Saturday, July 18, 2009

wow, its been 9 days since i've last posted!!! there is so much/too much to try and i'm going to try to just go by pictures and hopefully cover my adventures over the past week through them!

okay, i'll start off the with greek orthodox patriarchate, the home and head of the greek orthodox religious community. we got to explore the greek orthodox church, and here is a pic of me and my roomie grace in the incredibly ornate church.

what i realize now was a big mistake is that i didnt take a good picture of the iconostasis in the church. after extensively studying the iconoclasm of the 8th and 9th century, and the role that churches like this played in defending icons, that pic really would have been appropriate. oh well! instead i got this picture of an important saint's his actual bones:

the image below is SUPPOSEDLY of jesus' flagellation column. doubt it!

and professor herbst giving a little sermon, hehe. anyways that sort of summed up our trip to the greek orthodox patriarchate! the guys were hoping the patriarch would be there so that they could ask for permission to go to mount athos, but unfortunately he had already left for the day! OH and professor herbst gave us these nifty icons as memorabilia! so each of us has a patron saint now, which we'll be bringing to our final exams next week, hahahaha.

after this adventure, we had a nice dinner back at the hotel, and then we got ready to watch HARRY POTTERRR!!! it was REALLY fun navigating our way to the cinema that halee, jeff, and chelsea had found last week. it was at the historia mall, which is this 4 story mall that reminded me of valley fair back home. the mall was a great break from the hustle and bustle kind of bartering that occurrs elsewhere in the city at the bazaars and with street merchants. i made my first significant clothing purchase of the trip in a pretty new maxi dress and some lightweight linen pants (the latter of these has proved REALLY useful in the humidity!)

and then finally: THE MOVIE! i won't spoil movie content/quality for anyone who hasnt seen it yet, but i HAVE to tell this story: halfway through the movie, the screen cuts to some random cartoon and i FLIP the hell out because i think something has gone wrong, and i'm like, really into the movie at this point. the lights go on, elevator music kicks in, and i am just freakin confused. since all of us are sitting in a cluster, we're quizzically looking at each other and exchanging confused sentiments, but everyone else just up and walks out of the theatre! apparently they do intermissions. lol, it took me long enough to figure out and i was just laughing through the whole thing afterwards.

when the movie finished, carline is the first to realize that its 11:40. we were told that the metro generally stops running at midnight, so we sort of freak out. we jam all 14 of us into this elevator with these 2 turkish guys, who found it pretty amusing. then we start literally running to the metro stop. we made it, which was great. but then jeff notes that this is the LATEST we have been out in the city, in our 2.5 weeks here. pathetic, really. i mean, its a real challenge to try and go out late and get the amount of sleep necessary to pull us through the day, the heat, the classes, everything. so we often crash early, but seriously after 2.5 weeks we hadn't been out past midnight?!

jeff and i decide we need to DO something about this! we pull mike, josh, sophia and bo-young along and head out to the water. we find a bit of a platform to sit around and just talk for a little while and absorb the night lights and peace of the halic, galata tower, and the bogazici in the distance. some pics from that night:

and finally we headed back. rested up and the next morning had another early start for our tour at topkapi palace (administrative center and home for the ottoman imperial court and fam). below, a pic of josh and jeff, outside of topkapi with the nw end of hagia sophia in the background.

we had actually ventured onto the palace grounds on our first day in town, but of course we saw a LOT more with our ticket. we got a quick peek at the imperial view of the bosphorus, and spent a lot of time in the palace harem.

i really found the harem sadly beautiful. it was sooo nice, so pretty and full of open spaces, high ceilings, gorgeous views of the city...i enjoyed it, of course. but while walking the grounds we also had to consider the irony of the place -- the 400-1000 women in the harem who had the ability to see the beauty of istanbul but not leave the grounds to experience it. after a good amount of sitting and contemplating all of this in the courtyard, it was time to go.

