Seeing Istanbul by night from the Galata Tower really inspired me for the travels I later took in Germany and Israel – specifically, I developed the philosophy that if there is a hill or mountain behind any sort of city or town, climb it! The views offered in reward for this are almost always worth it.
The first iteration of this rule in practice was the climbing of Schlossberg behind Freiburg with my mom. Although we had no idea what was at the top of the hill, we were treated to fantastic views of the city at the top. Also unbeknownst to us, but heavily implied by the mountains name (Schloss means castle in German), was the old fortifications of Medieval Freiburg – awesome!
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.
Earlier this week Danielle, Fabio and myself set out on what we assumed would be a short excursion to Sultansuyu Harası on our university rep’s suggestion. What seemed like it would start off as a few hours outside the university quickly spiraled into a long, drawn out day of confusion, and eventually picture taking and fish.
The first sign that things could get tricky was our reps insistence on giving us scavenger hunt directions: i.e. go to Malatya Park Mall, and then call me and receive further instructions. From the mall, we were told to catch a mini-bus to Akçadağ, a good 20 kilometers outside of the city proper – no problem. Getting off the bus is always the hardest part, and we were told to get off the bus once we started seeing horses close to Harra… or something. After that we would be met by his sister-in-law. It’s around here that things get a little hazy.
Ankara is a hilly city – seriously, you can’t go anywhere here without hiking up some hill or mountain. This was precisely why Ankara was chosen as the capital of Turkey during the War of Independence: the mountains it is built upon, and it’s overall remoteness, provided an ideal defensible position.
Today Ankara, luckily, does not face threat of attack so its hills have been put to a variety of uses. In the center of the city, on the highest hill, sits Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the revered Attatürk, founder of modern Turkey. I went to the mausoleum when I was in Ankara last summer too, but this time the tour was in English and I gained a new appreciation for the building. Each segment of the structure was constructed and planned as a synthesis of all the cultures that have inhabited Turkey – from the Phrygians of ancient times up through the Byzantines, Ottomans, and Muslim influence. As I heard someone once say, “If you like the Lincoln Memorial, Anıtkabir will blow you away.”
Yesterday evening, after a long day of orientation, my fellow Fulbrighters and myself were invited to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corp in Turkey at a diplomat’s house. Honestly, nothing really puts you in the mind set of feeling like a boss – at least from my own limited experience – like attending an official State Department garden party, complete with the press chief for the embassy, whiskey and wine on the rocks following freely, bountiful appetizers, and a podium that actually had the U.S. seal on the front of it.
Procrastination has always been my weak point, especially now. Although I’m now in Turkey, attending my 10 day orientation in Ankara, I didn’t finish describing my weekend in the Poconos with Jen.
There is something about dive bars that just seems so friendly and inviting and warm – a sense of camaraderie, almost. As opposed to clubs or more swanky drinking establishments, dive bars – and the people inside them – seem especially honest about their intentions. Most often the people frequenting a dive bar are just looking to relax with friends or forget, however briefly, about whatever weight they have hanging around their shoulders. In short, I love dive bars and I am always on the lookout for a new favorite. This was how, by complete chance, I found the best dive bar in the world with Jen last weekend in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.