Saturday, March 9, 2013

Besiktas Vs Fenerbahce

I am very lucky that my apartment is centrally located in Besiktas, otherwise I may have never known that such a legendary event was going to take place last weekend. I woke up last Sunday to the sounds of chanting, cheering and drums. Looking out from my balcony, I saw this.

Not really sure what was going on, I decided to talk a walk down the street...
At this point, after seeing all of the black and white scarves and hats, I realized it had something to do with Besiktas JK, the local soccer club. I decided to make my way through the crowd to the statue of the black eagle, the mascot of BJK. I feel lucky to live less than two minutes from such a center of Besiktas culture and life.
Here, I could finally make out what all the chanting was. Well, as much as someone who doesn't speak much Turkish could... What I did gather was that they were chanting in support of Besiktas, and saying rude things that I won't translate on this page about Fenerbahce, who is a longtime cross-city rival of Besiktas JK.

It was such a festive atmosphere and crowd, I couldn't help but partake. Besiktas and Fenerbahce have a long history going back almost 100 years, to 1924. There were fireworks, people dancing, drinking, singing, and chanting.
After a few hours, many of the people started to make their way to the stadium, and others went to eat dinner before the match started at 7. Sadly, I did not have tickets for the game, but it turns out the fun wasn't over yet. As kickoff drew nearer, the crowds started massing in Besiktas again. I went outside of my apartment again to see almost every bar or cafe in the neighborhood was hanging up a TV outside their building, and hundreds, if not thousands of people were gathering to watch on the various screens. I chose a bar only 10-15 meters from my front door, and waited with the crowd for the game to start.

The game was exciting, with each team scoring a goal, and the other answering almost immediately. It was a tie until the final minutes of stoppage time, when Besiktas scored a last minute, game winning goal. This was when the party really got started.
We all proceeded to march down to the statue again, everyone ecstatic that Besiktas had defeated their rivals.

All night I was meeting people who were so surprised and happy to hear that an American exchange student was a Besiktas fan. Frequently I was referred to as 'Kardesim!', meaning 'my brother'. After such a fun experience with the fans of Besiktas, I will consider myself a Besiktas JK fan, even after I am gone from this amazing city.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Picture Time

Seeing as how it would be next to impossible to detail my experiences here over the past few weeks, I'll try and get caught up with a compilation of pictures to give you an idea of what life is like here. Later on down the road I'll start to detail specifics such as school life, dining, etc.

The Bosphorus Bridge, connecting Europe and Asia.
On the left is me, with Emre, at first my host student, now my best friend in Istanbul!
These pictures were all taken at a lovely sea-side cafe in the Asian side if Istanbul.The breakfast was a wonderful pastry type dish, with layers upon layers of thin dough with either meat or cheese in between. And of course, tea, which is a necessity with breakfast, after any meal, and basically any time you're not in transit from one place to another.

There's a lot of very cool street art around Istanbul, here are just a few examples from when I had time to grab my camera.
The Blue Mosque is the larger one to the left, Hagia Sofia standing alone on the right.

Still in Asia, this is a shot from Moda, a very relaxed section of town on the southern coast. The photo looks across the Bosphorus Strait to the 'old city' of Istanbul in Europe. It is from the same location as the sunset photo in my last post.
And now we are in Europe! This is Istiklal Avenue, the main street running off of Taksim Square, which is the epitome of nightlife in Istanbul. Always crowded, and don't expect the party to start before midnight, or end until the wee hours of the morning.
If you are near the water, you better like seagulls. They are everywhere.

The ferries are part of the public transportation system here, which makes sense for a city lying on two continents. Coming from Arizona, I still get a kick out of this, but to the locals it is no different than catching the bus or a taxi.
The central monument in Besiktas Square, practically across the street from my school, Bahcesehir University. It is a great location, a central hub of all transportation and near to the old city, night life, and many universities. Luckily I managed to find an apartment just five minutes from the location in this picture.

That's it for now, more to come soon!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Just the beginning..

     This may be long overdue, since I have been here for two weeks already, but I guess better late then never, eh? The first thing I learned when I got here is that Istanbul never sleeps, never stops, and in a hectic city like this there is no chose but to roll with it, so it has taken me these two weeks to get a decent amount of time to sit down and start a blog. And where to start in recapping two weeks that feels more like two years? It will most likely take more than one blog post...

     When I first got here, I was barely awake, having been traveling for twenty-two hours, from Phoenix to Minneapolis, on to Paris and finally arriving in Istanbul. Luckily I was greeted by a group of very friendly students representing Bahcesehir University where I will be studying, and they accompanied me on the bus to campus, on the trip I managed to snap this not very good photo..
If memory serves me right, this is an old Roman Aqueduct. Today, the highway passes through the arches. Istanbul is an amazing blend of history and modernity co-existing.

     After arriving at Bahcesehir I was welcomed to the International Students Office, and after a few minutes my host student, Emre showed up and we caught the ferry over to Asia. If you didn't know, half of Istanbul is in Europe, half in Asia, cut in half by the Bosphorus strait. For many it is a daily routine to catch these ferries, an intercontinental commute to work, school, or whatever.

In this picture the ferry is going from Asia to Europe, with the European side in the background.
     Arriving at Emre's house began nearly two weeks if the most welcoming hospitality I have experienced. I had heard that the Turks are famous for their hospitality but really didn't know what to expect. When I got there his mom had made us an amazing traditional Turkish dinner. Sadly, I was too tired after almost 24 hours in airplanes and airports to remember to take a picture, or even what it was called, but I assure you if you are offered any traditional Turkish food, especially if it is home cooked, you owe it to yourself to try it. In the period of time I stayed at his house, his mother had a breakfast ready for us almost every morning, and wouldn't let me leave for my new place without doing my laundry for me, and I cannot thank his whole family enough.

      I will write again soon to hopefully get caught up on the blogging, but for now I will just leave you with a picture of the Marmara Sea from Moda, on the south coast of the Asian side of Istanbul.