Long ago, an Ottoman Sultan ruled peacefully from Istanbul. He lived a blessed life, ruled the kingdom fairly and justly, and was in turn rewarded by God with the birth of a daughter. This daughter was truly a gift – as she aged her beauty and intelligence multiplied.
Aside from a brief trip to Kadıköy with Jen while in Istanbul, I had never managed to find myself on the Asian side of Istanbul for any particularly long stretch of time. Although the vast majority of all touristic sites are on the European side – the original site of Constantinople and old Istanbul – the Asian side still always had a certain allure to it. Maybe it was just something as simple as the fact that, although the Asian side is a different continent, it is still completely visible.
Regardless of why I was attracted to this side of the city, I managed to get my wish to explore it in detail after I returned from Germany. I had a one day stop-over in Istanbul before continuing on my way to Tel Aviv the next day, and I was very kindly welcomed to the city by an old student of my mom’s – Umut. Although we had never met before – we had only ever e-mailed each other – Umut and his family instantly and happily took me in and gave me a bed to sleep in for my night in the city. They even lived on the Asian side – lucky me!
When Jen came to visit Istanbul – over a month ago, as hard as that is to believe – she had one major goal for what she wanted to see in the city: the Aya Sofya. Although Istanbul is a magnificent city worth much more than it’s well known tourist draws, Jen was right to have that be her goal. One should not go to there and not bother seeing the Aya Sofya and the old city where Constantinople, and Byzantion before that, once stood. So, on Jen’s last day in the city, we set out to see the touristic Istanbul.
I am generally terrified of heights. It’s something that I’ve been trying to overcome for the past couple of years, with increased vigor here in Turkey so I don’t miss out on anything worth seeing; which is a lot! Civilizations just love to build tall monuments on top of even taller mountains. It was with this mindset that Jen and I set out to reach the top of Galata Tower a few hours before our New Year’s festivities were to start (you can read about those adventures here).
I’ve noticed that the more I travel the more interested I become in smaller intricacies of each city I see – particularly graffiti. Having just come back home to Malatya from almost three weeks of traveling in Istanbul, Germany and Israel, I am amazed by the amount of amazingly artistic work I saw and the range of topics covered. Particularly interesting was how a large portion of all the art was in English – I guess the world of graffiti is flat.
As 2012 wraps to a close, I feel compelled to give a special post of ‘Turkey in Review.’ I’ve been extremely fortunate with the amount I’ve been able to travel and see within the past four months and, although I’ve missed a lot, I can’t help but be happy with what I’ve seen. So, without further ado, here is a quick and dirty review of some hot-spots in Turkey for any of you thinking of traveling in this amazing country.
Visiting Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dağı) was my first major Turkish excursion, and it also featured prominently on my life bucket list. Built as a burial mound on top of one of the highest peaks for the king of the Commagene Kingdom in South Eastern Turkey, the mountain is definitely worth a visit, though maybe not necessarily for the reasons you may think.
It was Friday night, and I was staring at a restaurant menu along with three other Fulbrighters in shock. The prices listed were at best twice as expensive as anything I’d seen. Even more surprising, alcohol – several types of alcohol, to be exact – were listed alongside the food. Quickly, the restaurant that had only a few minutes before sat only us, began to fill up as more and more people came in from the street. I can’t believe this, I thought to myself, I’m going through culture shock. Where am I?
I was in Istanbul, and I had never felt further from Malatya.