Wednesday, July 1, 2009

july 2nd, 2009

so over the past 2 days, i have toured aya sofya, learned a bunch of turkish, purchased stamps at the post office, seen istanbul from the from the tops of the theodosian walls and the castle of 7 towers, crossed the golden horn, taken my first ride on the metro, and everything in between that i cant list.

i'm already beginning to be so overwhelmed with blog-worthy experiences that i just cant write about all of them. so this is my effort to highlight some of the cool things i hope you'll enjoy reading about!

a picture of the turkish post office. really gorgeous, and of course an exciting trip because i purchased turkish stamps in turkish! not difficult turkish, but just exciting to begin making transactions in a new language. also so much fun to be learning turkish and venturing into the city using it left and right and all around! of course, i only have simple phrases up my sleeve, but its unbelievably fun nonetheless. the postale:

a view from inside aya sofya, aka hagia sophia. a manifestation of the transfers of power in byzantium/constantinople/istanbul over the past 2000 years. without a doubt its an incredible achievement by the romans -- as i've said earlier the creativity, devotion to detail, massiveness all baffle me -- and built in just 5 years! i've seen nothing like it, ever. but also a physical depiction of the struggle that istanbul appears to be waging. hagia sophia desperately needs restoration, but what parts to restore? the roman christian mosaics? the ottoman islamic elements? the political and cultural issues surrounding the controversy leave modernization in a stalemate. fittingly, as the debate continues over which history to embrace, the history is slowly, sadly literally decroding, in desperate need of action.

one of the few big still-sparking mosaics in hagia sophia. Jesus, crazy sparkling in the light. nuff said.

in the evening, we chose to return to galata koprusu to explore the golden horn. paid 1 ytl (or josh did, actually hahha) for me to use the bayan wc under the bridge, but didnt cross that night! funny story. anyways we went back this morning to do it!

morning adventures are good because its not too hot yet. however, after this walk along the shore we were in a rush to return to the hotel for our first day of class with professor herbst. so we decided to venture on the metro for our first time! sweaty, a little smelly :P , but people were friendly and it got us home pretty fast. plus, i'm going to have to get good at this metro!!!!

our byzantine history course was really engaging. since we only have 15 students, i approach it anticipating the same sort of discussion style, socratic seminar-esque dyanamic of my colloqium in the spring. i'm sure we will get there soon :).

anyways it is an incredible thing, like really freakin incredible to discuss something in the classroom, and then straight up go freakin SEE what you're learning about. case and point: theodosius II's walls! again, the juxtaposition in istanbul of super old and also super new is insane. these walls, built in the 5th century, remain erected around the city, bordering modern roads, statues of ataturk, and draped in turkish flags.

** NOTE: proximity of huge turkish flag in background of this complex! the ottomans used theodosius II's wall and added 4 more in the 15th century to create this fortress called the castle of the 7 towers. now the moat is used for agriculture, and just beyond the moat is 'suburban' istanbul. oh also, we walked into the hella shady room that sultan osman I was assasinated in. it seemed pretty obvious that one would be assasinated if taken to that room. (not funny, but i still laughed).

ironic that we're smiling, bc this is definitely a torture chamber. behind us, there is a....."trash shoot" for bodies.

also great to see things that i've learned about in the past. case in point: this fountain, a gift from kaiser wilhelm's to the ottoman sultan abdul hamid in 1898, as the germans and ottomans were getting supa close. "berlin to baghdad". anyways i saw the picture of this, taken by prof. michael provence, a couple of quarters ago. and now, here i am, taking a picture with it :). note to self: send this blogpost to professor provence!

then, it was time to hit the books! lots of reading to keep up with amidst all the adventuring. decided to pick a tea place in the arasta bazaar to get some work done, which we did. met a nice family from saudi arabia sititng at the table next to us, too :). on the way back, we caught aya sofya at night.

and now, good night from istanbul.


  1. hey its han!! haha i dint know u had a blogspot. is this blog just for this trip?

  2. great pictures! i am always amazed by old architecture as well!

    and no scarves? that's kind of neat!