fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. It was difficult to comprehend the intended use of the fort more than 500 years ago, as the countless surrounding houses and businesses surely did not exist at that time. Once we ascended a number of stairs to one of the towers, we were able to watch boats blasting techno music pass by— another interesting distinction between the mix of the past and present in a city with ancient roots, like Istanbul.
. . .
The next stop we made was Istanbul University, the oldest university in Turkey. The original school was built after the Ottomans invaded what is now Istanbul, almost immediately after defeating the Byzantines. The modern campus was established in the 20th century, but the history of the university is not lost. As opposed to Yeditepe University, this school is publically funded and mandated. While meeting with the dean of the political science faculty, Berch pointed out an odd dilemma that the school has been forced to deal with. Although the school receives some of the brightest students in Istanbul and the surrounding areas, they are not given enough funds to compete with the private schools. The dean told us that there are nearly 70,000 (!) students attending Istanbul University. There is great competition to get into state schools in Istanbul because they are free, if you are able to score high enough on an intense entrance exam; you are rewarded with a free education. The school system is polarizing, as it is difficult to receive a college education without good test scores, but the benefits are great, and this probably helps create a divide between classes necessary to keep the city functioning (although, if there are economic problems, unemployment would likely be higher).
. . .
After sampling the University, we went to the fabled Grand Bazaar. It certainly was as crazy as I imagined it would be, and I’m sure I didn’t even get a good sense of how big it actually was. Although these markets now target tourists, I’m sure the stores were set up similarly when the market was used way back when it first started. This area offered a very different retail experience than anything I had ever been to before. We concluded our day by taking a boat out to a nice area to eat by the water at an upscale restaurant.
. . .
Next, we headed over to the Eyüp Sultan complex to visit the tomb of a friend of the prophet Mohammad. Once we felt like we had seen enough we took a boat ride across the Golden Horn. This wasn’t a regular sized boat or ferry, but was a small fishermen’s’ boat run by a very old man. The ride was slow and it was very hot, but it was definitely worth it. We reached the other side and headed to a nearby “museum” that had small models of things in Turkey and things around Turkey (appropriately titled Miniatürk). Reading about some of these areas beforehand, in combination with seeing models of them, made me want to visit these places that were in other parts of Turkey.
Finally we got back to Taksim and stopped by the upscale Marmara Hotel for an awesome 360-degree view of the city. We got to the top floor and I got some great photos and videos. I still can’t fully comprehend how big this city really is.
. . .
Today, we went to Haliç and the surrounding area to a funicular. We took the ski lift looking funicular to the top of the hillside (a hillside that was also a massive graveyard) to walk around. Up there we were able to take some pictures that had a great view of the Golden Horn. It is hard to imagine a war-taking place [between the Ottomans and the Byzantines] in a beautiful location like this! The only war now is against pollution, as the water was far from crystal clear— different troubles for different ages, I guess. After a little hike, we made it to the top to a little “museum” and gift shop that honored the French author Pierre Loti. I am told he is famous in Turkey because he wrote a lot about Istanbul.
Next on the schedule were two Christian churches. The first was a Greek church, and the man who worked there claimed that the spot where the church was is very important in Christian history. Supposedly, it is where Mary’s clothes were and also where a man had a “vision” of Mary. It is interesting to think about the relationship between religions in a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim… The second church was Bulgarian, and was actually shipped (piece by piece) to its current location from Bulgaria.
Before ending the day, we went to the conservative area of Fatih to see how life is there. There were a lot more conservative Muslims there, and nearly all of the women there were wearing headscarves or hijabs. We happened to be there on the one day of the week where they set up market, and it was packed with people selling stuff just like the other markets. It was ironic to see people selling sexy underwear and bras to these conservative Islamic women in a public forum.
. . .
We began this day by discussing the political economy of Turkey in the second half of the 20th century as well as the various crises that the country went through from the 1980s onwards. These events and military coups still have a profound effect on modern Turkish culture, and it is crucial to understand the basis of these events if you want to try and understand today’s politics. It has been interesting to study a country that has had such a difficult time trying to define itself as eastern or western, or more likely, a successful combination of the two. Whichever direction you support, it is easy to tell that this clash between the present and the past/tradition vs. modernization is in progress right before your eyes.
