Istanbul - love at first sight.
Trip Start Jan 02, 2011
20Trip End Sep 14, 2011
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As I mentioned in a previous entry, I purchased my flight to Turkey spontaneously and slightly irresponsibly after a couple too many glasses of wine. As i sit on the plane back to France sufficiently depressed to be leaving, I've concluded that it was easily one of the best decisions I made the entire semester. I don't think that I have ever been so tempted to miss a flight home - though I can't deny that when it actually almost happened I went right into panic mode. Anyways, here I am on my way back, once again fully acknowledging how spoiled I sound when complaining about returning to my "real life", which can hardly be described as difficult.
For reasons of potential content overload, I wanted to write two blogs for what I considered as two separate experiences in Istanbul
Week 1 was basically my time to be touristy, which included seeing the sights, stuffing my face with delicious Turkish food, and unfortunately feeling extremely under the weather through it all. Being alone in a place like Istanbul was exciting and appealing to me, as I had heard lots about Turkey and really believed it was somewhere that suited all of my traveling interests. By the first morning, I had already met a decent number of cool people, and as expected had completely fallen in love with the city. However, when the soar throat from hell kicked in accompanied by splitting headaches and a raging fever, I was really wishing I could trade my 26 bed dormitory (complete with ice cold showers!) for a more comfortable living situation. To feel so sick and energy deficient in a place I was enjoying so much was extremely frustrating...all I wanted was to go out with the amazing people I was encountering and enjoy the limited time I had in Turkey
Although I was somewhat sick, I still managed to see some amazing places with some really interesting people. On the first day, two hilarious Mexicans showed me the grand bazaar and the largest mosque of the city, followed by endless hours of nargile smoking in a cafe. The second day I managed to find an American guy to keep me company while exploring the Asian side of Istanbul. This worked out perfectly for the both of us who were in no rush to sightsee but rather in favor of escaping the tourist traps that were unfortunately overtaking Sultanahmet, the old part of the city where our hostel was located. That said, I truly believe that all things are touristy for a reason, and this was no exception. From the roof of our hostel, you could see the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque on one side, with an incredible view of the Bosphorus in the opposite direction. The catch of this stunning scenery, however, was having difficulties walking to the end of the street without being hassled by copious amounts of Turkish men selling copious amounts of...well...junk!
As I mentioned before, I met enough people initially that I never really needed to walk around alone in the city; however, the first time that I split off from the group I noticed an immediate difference
I was already convinced that Istanbul is one of the greatest places in the world, but the arrival of a best friend from home definitely more than welcome, especially when I still wasnt feeling too good health wise
As if I didn't love the place enough already, participating in a 5 day Model European Union Conference, organized by Turkish students for students from around the world, was enough to make me obsessed. Until a month prior to 'Galatasary Euroforum', my knowledge of the EU was basically non-existant but doing the conference made sense for numerous reasons - great for the resume, the perfect way to meet interesting people, along with highly praised social events which may have also been a slight motivation. When I was assigned to represent France, the second most powerful country in the Union, I realized that coasting along the sidelines and keeping my mouth shut as little as possible simply would not fly here. Also, I really did not want to look like a complete idiot in front of a large group of academically inclined people whose studies are mostly based around EU politics. Luckily, at least for the beginning of the conference, I managed to focus hard and do my best to participate in the discussions despite being extremely intimidated and undereducated on the topics
At the beginning things went quite well, but by the end I must admit that the social events took a heavy toll on my academic inclinations...turns out, all of the hype was 100% true! Luckily, I was not the only person who enjoyed the nightlife, and my fellow delegates of the European Council were all in a similar position by the middle of the week - underslept, underfocused, and underinterested. Whether it was a snobby cocktail party with the General Secretary to the EU, belly dancing on restaurant tables at Turkish night, or admiring the lights of the Bosphorus from an evening boat cruise, us nerds who participated in this conference managed to get a little bit crazier night by night. In addition to the good times had with the other international students, it was particularly great to get to know the Turkish organizers. This conference was completely professional and scholarly, while allowing participants to experience Turkish culture and have way too much fun partying as well - and it was completely organized by a small group of university students volunteering generous amounts of their time. To me, this was extremely impressive. On top of their hard work all of the organizers were so eager to get to know all of us or help with any issue we had...one girl even showed me around different parts of Istanbul on her morning off just because I decided not to take the city tour with everybody else
I suppose I've gone on long enough about my obsession with Turkey, so all the other random stories and strange details will have to be left out until my next irresponsible decision :) As they say in Turkish teşekkür ederim (thank you) if you actually read this entire blog! A tout...