What a trip! In more ways than one. The Chair of our Masters’ programme organized another unforgettable study journey. This time around it was an excursion to Israel where, in addition to seeing the iron repertoire sites, we were to sit in on lectures by esteemed professors. The group consisted of professors from the Faculty of Social Sciences and postgraduate students in the World Studies programme.

Chapter 1 – Istanbul

Hagia Sofia

Our flight to Tel Aviv had a four-hour layover in Istanbul and I found myself buying a tourist visa along with three sociology professors just minutes after landing in Turkey and sooner than you could say hoşça kalın, we were in a taxicab on our way downtown. (By the way, check out the meaning of Omar Naber’s family name at wikitravel’s phrasebook.

Hagia Sofia Hagia Sofia

What an impressive city! One word? Huge. Granted, there is only so much one can do in a new town in a bit over an hour, but we did take a stroll around Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and had real Turkish coffee with real Turkish sweets at the famous Taksim square. If you order the “chicken breast pie”, please know that it is not simply a dessert resembling a piece of meat. It is ground cooked chicken meat mixed with milk and loads of sugar, made into a gluey thing sprinkled with cinnamon.

We had to go see the Bosphorus bridge, of course. Quite a feeling to be standing there at the very edge of Europe, looking across to Asia. Moving around the city, we made a friend. Hasan the taxi driver who happens to be happily married to a Bulgarian and so understands some basic Slavic words and phrases. What came in really handy is the fact that his neighbour is Macedonian and was able to translate for us on the cell phone. More about Hasan later. The important thing the first time around was that he got us back to the airport on time.

We arrived to Tel Aviv in the wee hours of Monday and I settled down into my hotel room at 4 am.

More… much more to follow. Action!

Here are a few photos from the walk around Istanbul at night..

Istanbul 1 Istanbul 1

collecting garbage hauntd house?

collecting garbage ~ haunted house?

Istanbul 1 Istanbul 1

mysterious or spooky?

Downtown Istanbul cozy

can't escape shopping malls Istanbul 1

no escaping shopping malls ~ relax with Kermit the Turk

Istanbul 1 Istanbul 1

sweets chicken breast pie

desserts of all types (chicken breast pie to the right)

Sütis Bar at Taksim Square Sütis Bar at Taksim Square

Sütis Bar at Taksim Square Bosphorus Bridge

Sütis Coffee Shop at Taksim Square (highly recommended) and the final stop before our return to the airport: the Bosphorus Bridge connecting two continents.