To Troy and back again

Tomorrow is our last day in Turkey!!
We got back yesterday from our road trip through western Turkey looking at all the ancient sites. This morning we had our final presentations so we are pretty much done with our class!
Surprisingly, I’m not super sad to be leaving and I’m pretty ready to be home. I’ve really enjoyed the trip and the adventures, but it’s been hard not being able to have my own agenda, or cook my own food, or drink the tap water, or even speak the same language. I’m really excited to eat some Mexican food.
The trip has been amazingly eye opening though, to both the good and the bad. On the good side, seeing some of the most beautiful landmarks, ancient sites, and enjoying some wonderful food has been a blessing. On the bad side, walking through street after street and neighborhood after neighborhood of poverty has been devastating, learning about and seeing government corruption first hand has been discouraging, and talking to individuals about the loss of culture in Turkey has also been disheartening.
On one hand I have hope for the country because we met with so many NGOs that have so much desire and passion to change the country from issues such as the environment to education to women’s rights. On the other hand I’m discouraged because the government has so many problems and corruption but the majority of the people don’t recognize the problem and don’t know that it needs to be addressed.
There are local elections in March so it will be very interesting to see which individuals come to power and if that suggests any changes in the future.
I will treasure this experience forever for the things I have learned about historical and modern Turkey, the people I have met in the country, and the students I have travelled with and experienced so many things with. I am so happy I got the chance to visit this country and learn as much as I did.
Tomorrow we are taking one last trip to the Asian side of Istanbul (hopefully it isn’t as cold as it was today) to finish our shopping and have a great lunch. We have to leave our hotel at 2am (Wednesday morning) to get to the airport, so we’re planning on napping in the afternoon so we can stay up all night. We will also go say goodbye to our favorite waiter down the street (Fatih, but we like to call him Antonio).
I wish I had a deep concluding sentence, but I’m afraid I would ramble too much, so I will end here with some more photos, including me at the Trojan horse yesterday.

Xoxo, Kath

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Tyler visits ancient ruins and a rug shop

The past few days we have been driving through western Turkey. We stopped for a night in Bursa, two nights in Izmir, and are currently spending the night in Pergamon before heading back to Istanbul tomorrow.
It’s been an exhausting trip in the bus (it has just enough seats for each of us so it hasn’t been the most comfortable of rides) but we have seen some really cool ancient ruins. It’s almost impossible for me to comprehend that some of the places we have visited we’re talked about in the bible.
Yesterday we visited Ephesus, an ancient settlement with one of the largest libraries from ancient times. The city was huge and so cool. There were also lots of cats, much like all of a Turkey.

Today we went to Pergamon also an ancient city with a temple in the middle of the acropolis (literally city on a hill). It was super windy but also incredible to see the ruins and a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains.
Before we made it to the acropolis we stopped at a Turkish Rug Association, basically a factory and rug store and got to see how the rugs are made (and learned how to do the knots to make a rug) and got spoiled with tea, homemade wine, and the most beautiful array of rugs. Each one they pulled out was stunning, and the ones made of silk look different depending on the angle, so they would spin them around and make a spectacle out of it. Turkish rugs are so expensive, and I had absolutely no intention of buying one, yet I came across some sacks made out of rugs that traditionally were used to carry sacks of grain and now which could be used as a floor pillow. And somehow I couldn’t resist and got an amazingly detailed one. I’m really excited about it and I know it will be the ultimate souvenir from this trip and will last a lifetime.

Photos: am and Tyler amongst all the rugs; Tyler at Ephesus; the library at Ephesus; the larger of the two amphitheaters in Ephesus; the temple at Pergamon

