Istanbul. What words can begin to express what an incredible experience. The culture, the people, and the food were all absolutely incredible. The Eastern culture is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
We visited such incredible monuments; the blue mosque, Hagio Sophia, The underground Cistern, Topkapi Palace, and the Harem. We also took a boat up the Bosphorus river, smoked Hooka, ate traditional Turkish Kababs, drank Turkish tea after every meal, and bargained for deals at the Grand Bazaar ( I am such a sucker and bought worthless perfume that I didn’t even want for 15 dollars. Luckily, I saved so much on other things that it wasn’t that big of a deal). There were 7 of us, 3 girls and 4 boys and we stayed at this Hostel called the Bahaus Hostel. It was such a great environment with a bar and music upstairs. Each morning we ate bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, and olives. A pretty basic European breakfast. It would have tasted a lot better had we not woken up from only getting an average of about 4 hours of sleep each night.
The Turkish people were so kind and generous to us the entire time we were there. Yes the obvious is that they wante our money and business and have perfected the art of bargaining, but everywhere we turned around there was someone to give us free tea, or point us in the right direction, or inform us more about the culture. Everyone we met had such great senses of humor. For instance one man walked out of his shop to greet us by saying, “How can I rip you guys off today?”
Our favorite Turk was a man named Mustafa, who owned a restaurant that we frequented a bit while we were there. Each time he gave us free tea and the best hospitality. One of my friends, Alex, went outside to have a cigarette with Mustafa during dinner and they became immediate friends after that and since we were friends with Alex we got special treatment too.
I also learned so much about the religion of Islam. I have been taking this History of the Middle East class this semester and it was so important for me to have this understanding before I went to the capitol city of Islam. Turkey is 99.8% muslim and is home to the most famous mosques in the world. Not only was I able to understand the significance of some of the architecture. It is really hard for many people to be open and understanding to Islam because of recent acts of some radical associated with the faith but the reality is that Islam is founded on morals comparable to Christianity and Jerusalem and have an ideology of peace and love throughout the Koran. It’s historical basis is also so close to Christianity that I honestly had to question myself and ask why is it that Islam is incorrect and I don’t believe in it. The answer is the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the way that he lived his life. I find his legitimacy lies in the fact that he is always pointing us to Yahweh whereas, Muhammad, as great of a man and leader as he was is only a human, he made many mistakes and exalted himself quite a bit. The best example of this is the creed which each Muslim recites upon coming into the religion. It basically says “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Other examples of too much focus on Muhammad are praying towards Mecca and taking a pilgrimage to mimic Muhammad. It was so great to have such a clear understanding of the faith and being able to watch them pray and live. Also, an understanding and background on headscarves was really neat to be able to witness and to see women in full on burkas was really neat too.
Also, having an idea of time and people in history was so cool to be able to correspond to monuments and artifacts within the museums and since 5 of us were in this class we got into heated debates over who remembered the right part of history and who was mistaken.The group was so great together though and we all go along so well. I couldnt have asked for a better group of people to travel with!