Thursday, 21 April 2011


Hi again!

This past week I was in Istanbul with my school, and basically it was the most AMAZING week ever. I was really nervous that I would sort of be on my own, but that wasn't the case at all. The girls were all so friendly, and it was just such a great week, I don't think it could have gone better.

We landed in Istanbul and the second we left the airport we were all hit with a major wave of culture shock. It started when we were trying to buy tickets for the metro, and no one knew how the machines worked and it was all in Turkish and no one spoke English to help us. That was a major thing that I never experienced in Denmark, the lack of English, and boy let me tell you it's hard. But we figured it out and made our way towards the hotel. We were walking from the metro station to the hotel and saw this little street fair type thing, and stopped to take pictures, and that was when we had our first encounters with Turkish men. 90% of my class is blonde haired and blue eyed, and the men just like flocked over to us. Even I was getting comments, and I have dark hair and eyes. It was a little bit creepy because they were a lot older, and saying things like, "How are you? You look really good." And then they'd ramble on in Turkish. Really different from Denmark.

Istanbul looks so different from Denmark too. Denmark is very cute and organized and very well put together. Istanbul was totally opposite. The buildings weren't in great shape and there were random signs and posters everywhere, and people on the street trying to sell us stuff and tons of little markets and stuff like that. And don't even get me started on the driving! Red lights and traffic lanes mean nothing to them! Traffic was crazy and people were honking like crazy. And busses and taxis just stopped wherever they felt like it, they didn't bother pulling over to the side of the road to let people in, they just stopped in the middle of traffic for you.

(People all over the streets selling knock-offs)

(View outside the hotel window)

Once we got settled in the hotel, we went to dinner as a class. Everyone was in really high spirits and we were having a lot of fun together. We went to this little restaurant near our hotel, and the waiters were all super friendly and the food was soooo cheap!! Like 30TL for a full meal and drink, which I think is about $5.00. It was a much welcome break from Denmark's overpriced food.

After dinner everyone started to go their own ways. That was super different from Canadian school trips. When my grade 9 class went to Washington DC we had a strict curfew and couldn't even leave our hotel room after 10pm. Here though we could do whatever we want. A group of girls went out drinking in the city, and the rest of us went to this little cafe near the hotel. We drank Turkish coffee and ate baklava and smoked water pipe, and it was a really awesome way to start the trip. It was so layed back and even though I'm not in their class, I really felt like part of the group, which I was really happy for.

Tuesday morning our first stop was a private high school where we got to see up close what Turkish teenagers and schools are like. Turks are such friendly people, and they were so welcoming to us. We got a tour of the school and got to make candles in the chemistry class, and then we got split into groups of four and got to sit in on an actual class. I think it kind of opened everyone's eyes as to hard it is to sit there and not understand anything. I'm so glad that we got to go to the school and see up close what Turkish teenagers are like. It's amazing how different people from different countries really are. I know that sounds kind of like, duh, but I think it's kind of cool how depending on where you grow up, your personality is so drastically affected.

(The class we visited)

After lunch we went to a panorama museum, which was really interesting. To be honest I don't totally know exactly what we were looking at, but it was something about how Istanbul was conquered (I think...) Regardless it was really cool to see. And after that we got to go to the grand bazaar, which is one of the things I was most excited for. It was so insane but so so cool. Everyone in the stand were calling out to us to come into their stalls, and some of the things they said were so funny. "You look like a next top model!" "You're so beautiful, let me show you X item!" Stuff like that. Some of the stuff for sale was actually really cool. I bought some little purses and pants and apple tea and some other little things that I can't remember off the top of my head. It was really fun to bargain with them and see how cheap I could get stuff for. I think I did pretty good, to be honest.

(The panorama museum)

(The Grand Bazaar)

For dinner on Tuesday I just went with two other girls, Ana, the exchange student from Brazil, and her best friend Stephanie. It's amazing how friendly the waiters are. Not that Danish waiters are rude, but the ones in Turkey went out of their way to be friendly. I felt really bad because it never even crossed my mind to tip him. In Denmark you don't tip anyone, but thinking about it I think we should have tipped him. But I guess it's too late to do much now. Tuesday night we did the same thing as Monday night, going to the cafe, and it was really cozy. Wednesday morning we walked all the way from the hotel to the Greek Orthodox Church, and trust me it was far. But it was totally okay because we got to see up close how beautiful Istanbul really is. The streets and buildings were just so different from anything I had ever seen before, and I felt like I couldn't get enough of it. After getting to see three totally different countries, I'm starting to realize just how much there is out there, and I want to see as much as I can. I love getting to see other countries and I hope that throughout my life I can see as much as possible.

