My Istanbul Adventure – 3 Main Lessons “Capital Of The World” Taught Me
It has been recorded, as you probably know, that Napoleon Bonaparte once said “if the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital”. I could not agree more.
I spent two years in Istanbul as a student of Communication Studies and those two years were the most exciting adventure so far. I like to think I left the city of the most beautiful red sunsets as someone who cherishes and supports differences, someone who gained great friends from all around the world, who learned so much academically and personally. I would have so much to say about reasons I fell in love with this city and why I recommend it to everyone it but I tried to summarize it in these three that helped me reshape myself and reconsider what I know.
1. MULTICULTURALISM – RETHINKING CULTURE AND STEREOTYPES
I have always been inspired and fascinated with the idea of multiculturalism and how very different viewpoints coexist and nurture together and Istanbul allow me to understand and explore such frameworks. It was a completely unfamiliar territory as I come from quite homogeneous environment, a small city, at least when compared to Istanbul. Until then I never questioned race, cultural identity and dichotomy of East and West, at least not in a practical way but rather as some interesting, theoretical, but distant concepts.
Then, after living there for a while, it was not distant anymore bur rather real, beautiful, puzzling and quite important. I observed so many contrast of what is considered to be modern and traditional way of life, starting with how one dresses, acts, speaks, believes or just simply how he/she treats other people. I honestly have to say I was astonished how people who I lived with, studied with and met there have quite different viewpoints on so many crucial aspects of life but how we all got along great, especially when really listening to each other and swallowing our small judgmental and childish I am right and you are wrong attitudes.
I learned, as someone who did Master in Cultural Studies and simply as someone who lived in Istanbul for two years that cultural differences and its stereotypes must always be questioned and analyzed as humans are far more similar than they are different, even in those artificial differences they are the same. As I learned there, there is no such thing as separate East or West, everything melts in one big charming and fascinating mess.
2. REAL EDUCATION ABOUT THE HUMANITARIAN WORLDWIDE CRISIS
As you know, through these recent years, Turkey has been shelter for so many refugees who had to abandon their homes to save their lives and those of their families. Of course, other countries, other cities witnessed same atrocities and injustices, but for me it was first real contact with those who have been completely cut off, trapped in the world where they feel isolated. I hate the fact how people get so used to seeing whole families with small children starving and sleeping on the streets and how it is simply seen as how things just are, and there is nothing we can do.
Also, I have to mention that as a young foreign woman there I experienced various forms of misogynist behavior. Yes, I was looking my shoulder while walking alone at night in the areas where you can see only men on the street but at the same time I got so used to starring, comments and that uneasiness, that I just accepted it as how things just are, which if you think is more troubling. This is again, worldwide problem, but there it became more visible, especially after hearing and seeing what so many other women are facing with, far more severe forms of silent gender based violence.
Another thing is racism that I felt through experiences of my dear friends of other color, whose discomfort and injustice I felt as my one. With all our great attempts of educating nowadays we still need to explain that women are no less than men in any way, and so are not those of other skin color. Even now, while writing this, I feel ridiculous I need to write about it, but I am certain there is a need to do so.
It is important to mention, so you do not to get me wrong, I experienced as well, quite often, hospitality, compassion and kindness of people who I met there. People who were so helpful, friendly and loving, which is precisely why I know there is place, will and hope to be better.
3. PERFECT CLASSES OF GEOGRAPHY, HISTORY AND ART
To go back to lighter lesson, Istanbul offered me the best real life classes of geography, history, photography, art, cooking, hedonism and so more.
When I close my eyes I think of a black deep Marmara sea that looks so haunting and mesmerizing while seagulls fly around noisily, with strong mixture of salt, fish, coffee and sweets in the air. I think of a boat ride on Bosporus and how you can easily and so quickly jump from Europe to Asia and vice versa and feel like you can do anything. There is something so victorious of being there and witnessing perfection of geography and rich history coming alive. Sunsets are another blessing as they are so red, big falling down on the water and hypnotizing anyone who walks by. It is impossible that you do not fall in love in its wild, raw and yet poetic soul of the city. It is a pure art that momentary becomes muse to photographers, painters, writers, bloggers everyone who seeks for an inspiration and rebirth. While visiting enormous beautiful parks and amazing historical museums, not forget to sweeten your day with künufe, baklava or some other Turkish delight, try fish sandwich and of course have a cup of Turkish çay of coffee. Afiyet olsun. Simply be present and open for its many lessons.
To summarize, I have no doubts that everyone should have their own Istanbul adventure, particularly those coming from small countries, it is not enough to listen someone else’s experience or watch a video or read about it but something you must go through on your own and taste that openness with all its excitement, realness, inspiration and hope.
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