"Turkey 101" - Dr. Itir Toksoz
Today began our more academically oriented program (the "core" of our Dialogue) in Istanbul. Yesterday's tour was a bit too much like tourism for us, but it also was essential to our understanding of Turkey and of Istanbul in particular. Today, Dr. Itir Toksoz (NU Alumna, PhD, Political Science) provided us with a rich and sweeping history and political analysis of Turkey (for 2 hours in the morning) as well as an orientation to the city - on foot and on the impressive transportation system: subways, trams, buses, water taxis, and more. We purchased the Istanbul-equivalent of the "Charlie Card"; it's more of a button on a plastic stick, which you press (the button) into the turnstiles on any of the modes of transport. We started with a tram; went down to the port, where we'll be jumping on a water taxi to cross over from Europe to Asia (yes, we're in one city, on two continents). That will begin on Tuesday.
Sunday is an exploration of Istanbul for the students on their own (i.e., in small groups of 4 - 6), with a bit of a "Scavenger Hunt" I've designed so that they have particular destinations they must reach, and yet have their own experiences and discoveries unencumbered by a tour guide, a professor, or 31 of their closest friends :-)
A number of people (professors and students alike) have been hit with some kind of tummy bug. So Sunday also will be a day of rest (it is the weekend after all) for those who need to do so.
Istanbul with it's 13 - 20 million people (yes, the population is that much uncertain!) is a massive city, but after Itir's guidance today, and our own exploration across the Golden Horn, it seems even more "manageable" today than it was yesterday (I put it in quotes because it still is a massive city, with Cairo-like traffic, albeit with much cleaner air, beautiful hills, waterways, and again, it is the entryway to Europe).