Monday, July 5, 2010

So the thing about Istanbul is...

For the past week I've been running around Istanbul slowly making sense of it all... The language, the history, the culture - giving special attention to geographical orientation. This place just keeps on going and going and going. On Saturday, we went to a Emre's family vacation home on the Marmara Sea. The hour long drive never took us through a sparsely populated area, making the size of this massive city startlingly evident. 17,000,000+ people. Yeesh.

The cookout at Emre's place was awesome... We all swam in the pool, had traditional Turkish kebabs in the garden, along with eggplant salad (like babaganoush), spicy [raw] meatballs, tomato and spicy pepper salad, melons and raki... The night ended with some belly-dancing and soccer.

We've been to so many famous mosques I can't keep them straight in my head, so I'll just say they were all amazing (which they truly were) and leave it at that. My favorite mosque was this little hidden gem with an almost impossible to find entrance... It was perched atop a collection of merchant shops near the famous Egyptian Spice Bazaar. That place was incredible; I've never smelled anything that overwhelming yet appealing in my life. I really hope to make another stop there before the trip is over.

We spent one of our free days in Taksim enjoying the culinary products of Istanbul's finest local cafés. Let me just say that fig pudding has never tasted so good... Nor has chicken breast ever looked so appealing in a bed of warm stringy sweet creamy dough topped with syrup. My newest obsession: sage tea... and hazelnuts.

Today we had another class, followed by a scenic 6 hour cruise up and down the Bosporus. We stopped at a town by the mouth of the straight that opens into the Black Sea, then proceeded to hike to the top of what felt like a mountain. At the top was an ancient fortress/ castle that had incredible views of the entire area. I, feeling adventurous, climbed along the fortress walls to get a better view... And to nearly fall a few hundred meters to my death. Lol. We grabbed some food at a hillside café with equally great views and leisurely cruised back.

Tomorrow we explore more historical sites related to the books we've been reading.