Friday, September 5, 2008

Istanbul not Constantinople

After a chaotic week of teacher meetings and preparation for the school year, I took an overnight bus to Istanbul to meet up with my friend, Blair, from Montana, who was visiting a friend of his who teaches in Istanbul.

The buses are really nice in Turkey. There's a little "bus attendant" in a cute suit who walks up and down the aisle every 1/2 hour with his cart to serve tea, biscuits, water, and candy. Kind of annoying when it's an 11pm-5am bus ride, but very pleasant on the Sunday afternoon bus ride back to Ankara.

On Saturday, we took the ferry to a couple of The Prince's Islands, and swam in the Marmara Sea with a view of sprawling Istanbul across the water. No matter when or where, swimming in cool, blue water is an amazingly decompressing experience. It felt so nice to get out of Ankara, which at that time had become "summer-is-over-school-is-here-world."

On Sunday, we only had a few hours in the morning, but we were able to walk around the historic part of Istanbul, and whet my appetite for future visits. We did go inside one free mosque (I don't even know it's name) as ornately decorated as any church in Europe. Religion aside, the work that is put into creating beautiful, wide-open spaces meant to invoke the spirit of God inspires such reverence in me. If enough people put that much positive energy into creating a beautiful space that is so special to them, it feels holy to me.

The drive back to Istanbul was beautiful. The scenery went from oceanside, to green, and slowly less green, to the vast yellow high desert (which I still find beautiful in its own way) surrounding Ankara.

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