Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Welcome to Istanbul -- Hos Geldiniz!
This is a blog that will allow our family and friends to keep up with our adventures while we live (and work) for a year at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations in Beyoglu, Istanbul. We arrived in the early morning in September 15, and had to hit the ground running.
We have a gorgeous two-bedroom apartment in the Research Center (RCAC) -- more about the RCAC and the building in a later post.
It seems like we have been here more than two days. Physically, it feels like a week. Mentally, a month. So much has happened in the brief time since we arrived.
Everything here is so amazing -- the Research Center is gorgeous (we'll send pictures later). Our neighborhood is very lively, day and night -- so, not quiet, but vibrant. Today Peter and I took two very long walks -- one to the Fulbright office which was a bit further than we thought (doesn't that always happen?), and one in search of hangers. I'll bet most people never think of it, but finding hangers in a foreign country can be very difficult. Now all the other scholars want to know where we got them. Maybe that could be Peter's side job -- selling hangers at a profit.
The director of the Institute also arranged tours of two libraries for us today. The Netherlands Research Institute shares our building, so that is convenient. The other we visited is the Istanbul Research Institute, which is 5 minutes on foot and has three floors: one dedicated to modern Turkish history, one to Ottoman history, and one to Byzantine history. They also hold a large manuscripts and rare photographs collection, which Peter is very interested to spend time in. Tomorrow, we will go to the French, German, and Swedish Institute libraries, which should be useful for me, especially the German. Then on Friday we will all go to the Koc University main campus to lunch with the rector and provost, then we will be given a tour of the Bosphorus by boat. They say this is so we can understand the geography of Istanbul better, but I secretly think it is so we can all drink wine. Either way, it's free, so we're certainly not complaining!
Although we haven't gotten around to taking any photos of our apartment or the RCAC in general, I am attaching a few pictures taken from our rooftop terrace. We have an absolutely incredible view. Our building is situated on a point of land almost exactly where the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn come together, so when you look at the picture which is a general view from our roof, you are looking at Europe on your right and Asia on your left. Last night we all had dinner up there and there was a lightning storm in the distance, perhaps in the Black Sea area, and it was incredible to think that we were seeing lighting strike two continents at the same time! There is really something magical about this spot. We can see Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque, in the second photo from left to right. The third photo is a view of Hagia Sophia that I took from the roof as well -- I'm pretty happy with my new camera!
The other pictures are interesting in a different way. Yesterday afternoon (our very first day, remember), the restaurant next to our building caught on fire. The firemen were able to contain it to the patio area, where an outdoor stove had gone crazy, but flames and smoke were pouring out of the smokestack and our entire rooftop was enveloped in smoke. At first it was being fought by the waiters who had climbed onto the roof, but soon the fire department showed up and took care of it. Three hours later, the restaurant was cooking again, in the same oven! We were all thinking that that is exactly the type of accident that 100 years ago would have destroyed this entire neighborhood!
OK, I'm signing off now. We are trying to learn how to use the washer and drier here, and so far we have only managed to get our clothes really wet and soapy, but somehow not rinsed, after an hour in the machine. Tomorrow we will have to get a Turk to show us how to use them properly.
I hope all is well there -- Celia says their power finally came back up today after Ike took it out. Any other excitement to share?