Turkey is unbelievable. There are really no words to describe how awesome this country is. First off, Istanbul made Athens look like a 3rd world slum. Just walking around our hostel in Istanbul was a new experience, with cobble stone-esque brick layed streets, and huge Byzantine style mosques on practically every single corner. It's almost unfortunate that our first mosque experience had to be the Blue Mosque, as its so spectacular that it's made all others practically pale in comparison. The Aya Sofia was quite literally breath taking, with Byzantine Christian mosaics coupled with huge Islamic inscriptions just hanging on the walls. The one, and only bad part of my experience in Istanbul was the heat plus extreme humidity. It made it so that I was never dry. I woke up in the morning wet, walked around all day practically dripping with sweat, took a shower and never dried off completely, and subsequently went to sleep wet. I would wake up at 6 in the morning to pee and would discover that my hair was still slightly damp and so was my pillow. But other than that, the city was spectacular. We walked up and down the major street leading up to Taksim Square, which was jam packed full of people and stores and was just a spectical in and of itself.
I have to say, that one of the strangest things that I've had to get used to while I've been here has been the Islamic culture. As it's Ramadan, people who are observing are not supposed to eat, drink, or even smoke during the day time from probably about 5:00 in the morning until 8:20 in the evening. There are constant prayer calls, and all over Istanbul there were activities for children to keep them from thinking about the fact that they were fasting all day. And then once the fast was broken, everyone would flood the restaurants. Some restaurants wouldnt even be open until fast was broken at 8:20, and even then, others would seat you and feed you, but then would put out special place settings for the observers, waiting for them to come and eat. Prayers were called about 5 times a day, and even here, on the island of Bozcaada, which is decidedly more layed back than Istanbul, a rocket or firework or something very loud is set off marking the end of the fast. Around Istanbul, especially where we were, with all the mosques and stuff, women would be walking around in head scarves, and i even saw one family walking where all the women were wearing full blown burkas, complete with covering from the eyes down. A number of other women were wearing burkas minus the face covering. It was a very strange site to see.
I'm updating this blog from an internet cafe on Bozcaada (formerly Tenedos) which is playing all Pink Floydd live music. The island is lovely, but since I spend most of my day doing nothing, I've found myself getting horribly homesick towards the middle of the day. I just get so upset because I want to come home but I know that I can't for at least 4.5-5 more months which seems like a really really long time. But then I have to remind myself that loads of people study abroad for that long, and they've done fine, so I just need to man up and get over it. I think its just accentuated by the stress caused by travelling around with a huge suitcase, and full backpacking backpack, and a regular school backpack. That and my backpacking bag got all full of soap a couple of days ago because my body soap container exploded in transit from Istanbul to Bozcaada, which was horribly frustrating since not only did I lose an entire bottle of soap, but I also had to completely wash out my backpack. It made for a foul mood and wishing that I was home.
As I have no internet in my hostel for the next week or so, updates will be sporadic, as they have been, with no pictures. I apologize in advance and promise more detailed updates soonish.