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Where the West Meets the East

by Erin Kelly
June 10 2010

Imagine a city that has ancient ruins on one side of the street and a Burger King on the other side. Welcome to Istanbul.

Burger King and mosque

We’ve only been in Istanbul for a day and half, and I’m already captivated by the city with its unique mix of the old and modern. It could also be described as the place where the West meets the East, a crossroads that spans thousands of years. Istanbul was the center point of three empires – Byzantine, Eastern Roman, and Ottoman –resulting in a melting pot of architecture and culture. We definitely witnessed this while sightseeing. For example, the Hagia Sophia has evidence of being both a church and a mosque. In a more modern sense – the European café culture permeates the city, while hookah bars can be found just around the corner. And if that’s not enough proof – the city is literally split between Europe and Asia, with a bridge connecting the two sides.

Dome of the Blue Mosque

It was definitely a culture shock going from Uganda to Turkey. The people are much more assertive here – the hawkers in the Grand Bazaar could definitely give the Ugandan roadside vendors a run for their money. But they are also more playful – you know there’s a sense of humor instilled in a culture when “I like your style” and “Going on a safari?” are the comments you get while walking through the bazaar with a helmet cam.

Turkish lamps in the Grand Bazaar

We somehow managed to cram most of the major sites into one day – from marveling at the vivid color of the Blue Mosque to exploring Topkapi Palace to getting lost in the 65 streets of the Grand Bazaar (with a break for Turkish coffee in between, of course). Unfortunately we leave tomorrow, but we’ll be back in two more weeks for another day of exploring!

Outside the Blue Mosque

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