I had been studying about the Ottoman Empire as part of my History of Islam class during junior high school. I learned about the rise and downfall of this Empire who had a big influence in the Islamic History. and there is a city where the Ottoman Empire is most famous for: Istanbul. Istanbul or previously named as Byzantium or Constantinopel is one of those cities in the world that is on my bucket list. This city had served as a capital for four empires, namely the Roman Empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922) –source here.
Had been thinking of Turkey as one of the Islamic countries, I thought this country was similar to Middle East countries. Even I thought the language used was Arabic. But then I was wrong!
I remember seeing another girl with a scarf covering her head at Reitoria during uPorto Erasmus Orientation Day. I thought she was from Egypt or somewhere but then after she introduced herself, I knew that she was from Turkey. It was the first time I met someone from Turkey, one of the countries I always want to visit, and she is one of my Erasmus bestfriends: Melek Bilgili. Melek has a passion in everything related with history, humanity, politics, and public policy and yes, she studies International Relations Course. She knew the happening events in Porto and I often attended those events with her. When she had to leave Porto, I was sad. I wouldn’t have a socialite friend like her, who loves to attend events at the town.
Melek loves writing a diary and before she left, I wrote on her diary: “Wait for me in Istanbul, Melek!” To be honest, when I was writing that sentence, I didn’t sure if there would be any opportunity for me to go to Istanbul. It seemed so so faraway either from Portugal or Indonesia. But after a year, when I was randomly looking for a cheap flight ticket, I found that opportunity! Yeaaayyy!!!! I could go to Istanbul and meet Melek there x)
I arrived at Sabiha Gökçen Airport. This airport was in the Asian part of Istanbul and it’s faraway from the city center which in the European part of Istanbul. When I went out of the airport, I was a bit jetlag because there were so many people outside the airport and I couldn’t find any tourist information office (most of European airport usually has this office to help tourist how to get to the city center). Melek advised me to take bus KM22 to Kartal Metro and she would pick me up there. But the problem was: I didn’t know where to buy the bus ticket since buses in Istanbul don’t accept money so I need to buy a bus card.
After few minutes looking for bus ticket office, being approached by some strange men offering me a taxi ride, and being mistaken as an Arabian by some people (yeah yeah, because of my head scarf and exotic skin colour); I got into bus KM22. Fyuuh~ Melek picked me up at Kartal Metro and we took the metro until its last stop, Kadıköy. My journey hadn’t finished yet, we still had to take a boat to cross the famous Bosphorus strait. “Yeah, baby, I am crossing Bosphorus!!! I came from the Asian part of Istanbul and I am crossing Bosphorus strait to go to Europe again x)” how cool was that!
We arrived at Eminönü where I could see the Galata Tower and Bridge. Nearby the Galata Bridge, there was a fish market. FYI, there were so many many many markets in Istanbul. I thought there were zillion of it, haha. Cross random corner in Istanbul and you can find a market. For a market lover like me, I felt like finding stacks of golds! IMHO, local markets and public transportations (expect super crowded metro) are places where I can really feel the city, listen to locals speaking, and observing them :”>
The sun was shining so brightly when I arrived in Istanbul. Of course, I was terribly happy! and starving :p So we ate Balik Ekmek and Turşu, typical local foods in Galata fish market. When we were eating, I was a bit shocked because of seeing many child selling tissues and begging for money. Similar conditions with the one I found in my country. Melek told me that those child only want money, not food nor books :( After eating, we went to Spicy Market and hooray, I saw Yeni Cami (the New Mosque), one of the Ottoman imperial mosques. I was so happy seeing a mosque and hearing adzan (praying call) again.
We went home to leave my luggage at Melek’s house. Melek’s mom welcomed me with her bright smile. She was so excited knowing Melek’s Erasmus friend coming to Turkey and finding a small girl with a head scarf style that was worn in a different way from Turkish scarf (She was so curious of my “hat” below my scarf :P). Melek brought me to Taksim Square at night and we found so many people there. I think Istanbul is always so crowded and full of people whatever day it is. We crossed Gezi Park before getting into this square. Of course, you have heard about the controversy related with this Gezi Park last year right?
The Istiklal Street near Taksim Square was too commercial for me. It was similar to a street mall! It was definitely super hard to walk in there. But when you are there, please pay attention to some hidden small alleys. I found those small alleys interesting. There were cafes for enjoying Turkish tea and coffee. Melek knew a store who sold Turkish delight and offered a free cup of Turkish coffee, namely Tuqba. We went there asking for coffees and YEAH, free Turkish delights. I really love love love Turkish delight. There were many flavours of Turkish delight and my favourite one was the one made from pomegranate (in Indonesian: delima).
Whenever I told my friends about the concept of giving free coffee and Turkish delight in Tuqba, some of my friends were amazed and said, “how could they get a profit by doing that? They can have some random people coming only to get free coffee and spend hours there. Like what you did!” Honestly speaking, I didn’t know how to explain this kind of “giving” and “hospitality” services at this store in a theoretical way. But let’s think: it’s a word-of-mouth marketing (like what I am doing now through my blog) and when people are there enjoying the coffee and Turkish delight, there might be a big possibility that they would buy at least one delight. and if we think in a return-from-the-God way, well imo, no calculation is needed.
Melek gave me a Istanbul diary for me to write my experiences and places I visited or just doodle random things so I won’t forget all of my memories here. She said, “You will live your days here in a Turkish way of living, Nabila!” and I knew right away that my journey in Turkey had just began…
To be continued…