Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Istanbul Round 1

I had to title this Istanbul Round 1 because I'm sure that there will be more Turkish fun to come.

A month has passed since I returned from my trip to Istanbul. I’ve had a month to come down off my high and take a realistic look at the trip as a whole. I would not consider myself a city person by any means but as soon as I returned from Istanbul I would have said that I plan on living there someday. Not only have I returned from the greatest city that I’ve ever visited but in the past month I have also returned from the high of such a great experience. Even though I can see myself living in Istanbul someday that vision is temporary and I know that I would much rather spend my later years in a much more quite place.

I have seen a recurring theme in my journals when I write about places I have visited. I travel to see places but what makes the trip an experience is the people that I see, meet, and travel with. This theme held true for Istanbul.

My original draw to Istanbul was it’s history. It is one of those cities that I’ve heard much about in global history courses with its unique location on two continents, owning the center of an ancient empire and major trade routes from Asia to Europe. These aspects give Istanbul a cultural importance that no other place on Earth can share. It was incredible standing under the dome of Haghia Sofia witnessing a clash of religions with Orthodox mosaics situated in between huge pendants depicting calligraphy of major Islamic prophets. Walking through the cisterns I couldn’t help but think about how people transported huge columns into the pit. The significance of the Medusa columns, whatever it was, looked me straight in the eye and very briefly turned me to stone. Looking back on my week these fascinations that I had before I went are pushed to the background when reflecting upon my experience.

The People

I had a wonderful opportunity to get to know some fellow Peace Corps volunteers that I have previously only briefly met. Each volunteer that I meet has a unique and interesting story. They bring different perspectives, ideas, and experiences to a conversation. Those volunteers that I spent some time to get to know in Istanbul have a year of Peace Corps experience over me, and they are about to move on to that next step in their lives. Not only did they story me about their pre-PC lives, but they also advised me by telling me about their PC experiences and entertained me with their hopes and fears for changes to come.

Those that I not only met but became friends with in Istanbul hold a special place in my memory and will be my draw back to the city. The barman that first served me a coffee, secondly, serenaded me with his musical talent, and thirdly, enjoyed the city with my group and I throughout the week. The girls that we fortunately met the first night allowing us enough time to see the city in a number of different lights. The Auzi that I shared several conversations with not only learning about her, but also finding a different perspective of turistic Istanbul day after day.

The strangers on the street. Men that remain nameless but did not fail to entertain me with their stories and their antics performed in great effort to get me to spend my money at their place. I learned from them importance of service and persistence. There was always someone that wanted to talk to me even if it was only because of the dollar signs they saw painted on me.

I went to Istanbul thinking that a week would be enough time, but now I realize that a time limit can be placed on a location and its landmarks but a time limit should never be placed on people and culture. I had only a taste of Istanbul and I plan to return for more. Walking back to the hostel after a day of adventuring site-mate said to me, “this is city is not like most cities, this city has a pulse”. Its that pulse, more than just landmarks that stand strong throughout the years, that will bring me back to Istanbul.

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