After presentations and discussion, we took the bus to an upscale shopping mall called Kanyon. The mall had interesting circular architecture with stores on the outside as well— hard to explain, but it was impressive, nicer than most upscale malls in the states. There were many nice restaurants located throughout, serving wine and classy foods, and all were populated by businessmen in suits or well dressed women. Every person I saw on the complex seemed to be well off, which drastically contrasted with other markets we have seen throughout the trip. There were no small children roaming the walkways trying to sell water and clothes were overpriced instead of underpriced. It seems clear that the people shopping and eating at these malls are pro modernization, while those at the markets were more traditional, or at least were not able (financially?) to display their support for all-out consumerism.
. . .
Today was the last day of class, and we spent it on some of Turkey’s nearby islands. This was also the last day that all of us would spend together, as a few people were going back home, or traveling somewhere else, later that night. So besides taking the final exam, our time on the islands was for a final day of relaxation.
We got up earlier than usual in order to catch one of the first few boats to the islands because it was a Friday and there was a good chance the boats would be crowded. Today we were tourists along with the Turkish people, as most of those on the boat with us were looking for a small vacation. Not including the tourists, mostly everyone else seemed to be middle class (merely from surface observations). The boat ride was not terribly expensive, but I assume most people do not have the luxury of taking time off work to go to the islands. It was amazing to see how far the city stretched on our way to the first island.
The first island we stopped at was obviously not a large tourist attraction, it seemed like a place that people would go to live a quiet life because even in the summer the island was free from all the commotion of a crowded Istanbul. There were, of course, many restaurants near the point where the ferry let us off, but it was still much tamer than the island we were headed for later. But once we got off we found a nice place to sit by the water, and we started taking our final exams. I feel certain that this will have been the ONLY time in my life where I get to take a final exam (literally) on a beach. And it was awesome. When writing my essays, I finally began to realize how much we had learned about the country. As I am writing this journal a couple of weeks after coming back from Istanbul, I can attest that I have (many times) thought out ways in my head to explain the situation in Turkey as I have seen it, based off of what we have learned and witnessed to anyone that asked. The current political situations involving Turkey’s role in the world is particularly interesting at this time.
After about an hour and a half visit we got back on a ferry that took us to another island, which was our primary destination. Once we arrived, it was clear that this was a place for tourists, a place for vacation. The streets were lined with businesses and attractions. It took skill to avoid the bicyclists and horse and buggy carriages darting by, not to mention the usual barrage of restaurant employees trying to convince you that their restaurant was best. The first thing we did was finish our exams at one of these competitive restaurants, with a man who was probably the best we had seen at selling his brand (although, ironically, most of us didn’t end up eating). After getting the exam out of the way we headed towards one of the many stations that let you rent bicycles for self-guided tours of the island. This quickly became one of my favorite parts of the trip, as it was great to ride around and look at the old and new mansions. However, the fun experienced while gawking at the large estates was quickly dwarfed as we were awarded some awesome views of the Sea of Marmara and beyond, after ascending a number of steep hills to get there. The rest of the bike ride turned into a visual celebration of the beautiful Marmara region.
The day concluded with a seaside restaurant and some great food, a fitting end to the course and our stay in Turkey. Even though I hadn’t known any of these people before the trip it was sad to part ways. I knew there was much more to be seen in Istanbul, but I was also happy to be going home shortly.
Having just touched down in Istanbul yesterday, we spent most of today getting familiar with our new surroundings and what will be our new neighborhood in Turkey. First impressions are very important and I must say that Istanbul didn't disappoint. The city is absolutely beautiful and surprisingly clean. During our group stroll around the neighborhood we went to a bakery, the bank, and the mall. Everyone was in good spirits and excited for the coming weeks.
During our walk around I noticed several things unique to Turkey. One of my favorite discoveries of the day had to be the food shops. Both the local bakery and dried fruit and nut shops smelled delicious. The fruits and nuts were displayed magnificently with all of the colors of the rainbow complementing each other. I think the shop owners were happy to see such a large group of foreigners because they gave us free samples and poised for photos.
. . .
