Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 7: Istanbul

Today began my adventures in Istanbul! I flew into Atatürk International Airport early this morning and checked in at the Golden Horn Hotel. It's not a very attractive place but it has the best rooftop view in the city, which turned out to be awesome for pictures.

I was feeling a little lonely after such an awesome day with the UNC group yesterday, but I knew I would be meeting with Adem in Istanbul. He was an exchange student at Carolina during the fall 2009, and we took Electronic Journalism together. Adem is a senior journalism major at Koc University, and he lives in Istanbul. He offered to be my guide and show me more of this wonderful city!

There are tons of mosques, churches, palaces, synagogues, and castles in Istanbul. I visited the far end of the Golden Horn or Halic, which is translated as the bay of Istanbul. It is located on Bosphorus strait and separates the old part of Istanbul from the new one. It is next to the Eyup neighborhood and Eyup Sultan Mosque, one of the most famous monuments in Istanbul. The Eyup Sultan Mosque has drawn many Muslim pilgrims here. On the cliffs above the mosque is the teahouse of Pierre Loti, which has the best view of the Golden Horn (which is also the name of a nearby estuary, not just the hotel I am staying in!)

After much picture taking, I was starving. So Adem and I went to the Hamdi Et Lokantasi. I love this picture of us! The kebobs at Hamdi were amazing. The restaurant was right across from the Sultanahmet Mosque, which I had to check out. The Sultanahmet Mosque was built in the beginning of the 17th century by Ahmed I. It is also called the Blue Mosque because of the interior decorated with blue Iznik tiles. It has a madrasa-mausoleum complex, a prayer hall under a large dome, and an open courtyard. In mausoleum, there are the tombs of the Sultan Ahmet, his wife, and his three sons. This mosque has several gates and is surrounded by six minarets with balconies in them. The prayer-callers used to go there five times a day to announce calls for prayers. It was beautiful.

I asked Adem where else I should go. He recommended that I take the Istanbul Metro to the Istanbul Modern Art Museum since I love photography. There is a new exhibit there called "Way," in which Murat Germen has taken pictures of how we travel, by air, sea, and land. It was truly unbelievable. I spent most of the day there just looking at the photography. I had never heard of the artist, but his work was outstanding. It is really eye-opening to see art in other cultures. Germen's work gave me some ideas for taking pictures of transportation, so after I left Istanbul Modern, I went in search of the perfect setting. I got a few ocean shots and one of the street:

At the exhibit I met a local man named Feyyaz who was a fellow photographer, and I was excited to ask him lots of questions about Istanbul. I wanted to get a picture of him, but I was too far away from the hotel and couldn't go back for more film! I was so upset. We chatted a little about the exhibit, but I really wanted to know about the government structure of Istanbul (I have always privately wanted to be a big Washington DC hotshot, but I really just don't have it in me!). He told me about the government here in Istanbul. The mayor governs the city and the province of Istanbul. The president of the republic appoints the mayor. Istanbul is currently divided into 12 districts (kazas). The Turkish Minister of the Interior appoints the heads of the kazas. The government distributes funds to each of the districts for transportation, water, roads, and other services.

Feyyaz explained that Istanbul is an Islamic nation with a secular government. The mosque and state are almost completely separated. People that live here are encouraged to follow their religion with their hearts and not by government regulations. What a beautiful notion.

I had so much fun today learning about everything, and can't wait for a great day tomorrow!