Well, my semester in Istanbul has come to an end (and I'm now in beautiful Paris, though that's a topic for the next blog post!). I had a wonderful time, and I will miss that great city immensely. Görüşürüz means "see you later," which I am planning to do! I know I'll be returning to Istanbul in the future.
I tried to take advantage of my last few days by doing some more wandering—around Cihangir, one of my favorite neighborhoods—and to Bebek, a neighborhood along the Bosphorus with a nice sea-side promenade. I also spent a lot of time around Istiklal Caddesi, as usual.
From Saturday until Tuesday, two great friends from college came to visit me! It was so great to see them, and we had a lot of fun. On the first night I took them out for a bit of hazelnut vodka and then a few games of backgammon—one of my new favorite pastimes. We spent a day on the Asian side with our Turkish friend from school, who treated us to an amazing brunch and a nice tea with a beautiful view of the sea of Marmara. That night I took my friends to the Irish pub for the last live session. I've learned some new songs this semester and gained some more confidence in playing, so it has been a lot of fun—though of course there are still thousands of more songs to learn. I'm hoping to continue playing in sessions in other parts of the world.
On Monday my friends and I had a great visit to Sultanahmet—the old part of town. We visited all of the top sights (except Hagia Sofia--closed on Mondays!) and I had fun trying to be a sort of tour guide. We saw three beautiful mosques, the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar, and the eery Yerebatan Cistern. We missed out on the Archaeology Museum (also closed on Mondays!) but had a nice nap outside the walls of Topkapı Palace. In the evening we headed to Ortaköy, another one of my favorite neighborhoods, for baked potatoes and more backgammon.
My last week was a blur of goodbyes and trying to finish end-of-semester stuff. Believe it or not, I still have a research paper to finish up! On Friday most of my group left, so my ukulele and I spent the day visiting Ihlamur Kasrı, a cute little palace with nice gardens. In the evening I was lucky enough to have dinner with my friend who works on a cruise ship, who had stopped by Istanbul for the night again. It was a nice way to end my semester in Istanbul before a boring night of packing up my room.
On Saturday I walked down to Taksim (with my luggage!) and took a bus to the airport, then Istanbul-->Zurich-->Paris, where I was reunited with my parents. We've rented an apartment about 5 minutes from Notre Dame, and it's wonderful. I was in Paris three years ago, but I think I hadn't realized how different Paris and Istanbul are. It's wonderful to understand the language spoken around me (though I keep accidentally speaking Turkish!) and to experience French culture, but there's still a bit of culture shock. I was amazed by how empty the sidewalks are—besides all the tourists!—and how safe I feel crossing the street. I'll write about my Paris adventures in my next blog post. À bientôt!