Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Adventures on Istiklal

The Bilgi University Starbucks.
After a week and a half in Istanbul, I have started to fall into a rhythm. I wake up every day, get dressed, and make my way downstairs, where I meet my classmates at the Bilgi University shuttle. Once on campus, we all split apart and visit our favorite breakfast venues on campus before rushing off to class. After class, it is time for lunch before taking the shuttle back to the dorms, where I take my afternoon siesta. No matter what, I will never give up my Roman siestas. After taking a nap, I usually start working on my readings for the next class before heading out to the local restaurant for dinner.
This rhythm may not seem that strange to you, but I have been very surprised by how similar Istanbul is to home and how different it is from my expectations. Aside from the mosques that can be seen just about everywhere, Istanbul does not seem that different from Europe. This is especially true when one takes a walk along Istaklal, a central shopping street I found myself walking on this afternoon. As a group of friends and I made our way to visit Mango, a clothing shop that caters primarily to women and fortunately for me, contains numerous benches for men to wait in, I was surprised by all of the foreign stores. Diesel, Quicksilver, North Face, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, and McDonalds were all present, as well as hundreds of other brands that everyone back in the states would recognize. And these stores were not just limited to Istiklal Street, but can be found littered throughout Istanbul.

The Bosporus, one of the many sights I have come to love.
The diffusion of foreign brands into Istanbul is very interesting in the context of our International Development course, yet it is more interesting to think about how trade with Istanbul used to be. While Istanbul is on the receiving end of the diffusion of culture currently, several hundred years ago the opposite was true. In its golden age, Istanbul was the center of trade in the Mediterranean, and I wish I could have seen it then. Glory days or not, Istanbul has still captured my heart with is beauty and I cannot wait to see what hidden treasures I will unearth in the coming days.

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