we then engaged in a long debate about whether or not to go to greece fo the weekend. ultimately we decided to stay here for the weekend -- i had a lot of things to take care of (finding housing for august-december, meeting up with some friends, homework, and much much more). we decided on days of work, evenings of FUN. our first evening we spent at bogazici.

i was so so happy to finally bring a big group of us to my school. i'm really proud of how beautiful and cool it is there, and i just want to show it to everyone!! we took a different bus, which dropped us off at a different entrace. we hiked up through the forest to get to south campus, and then we spent some time just hanging out on the grass. the campus was very alive -- tons of students just chillin, drinking cay, reading poetry, playing volleyball, and also a couple who was very clearly embracing summer love, lol. some pics from our excursion:

okay, i need to take off for the museum of turkish and islamic arts. more posts to come, but all out of chronological order!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

chora, and bogazici univ

i gave up on trying to tie in these two visits. so this post is just going to be divvied up into (1) our trip to chora monastery, and (2) my visit to bogazici university, my school for the fall. as always, thanks for tuning in!

first up, CHORA! this monastery has been beautifully restored. it is "cok" (hahaha pardon the pun!) full of amazing mosaics and frescoes, some examples of which i've included here:

above: mary's ascension.
below: the classic parable of jesus turning water into wine, and then a large mosaic of christ. the walls were covered in all these parables -- so cool to see them in mosaic form!

part two: bogazici!!!!!! this has been a long-awaited venture! i begin school here in the fall (september), and after a year of looking at pictures from catalogues, i finally made it out to the campus in person.

the morning was full of little glitches, but thank goodness for yasemin smoothing them all out! what would i do without our wonderful, hilarious coordinator and our new friend!!? anyways yasemin made everything okay, and before i knew it, we were on the 43R on the way to bogazici. yasemin's nephew's friend gukhan was amazingly kind to meet us for the day. he lives very close to bogazici, and despite the fact that he doesn't speak much english, he had no idea who i was, and definitely has better things to do with his life, gave up his whole day to show us around!
so, we made it to the university, and past these gates:

there is a beautiful but sort of long descent from the entrance to the main campus (south campus). along the way, some great views of the bogazici and the cove of bebek. note the green-roofed houses -- it belongs to the owner of turkcell (THHHEEE cell phone company in turkey).
yasemin and her two energetic daughters!

after the descent, you enter into the main campus -- this is the view:

and now, some sort-of-corny pics with me and buildings i like.

"my" building -- the faculty of arts and sciences. i was so sad that it was closed, but obviously it was a saturday and no one was there. i'm really looking forward to seeing this all again this week, hopefully with professor kayali!

view from the kennedy lounge. hello, beautiful bosphorus :). last week, i was on the other side of this picture, in the water. this side's pretty, too.

walking the campus was exactly what i needed to picture the next few months here. i've been incredibly nervous about making friends (especially since i don't want to live on campus), but after seeing all the places that people congregate over music, cay, films, art, conversation, i feel soooo much more confident that this six months is going to be full of all the things i want: new friends and intellectual challenges!

i wish i could write more, since there are some things i really want to talk about, but i have a quiz tomorrow and need to get to the reading. so thanks again, hope you like the stories and pictures, and until next time, goodnight from istanbul.

ferries, ferries, ferries, i love them.

i'm dedicating this post to all things ferry rides. though this means i have to sacrifice the otherwise chronological pattern i've been following for my blog, it's worth it, because i'm obsessed with ferry rides.

the first great one we took was to the princes islands, last saturday. almost the whole group came along -- we were all craving a bit of sun and sand to remind us of home, i think. so we got on this huge ferry, immediately hit the top deck, and took over the rails for the best view of the 2000 year old coastline as we drifted away. as our IDO (abbreviation of some kind for the istanbul public ferries) left shore, i finally came to understand how the magnificence of the hagia sophia, suleymaniye camii, topkapi palace and theodosius' walls would have impressed byzantine and later, ottoman power on any visitors. we were quickly reminded our judith herrin's description of this approach:

