Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 148 - Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya

I met with another CSer, Stefan, to tour the city. Throughout the day, he would continue to tell me more and more about Turkish history and I realized that I really don't know a damn thing about this country... I didn't even read the introduction in my Lonely Planet (typical American huh?). There was so much history that I wasn't even able to follow, terms he used, and historical figures he mentioned. History wasn't really a strong subject for me, and I don't think I retained much of what I learned in school about Anatolia, the Ottoman Empire, the Turks, the Byzantine Empire, etc... but after coming to this country, I know that if I were to relearn about it, it would stick in my head more easily.

Basically, from our conversations, at the basic surface level, Turkish history involves numerous switches in power between the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Mongols, and also changes in religion in the regions. There was a man named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who was considered the father of Turkey when he ruled and changed everything about Turkey to modernize it, creating a secular democracy, strengthening Women's rights, and changing the language to Latin script among other things. Stefan said the country could easily resemble Syria, or Iraq or some other Middle East countries had Ataturk not made such sweeping changes, and the Turkish people look to him as a hero for the modernization he brought to the country.

I know so little about the Middle East and Western Asia, that I was surprised even to see some Turkish people with more "Asian" eyes, but then again, I don't know what someone from Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and all the other -stan countries look like, but I would assume it is an interesting mix of Asian and European. More countries to add to my list of places I want to explore! The world is too big...

We visited a couple of the popular sights in Old Istanbul including the Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque, and the Aya Sofya, which was a candidate for one of the new 7 Wonders of the World.

Afterwards, we headed back to Taksin Square to grab some beers and eat at some of the popular restaurants for university students before heading back to his home where his mom made some delicious Russian meatballs! Turkish people are so hospitable!

Aya Sofya

Fresh Fish Sandwich near the Ferries

Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque

Taksin Square

Russian Meatballs

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