You know you’re in a cool place, when literally the first thing you hear upon stepping off the ship in port is a call to prayer from the mosque. I knew immediately that Istanbul would be nothing like the other ports. The singing of the prayer was beautiful and strangely mystic. It was cool to think that it was a completely normal occurrence for the Muslim Turks. On the first day, I had an FDP to go to a poetry reading for my English classes. British poet John Ash, American Mel Kenne and Turkish Gonca Ozmen (all living in Istanbul now) read and discussed their poems.
Now, I’ve been to tons of poetry readings at this point in my life, but this one was special because of the place we were in and because Ozmen read hers in Turkish and then had them translated into English. Overall, it was a really cool experience and even inspired my next English assignment. After the FDP, I went back to the ship and met a group of friends to go to a nearby hookah lounge. We found a cool place that had a bunch of beanbags surrounding small tables on a lawn outside a restaurant. We all stayed there and talked and drank for a few hours before calling it a night. But one of the coolest parts of the whole night was when the last call to prayer came on while we were sitting in the middle of this local establishment. Everyone went completely silent and we all listened to the prayer ring out over the sky.
On the second day, I got my first taste of the marvelous monstrosity that is the Grand Bazaar. My mom and sister would go absolutely crazy in this place. It’s almost too difficult to describe…just a gigantic maze of shops selling anything from spices to lamps to jewelry to Nike shoes. We got lost in the Bazaar for hours and came out with a few cool items to bring home. Overall that place has to be experienced more than anything but I can tell you that with the female Dorn negotiating abilities, they might have owned the place by the end of the day.
The third day in Istanbul was especially cool, because I spent the afternoon in ASIA! Because of that little side-trek, I technically hit four different continents on this voyage! I love being able to say that! We took a ferry across the strait to the Asian side of Istanbul, which really wasn’t much different than the European side. Some architecture reflected it a bit, but nothing huge stood out. We walked and checked out some more shops before heading up the hill and more into town once we got there. Once in the main shopping area, we got some lunch and did a little shopping before hitting up a really cool record store on the way back.
Our last day in Istanbul was spent again at the Bazaar for a while (I got a rug!) and then celebrating the first night of Ramadan by servicing the local liquor stores and clubs all night. Overall, Istanbul was an amazing experience and I really cannot wait to come back here and explore it for a longer period of time. Anyone who hasn’t been to Istanbul needs to include that in any European travel plans they may make. It really was an incredible place!