Monday, December 31, 2012

The Dolmabahçe Palace

Hello, everyone! I hope preparations to head back to Elon are going well, and that you're all as excited as I am while getting ready for Istanbul!

The Dolmabahçe Palace
One place that we are visiting that I am looking forward to is the Dolmabahçe Palace. It was built between 1843 and 1856 on the Bosphorus Strait. Abdülmecid I, the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, ordered the palace to be built because the official palace of the sultanate at the time, the Topkapı Palace, was rather outdated. It was used as the official administrative palace for the Ottoman Empire (except between 1887 and 1909) until the Republic of Turkey was founded and the capital moved to Ankara. Even so, Atatürk still used the Dolmabahçe Palace as his summer home. 

The Crystal Staircase
Not only am I excited to visit this palace because of its unique history, but also just glancing through pictures online, it is extremely stunning in architecture and design. All of the original decorations, furniture, curtains, and carpets are still intact. Additionally, the Dolmabahçe Palace is where the famous Crystal Staircase made of Baccarat crystal is located. In fact, the Dolmabahçe is home to the world's largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers, including the world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier. Overall, the palace just sounds very beautiful as the walls and ceilings are covered with paintings by famous artists of that time, and in all the important rooms and halls the furnishings are differing shades of the same color. 
The Deathbed of Atatürk

Additionally, the room where Atatürk died is located in the Dolmabahçe Palace. When he died, every single clock in the entire palace was manually stopped and set at the time of his death, 9:05am. Although, most of the clocks in the palace have since been changed to different times, the clock in the room where Atatürk died is still set to 9:05. 

I am very excited to visit this exquisite palace, as well as everywhere else on the itinerary, and I've loved reading all the blog posts. See y'all soon! 

(Information taken from: 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Eating in Turkey

I know that we asked you all to calculate what it might cost to eat while in Turkey, but here are some helpful articles on what you might want to eat if you're on a budget and different things you might want to try.  Remember that part of immersing yourself in the culture of Turkey and the experience of studying abroad is to try new things, especially food.  We will encourage you to avoid U.S. chains and restaurants to eat Turkish.  Also, remember, eating out in small groups (no more than 5) is highly, highly encouraged--you will have a better experience if you don't overwhelm a place.

Eating on a budget:

Eating on a budget:

Brief guide to some major Turkish foods:

A blog just on food in Istanbul (follow the "blog" link):

A 2010 article on food in Istanbul that qualifies as "food porn:"  The pictures are fantastic!

More "food porn" and some dining suggestions:

And, suggestions on tipping:


Hi everyone!

Like Sarah said earlier, I'm also really excited for our day trip to Ephesus.  Originally, I was looking forward to this because in religion class last year I had to do a project on the Book of Ephesians.  I thought it would be so cool to walk among the ruins of a city that once had a book of the Bible addressed to them.

I find the whole religious aspect of the city fascinating.  For example, two councils of the early Christian Church were held in AD 431 and AD 449 in the city, but even further back in its history are the gods of the Greeks and Romans.  This is demonstrated by many of the ruins, like the Temple of Hadrian, which was built in honor of one of the five good emperors of the Roman Empire, Emperor Hadrian.  It really interests me to see how religion and politics interact, and this ruin is a perfect example of that.

I also think that ancient ruins are interesting- it amazes me that the buildings have survived for so long and have weathered so much.  It makes me feel so small to think that we will be walking where people thousands of years ago walked as well.  I do not know exactly what we will be seeing, but I read about The Library of Celsus, and it seems like such a beautiful ruin.  Apparently, the statues in the niches each represent a certain trait: Sophia (wisdom), Arete (virtue),Ennoia (intellect), and Episteme (knowledge).

I hope everyone's having a good break!  Can't wait to see you all!


