by Hristo Alexiev
|One of the panoramas visible from Boğaziçi University|
The two months of intensive language training were obviously not enough to see everything that Istanbul holds, but we did get a glimpse of what this magical city is all about. The program included four to five hours of Turkish language instruction and lab each day, with plenty of homework, as well as regular screenings of Turkish movies each Monday afternoon. There were many things that had the potential to distract students from their studies, among which, the fact that Boğaziçi (Bosphorus) University has one of the most beautiful and picturesque campuses in the world, directly overseeing the Bosphorus. Perhaps the most distracting, and actually painful, thing was the extremely hot weather combined with high levels of humidity, literally making you melt while trying to reach the classroom, follow lectures, learn hundreds of new words, and do grammar exercises. The Monday Turkish film screenings were a nice break from this routine, as the hall where most movies were shown was one of the few places on campus to have a working A.C. I also thought that all the movies had been picked with a lot of taste, and showed different aspects of Turkish culture: some absolutely hilarious, others covering historical events and carrying deep spiritual messages.
In addition, the program included cultural trips to different parts of the city, like the trip to the Fatih District of Istanbul, a place where one gets the feeling that time has stopped, and that in a way, little has changed since the times of the Ottoman Empire. Alongside its numerous cultural monuments, such as old mosques, churches, and religious and secular schools that relate to the various religious and ethnic communities who lived in the Ottoman Empire, one can sense the traditionalist spirit of the people who live in this district. A significant portion of the population in the Fatih district, both men and women, dress in a fashion reminiscent of the Islamic empire that ruled most of the Mediterranean in the times of Süleyman the Magnificent.
|Süleyman and Hristo in a restaurant on the Galata Bridge. In the background the New Mosque (completed 1665).|
The sea is an essential part of the city’s vibrant life. Many people commute between the Asian and European parts of Istanbul. Usually the reason for this is the more affordable housing on the Asian side. While this can be time-consuming, it is also a beautiful experience, especially in the hot summer months. There is no place as refreshing and beautiful as the Bosphorus when the rest of the city is troubled by traffic and burning heat. While traffic is actually a serious concern for the fast-growing metropolis, it is comforting that one can ride one of the “Marine buses” every day, to and from work at the price of a regular bus trip. This is also the case if one decides to embark on visiting one of the Prince’s Islands.
|The Eyüp Sultan Mosque on a Ramadan night|
Hristo Alexiev is a MA candidate at the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at UIUC, and a FLAS recipient for the 2011-2012 Academic year and Summer 2013. His focus of studies is Balkan languages and history, with a particular emphasis on modern Turkey and the significance of the Ottoman legacy in modern day relations between the nations of the Balkans. Hristo was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. After graduating from the French Lyceum in Varna, he studied Romanian, Modern Greek, Spanish, and Turkish, in addition to a limited knowledge of Serbo-Croatian. He is currently continuing his study abroad in Istanbul under a Boren Fellowship until June 2013. After completing his studies he hopes to pursue a carrier in foreign relations.