Today was out of this world! Istanbul just keeps getting better and better. I never thought the city would be as beautiful as it really is. The group went to the costal township of Oratköy and visited the Sultan's mosque that is located right on the Bosphorus. I loved it all. The neighborhood, the mosque, and the Bosphorus were stunning.
After the mosque the group poised for pictures and we had an hour to roam around while Berch went and worked his magic to find the perfect restaurant… The food and the ambiance were simply perfect. A view of the Bosphorus and the sunset will be forever in my memories. The eggplant was the best I have ever had and the company was amazing. Everyone was on a high from the day’s events and it was just nice to sit and eat with friends.
. . .
Istanbul is truly a city of endless beauty and with each day I feel I see more of its history. It is one of the oldest places that humans have inhabited and today's events were a perfect display of this. The Rumeli fortress that is located on the Bosphorus was the highlight of the day's events. A delightful lunch followed as well.
The Rumeli fortress left me speechless. Never have I ever seen and explored such a place. The group shuffled into the gates and immediately made our way up the ancient steps made out of huge blocks of stone. I was in awe of this architectural landmark. Still I have no idea how such a masterpiece was bulit by the Ottomans way back during the conquest of the Byzantine Empire.
The group wondered around, carefully stepping on the uneven stones. We climbed up many stairs to the outlook and the view was massive. I could see so much of the city. The Bosphorus had several ships floating through the channel and the bridge was a terrific contrast to the Rumeli fortress. Also, on the Asian side I could see a sea of rusty-orange rooftops peeking out of the rolling hills. After exploring the other side of the fortress and having one of our infamous photo shots we all sat underneath a fig tree for presentations. I loved having class in this setting. People were watching us and I imagine they were wondering what we were up to. It was unforgettable.
Next the group went to the Asian side via boat. The Asian side was different than the other parts of the city that we have seen already. We walked around a bit to check out the vegetable and fish stands. Some of the students indulged in Turkish sweets (like baklava) and chai (tea) while others shopped.
Today was yet another day filled with sightseeing and learning. The palaces that we have seen in Istanbul are nicely restored and I am still in awe of the history that is alive in Istanbul. The Dolmabahce Palace and Topkapi Palace/Museum are unbelievable. Both are testaments to the Ottoman Empire.
The Dolmabahce Palace is absolutely an Ottoman Empire treasure. The palace grounds have perfectly groomed gardens and a massive foundation. We took a guided tour throughout the palace. Each room had been restored to its original decor. Our guide was extremely knowledgable and he explained the different objects and furnishings in each room. I was surprised to learn about the many gifts from different countries. My favorite room must have been the bathroom. It had mini skylights that allowed natural light to shine down. Everything else was crafted about of marble. It was lavish to say the least. Another spectacular thing was its location directly on the Bosphorus channel. Each room had a view of the water. It’s simply out of this world.
The Topkapi Palace, currently a museum, was another one of my favorite sites. I like the grounds especially because there were quite a few buildings and everyone of course was well taken care of. I was mainly impressed by the Sultan's jeweled belongings. I was looking for the kitchen sink because literally everything was encrusted in precious rubies, turquoise, and gold. I have never seen such everyday items decorated in such a manner. Another aspect that I enjoyed was the view of the Bosphorus. It was a classic view of the huge ships coming and going.
. . .
We decided to return to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner. We decided the Asian side would be the perfect place to have dinner, mostly because we had to take a boat there. The sun was setting as we crossed to the Asian side of the city. I took pictures of the glowing oranges and reds. Another perfect day in Istanbul. . .
Where does the time go? The program is almost complete and we only have a couple of days left. It's amazing that even two weeks in Istanbul isn't enough time to see and do everything.
Our last day as a group was spent on an island off the coast form Istanbul. The island has to be one of my favorite things that we have done so far. It was the last stop on the ferry ride so we all enjoyed a long boat trip. It was on this ride that I realized just how large Istanbul is. The city sprawl went on forever.
Once we arrived to the island we went directly to a bike rental and rented bikes. A bunch of us set off for a fun filled bike ride around the island. The island setting was special because no cars are allowed. The streets were full of people on bikes and horse drawn carriages. I rode my bike up steep hills and coasted down. The views were spectacular. The sea looked as if it went on forever. There were several sailboats sailing in this one location out in the ocean. I couldn't tell why they were there. It was just amazing. The houses were remodeled old homes. The bike ride went by fast. Ashley and I decided to go shopping. I bought postcards to send to my family and friends. We strolled the streets until the rest of the group returned for dinner.