"the power of the church's profile dominates the skyline, the sheer bulk of the immense structure grows as one approaches by sea. Its great dome is amazing at a distance and becomes even more striking as the enormous buttresses that support it are revealed..." (for more, see Judith Herrin's "Byzantium.")

as usual, my pictures can't do justice.

after the skyline faded into the distance, the first of th princes islands came into view. i don't think i've ever seen a beach as crowded. though in retrospect i regret this, we chose to stay on and try another island in efforts to find somewhere a little less crowded to go swimming.

we got off at heybeli island, as recommded by our coordinator yasemin, who was kindly accompanying us on the trip. most of the tour books suggested buyukada, but we just got off at heybeli and went for it. unfortunately, our excitement QUICKLY disseminated into dissapointment and for me, a bit of disgust, as we explored the island's coast. the island's only free-access beach was not a beach, not not not a beach. it was a cement landing, which you could hop off of, or crawl off of into algae-covered yuckiness. needless to say, we moved on. to get to the beach which we'd seen from the ferry, we had to traverse the island -- everywhere we went we encountered horse-drawn carriages that were uncomfortably close to running us all over. more disturbing was the treatment of the horses. just like the horses which draw touristy rides in the states, these animals were obviously malnourished, being frequently whipped, and just so sad to see. i really, really hate seeing such beautiful, majestic animals being subjected to this kind of treatment. sorry for the tirade.

anyways we finally made it to a beach, and just as we were walking down to the water, the rain started coming down. we found refuge under this gazebo, and quickly got to WORK! (we ahve an enormous workload on top of the whole discovery-of-istanbul thing). a funny picture of us reading in the rain:

well, after a disappointing day of gloom, we decided to just head back early to istanbul. we caught an earlier ferry, which made a stop in asia. we took a necessary azn-tourist pic with the necessary azn hand gestures. someone else took the pic :(. i snapped this one, of asia with an interesting blend of a minaret, the turkish flag, the crane, etc.

a parting view of asia, as we moved through the bosphorous toward europe:

and that concluded our trip to the princes islands!

part two of the ferries ferries ferries post is about our second excursion off the european continent into uskudar, a district on the asian side of istanbul. this was our visit visit to a mosque, so SUPEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR exciting! but first, more ferries :).

and a quick pic with rohan (aka colgate model) as we took our first steps in asia:

after we docked, we climbed up a big hill to get to the atik valide mosque. on the way, our tour guide rabia saw a hamam and hooked it up so that we could each feel the EXTREME heat in the hamam! jeff, rohan, josh and i in front of the entrance:

so finally we got to the top of the hill and entered the kulliye (complex) -- often mosques can be found within larger complexes that include madresas, hospitals, public kitchens, gardens, mausoleums, etc. this one was no exception. we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the mosque, though, so we just have to skip the visual on that one.
we spent some time in the mosque itself, just admiring everything and learning a bit about the structures, prayers, etc. jeff and i got excited and wanted to go through the complicated washing ritual, which you are supposed to complete before you enter the mosque. so we left the mosque, partook in the ritual, and re-entered for some more contemplation time.

when we entered for the second time, just the two of us, the guard came in and showed us his favorite things in broken english. he pointed out, for example, the original carvings on many of the ceiling fixtures, the massssssiiivveee candles (like, my size) surrounding the mihrab, the original tile (original means 16th century), etc. his enthusiasm for the complex he looked after was heartwarming.

jeff and i then rejoined the group for a break in the medresa :). we sipped 50 kurus limonata, while all the locals smiled and wondered what on earth we were doing there. then we took this group pic and it was time to head back to europe.

it was a wonderful trip into asia, full of very kind people, and as our motto persists, "a whole new part of istanbul."

the best pickup line in istanbul so far

so good it needed its own post:

"excuse me, excuse me! do you have a mirror in your pants? because i can see myself in them."

hope you got as big of a kick out of that as we did.