studying Turkish in Istanbul for five weeks
While I certainly enjoyed the classroom study and famous sites like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, the best moments of my trip were those spent with native Turks I met. Turkish hospitality is hard to explain without experiencing it. I made more than a dozen friends that I would gladly host at my house in D.C. It was my time spent with these friends—eating, drinking, and chatting in Turkish—that was the most rewarding part of my trip.
Did anything surprise you? What?
One of the more surprising aspects of Istanbul is how incredibly diverse the city is. There are people from every country and nationality living in Istanbul. Even for native Turks it was hard for them to know if a person was Turkish or not. I remember walking into a store with my Turkish friend and because we were speaking in a mix of English and Turkish the worker was curious as to where we were from. When my friend told him he was from Turkey the guy did not believe him and repeatedly questioned him to make sure. Although diversity exists in every large city, Istanbul seems to be unique because the cultures and people are so deeply intertwined and interact at such a local level.
What was the best day you had on your trip?
The best day of my trip was definitely an evening out with a few students in my Turkish class and a group of native Turks. It included a 2.5 hour meal with more food than I can explain in a blog. We had mezzes, 4 or 5 main dishes that we shared, and several desserts. The restaurant overlooked the Bosporus and we sat on the rooftop so it was an amazing atmosphere. After dinner we headed out to a local place for some Raki and continued talking about Turkey, politics, sports, and who deserves the title of the best soccer team in Istanbul (a very touchy subject). Although this was probably the best day of my trip, it was the times spent with my Turkish friends that offered the most rewarding and interesting parts of my trip.
Tell us about your favorite meal. What is it?
My favorite food to eat was for breakfast in Istanbul. It is called Menemen and is comprised of eggs, onion, tomato, green pepper, and spices. As with almost every meal, Turkish tea and bread are included—tea is drank all throughout the day and is much more common than coffee in Turkey. Although I am not exactly sure how Menemen is prepared, it is served very hot and is extremely delicious.