Hello All!
        I hope your break has been relaxing and enjoyable as mine was. But, now I'm just about ready to go back to school and on to Istanbul!  While I'm sure all aspects of our journey will be intriguing and mentally stimulating, I'm most excited about going to the University.  Even though I have traveled out of the country before, I have never really considered the amount of similarities and differences in the educational system between the United States and other countries or had a chance to visit one.  Last year in French class, I briefly compared and contrasted different aspects of French and American universities such as cost, level of difficulty, and manner of education (like the amount of people who go in to trade school).  It should be really interesting to study the differences between the United States and a country such as Turkey where the yearly schedule is completely different due to different celebrated holidays and a culture that is almost independent of the United States unlike France.
        Koç University was founded very recently in 1993 due to the resources of the Vehbi Koç Foundation which has won many philanthropic awards such as Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy (the equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize for Philanthropy). While the University has only be around for 19 years, it has quickly become of one the best universities in Turkey. So far, I have found many similarities between Elon University and Koç University.  For example, they practice many "green" actions such as all lights, heating, and cooling is controlled by motion sensors where they turn off after 15 minutes of inactivity.  Also, the University is a liberal arts college where they encourage and require courses outside of the major while also demanding a specialization in the chosen field so that the students may be well-rounded.  Finally like at Elon University and many other colleges in the United States, social media is an important factor in the Turkish education system where they encourage all students to like, comment, follow, etc on a variety of networks such as Facebook and Twitter.  
      I can't wait to learn more about this incredible university!! For more information, visit their extremely easily navigable website. Enjoy the rest of your holiday! See you all next year. ;)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Istanbul Modern Art Museum

The one item that particularly jumped out at me from ouritinerary was the visit to the Istanbul Modern Art Museum.

A lot of people think of modern art as looking somethinglike this:

(Ellsworth Kelly, Colors for a Large Wall, 1951)

or this:

(Dan Content, untitled 1, c. 1970)

and generally inspiring a feeling ofI-could-totally-have-made-that-myself. But modern art is much more than that. Modern art can be wildly expressive, on a deep, emotional level.  It is difficult to look at a painting likethis:

(Leonid Afremov, Flame Dance, 2008)

without feeling some small part of the pure joy and freedomfelt by the artist.  It can also providea view of the culture the artist lives in, like in this painting:

(Jasper Johns, Map, 1961)

Art is unique in its ability to portray the views of anindividual without accidentally absorbing those of others.  If we attempted in any other way to get agrasp of the modern culture in Istanbul, whatever we learned would be anamalgam of the ideas and feelings of many people, due to the unavoidablealteration of thoughts as they spread. But in a painting or sculpture, an artist can freeze their opinion on asubject, and that opinion can spread without fear of alteration.  In this way, we may see a side of Istanbulthrough this modern art that we otherwise would not get to see at all—the sidethat is the everyday lives of its people. 

This close-up look at individuals’ lives is fascinating tome.  Too often, we assume that all thosewho live in a foreign place lead similar lives. But in fact, their daily routines are as richly varied and diverse asour own.

Modern art has also traditionally been an outlet forpolitical frustrations—perhaps, we will see in the museum a bit of the strugglebetween Turkey’s secular government and its devoutly religious people.

One exhibit at the museum that looks particularlyinteresting is “Modernity? Perspectives from France and Turkey,” which includesart like this:

(Thomas Hirschhorn, The One World, 2007)
and will be on display during our visit.  The exhibition “opens for discussion how the remains of modernity can transform thepresent and the future.”  This should beparticularly interesting after a month of studying the intersection of Turkey’srich history and its attempts to modernize.

If you, like me, are interested in the museum, you can checkout their website here

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cool Travel Apps!

If anyone is planning to bring their iPhone (or other app-capable device) with us on the trip, here are two apps that might be a good idea to download!


