Student travels to Istanbul, not Constantinople

Junior Daniel McGuire, who has been studying abroad in Greece for the semester, smiles for a picture in front of the beautiful, historically rich city of Istanbul in Turkey.

By Daniel McGuire, Staff Writer

When I visited Istanbul in March, realized what Napolean Bonaparte meant when he said, “If the Earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”

In terms of major cities, I’ve really only seen Chicago, New York and Athens, now that I’m visiting Europe for the first time. But Istanbul is such an incredible experience it makes those other cities seem boring.

With a population is close to 20 million people, Istanbul is huge. It covers dozens of square miles in both Europe and Asia and has iconic structures in both the new and old parts of the city.

As I went through the city via bus, I was amazed to see Byzantine walls still intact and running through the middle of the city. These walls have been standing for more than a thousand years and still look in good shape all throughout the city.

As exciting as ancient walls are, Istanbul’s real charm is in its religious architecture.

Does the name Hagia Sophia mean anything to you? It should. An Orthodox church built in the seventh century, the Hagia Sophia was largest church in the world for almost a thousand years. Sitting just between the East and the West, the architecture represents a beautiful mix of cultures and ideologies.

Not to be outdone, the Muslims in the city, Islam being the majority faith since the days of the Ottoman Empire, built a mosque across the street from the Hagia Sophia almost as large and more structurally sound.

There is no imagery in a mosque, following Muslim doctrine, but the decorations and the eloquent Arabic writings that cover the walls of the mosque were a completely new to me and very beautiful in themselves

The city also contains multiple palaces built by the Ottoman Turks, who were rich and not skittish about showing it off. The oldest has been turned into a museum, where I had the fortune of seeing religious icons and relics such as the rod of Moses, the arm of John the Baptist and even the sword of the Prophet Muhammad.

The city culture is likewise a memorable attraction. The food is spicy and tasty, and the streets are lined with vendors selling their delicious (and cheap) wares. And just like Chicago has its hotdogs, Istanbul has delicious kebabs you cannot get anywhere else.

The indoor market of the city is enormous, with hundreds – possibly thousands – of stores, all offering fantastic deals on items hard to find in the United States. Some in my program were loading up on $10 cashmere scarves while others were sampling the endless supply of Turkish Delight.

When night falls, a few friends and I make our way to a local bar. On one occasion a live musical duo came in to play and, seeing our party of Americans, treated us with a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama,” complete with a jazz flute accompaniment to take us back home.

If you visit one European city, I would highly suggest Istanbul, especially if you want to see Asia in the same day. I was given the same advice before heading to Europe, and I sincerely hope you take it.

By admin

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