Dinner was by far the best part of the day. With Berch making the arrangements, we were allowed to enter a private club that used to be Ataturk's summer palace. He used to vacation there and host parties. I'm not completely sure who was there at time but I imagine the guests to be high ranking government officials and the elite. The dinner that we were served was definitely the best of the entire trip. I probably ate too much but how could I resist. On our boat ride back to the mainland the sun was beginning to set. It was yet another perfect photo opportunity. Yet again exhausted from the day I sat and talked to the other students. It was a great way to end a great day, and a great trip to Turkey.
Day 1: “Today we started our course in Turkey. We got to go to this gorgeous mosque that was right by the water, you could see all the way to the Asian side, I can’t wait to go over there and check it out, it sounds like it will be really cool. The mosque was amazing, the outside was architecturally stunning, and the inside had beautiful craft work and beautifully painted designs on the ceilings and walls. I had never been inside a mosque before today, so that was interesting.”
Day 2: “Today we started off our day by getting on a bus. We went to this fortress that the Ottomans built before invading in the 1400s. The fortress was huge . . . the view from the top of the fortress is amazing, and the water was lovely. The students who had to do presentations got to give them in the amphitheater, which was really cool; it had a stage and a ton of seats.”
“After lunch we headed over to the Asian side to look around a bit. The boat over was a lot of fun, the water was beautiful. The Asian side was fun . . . the market that we went to was so full of things to look at . . . the fish sellers were super nice.”
Day 3: “Today we went to a university that is fairly close to where we are staying, the campus is full of pretty historic buildings; there we had a lecture given by the author of the book we are reading for class. It was interesting to get the chance to hear from the author of the book we just read and get his viewpoint on different topics about Turkey.
After the university, we went to this massive palace that was where sultans stayed during the Ottoman Empire, and later a place where Ataturk would work on occasion. The palace was huge, the grounds where landscaped and really well maintained and the palace is right on the water. On the grounds there were fountains and sculptures, mostly of lions and the like.”
“The palace is filled with so many amazing items it was hard to know where to look next. There were a bunch of things that had been given by heads of states from Europe and Asia, and tons for furniture and ornamentation that was extremely gaudy. The one thing that I liked the most was a beautiful piano that was hand painted and engraved with scenes of Asian life on it.”
“After the main palace, we went over to the Harem’s quarters. . . The Japanese room was by far my favorite; dark wood, inlays, and jade were really beautiful together. . . There was just so much grandeur in that palace that it was kinda hard to believe.”
Day 4: “Today we went to Yeditepe University on the Asian side . . . We had class about the economic conditions in Turkey and got a chance to meet the president of the University, he seemed like a really nice guy. We also met one of the International Affairs professors and he said he is going to show us around a little tomorrow and show us the places that he used to hang out when he was a college student.
The campus was really nice and the school is super new; it has only been open for a few years. The school has an exchange program with our school and they have international law classes at the graduate level there, so it would be possible for me to spend a semester in Turkey learning about international law from a perspective that I would otherwise never get. It is definitely something to think about for the future.
After the university we hopped on a ferry and went back to the European side. We got to go to St. Sophia’s Museum, which I was super excited about; it was one of the main reasons I decided to come to Turkey. . . The second floor viewing gallery had some really beautiful ornamentation. . . The thing that I found to be the most interesting about St. Sophia was the fact that there were Muslim and Christian symbols inside; I know the history of St. Sophia, it is just different to see a cross and signs of Islam next to each other in person, it was interesting to see.”
Day 5: “Today we visited another palace, which has been turned into a museum. It was filled with a bunch of jewelry, with things made of gold, jade, and ivory. . . . The most interesting room, for me at least, was the room filled with all the pictures of the sultans over the years. On one of the walls there was a family tree of sorts that showed the order that they were in power.
“Day 1: We walked through a merchant district that led to a mosque by the seaside. After hearing the call to worship, we ventured inside to sit near the back and observe the ceremony. I enjoyed experiencing such an ancient social tradition.”