This app allows you to send text messages over the internet instead of through your wireless provider.  If you are worried about roaming charges and don't want to pay for an international plan, simply switch your phone to "Airplane Mode." (Settings panel on iPhone.)  This will prevent you from using 3G, and will only allow you to use wireless networks nearby (i.e., the one at the hotel.)  Then, when wireless internet is available, you will be able to send and receive "text messages" through What'sApp.  Note: Only other What'sApp users will be able to talk to you, so make sure to tell your family/friends to download it before you leave.

Download for iPhone:
Download for other devices:


Triposo's Istanbul Guide

This app is a nice little guidebook for the city.  Most of the information is available offline, so you don't have to worry about roaming charges.  It features a map of the city, a fairly comprehensive phrasebook, and information about places to see, eat, shop, and more!

Download for iPhone:
Download for Android:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Taskim Square

While I'm excited for just about every aspect of our trip, I must say that I am most excited about visiting Taskim Square. Much of our journey in Turkey will be focused on the nation’s rich history with its former cultural and historical importance, but I also find modern Turkey intriguing and believe that a greater familiarity of the current Republic will allow us a better understanding to such a foreign and important area of the world.
Taskim Square is said to represent the contemporary center of Istanbul. As visitors to Istanbul, we might at first simply marvel Taskim Square because of its proximity to many restaurants, hotels, museums and other touristy attractions. We might consider it something like the Times Square of Turkey, but not quite as epic. However, I believe Taskim Square represents something more important to the Turkish state. I take into consideration the major protests have been staged in Taskim Square, some of which of ended in violent left-right confrontations. The political violence resulting from these protests in the 1970’s and 80’s resulted in a ban on any type of major gathering in Taskim Square. Recently, this ban has been lifted.
On the other hand, Taskim Square is also a site of celebration. The Turkish public commemorates festivals such as New Years here. Also, music concerts and football (or, as we call it, soccer) game screenings are also common events for the square. One certain festival that caught my attention was a march called Gay Pride Istanbul. This annual attraction gathered more than 10,000 in 2012. I suspect that such a large gathering to support gay rights is not common is majority Muslim countries such as Turkey. In my humble opinion, this only makes Turkey out to be unique in the region and having a very distinct culture of its own.
By examining the more recent history of the Turkish Republic, I believe that we will be able to understand better some of the current issues that Turkey and the region are facing. Also, I hope that this will help us understand the Turkish identity. With Turkey’s attempt to join the European Union, understanding the Turkish identity may put into question the traditional idea of what it means to be European. Also, with a vast majority of Turkish citizens being Muslim we will be better able to consider Turkey’s situation in the Middle East and the region’s Western relationship as a whole. To me, Taskim Square seems to embody Turkey and its challenging, changing political character - an important aspect to our trip in and our world. Also, it’ll probably be lots of fun!
Happy Holidays to all!

Sweet Tooth

I totally have a sweet tooth, so you can bet that I'll be trying some of these!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mevlevi Sema Ceremony

