Asia and Ataturk

I have now officially traveled to three continents. That’s incredible. Before this trip, I had never left the U.S. I had never spent more than a couple weeks outside the Twin Cities. Now? I’ve been to Europe, a third of the planet between me and Minnesota. I’ve seen Rome, Florence, and Orvieto. I’ve flown to the very edge of Europe, Istanbul. And today, we traversed the Bosphorus by ferry and landed in Asia. I’ve been to Asia.

Okay, I know that it’s really more in name than in experience, but nonetheless, that’s pretty freaking cool. To be honest, we didn’t see much of the Asian side of the city. Mostly we walked along the coast, and it was an opportunity for Ozayr to give us experience using the ferries.

All travel is covered by the program, so we walk around with these cards and scan them against gates. Very convenient. Past the gate we climbed onto a ferry, the main source of travel between the two halves of the city, which I suppose is strange. Objectively, it may be surprising that a city of 20 million people connects its halves primarily via boat, but it felt quite natural to do in practice.

When we reached the other side, we walked for a while along the shore. We passed by fishers, vendors, a couple mosques and a couple monuments until we got close to a lighthouse.IMG_2415

The lighthouse’s significance is more in legends than in architecture, though it is a cool little structure nonetheless. It was foretold that a powerful ruler’s daughter would die by a snake bite, and so the man, who so loved his daughter but so feared her death, hid her away in this lighthouse, forbidding her to leave. Suitors would come. One of them, bearing a bouquet of flowers, would unwittingly be her demise, as there was a poisonous snake hiding in them. While Ozayr shared this story with us I did a quick sketch of the lighthouse. Later, I came back and created a more developed version.


From here, we headed back along the coast, towards the ferries. We passed two monuments to significant years. They were simple, in huge numerals seven feet tall, 1453 and 1923. This is how I learned a little about Atatürk, the “Father of the Turks.”

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is one of the most significant men in the history of Turkey, and certainly in its contemporary history. He took office from 1923-1938. Before 1923, Turkey was not a republic, but part of the Ottoman empire. You can find his portrait everywhere here. He was directly responsible for the creation of thousands of schools, the making of primary education free, and giving women equal civil and political rights, all while reducing taxes on the lower class.

To give you context, his last name has been outlawed by parliament. You literally cannot have the last name Atatürk. This impressed me, so I did some scrounging. I found this quote from his famous “Great Speech,” which lasted thirty-six hours, in six hour chunks over six days. He speaks of the war of independence fought against the Ottoman Empire. It reads:

“Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side.
Here in this country of ours,
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land, they have
Become our sons as well.”

–Mustafa Kemal Atatürk


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