“Day 4: We started our morning at Bosphorus University which had a lush campus . . . for a guest lecture by Prof. Keyder [the author/editor our textbook]. He discussed the formation of the Turkish state and Istanbul in particular.”
“Day 13: We went to the Princes’ Islands today. This was certainly the most directly engaging part of the trip. We stepped off the boat and rented some bikes. After the group met up and returned bikes, we all followed Berch to a special compound housing the Anatolian Club. This organization only welcomes statesmen and family of statesmen, so we saw privileged space that even most Turks would not be able to access. We relished the opportunity to see Atatϋrk’s summer escape and eat dinner in the same hall statesmen past would have used. “
Seeing the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sophia, the old castle, Topakapi palace, and Dolmabahce palace was amazing because it showed the great history of Istanbul. Being inside those historic places will really put perspective in your life. People have fought for thousands of years over this place and its inhabitants. Wars here have decided the fate of empires and entire groups of people. When you see these places located right on or near the Bosporus you understand why so many battles have been fought here. It is truly a sight for sore eyes to see these places. After seeing Istanbul I realized this is a place in the world that no one should go without seeing. Also during this time the lectures that where being given to us also gave me a perspective on current Turkish history and its people. Having been with kids my age here, seeing these historical sites, and having the opportunity to have lectures from top professors at some of the best universities in Turkey is priceless.
Seeing the diversity of the people in Istanbul was amazing. To see this many people living together and running around is something that I have never experienced. We took the ferry to Kadikoy that night, which was awesome because to see the Bosporus at night is truly a breathtaking experience. Everywhere in the states places like this are only reserved for the wealthy, here everyone can afford to hang out near the straight, eat, shop, and enjoy the great weather. It is crowded at 11 at night with families, young people, and even old people enjoying the night away from the summer days heat. We ate at a local restaurant, which was amazing. The atmosphere and the hospitality was top notch. The meal, which would have cost over 100 dollars in the states cost us around 60 for 4 people with drinks. The live music was the perfect touch to the evening everyone at one point started to sing along and the restaurant became a concert hall.
One of the best experiences of the trip was the lectures given by the deans and professors. I learned so much in two weeks about Turkish history, economy, and politics than I could have learned in semesters at UNR. The hospitality of the people at these universities was outstanding. I felt at one point like a dignitary or something to that extent. Meeting the dean of international students at Yeditepe was a great experience. I am really interested in doing my Masters over here and want to pursue it further when I get home. This experience of living in Istanbul and studying politics here seems priceless to me. It was even more amazing that the dean himself came out to meet us in Sultanahmet and took us out to dinner. Showing us around his old stomping grounds as a kid our age was truly an experience.
I especially like our daily trips to the Bosporus, seeing this body of water every day was awesome. I liked my daily visits to Taksim square at night to see all the different people walking around, the corn and chestnut vendors, the guys selling midye (mussels) on the streets, and the music that seemed to be coming out of every alley way leading out of the main street. We were sitting drinking tea one night Melissa and I and right down the street from us a huge party was raging outside. Turkish music was blaring and people were dancing like there was no tomorrow and this was at 2:30 in the morning. Having the huge Besiktas flags waiving in the wind everywhere you went also was a sight to see. Huge flags could be seen in every part of town. There was even a huge flag flying over one of the bridges that I thought was a crazy thing to see.
I am leaving Istanbul today and it has been a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. The people, the food, the culture, and the history of this place is so unique that it has been a learning experience since the day I’ve been here. To talk to people my age, to see them live life, to see all the historical monuments, and to truly get a feel of the Turkish mentality is an experience that I will never forget.
The hospitality of the Turkish people I have met on this trip my age has been one of the best experiences of the trip. Having the chance to get to know just a handful of these people has changed me forever. Saying good bye on this trip has been really hard because of the connections I have made on this trip. I want to end this journal with this entry because you asked for our experiences and feelings about this trip and even though this wasn’t a part of the trip, going on this trip for school allowed me to make these connections. I feel so thankful for the opportunity I had to meet these people and the memories I will take away from this experience.
The University’s Summer Study Tour to Turkey is supported by Sierra Nevada Corporation and the University of Nevada, Reno.