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“Last” day in Istanbul

Tomorrow we leave on a road trip down the coast to the ancient cities of Bursa and Izmir for four days before returning to Istanbul.
Recently, our activities in Istanbul have included:
-a trip up the Bosphorus (much less a cruise and more of some guys yacht that he rents for people to take tours on…and not a very nice yacht either). We were very lucky with the weather though so it was beautiful.
-a visit to a Turkish bath. This is one of the best things we have done so far. Everyone always says it is an experience, and what a wonderful experience it was. For some people it is intimidating because you are only given some underwear and something to wrap up in, but once you get over that it’s awesome. You start off laying on a giant marble stone that takes up most of a circular room that is heated almost as warm as a sauna, and then the women come and pour water on you and then scrub your body with a washcloth before covering your body with the best soap suds bubbles ever and basically giving you a massage. They also wash your hair before you get to soak in the jacuzzi for as long as you like. Five of the girls went and we did not want to leave, and when we finally did (two hours later) we were so relaxed and clean feeling. It was absolutely incredible. We are planning on going again before we leave Turkey.
-my friend/ hotel roommate and I also took a detour to watch the Seahawks game, at 1am….the sleep schedule was a little rough but pretty fun to be able to watch the game.
-we saw a Whirling Dervish performance. The Dervishes practice Suffism, or mystic Islam, and basically they spin around and around as part of their mediation ritual. You can look up videos on YouTube. It’s a very popular religion in Southeast Asia.
We have had a few meetings and lectures including one with the Women’s library, a group that collects documents, books, paintings, journals, everything having to do with the women’s movement in Turkey, or really anything published by women. We also took a tour of a neighborhood that used to be predominately Greek before the revolution and has now essentially become a ghetto but is undergoing some gentrification.

I’ve decided that a Jan term abroad is very very different from a semester. Everything is so much more structured, every meal has to be eaten out, and during free time all I ever really want to do is relax in the hotel room because it takes so much effort to find somewhere to go even if it is just for a coffee. I also definitely didn’t expect to learn as much as I have, so that’s good. I’m kinda ready to go home, but I’m excited to go to the coast and make the most of the last week we have here.
Photos: some from our water trip up the Bosphorus, the Whirling Dervishes, and a picture of the postcard from the bathhouse

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Tyler goes to the Grand Bazaar

…and the Galata Tower to overlook all of Istanbul at dusk.

Yesterday we went to the Asian side of Istanbul for two amazing meals and a great tour of the neighborhoods. I like the Asian side a lot better because it seemed way less hectic. I wish we could have had more time there because there was one street filled with second hand and antique stores that would have been fun to shop at. However, we did eat an amazing lunch at a restaurant famous for gathering old recipe it’s from all over Turkey. I had a rice and chicken stuffed pastry, some spinach, and couscous balls, and sampled friends meals of quince stuffed with beef, as well as some pumpkin rice, and bulgar. As if that weren’t enough we then went for a cooking class. We made leeks with carrots; dolma, which in this case was ground beef, onions, and some tomato paste rolled in Swiss chard; Muhammara, an incredible spread made of roasted red peppers blended with walnuts and stale bread and olive oil (absolutely delicious); philo dough wrapped around feta cheese, parsley, and chives; and bulgar, a grain similar to couscous, made with tomatoes and other seasonings.
Sounds good, huh? Of course I don’t have any photos that I can share now. I am sincerely sorry, it was truly an amazing culinary day.

Today we had a free day so went on our own exploring the Blue Mosque, the Egyptian Spice Market, the Grand Bazaar, and Galata Tower. It was definitely a full day but we got a lot accomplished, including some souvenir purchases and hearing all of the calls to prayer from one of the highest points in the city.

Tomorrow will also be great- we are going on a cruise up the Bosphorus (or down, I’m not sure, but we all know how much I love the water!!) and during our free afternoon we are going to go to the Turkish baths!!

We only have a few days left in Istanbul before we head on our road trip to the coast, but I’m sure they will be wonderful and full of great food, company, and more baklava. :)

Photos: various parts of our ferry ride yesterday to Asia, including me on the back of the boat; SO MUCH BAKLAVA; Tyler at the bazaar and at the top of the tower;a sample of some of the food I have eaten (really only two meals have been mediocre)

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“Come in, I’ll make you the real Sultan”

