For the week-long fall break, my friends and I planned a trip to Istanbul. Istanbul is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. It felt like European city, but full of Eastern history and beautiful mosques. We stayed within walking distance of another wonderful shopping street, Istiklal. Our neighborhood was right underneath Galata tower, a beautiful and famous structure in the city, easy to pick out from the bay and other vantage points whenever it was time to return from our ventures.
I did encounter a few hiccups, forgetting my backpack in the connecting airport in Ankara, Turkey. I had to miss a day flying back to get it, and the communication surrounding the process wasn’t easy (especially because I broke my phone on the plane)**. I sometimes felt like there were more English speakers in Amman, and I didn’t speak any Turkish. But I got it ironed out, and I was still able to visit other famous sites in the city, such as the Hagia Sophia.
The layout of the city around the sea is absolutely breathtaking. Every sunset in Istanbul was more amazing than the next. It was like every day, we found a better view. For example, one day, we were looking for a place to eat lunch. We settled on a building that had a good menu posted outside and looked like it had rooftop seating. We climbed several flights up a spiral staircase, where the walls were lined with pictures of Russell Crowe. When we made it up, the restaurant was completely empty, so we thought it was closed. Right as we were about to leave, a Turkish-Italian man wearing a T-shirt came out, sat us on the roof, and made us the best meal of the week. There, we enjoyed the best views of the city we’d experienced thus far. Apparently, the owner is friends with Russell Crowe, and this was the actor’s favorite restaurant in Istanbul. The owner had grown up in that very building, moved to Italy for twenty years, brought back the building and opened a restaurant. It’s small random interactions like this that are so memorable, that we are still bringing up weeks later and telling our friends and families about on Facetime.
Istanbul was also much cheaper than Jerusalem; Similar, I would say, to Amman. Every day, we made loose plans that were subject to change. We had a whole week, so there wasn’t too much pressure to be going full speed ahead at all times. Staying with five people in a two-room airbnb for a week didn’t leave much privacy, so we all took time for ourselves. Some days, split up in groups or by ourselves and explore the city. I had a day to myself during which I visited a Sufism museum, bought a Rumi book, and spent the day walking to different coffee shops and reading. I’d go to the same coffee shop every morning, and we even became friendly with our neighbors and other English-speaking Turks we met there.
One day, my friend and I spent hours in the famous Grand Bazaar looking for gifts for our friends and families. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is like it’s own city, and we got lost plenty of times. Getting lost in a city is one of the best ways to learn its layout. We took all kinds of modes of public transportation, from ubers to metros to ferries. We also did a lot of walking.
Sometimes, we ate at the same restaurant three times. Sometimes we would try new places that were good. Sometimes we tried places that were not so good. We would be on our way to a Mosque, see a park, and decide to stop, relax, and save the trip for tomorrow. I still got to see everything I wanted to see in Istanbul, and the week was a relaxing break from classes. I definitely want to return to Istanbul one day soon with my family.