Istanbul and Some Reflections on Turkey
Trip Start Oct 26, 2006
81Trip End Aug 2007
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Where I stayed
I'm not going to say tooooo much about Istanbul, because the pictures will explain far better than I can put into words. With the exception of Topkapi Palace, we visited what I guess you would call the primary "must sees" of Istanbul - the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofia, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, and we took the boat cruise up the Bosphorous River to the Black Sea. We are staying at the quaint and oh-so-friendly Mavi Guesthouse (www.maviguesthouse.com), where both the owner and all of the staff are extremely nice and helpful, more so than most establishments we have stayed at in Turkey, which is saying a lot! It also happens to be one of the cheaper places to stay in the city. One of the highlights of our stay here has been not only our interactions and new friendships made at the Mavi, but also our evening visits to the Blue Mosque (5 minute walk from the Mavi), arriving in time to sit inside the square and watch the worshippers' kids play, gaze up at the mosque, and listen to the powerful and mesmerizing final call to prayer of the day around 10:45pm
Holly's Reflections on Turkey
I feel compelled to write somewhat of a summary of our time here in Turkey. Unlike our time in Corsica and Greece, which were very comfortable and easy places to travel, Turkey has been a bit more of an adventure. I have found in my travels, especially in lesser developed countries such as Nepal and Ethiopia, that the most vivid and long lasting memories come from places where you have not only your most enjoyable moments, but also your least enjoyable (or otherwise completely miserable and/or uncomfortable) moments. Though Turkey is certainly not to the extreme of third world countries like Nepal and Ethiopia, it is likely somewhere in between them and places like Corsica and Greece.
For me I think the biggest discomfort was the at times unbearable heat, when I would ask myself "Why am I doing this??? This is miserable!"
It is incredible, though, how a positive experience can completely turn your bad mood around. For us the Turkish people have certainly been the biggest and best cure for bad moods. In Turkey, same as in Greece, I have become accustomed to just assume that someone is being nice without a hidden agenda. The Turkish people are just genuinely extremely nice, hospitable people. Ok, so there are some people (namely in Istanbul) who are nice and will be pushy in trying to help you out so that you will come to their shop and buy their wares
Their Sentiments towards Us
Before this trip we were very curious how we would be treated as Americans, especially with Turkey being so close to what's going on in the Middle East. We have had all good interactions with not only the Turkish people, but people of all nationalities. We have been pleasantly surprised that, despite the unanimous anti-American government sentiments in all people we have met, they have all had the ability to separate the American government from the American people. For some this may be because they have actually visited the States and have personal relationships with Americans. For others that have not, my only answer is that their personal values don't let them pre-judge a person based on nationality and how they feel about that individual's country's politics. Of course there could be some people who just didn't express to us their true feelings, but we didn't have anyone turn their noses up at us, or say something to imply that we must support the war since we're American. Sometimes people would ask us our stance, and then they would be happily delighted upon hearing that we are not exactly fond of our current administration's decisions either (to put it lightly). But our own sentiments aside, we found it very comforting to see that people just really wanted to know about us personally, and to make their own judgment, based on our interactions together. It could also help, as we have found in other countries, the fact that we are traveling by bike, and somehow we seem to come across as less threatening than if we were in a car or tour bus. Not that either of these means of traveling is bad, as we have used them as well in our travels, but our experiences on bike have certainly provided us with a very different traveling experience. We are convinced, though, that they all think we're absolutely crazy.