Istanbul turned into being one of my “big trips” for the semester. I spent 6 days, 5 nights in the city. For Erasmus standards, that is a long stay in one city. I never thought I would have found myself in Turkey this semester. Like I admitted in an earlier post, I was naive about the country on safety and native about the location. My Canadian roommate mentioned that she wanted to go during the semester and that is what planted the idea. The idea grew on me and then I made the decision that I had to go. Inception, I know. MM ended up not being able to go, but I did 2 really cool kids to come: Paul from Ireland and my friend Emily from Kentucky.
Lucky for us, Paul convinced another friend to join us: Liliana from Mexico. (Small world story: she goes to other Uni in Vienna than I do. There are 3 of us from UGA at my Uni and 1 at her Uni. She actually went on Easter holiday with guy from UGA that goes to her Uni. She knows a UGA boy that I don’t and it is my school!)
Emily, Paul and I flew out on a Thursday. Liliana joined us the next afternoon. We decided to do the ‘Hop On Hop Off’ open air tour of the city since the city is so spread out. The weather was bad so we decided to stay on the tour bus for another trip through the circle so we could make sure we grasped the information and so we could get pictures of the sites from the other side of the bus. We finally got to the main tourist area and hopped off. We grabbed some lunch and then as we approached the blue mosque, heard the sound to prayer and knew we couldn’t center for the next while. A local guy told us about this free briefing session he was providing for tourists in the nearby school so we joined him there. During the briefing session, he talked about what we were going to see, about the Islamic religion and just an overview of everything. I knew about the ‘great journey’ part of the religion but I didn’t know so much about the prophets. I was also surprised with the similarities to the Christian religion. I always knew in back of mind that the Islamic, Judaism, and Christian beliefs shared close to same beginning beliefs, but it was interesting hearing about the Islamic beliefs from a believer. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe what my Christian religion says and disagreed with some of the differences, but it is interesting to learn how others view the world. After the briefing, we toured the blue mosque (which I was surprised that they didn’t make us cover our heads with the provided scarfs. We went prepared to do so and as we entered, they didn’t give us a scarf). That was the first eye opener for me. Witnessing the women sit in the balcony or in this caged off part of the room as the men went to the front to pray… wow. I have grown up in the generation with ‘equal rights’. Sure there is the glass ceiling as far as the business world goes for women, but we –least I–have taken our everyday equal rights for granted. Sure, it is the culture here, but wow. That was an eye opener for me.
Apparently I look Turkish. Who knew? We got approached by some locals once we exited. They asked us where we were from, etc. Paul said Ireland and I replied with the typical ‘US’ answer. He then asks me again and I reply with the same response. He then clarifies and wanted to know if my heritage was Turkish. Never have gotten that one before. During my travels so far, I have been asked if I was from Pennsylvania (from a guy from Arkansas! I don’t know what he was thinking with my accent!), New York, England, and now Turkey.
Lets see… the rest of our Turkey experience was touring the Palace, making a trip to Asia (and in the process, figuring out that we had a stalker that we had to ditch), noticing the amount of straight Turkish men holding hands in public (Kid you not. It is culture thing. Look up videos on youtube if don’t believe!) and just experiencing the Turkish culture. Besides one minor mishap of Emily missing her flight back to Vienna, the four of us survived Istanbul with our lives and wallets still in our pockets.
I definitely want to go back to Turkey. It has so much history there (didn’t realize that Troy is located there!) 6 days of touring just one city in Turkey was still not enough. Expect to see me in the future, Turkey!