It has been just about two weeks since our arrival in Istanbul and I am already in love with it. The scale of the city is unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. It is endless. In the time we have been here I have only seen a tiny fraction of what Istanbul has to offer, but I feel as if I have already experienced so much.
Compared to Rome, it has taken a little more effort adjusting to the culture of Istanbul. As far as I can tell the city doesn’t have any moment without activity. You can always hear people talking in the streets, cars driving by, or vendors trying to get you to buy simit or çay (which I always seem to have a need for). I am grateful for the more reliable and regular transit system, as opposed to Rome, which takes us anywhere with ease. It has been strange seeing dogs and cats everywhere we go who always seem to be more adorable than the last ones we saw. I am tempted to come home with a whole new family of animals with me. Additionally, I now have learned the proper way to enter a mosque and look forward to hearing the call to prayer fill the streets with music. The language barrier was difficult at first. It varies so much from any other language I have studied, but our Survival Turkish lessons are steadily improving my ability to communicate with people. However, this still doesn’t stop the smiles and laughs we get as we struggle to pronounce words or find the correct phrase to order a meal.
I feel almost spoiled to be studying in this great city. Within about thirty minutes of leaving my apartment I can be crossing the Bosphorus with çay in hand looking at a skyline dotted with minarets and the silhouettes of great buildings like the Hagia Sophia and the Süleymaniye. We get to study these firsthand for our classes, taking them out of the context of pictures and experience the full wonder that these structures present in person. Every road is lined with some of the best food I have ever tasted. Dürüm, kebaps, and köfte make up my diet now and I have never been happier. And have I mentioned the simit and çay? Just down the street from our student center we have all already become regulars at the café, getting a chance for complimentary homemade sweets and to practice our Turkish with the owner. Going further down the hill leads to the water’s edge. I enjoy finding any excuse to go to a point on the shore and look out on the terrain and structures of Istanbul fill and illuminate the hillsides.
To echo what I first stated, I am falling in love with Istanbul. Everything I see makes me look forward to the remainder of the semester, from the mosques and architecture, the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, the people and animals that fill the streets, the oddly specific shops, the food that makes me never want to cook again, and the overall beauty of the city. I cannot wait to further immerse myself in the culture through both what I learn in class and exploring Istanbul, the City of World’s Desire.