That was one of our first interactions with a shopkeeper in Istanbul who invited us into his store after one of the guys tried on a fez. His shop was filled with beautiful Turkish goods and provided a great start to our first night in Istanbul.
Since then we have been busy touring various landmarks and monuments famous from the Ottoman Empire, attending lectures at a university, and visiting a variety of NGOs throughout Istanbul. It has been very exhausting but super interesting to hear so many different perceptions of the current political climate, the multitude of layers of history in the city, and just how the modern Turkish people live.
We attended one lecture on EU-Turkish relations which was interesting because the professor is cautiously optimistic that under the right circumstances (socialist governments in France and Germany, and a Turkish government actively seeking membership) Turkey May one day achieve some sort of EU membership.
We also met with a group of environmentalists who have been protesting the building of a third bridge that will ultimately destroy the last remaining forests in Istanbul and displace thousands of villagers, most likely without improving traffic or infrastructure in the city.
One of the broadest generalizations I can make after hearing lectures from all different subject areas is that the government is pretty corrupt, the people have ver little if any trust in the government and are never consulted for what they would like their government to do. Basically a lot of things are done under the table and illegally, with the intentions of funding major industries such as cars and construction, which is no way for a society, especially a democratic one, to function with any sort of long term success.

Other than all the modern day politics, we have seen the absolutely stunning Ottoman palaces (there were 17) where sultans and ambassadors lived, as well as some beautiful mosques. The extravagance is absolutely incredible, and unfortunately (even selfishly), the Turkish government doesn’t allow photos inside of some of the places.

I’m really tired from a few days of lectures on some pretty hefty topics so my enthusiasm is low, but overall the trip has been great so far and Istanbul is a really interesting city with some very nice people. We already have one friend at a cafĂ© close to our hotel that we’ve been to almost everyday, (we’ve) named Antonio (because he looks like Antonio Bendares) who has offered us lots of help and advice on where to go, as well as some great food.
Tomorrow we are having a cooking class and making our own dinner! I’m super excited to finally learn some of the spices they cook with that are so tasty.

Photos: a really tasty spinach crepe, Geri park the site of deadly protests last spring (much smaller than you would expect), the medusa and me and the underground cisterns (ancient underground water ways and execution spot(=ghosts)), the inside of the Ayasofya an old Greek temple turned church turned mosque, and the view from the roof of our hotel where we eat breakfast !!!

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Tyler visits Istanbul

Yesterday we left Ankara and flew to Istanbul. My first impressions from flying in we’re that it was a huge city and so many mosques. After wandering around the past 24 hours I would only add that it is an incredible city with a much friendlier vibe, and views of water almost all the time. Last night before dinner we discovered the Ayasofia and the blue mosque, two gorgeous mosques on either side of a square, five minutes from our hotel. Today I finally had some baclava and another Turkish coffee before touring the sultans palace and other Byzantine and Ottoman landmarks. It is always incredible to think about the thousands and thousands of years of history in this city.
Photos: Tyler on Turkish airlines; on the airplane; Turkish pizza; more friends; coffee and baklava; mosques around dusk; Turkish graffiti; me at the Bosphorus straight

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As lost as you can get to lost, without actually being lost

Today we had class at the hotel (who also brought us tea and pasteries) and then had the afternoon free.
There isn’t a whole lot to do in Ankara so we set off without much of a plan, and the knowledge that there was a small protest going on somewhere in the city, and suggestions to try to avoid it. Long story short, we set out as a group, a friend and I broke away, found the protest (we did not participate merely observed), and then took an hour and a half’s walk through the city, in a giant loop, essentially lost, but eventually making it exactly to where we wanted to go: a street with gelato, Starbucks, a park, and some shops.
The fact that our path took us down a street that cut through a high security military installment may be the sketchiest part of the day. But we were pretty darn proud to have accidentally found exactly where we wanted to go without any maps or idea where we were, so we got two scoops of gelato instead of one.
I absolutely do not mind wandering a city when I have no time restrictions, nor a large group counting on me to get somewhere. It provides the opportunity to see parts of the city that would have otherwise been past over, and get some exercise in on a day that had no other constructive plans.
And yes, I am completely aware that we are very lucky to have not gotten into any trouble on our adventure today. It is not something that I am looking to repeat. But there are only so many chances to experience a Turkish protest (probably only one), and had I even gotten a feeling that it was going to be violent I would have taken us the other way.
By the way, the gelato was awesome, and the Starbucks more or less the same as America.

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