Istanbul is growing on me. I’m getting to know my way around one area, Sultanahmet (the old city). While Ukrainians aren’t quick to smile at strangers, Turkish people are big smilers! In fact, they seem insulted if I don’t chat with them as I pass on the street. They all want to know where I am from and how I like their city. I had been warned by fellow travelers that Istanbul is crowded and salesmen are pushy. It’s true that they try to sell their products, and get you to by a carpet or whatever else. However, today I wandered through the grand bazaar market without any problems. It was really fun haggling for lower prices and chatting with all the shopkeepers, and much more calm than I expected. It can be hard to negotiate prices, since we don’t do that in America, but it is an interesting part of the Turkish culture. My favorite purchase of the day (which I’m sure I paid too much for) was fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. Delicious!
I did a lot more than shopping today. In the morning, I visited the Blue Mosque, which dates back to the early 17th century, and the Basilica Cistern, which is an early water system from the 6th century. In the evening, I went to a Turkish cooking class! I learned a bunch of new recipes, and look forward to trying them out when I get home. I hope to do a blog entry on Turkish food soon too.
Turkey is a country with a lot of ancient history, but it’s also very modern. This makes it really fun to explore — sometimes I turn the corner and see something totally unfamiliar, and sometimes I run into an American chain store. People are very open to diversity here, as the locals come with a variety of religious backgrounds, skin colors, and styles. I look forward to my first Turkish school visit tomorrow!
Note: I’m having some technical difficulties with the blog and it’s taking me a very long time to upload movies and photos. I have a lot more of them to share, but I’m not able to get them posted. I will try to resolve the problem so that I can add more soon.