"When I first heard that the Global Scholars would be going to Istanbul, I knew it was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. From the top of Galata Tower, the entire city was spread out before me both old and new. Instead of the familiar rectangular architecture of an American metropolis, this skyline was peppered with huge beautiful mosques. Here the call to prayer was issued five times a day. It was, of course, not in English, so I didn't actually understand any of it, but the words were moving.
On our third day in Istanbul, we went on a cruise of the Bosphorus, which is the waterway that separates the European side of Istanbul from the Asian side. Beautiful buildings lined the vistas on either side of the water; it was a truly fantastic experience. When we returned from our cruise, we all huddled underneath a small awning near the water, sat on barrels, and ate some of the local cuisine - a fish sandwich which they refer to as "fish bread." There was something about sitting there, rubbing elbows with the locals as we chowed down on fish bread that I could not have experienced anywhere else.
Another place of note is Topkapi Palace, which today houses many treasures, among them: a diamond that is as big as my fist, and a jewel-encrusted dagger. One of my favorite places we visited was Yerebatan Saryi, which is an underground cistern. From the outside it was very unassuming, but when I walked in I saw a huge cavern with large stone columns throughout. Although dimly lit and quite damp, it was impressive nonetheless. Another highlight of the trip for me was the Egyptian Spice market, where different types of teas, herbs, spices, and various other goods were sold. As soon as we entered the spice market the our sense of smell was hit with a vast array of unfamiliar and savory aromas. With such a rich culture and such beautiful sites, Istanbul truly is an amazing city." - Erin Quinn (junior)
"I will never forget the Global Scholars nine day visit to Turkey. Istanbul was unlike any place I had ever been to, and I suspect I'll not find its equal no matter how far I cast my search. Dynamic and vibrant, the city boils with its two thousand plus years of history, its expression of Islamic culture, and the bustling progressive atmosphere of a modern European city. Spanning two continents, it is not surprising that the city's identity should be a cultural mosaic. It would be my pleasure to canvass this mosaic in my time there with the Global Scholars program.
We visited the stone giants of the Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye, the Topkapi Palace, and the Hagia Sophia, where we saw Christian and Islamic art housed in the same worship space. Hours were whiled away drinking chai and eating donor or fish bread, whilst watching the city unfold around us in street cafes. We visited Yerebatan Sarayi, a huge underground cistern, supported by 334 of Byzantine columns and two colossal stone Medusa heads and the Mosaic Museum on the site of Emperor Justinian's palace. We even tried our hands at bartering in the medieval labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar.
The whole trip seemed to be a piece of fiction blending Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman styles, but nothing added as much of a sense of unreality as the calls to prayer echoing from the tops of the many minarets peppering the city's sky line five times a day. The calls of the muezzins were haunting in their deep bellows and uplifting in the delicate beauty of the simple uprising melodies and sustained notes finding perfect resonance with the echoes of time that resound off nearly every stone in the old city calling back to life the ghosts of sultans and emperors, warriors and artists. It was impossible not to feel a sense of adventure. The entire trip was saturated with teachable moments, but perhaps the most revealing thing was simply the effect produced by subjecting one's self to a place entirely unlike anything else that is experienced. It's an effect best described and discovered on one's own. I highly recommend it." - A.J. Mell