Recently

Istanbul has been fortunate enough to experience 9 days in a row of nothing but warm, sunny days.

I spent a day with friends, eating a kilo of strawberries from our local market and looking out over the Bosphorus.

My roommate made me this delicious cookie!

Personalized and everything!

Personalized and everything!

I had a day off from school for May Day, or Labor Day. This happened, but I was far away from the protests.

A friend and I took a day trip to the beach at Kilyos, located on the northern end of Istanbul on the Black Sea.

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I visited Hannah and Ryan for a barbecue. This morning, we walked along the Bosphorus in Sariyer and saw a sailboat race.

A photo from a 2010 race on the Bosphorus, photographed by Kaan Verdioğlu

A photo from a 2010 race on the Bosphorus, photographed by Kaan Verdioğlu

Currently: hearing the celebrations for Galatasaray’s Champions Cup win – virtually every car driving by is honking its horn, there are fireworks going off in multiple places in the city, and I’m hearing a lot of chants… “bir, iki, üç, dört!” (one, two three, four – the number of goals Galatasaray scored in this particular game).

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The Blue Mosque, Turkish breakfasts, and life in Etiler

On Sunday, a group of my exchange student friends and I went to the old city in Istanbul, planning to take an organized tour of all the major sites in the area. However, we couldn’t get our student Muzee cards, so instead we just decided to take our time and wander around Sultanahmet (the Blue Mosque), which is free to enter since it’s still a functioning mosque. The architecture and tile detailing inside were absolutely breathtaking.

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It was nice to be able to take in Sultanahmet at our own pace rather than following a tour. We will definitely return to this area to see the the Aya Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Roman Cisterne, but I’m here until June so I don’t feel rushed.

On Tuesday morning, I went out to breakfast with a few friends to a cafe that is just a couple minutes walk from the university. It was probably the best breakfast I’d ever had – pişi (sort of like funnel cake, but less sweet) with jam, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, olives, and of course tea. We liked it so much that we went back on Wednesday and I got the same thing.

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On Tuesday, I went to Kadikoy again with a group of friends. The weather was so gorgeous so we sat outside on the deck of the ferry during the ride across the river. We just wandered around, and then got a fish dinner – calamari, mussels, shrimp, and some kind of fried fish that I can’t remember the name of. I have never had such good seafood before, and now I’m not sure I can eat calamari in the US because this was so delicious! We went back to the European side at the perfect time, because the sun was setting just as we were taking the ferry back.

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I’m definitely beginning to adjust to life here, which is good since I’ll be living here for another four months. I’ve found the best place to buy groceries, the cheapest restaurants nearby, and the best wine for 9 TL. Classes start on Monday, and I’ve got a good schedule picked out. I’m taking 2 sociology courses, Turkish language, and yoga. It will be nice to settle into a good routine and be a student again – 2 months off from school has been too long!

First days in Istanbul

Hello friends and family! I’m in Istanbul, so I hope this blog will keep you all up to date on what I’m doing here for the next 5 months.

I arrived yesterday afternoon after a 9-ish hour long flight. The view of the city as we landed was beautiful. I was amazed at how warm it was when I got off the plane; it was around 12 degrees Celsius, or 53 degrees Fahrenheit.

I met up with my cousin Hannah and her husband Ryan at the airport, and then we took a cab back to their house in Sarıyer, which is the northernmost district on the European side of Istanbul. Hannah and Ryan both teach at Koç University, and I’ll be staying with them for a couple weeks until I can move into my dorm at Boğaziçi on Feb. 4th.

Last night, I got settled in and we got pide (Turkish flatbread pizza) for dinner.

Today the call to prayer from the mosque woke me up around 6 am, but I fell asleep once it stopped. It’s pretty loud since the mosque is literally right outside Hannah and Ryan’s house, but there’s something nice about hearing it.

the view from Hannah and Ryan's balcony; the mosque is really close and you can see the speakers on the minaret

The view from Hannah and Ryan’s balcony; the mosque is really close and you can see the speakers on the minaret

Today we took a minibus into downtown Sarıyer where we shopped, got döner for lunch, and sat by the river to eat. The weather today is beautiful – it’s been mostly sunny and around 60 degrees. We walked along the river for a while, I exchanged my American money for Turkish lira, we bought some eggs and baklava, and then we came back home.

eggs and pumpkin at an outdoor market

Eggs and pumpkin at an outdoor market

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View up the Bosphorus from Sarıyer

fish for sale in Sariyer

Fish for sale in Sarıyer

I’m realizing that I need to start working on my Turkish skills, which are basically non-existent. Since I haven’t traveled much it’s pretty disorienting to see every sign in a new language, even if I was expecting it. I’ll be taking a Turkish class at Boğaziçi, but that doesn’t begin until Feb. 18th so hopefully I can get a head start on my own.

I’ve only been here for a day, but I’m loving this part of the city and trying to learn as much as I can.