Sunday, May 1, 2011

Istanbul or Constantinople?

Discovering the Taksim area by night

Merhaba. Smile, gesture, nod. In the city that truly never sleeps, my desire for communication is reduced to pleasant body language, indicating my cultural respect and utter amazement in this tourist state. Sure speaking English and German is perfectly practicable here, however in these moments I wanted to remain contemplative in my observations. The fathest east I have ever traveled, the city of Istanbul permeates with sense-stimulating air, a quality that can only be achieved from a mixture of historical richness and modernizing change. Not surprisingly, we were surrounded by a westernized capitalistic environment, which had its perks to find quaint book shops and cafes, but after a while you get tired of being seen as the foreigner with money to spend. Yet Gabe and I survived the rapid pace of touristic shopping- as it was the 'official' shopping spree month in Istanbul- to find pleasantries in the small and unique characteristics of this lively city.
Wishing folklore in Hagia Sopia

Joining a German group tour of the Blue Mosque
No matter where we would have been, the most important aspect of this trip was being together. Here I would like to acknowledge just how loving and generous Gabe has been, and how lucky we are. It is not easy nor normal to lead a Fernbeziehung (long-distance relationship) for such extended periods. Every time we come together it is a beautiful remembrance and reality of our companionship. Wandering through the streets, visiting holy sites, and breathing in the atmosphere, we once again were close with one another. An activity that we thoroughly enjoyed, which was irrelevant of space and time, was reading to one another- Gabe in his best brooklyn accent read 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' by Michael Chabon, and I 'Winning Through Enlightenment' by Ron Smothermon.
Pete, Andrea, Gabe and I 

Lindsey will always be the Beste
(sorry, still can't help the pun)
Our time together was enlivened too by the wonderful people we met. We were couchsurfing most of the time during our stay, and once again would truly recommend this network to travelers. Not only were our hosts generous characters- making conversations enthralling and learning about turkish culture realistic; through this network we also met wonderful new friends- Pete the Professor of Philosophy/English, and Andrea Werner, a German Student from Alsfeld (near Gießen). We met them for a fantastic afternoon in the Istanbul Modern Museum of Art. I may be a nerd, but I was so elated to be with intellectuals, viewing art, and speaking German. Constantly, I am reminded it is a small world. Another example- we hung out with a Beste! Yes, Lindsey, the sister of one of my 'sisters' (Molly is a girlfriend that goes back longer than can be remembered), and to our fortune she is studying in Istanbul. Our two met-ups, for dinner and the Dolmabache Palace, were definite highlights of the trip. Although we were not allowed to take pictures of the inside, the Palace was an epitome of grand embellishment, and a fascinating tour with a view of Istanbul's westernized architectural/decor idealization and eastern influence. To say the least, our days were filled with culture, discussion, and love.

Jumping to where I am momentarily, I would just like to mention my brief stay in Athens. On Friday I took an unbelievable 18 hour bus ride from Istanbul to stay in Athens for one day, because later today I will be making my way to Epidavros for the week-long Kufstein Summer School. In less than 24 hours,  I recouped and enjoyed the luxury of traveling.  I explored the remarkable Akropolis ruins, not far from my delightful hostel stay; then at night I enjoyed the company of a grandfatherly Turkish antique carpet collector, Mustafa, for an evening of good food, drink and conversation. In Athens, the sun is bright and my energy is bursting for all the discoveries of the day. I hope your days are as filled with sunshine and joy!

Roaming the site of the Akropolis-breathtaking!

1 comment:

  1. Oh meine liebe Kyra, es freut mich so sehr, dass ihr Zeit miteinander gehabt habt. Viel Spaß im Griechenland und eine sichere Fahrt zurück wünsche ich dir!!