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Istanbul in 3 Words

by Carmen McClelland
AIFS student at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

1. Magical. As cliché as that word can be, I think it is completely appropriate when talking about Istanbul. Maybe it is because this is the most time I have spent outside of the U.S., but this city does something to me. When I am walking down the street to go to my class I have an amazing view of the Bosphorus. Right below my campus there is the fortress that Mehmed II built to conquer the city from the Byzantines. Where else do you get that history? Sure there are other cities that have castles, fortresses, and many other historical monuments, but not like here. This is a city of 16 million! To have that many people living their modern lives with all of these ancient monuments from three different empires is completely amazing.

Bridge in Istanbul between Europe and Asia

One of the bridges between Europe and Asia

2. Eclectic. If you go down to the Sultanahmet area where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cistern are, you will hear many different accents. I have met Canadians, a couple from the Isle of Man, and friends from Rhodes. There are so many tour groups coming in and out of this area that it makes you feel so small. It makes you realize how much is out there, how many languages there are to learn, and how many places there are to visit. Hearing all of the accents and seeing people traveling makes me realize that I want to continue to travel throughout my life. I hope that I never lose this desire.

Maiden's Tower, Istanbul

Maiden’s Tower

3. Hospitable. Meet a Turkish person and you will agree with my choice of this word. It doesn’t matter where you go, who you meet, or what you are doing, Turkish people are friendly, helpful, and caring. I have asked people for directions many times, and not only have they taken me to the place that I would like to go, they do it even though normally don’t speak English. I will say my destination, and they will point, draw out a map, and even lead me there—all to make sure that I get there. During a holiday, some of us were in Bursa when we started shopping. The owner of the shop took us to his other store across the street to show us what a traditional 150 year old Ottoman house looked like. He told us all about his rugs, and not only let us look around his store, but he made us tea!

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