Fer's Adventures in Turkey
Entry 8: Exploring the Woods Near Campus and Bebek

1 August 2012

Apart from being surrounded by water the Bogazici University south campus also contains its share of forest. Today I decided I’d walk through the paths in the woods that lead down to the Bebek district east of campus.

The forest was so beautiful and green, pretty big too. As I walked around through it I seriously felt like I was in the Hunger Games. It also reminded me of the times I used to go camping when I was younger. I missed the great outdoors.

If only Arizona could be as alive and plant-rich as Turkey is.

I found a tree stump in the forest that had smaller plants sprouting on top of it, and among them this giant fungus the size of a pizza. I thought it looked quite interesting.

Exiting the forest I came across another small stone staircase that led to one of the towers of Rumeli Hisari, an ancient castle built in 1451 by Sultan Mehmed II to control vessel traffic on the Bosphorus Strait.

Near the tower I found a large stone jutting out the side of a cliff with an amazing view of the Bosphorus. I stopped here for a few minutes to rest and sing to myself while admiring the view.

I also got an alternate view of the castle.

Resuming my walk I encountered a large graveyard further down.

The graves were laid out like steppes which I found rather interesting, all on the base of the hill.

I left the cemetery a few minutes later and an ten minute walk down a narrow paved road brought me to Bebek.

I took a stroll down the edge of the bay, where numerous boats both rentals and privately owned ones were awaiting their departure. 

Boats reminiscent of pirate ships are definitely my favorite. This one even had a helm like a pirate ship.

After my stroll I had some ice cream by the bay. Inside the ice cream shop there was a television on with some Turkish music videos playing. I remember really enjoying one song in particular but I never found out what its name was. I’ll have to ask my cousin for help in finding more Turkish music because I’ve grown to love it more since I’ve been here and she is knowledgeable in that area.

Before I caught a bus to go home I found a park by the coast with what seemed to be a sandy area with devices for simple exercises. I was curious so I gave one of them a try, one that looked a bit like an elliptical but only went forwards and backwards on one plane. I started giggling excessively to myself for several seconds and that was my queue to stop. I think all that exploring I did that day had worn me out and I was ready to return home.

Entry 7: The Blue Mosque

15 July 2012

The day I went to Eminonu to explore the Hagia Sophia I didn’t have much time to see anything else, so I returned there today to go inside the Blue Mosque, known by the Turks as the Sultanahmed Camii. 

I got together with two friends (who were also studying abroad here) at the Bogazici University campus and we rode the metro from Kabatas down to Eminonu together. We had lunch in the area, followed by delicious apple tea and baklava afterwards. The walk to Sultanahmed was a short one.

Towering over the Istanbul city skyline for over 400 years, the Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed in 1609 to provide an even larger place of worship for Muslims than the Hagia Sophia. Interestingly, the two buildings face each other in Eminonu and are not very far apart in distance. It is also one of the few mosques with six minarets (towers).

Before going inside we walked across the mosque’s garden, beautifully decorated with all sorts of trees and other foliage.

Through the gates lay the exquisitely courtyard with its columns and traditional Muslim architecture. 

The inside of Sultanahmed Camii was absolutely gorgeous. I fell in love with the intricate designs on the walls and domes in the ceiling. It was quite the sight.

Even though most visitors were tourists, there were a few people praying inside as well. 

There I am.

A view from the courtyard. 

After having seen the Sultanahmed Mosque in all its beauty I can see why they call it one of the gems of Istanbul.

Here’s part 1 of the Bosphorus boat tour.

Entry 6: Uskudar and Ortakoy

14 July 2012


A few days before today’s journey I was having breakfast with my family when I was telling them about a typical American breakfast and what it consisted of. I told them waffles were one of my favorite breakfast foods and that I enjoyed them with fruit and whip cream. My cousin Başak told me about an area in Istanbul famous for its waffles called Ortakoy, which lies across the Bosphorus on the European side, slightly north of the Bosphorus Bridge. This weekend Başak came with me to Ortakoy so that I could try the popular Ortakoy waffle.

To get to Ortakoy we first rode a minibus to Uskudar, an area north of Kadikoy (where I am staying). Uskudar is a wonderful place by the water that largely attracts fishermen and is also a popular spot to purchase and eat fish. 

As we walked down the coast we ran into some amateur paleontologists who had set up a small exhibition on ancient marine fossils. Having a deep appreciation of prehistoric life and being fascinated by the subject since I was a child, I stuck around for a bit and looked at the exhibits. On display was a small but diverse collection of ancient coral, shellfish, cephalopods, and plants in well-preserved fossils. Admiring the exhibits brought back memories of my childhood desire to become a paleontologist and how passionate I was about learning of extinct life. I smiled and chuckled to myself at the thought.

After the exhibit we rode a ferry to Besiktas, where we would disembark and walk to Ortakoy. The ferry ride was fairly short compared to my usual ride from Kadikoy to Besiktas, only about ten minutes.

Başak this photo of me while we were on our way to Besiktas.