(Group photo outside the Greek Orthodox Church)

The Church was really pretty, but we sort of got stuck in the middle of this service, and we ended up having to sit through this whole hour long service thing that no one understood a word of. It was cool for about ten minutes, and then people started to doze off. I was sitting by the door and there was this wicked cold breeze, so I couldn't fall into a deep sleep, but I was close.

We went for lunch next at the sketchiest place ever. It wasn't even a real restaurant, it was like a little room with some tables and a stove where they cooked the weirdest food. And we couldn't even choose what we wanted, they just sort of gave it to us. Definitely an experience. We didn't die though, so I guess it wasn't too bad. After we ate we headed to the Bulgarian church, was was really pretty. There was no service this time, so we just went in, looked around, then were done. Our next stop was a mosque, and along the way this awesome car like pulled up next to us and they were playing music and had a camera guy with them, and a bunch of the girls in my class started dancing with them. They told us they wanted to use us in a TV show, so I think a few girls got their phone number, but I don't think anything ever came of it. It was really funny though

(The guys playing music in the car)

Finally after a coffee stop we made it to the Mosque. We all had to cover our heads and then we could go in. I've never been in a Mosque before, but it was really interesting to see all of the people on the floor praying. That's another thing I found so cool about Istanbul, the prayer call. Five times a day you can hear people being called to the Mosque to pray. It sort of sounds like singing, and coming from a non religious home and host country, it was really interesting to experience a culture so dominated by religion.

(Me in the Mosque)

Wednesday evening we went to a shopping street called Taxim square. We went by taxi which was an adventure in and of itself. 4 seatbelts? So what, lets fit nine people in and not buckle up and have our taxi driver drive around like a mad man. I was almost sure we were going to die, but our driver was actually really good, and got us there in one piece (and for only $5.00). The shopping street reminded me a lot of the pedestrian streets in Copenhagen. It wasn't like the bazaar, it was a lot more high class with regular stores and set prices and no people trying to convince you to buy from them. And the best part was that we found a "cheap" Starbucks!! There is only one Starbucks in Denmark and it's so overpriced, like, $10 for a frappachino. This one was the same price as back home, which after nine months of Danish prices is wicked cheap, so of course I made the girls stop so I could buy one.

(Taxim Square)

(Me and Jane in front of Starbucks)

Thursday was our last full day, and we started off by going to another Mosque. I can't remember what it was called, but we got a tour around and one of the priests talked to us and we got to hear a lot about different Mosque's and we were able to ask our questions. The girls in the class have been learning about Islam all year, but for me this was all new, so it was a lot to take in all at once and I didn't totally understand everything, but it was really interesting to hear about. By the time we were done it was pouring rain, which sucked. The other days were all really nice, and it's definitely a lot less enjoyable to walk around in the rain. We got to see the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sophia, and then we went to look at another museum. It was so cold though that a group of us ended up bailing out and just going back to the grand bazaar. I bought some cute tea glasses to give as gifts, and I even bought my own mini water pipe. I don't have a huge interest in smoking it, but it is really cool looking with Turkish designs, and it's pretty small, so I think it will be a cool souvenir from the trip.

(The Blue Mosque)

Since Thursday was our last day, our teachers took us out for dinner which was really nice. I had such an amazing week and all of the girls were so sweet, and it was nice to end it together. After dinner almost everyone headed to the cafe we went to the first two nights. This is another very...different thing about Danish school trips. As if going out drinking isn't weird enough, try adding going out drinking with your teacher! Yeah, just a tab bit different from home. It was really fun though, and such a great way to end an amazing week! We stayed there until the cafe closed, and then some people headed out to go clubbing, and the rest of us headed to the hotel bar. It was such a fun night, and everyone was in such a great mood and just having fun. We ended up staying there drinking with our teacher until nearly 6am. I don't think that's a night I'll ever forget. It was so much fun!

(Us with our teacher in the hotel bar)

And then Friday was home time. I wasn't nearly ready for the week to be over, and being back in Denmark was weird. We were waiting for out bags and it just hit me how long I'd been here, and how fast it's gone. I remember waiting for my bags back when I first got here as though it was yesterday, and now to be in the same spot but with only two months left it just so...wrong. This year isn't ever supposed to end.

So yeah, that was my trip to Istanbul. Even though I was a little nervous, it ended up being one of the most amazing weeks out of this year, and I'm so glad I was able to go. Thank you so much to my amazing Rotary club who made this amazing week possible! I am so grateful that I was able to participate in such an amazing trip!!

And as I write this I'm on the train back from visiting Emma, but I think I shall save that for my next blog post because this one seems long enough!

Sorry it was so long, but it was a really packed week!


ps. Here is the public link of the facebook album with more pictures:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andrea! Elsker at følge med i din blog, og læse hvad du får ud af opholdet her i Danmark :-))

    Har du lyst kan du kigge forbi min;

    Knus Anja.