        One ceremony from our itinerary that I am excited to attend isthe Mevlevi Sema Ceremony. Earlier that day we’ll be at the Galata MevleviTekkesi, which, from what I gather, is a Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall (theMevlevi are an order of Sufis).
    The tradition of the whirling dances originated Konya andeventually spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. Dancers receive 1,001 days oftraining in ethics, codes of behavior, prayer, religious music, etc. to be amember of the dancing order. Directly before the ceremony, dancers fast for a fewhours. They proceed to then whirl in white robes while reciting prayer forabout 15 minutes at a time (I think it’s remarkable that they don’t get dizzy! Icertainly would!). They keep their eyes open and watch the world blur by. Thehope is that after the training and dances, the members of the order go back totheir former occupations and resume their lives with a deeper spiritualunderstanding.
    Due to secularistpolicies, the entire Mevlevi order was outlawed in 1925 by the Turkish government. Though the orderremains illegal, the government granted the Mevlevi rights to perform. Thesedances are mostly tourist attractions nowadays. I found this tradition reallyinteresting because so many cultures have traditional dances, yet I haven’tseen anything like this before. Not only is it a cultural dance, it’s alsoreligious and philosophical and they receive nearly 3 years of instruction! I’m very excited to see this groupperform! 
    This is a link to a youtube video of another group with anarration.There is also a bit of information about this tradition in the Istanbul travelguide we have on page 47 under Winter- events.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Picture found here.
I would have to say that one of the places that I am most excited to visit is Ephesus. Ancient European history has always fascinated me, and I especially enjoyed learning about struggles for power and imperialism and about how this imperialism affected societies' cultures and infrastructures. I enjoy being able to "see" history where it occurred, which is one of the main reasons why I wanted to apply for this course in the first place. My goal is to integrate what I already know about the area with what we see and learn while abroad to create a better understanding of the area and how its past culture has affected its society today. There is so much history surrounding ancient Turkey, with some of its evidence remaining for students and tourists to see today. Experiencing this history on site is what I am most excited about. I want to be able to see the evidence that remains and, as a result, be able to understand more about how and why the Romans, and eventually the Turks, took control of the city.
I remember learning about the Turks in my high school freshman and sophomore World History courses and being enthralled with how conflict and imperialism can change the course of history forever. For me, seeing the sights at Ephesus will allow all that I have learned about it to sink in and solidify the images that I have only seen in my textbooks and on Google. Although I am not sure of everything that we will being doing when we go to Ephesus, I am hoping to be able to see some of the ruins that give clues about Roman imperialism. Ephesus is home to the Temple of Artemis--one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Library of Celsus, and other sites that were built in or around the time of the Roman Empire. Visiting Ephesus, I think, will be one of the most rewarding experiences of the course because it will not only allow us to expand our knowledge about Roman imperialism, but it will also allow us to truly experience some of the most amazing aspects of ancient Turkish history and culture.

Thought you all might enjoy this comic strip... :)

Just a little historical humor to brighten your day! :)

(The comic strip is Barney & Clyde, by Gene Weingarten, Dan Weingarten, and David Clark.  See more here.)

Can't wait for the trip course!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Apocalypse Fever Hits Turkey . . . Again

Just received this in the mail today!
As most of you know I study the Book of Revelation, which is also known as John's Apocalypse and which is the last book of the Christian Bible.  The Apocalypse, which was written in the first century CE as a response to the influence of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor (i.e. modern Turkey), was addressed to Christian congregations in seven cities, including Ephesus . . . one of the cities we will be visiting while we are abroad.  (FYI: I'm giddy over the thought of visiting Ephesus and when we get there you all might have to help me when I faint with excitement.)

Anyway, you all may be aware of the fact that the "Mayan Apocalypse" is predicted for December 21. And, interestingly, it seems that excitement over this apocalyptic scenario (which happens to be a product of European colonialism--ask me about that later) has spread to a little town near Ephesus!  It's like the Apocalypse has come home!

We'll definitely be talking some about the Apocalypse of John when we are in Ephesus (and Laodicea), in part because it shows how one group of people understood and tried to resist Roman imperialism. Also, since one of the aims of this course is to think about how particular fields of study engage in academic inquiry, Michael and I will be highlighting some of the ways that our disciplinary lenses and scholarly interests relate to what we are experiencing in Turkey.

(FYI:  If you're interested in a peak at some of my scholarship that kind of engages the ancient Roman world as it emerged in Asia Minor, you can check out an online article I've published here.  It's written for those in biblical studies, so it's pretty technical.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

OK . . . it's time for this

So, you may be familiar with this song, "Istanbul (not Constantinople).  If not, don't kill me for putting this in your head!  Anyway, while the song was originally record in the 1950s it was covered in 1990 by They Might Be Giants, a smart, yet somewhat nutty, band popular with all the cool kids during that time.  (For what it's worth, I've probably seen TMBG in concert more times than any other band . . . although I'm not 100% sure about that.)  But here you go . . . don't laugh too hard at the 1990s video effects.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sakip Sababcu Museum

Another site near where we will be staying in the second half of the semester is the Sakip Sabnci Museum.  Among their collections is a calligraphy collection, which I'm pretty sure that I will HAVE to see at some point.  It includes a number of illuminated Quran manuscripts.