During the walk from Besiktas to Ortakoy we passed by the luxurious Ciragan Hotel, built next to the Ciragan Sarayi (Palace).

Shortly after we arrived at Ortakoy, where we had lunch at a cafe by the water. Here I had some of the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted. I liked it so much that I ordered another one before we rode the boat for the Bosphorus water tour.

Please see video titled “Tour of the Bosphorus” for footage of this tour.

By the time we returned to Ortakoy I had room in my stomach again, which meant it was finally time to try an Ortakoy Waffle. 

At first the amount of ingredients and topping was a bit overwhelming so it was hard to decide on what I wanted in my waffle. I settled for melted milk chocolate, white chocolate, strawberries, bananas, chocolate chips, and strawberry syrup. The ingredients were all added on top of a large round waffle. My finished waffle was handed to me half wrapped and folded in half like a taco. 

It was definitely one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. I even surprised myself when I finished the whole thing since it actually pretty large. 

Hopefully that won’t be the last Ortakoy waffle I’ll be having either.

A Look Inside The Hagia Sophia

Stepping inside this once Byzantine church, once Ottoman mosque was unlike anything I had experienced before in my life. Overwhelmed with the beauty that were the intricate mosaic-lined walls, the spherical ceilings with the immensely detailed Christian religious designs and lined with Arabic script, and the colossal stone pillars that have kept this building standing for almost 15 centuries, it is no wonder I spent about three hours walking around inside this building alone, not just looking at, but admiring every inch, every intricate detail, that makes the Hagia Sophia a masterpiece in the first place.

Entry 5: City Sightseeing and the Hagia Sophia

7 July 2012

Since I arrived in Istanbul I had been anxious to take a trip down to Eminonu, the area in the European side of the city where some of its greatest and most iconic monuments, such as the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, are located. At the top of my list was the Hagia Sophia, so I decided to pay it a visit first.

During my ferry ride across the Bosphorus I took advantage of the fact that I chose a seat near the outer edge overlooking the water and took several photos of everything I saw, including views of the Dolmabahce Palace, waterfront homes, Mosques, the Maiden’s Tower, and any ships, including cruise ships, that traveled through the strait’s lively waters.

(View of the Maiden’s Tower with the Bosphorus Bridge in the distance.)

(View of the other ferries docking at Besiktas.)

Upon arrival at Besiktas I took a bus to Taksim Square, where I bought a one day pass for an Istanbul sightseeing tour. With this pass I was able to view the entire city from atop a bus, and learned a lot about the historical and modern sites that make Istanbul what it is today.

(Another photo I took of Taksim Square from the top of the bus. The Turkish flag waves proudly beside it.)

(The Yeni Camii, or New Mosque, with the Hagia Sophia right behind it.)

(Portions of the City Walls of Constantinople built in the fifth century AD to protect the city from invaders.)

(The Sultanahmed Camii, or Blue Mosque, from behind.)

I got off the bus shortly after taking the photo of the Blue Mosque and walked around the courtyard surrounded by the mosques and other sites in the area. The area was packed with people from around the world, all here to see the city’s marvels. Shortly after arriving the beating of drums and some sort of wind instrument unfamiliar to my ears caught my attention and I immediately made my way towards the source of the sound.

A traditionally-dressed Ottoman military marching band had assembled on a stage near the courtyard. I stayed to listen to their performance for a few minutes and got a few photos. Their uniforms were just as interesting and impressive as the sound of their music.

After watching the Ottoman marching band and having some Döner for lunch at a restaurant in the area, I was ready to see for myself the masterpiece that is the Hagia Sophia. 

This entry will be continued with the photoset titled “A Look Inside the Hagia Sophia”. Please take a look at that!

Jazz Musicians in Beyoglu, Istanbul.

Entry 4: Taksim Square

6 July 2012

Every day on my way to school one of the buses I take on the trek home makes a stop at Taksim square, one of the most bustling and crowded areas of Istanbul. Today I decided to explore it further since it has had my attention for a while now. 

Taksim Square is one of the most famous attractions for visitors in the entire city. It is both a place of historical significance and a commercial hub full of all sorts of shops, restaurants, and cafes, and also serves as one of the main transportation hubs for the city’s buses. In addition, it is a popular destination for music enthusiasts.

I took a stroll down Beyoglu street behind the Monument of the Republic (the proper name of the statue in the photo) and passed a variety of clothing stores, jewelry shops, curios shops, bookstores, and even music stores. Enormous crowds of people, both tourists from around the world as well as native Istanbullus are attracted to this street due to the large mixture of things one might find here. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of street performers and live musicians who view this street as the perfect opportunity to acquire an audience. And I don’t blame them; I was really impressed with their performances.

 

A crowd of a decent size was gathered around this man, anxiously waiting to find out what his next move would be. Because of this he unfortunately could not pretend to be a statue and the suddenly “come to life” when least expected. But it was still entertaining to watch him interact with children (they were either fascinated by him or deathly afraid).

There was a particular shop that immediate caught my eye, and I just had to take pictures of it. Inside they sold all sorts of miscellany in all the colors of the rainbow.

