“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 café 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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