Get ready for a sappy post.
You’ve been warned.
It is with both sadness and excitement that I write this post görüşürüz or “see you later.” It is my final day in Istanbul. I have lived in a tiny room overlooking the Black Sea for exactly one month. Every day I awoke to a fantastic group of people. Through attempting to navigate Turkish public transportation, exploring the markets at Kadıköy, and eating way too much cake at Bilir we grew extremely close. I have met some truly incredible people that will be friends for life. Aside from the memories and the promises to correspond, my Turkish has improved significantly and I was able to explore Turkey beginning as a tourist and ending as a local.
Last night we gathered at a restaurant in Şile where glass windows exposed the most beautiful view of the Ottoman lighthouse. We ate calamari (still better in Seattle!), drank red wine, and laughed about who knows what. As a food historian I recognize that food brings people together, and for the last month I’ve sat across the table from these incredible people and learned not only about Turkey but about their cultures as well.
Mia is so lovely and brilliant, I am going to miss her so much!
Today we explored Istanbul for the last time this trip, although everyone has vowed to return. Our first tour was guided by an professor who specializes in Ottoman sociology. Instead of leading us around throngs of people flocking to the mosques we took some back alleys to explore the transformation of Ottoman architecture in the 18th to 19th centuries. Our first stop was a mall (we think he said mall? it functioned more like an inn) which had a remarkable view of the city. We wound through dank corridors where craftsmen used to sell their work and climbed onto the roof for this gorgeous view. Does it look familiar? This is also where they filmed the scene of Bond running on the rooftops in From Russia with Love.
this door is older than the Unites States
After viewing the city from a building of questionable structural integrity we walked back through the markets to some buildings that exemplify Ottoman Revivalism. As you walk along the streets you can look up and see ordinary buildings with Iznik tiles decorating the under side of roofs. This is perhaps my favorite part of Istanbul. The Ottomans were patrons of the arts and decorated every inch of their building so that you can always find something new, even in a post office.
this post office was built in 1909. the symmetry shows modernity whereas the tiles and basilica shape speak to the Ottoman era. similar to the mosque, the immense size of the interior is meant to show the authority of the government rather than the prestige of Allah
the legacy Ottoman hotel
this is my absolute favorite mosque in Istanbul, this is the fourth time I’ve visited it this trip!
can you spot the Iznik tiles?
view from the restaurant
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the Bosporus and the Galata tower. After eating I quickly ran through the market to grab some last minute spices. Cross your fingers they will get through customs! After this our professor who gave a lecture on “Istanbul in Movies” led us on a tour of the Bosporus. It was a three hour tour that perfectly summed up our program. We had an uninterrupted view of the mosques, palaces, and castles belonging to empires from the Byzantines to Ataturk’s Turkish Republic. My favorite thing about being on the Bosporus is that the skyline has remained virtually unchanged since Ottoman times. This means that attackers and merchants alike sailed up to this exact view. Can you image how awe-inspiring and menacing it was?
I would like to make a small aside here. As we got on the ferry a large crowd filed out of the mosque and began rallying with Palestinian flags. We waited on the ferry for about 45 minutes and watched the flags waving and listened to the chanting. It was a remarkable sight. It was refreshing to see Turks taking an interest in foreign issues and feeling a kinship with Palestinians when this has not always been the case. I have been reading up on the tragedies in Palestine and it feels more real being geographically closer. I really do think that if enough countries hold protests such as these we can demand change and make progress. This picture is also very special because protesting is illegal in Turkey, so these people were ready to face tear gas and rubber bullets in the name of peace.
Now back to the cruise!
my darling Froso who is from Greece. she wants to get her PhD in Ottoman history as well, so we always have a lot to discuss! We decided to say “see you soon” instead of “goodbye” and meet again in Istanbul
you could say the trip was a little windy
Unfortunately I do not know much about the ensuing pictures. Mia and I had such a wonderful time sitting near the edge of the boat taking in the sights that we didn’t hear the professor! I think we had more fun this way, but that means I’m going to show you a whole bunch of castles that I don’t have the names for.
one of Ataturk’s palaces that we passed
the most whimsical mosque built for an Ottoman princess
we cruised under quite a few bridges
the least expensive house on the Bosporus goes for 10 million lira (roughly 5 million dollars) which is quite a lot considering the average Turkish salary is $12,000 American dollars
the magnificent Ottoman castle. there are two on either side of the Bosporus and they were used to throw cannon balls at ships trying to invade Istanbul
seeing as this is also a food blog I should probably include something edible. Mia and I shared this chocolate on our Bosporus cruise date but by the time we opened it the chocolate was completely melted! Mia said she never thought she would be cruising the Bosporus pulling apart melted chocolate with a girl from Seattle. I said we would return together and do the exact same thing again!
I apologize for the short post and the lack of Byzantine princess jokes. I need to wake up in three hours to catch my flight back home and I don’t have time to write more. I wanted to thank all of you: friends, family, and people who follow this blog around the world, for taking the time to experience this with me. Writing the blog was therapeutic for me when I was homesick and it was a great way for me to educate people about Turkey. The blog won’t be receiving new posts until I return to Turkey, which will hopefully be soon. Until then: afiyet olsun!