It was called “Karınca”, a shop whose wares originated mostly in France according to one of the employees. I might just come back here in the future to buy a new wallet…

My favorite part about coming here (since I didn’t really do any shopping) was watching all of the different musicians play their instruments. I stopped and listened to a man play an electric sitar for a short while. I was completely fascinated as I watched the man’s swift fingers effortlessly move up and down the neck of the sitar while the other hand strummed to create a beautiful melody that served as perfect background music. I had never before listened to anything quite like it.

I also came across a group of boys playing a few different types of drums, as well as a man from Spain playing something called the bells which I had never seen or heard before. It reminded me a bit of the Jamaican steel drum, except it was made up of two parts and was hollow inside. I stuck around for a few minutes to listen to him play (see link below).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6hpEtjaWDo&feature=youtu.be

After walking around some more and having delicious ice cream at Mado, one of Istanbul’s most famous sweet cafes, the sound of trumpets, trombones, and percussion coming from outside immediately caught my attention, so I went to find the source. A jazz band from the USA was marching down the street playing their instruments as immense crowds of passersby gathered around them to enjoy the music. I managed to catch some footage myself (see video post titled ‘Jazz Musicians in Beyoglu, Istanbul; will be up very soon).

The music left me (and apparently the rest of the crowd as well) in very good spirits.

By the time I finished listening to the jazz musicians it was time to call it a day. I took one last photograph of Taksim Square before heading back home.

Until we meet again.

10 plays

Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ll be writing about tomorrow. I bought a CD from one of Beyoglu street’s musicians and this is the first track, which features the instrument he plays (he called it the “bells”). It’s a very beautiful sound I think.

Entry 3: Daily Life

28 June 2012

This week has been very busy and unexpectedly exhausting for me, but also very enjoyable. Sunday I went to an area in Kadikoy called Fenerbahce by the sea on the Asian side of Istanbul. This place is a popular area to visit for Istanbullu, especially families with young children. The area consists of a large park with pathways and plenty of trees, benches, and kiosks, complemented by the view of the Sea of Marmara on the shore. Fenerbahce also houses a very large cat population, probably due to the ease with which they obtain food from visitors. Fenerbahce also seems to be one of the more popular areas for recreational swimming due to its proximity to the water and the state of the water itself (never have I seen seawater so clear before!).

 [My cousin Melis and I enjoying some delicious ice cream for dessert after our meal.]

After taking a walk through the park my family and I had lunch at the Romantika Restaurant right by the sea side. I could not stop looking out towards the water; when I was not observing ships and boats traveling over the sea or analyzing the countless buildings in the distance on the European side of the city wishing I had brought my sketchbook to take home a little souvenir of my adventure, I was tossing bread crumbs over the edge of the water and watching the large schools of fish below nibble away at them in excitement. Maybe in the future I will try to do some fishing while in Istanbul…

Getting to class every day is an adventure all its own. The trek to Bogazici University is quite the long and winding one, but because I get to see so much of the city during it I enjoy every minute of it. In the morning I take the minibus down to Kadikoy then cross the Bosphorus via ferry. Riding the ferry is my favorite part of my voyage for the smell and the breeze of the sea have always made me feel at ease. My first time riding the ferry was especially captivating because at that moment I realized I didn’t remember the last time I had the aroma of the sea travel through my hair and my fingertips and brush the skin on my arms and face and flow through my nostrils and fill my body with this wonderful essence the way it did then, and I was consumed with joy.

Lastly I catch a bus from a station near the water to go to Bogazici University for my first class of the day: Introductory Turkish for Foreigners. The class is two hours long and takes place Monday through Thursday mornings from 11 am - 1 pm. It’s very fast-paced and a bit tough, but in a few days I’m sure I would have learned a lot. 

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have another class: History of the Turkish Republic. Learning about history has always been something of interest to me, so I figured taking this class would be an excellent way to both learn more about my heritage and fulfill some general requirements for school. Because this class is later in the day (5 pm to 7 pm) I usually grab a bite to eat at one of the food places in or around campus. I walk around and explore the rest of the university. Because it is quite a large school with four separate campuses in proximity to each other, they are connected by many scenic pathways located around the area. I very much enjoy walking down this particular pathway to get to the South Campus.

The South Campus is probably the most beautiful of the four campuses. Its buildings and grassy areas make it a popular place for students to gather.

The trip back home is just as long as it is in the morning, but for this one I prefer to take a bus down to Taksim Square and afterwards transfer to a different bus that crosses the Bosphorus Bridge. I have not gotten a chance to see much of Taksim Square yet, but the constant hustle and bustle in this area and the surrounding streets have definitely called my attention, so I shall pay a visit to them later.

So far my weekdays have been pretty tiring, but because I get to see so much of this breathtaking, bustling city while traveling to school, I have no real qualms with it. All that aside, the only thing on my mind now is making sure that tonight I sleep in as much as I plan to in order to be well rested for the adventures that await me this weekend.

İyi geceler.