Click here for information on the museum.

Also, for some information on the importance of calligraphy in Islamic art check out this discussion from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Emirgan Park

During the final portion of our course, we'll be staying in the area of Istanbul called "Istinye."  We'll be near the Bosphorus, as well as Emirgan Park a large historic park that includes Ottoman era pavilions. Although we won't be able to experience the tulip festival, which is apparently quite lovely, it should be an interesting and relaxing place to visit on your own when we have the time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Orpheus Returns

One of the issues related to the study of ancient cultures is the repatriation of art and artifacts.  In the past decade there has been quite a bit of effort by certain countries, including Turkey and Italy, to have ancient art and artifacts returned to their original historical contexts.  Such is the case with this mosaic of Orpheus, which has been housed in a Dallas museum (click here for article).  In some cases, such as this one, museums holding antiquities from ancient contexts, especially pieces whose procurement might be questionable, are taking the first step, returning pieces to their countries of origin.  This issue raises a number of questions, including who should be responsible for historical artifacts and what are the benefits of having artifacts "in situ."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Archeology, Conflict, and Lawrence of Arabia

T.E. Lawrence (left of relief) at Karkemish.
First, I will admit that Lawrence of Arabia, with all of its problems, is probably one of my all-time favorite movies.

This article is an interesting glimpse into the way archeology and conflict intersect.  In particular, the piece talks about an archeological site where Lawrence once worked as an assistant.  The site, Karkemish, is on the boarder between Turkey and Syria.

And, no worries, we will not be visiting Karmeish . . . even though it would be interesting!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Turkish Economic Statistics

Not sure if anyone is interested in this, but I had to do some research on Turkey's economy for my international relations class, so I thought I'd share some stats I found.

GDP PPP: $1.087 trillion (U.S. dollars)

            Revenues: $176.7 billion (U.S. dollars)
            Expenditures: $187.1 billion (U.S. dollars)

Current account balance (negative): -$77.16 billion

Exports: $143.5 billion (U.S. dollars)
            Primary partners:
                       Germany 10.3%, Iraq 6.2%, UK 6%, France 5%, Russia 4.4%

Imports: $232.9 billion (U.S. dollars)
            Primary partners:
                       Russia 9.9%, Germany 9.5%, China 9%, US 6.7%, Italy 5.6%, Iran 5.2%

External Debt: $306.6 billion (U.S. dollars)

Exchange Rates: 1.675 Turkish liras per US dollar

Inflation: 6.5%

Percentage of Population Below the Poverty Line: 16.9%

Tourism, Preservation, and Economics

One of the issues that MVP raised last class was the struggle countries like Turkey face over preserving the past and the need for economic growth.  Should an archeological site be made "tourist friendly" in order to bring in the much needed funds that are required for archeological work and historical preservation?  What if these changes compromise the integrity of the site and the historical record?

A related question is what is the role of museums and other "interpretive institutions" in communicating an historical narrative and to whom should these interpretive narratives be directed?  Does a museum direct it's narrative to tourists who are bringing money into the country or those in country who might have a range of motivations for visiting a museum?

Anyway, these are questions that we will be asking while in Turkey and these are questions and issues that are "real" in Turkish decisions about where to direct money.  See Turkey Embraces Museum-Building Trend.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Welcome to the Elon Honors in Istanbul blog!  This blog is intended to be a place for us (members of the course) to share information about Turkey and Istanbul as we prepare to study abroad together and to share our experiences while abroad so that friends and families can keep up with us. Eventually, we will connect this blog to the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center's web-page, which will allow others in the Elon community to share our adventures and to get a glimpse into all the things we will be learning!

Please feel free to share suggestions for books, articles, and websites that might relate to our time abroad.