Tag Archives: Castle

Castle Walls and Friday Bazaars

Last week, I had some free time in the afternoons to go exploring around Alanya. On Tuesday, it was exploring the area near Red Tower and the castle walls, climbing our way up the cliffs along the castle wall. On Friday, I made a solo expedition to the weekly bazaar, where local farmers line up their produce for sale in a vibrant outdoor market.

Only a week left.

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Turkey’s Next Top Model

An employee uses a kind of "fabric saw" to cut through many pieces of fabric at once

You’re constantly reminded of the importance of the sea everywhere you go in Istanbul. You catch a glimpse between buildings when you’re in the middle of town. You watch the incredibly busy channel from the shore, where one cargo ship after another passes through, loaded down with hundreds of steel containers. At tourist sites, you learn about the two empires that helped build this city, but particularly how their ability to control the seas enabled them to acquire such great wealth.

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And so, it was only right that at least one of our days be spent on this important channel. Today we took a ferry along to Bosphorus to Anadolu Kavağı, a town on the Asian side of the Bosphorus strait at the entrance to the Black Sea.

The trip took about two hours, so we had plenty of time to gaze at the beautiful houses that line the coastline. I even taught some people how to play Connect, a.k.a. the best game ever, which was how we got through many hours of car rides for Mock Trial.

Once in Anadolu Kavağı, we decided on a fish restaurant for lunch. Interestingly, fish isn’t too big of a part of Turkish cuisine, so it was nice to get something different for a change of pace.

After lunch, we had some free time to hike up to the top of the mountain to see the Yoros Castle that once guarded the entrance to the Bosphorus, which is commonly known as the Genoese Castle because it was under Genoa’s possession in the mid-15th century. It was an incredible view.

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We then took the ferry back to Beşkitaş, where our residence director had arranged for us a tour of clothing factory.

The company, called Miarte & Neri, produces clothing of a variety of styles to be sold in mainly Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. It was incredibly special to see the various stages of production—design, pattern making, sewing, and fabric cutting—as well as talk to the owner about how he runs his business. The owner talked about how he traveled to other countries to seek out pieces for inspiration, then brought them back to Istanbul to see what aspects they could incorporate into their own designs. At the location we visited, they created the model garments and cut the fabric for production. After that, the fabric pieces were taken to another location where they were fully sewn.

Later on in the program, we’ll be visiting a textile factory of a larger scale, which should often an interesting comparison between the two. Textiles, after all, are a huge part of Turkey’s economy—most likely the towels in your bathroom will have a “Made in Turkey” tag on them. Nevertheless, in the words of my economics professor, the textile industry “leaves wherever it touches”—as evidenced by the once huge textile industry in the United Kingdom or United States—because it requires such high labor costs. As such, Turkey will have to find other options if it hopes to continue to modernize.

Sign me up for the Sultan’s harem

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Passing through the entrance today at the Topkapı Palace, I smiled my simple merhaba and teşekkürler to the employee managing the gate. “Wow!” he responded. “You speak such good Turkish! I’m very impressed.”

I was pretty surprised at the response to the basic two words of Turkish that I’ve got down so far—I mean, all I said was “hello” and “thank you.” It made me wonder—do other tourists neglect to even learn a basic “hello” and “thank you” in Turkish to communicate when they visit?

We’ve gotten similar responses elsewhere whenever we try to say the few words that we know. I’m constantly frustrated that I don’t know how to say more, partly because very many Turks do not speak English but mainly because it prevents me from truly experiencing this country. Yet the sincere appreciation for our attempts so far has only further encouraged me to learn as much as I can.

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Today began with a visit to what our guide referred to as the “Mini Ayasofya,” or the Küçuk Ayasofya Parklari, a mosque nearby its larger version, but quieter and older. Unlike the Ayasofya, it still operates as a mosque to this day.

We then had to chance to explore the beautiful Topkapı Palace, which was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856). The palace grounds are beautiful, and we stumbled through room after room absolutely covered with intricate tiled designs and ornate architecture.

My favorite part was being able to wander through the various rooms of the harem, imagining how they might have looked like several centuries ago.

After lunch, we then passed by Istanbul University as we walked to the Sulemaniye Mosque. School was about to start, and the walkway was filled with various student organizations and private dormitories tabling to the new students.

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The Sulemaniye Mosque possessed a quiet magnificence of its own that in my opinion surpassed the Blue Mosque, with breathtaking geometric designs and its soaring domed ceiling.

We then took our little bus to the Jewish Museum, tucked away in the Pera district, because it had been closed when we had tried to go there earlier. The museum itself was tucked away in this little alleyway, and we practically had to climb through a construction site to get to its entrance.

The museum was small, but it offered a look at the lives of a particularly overlooked segment of Turks. It focused primarily on the Ottoman Empire’s acceptance of the Jews after their forced migration out of Spain. Interestingly, it did not include much information about the current state of Jews in the Turkish Republic.

Lastly, we visited the Istanbul Modern, which gave a much different interpretation of contemporary Turkish life. The collection was mesmerizing—some pieces were intriguing, while others were simply bizarre.

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My favorite pieces were all of the different videos they had––one showed four women talking side by side about their lives with wigs, another showed the artist trying to shout a question over the roar of jet planes, and another showed a woman slowly taking off some 50 scarves she had on her head.

Puzzling. But such is modern art, no?