Saturday, February 25, 2012

Istanbul Detour

My sister pointed out to me this week that of all the cities in the world, Istanbul (not Constantinople) is one that is famous for changing its name

Despite this, the last few days have had a lot less to do with my project and a lot more to do with celebrating my 23rd birthday. Istanbul has completely fit the bill. I feel enormously lucky to have had this week’s vacation before heading onto my next project country, and enormously lucky to have a sister who will fly so far to help me celebrate.

Self-proclaimed "birthday bread" on our first night in Istanbul.

And then celebrate some more.

At our favorite (i.e. out of this world kind of good) restaurant on the Asian side of the city, "Ciya."

Birthday "cake" part II (at Ciya) included candied eggplant, pumpkin with tahini, a pistachio & tree root pastry and oregano thyme tea. I kid you not.

Let me first say that Istanbul is a pretty spectacular city. It’s become a popular tourist destination in the last few years and I think it rightfully deserves this reputation. It has ridiculously chic streets with a huge international population looking for entertainment on Friday nights next to breathtaking ocean views and mosques turned churches turned mosques that seem to defy the laws of gravity. It is phenomenal to be in a place with such an incredible amount of history and what I like about Istanbul is that you don’t need to go to a museum to learn about it. It seems that every building, every street corner, and every person has some kind of story. I guess when you live in a place that’s been inhabited for 5,000 years and was the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, stories are not hard to find.

Not to mention the fact that Istanbul sure knows how to make a building.

The Blue Mosque:

The Hagia Sofia:

And a lot of other beautiful things:

We had a week of darting back and forth on the Bosphorous strait marveling at the fact that we could be in the same city, but in two different continents. In a ridiculous small world coincidence (which I've been learning this year are actually the norm), we ran into a woman who was in Bree's Swarthmore class in the cafe of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. (In retrospect, of course the cafe of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum would be the place to find former Swatties abroad). We spent a few days together exploring an old harem, hiking to the top of castle ruins on a hill, and catching up on Swarthmore gossip.

Bree & Kathy, both Swarthmore '07.

Recently, life has felt like a lot of logistics and planning and transitions, and this week has been a breath of fresh air and reminded me of the beauty of this year. It feels good to be an explorer here, to be constantly learning, seeing, tasting and talking. It feels good to be able to share even just a week with someone, especially someone who has known me since the day I was born.

Thanks for coming, Bree. It's going to be hard to say goodbye.

Pictured below: the trials and tribulations of putting on a headscarf before entering the Blue Mosque.

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