Blog ISTANBULFebruary June 2016
My name is Daniel Schreckenberg and I am studying industrial engineering at Hochschule Mannheim in Germany. Mannheim is located in Baden Wrttemberg, the south part of Germany. Since the beginning it was clear that I would make a semester abroad if I get the chance to. To choose the right country is not easy, many influences have to be considered. You must be aware of valid legal positions, possible risks and dangers in the chosen country. Important for me was to see something totally different to my home country. I wanted to live in a cultural and traditional totally differenced area. Furthermore I was looking for a university, which offers a wide array of English speaking courses. Regarding to these facts, I decided to go to Istanbul Technical University.
PreparationThe next step includes the course decision, which depended largely on my hometown university, which had to proof and approve the coincided course contents. Nevertheless I was able to choose among more or less ten courses. Unfortunately accepted my university primarily management related courses. After all these criteria I needed to check the availability of the courses from ITU. To meat all this requirements I chose finally four courses: Production Planning & Control, Quality Standards & Certificate, English and Project Management.Planning the accommodation showed already the first difference between the countries. I was used to live in a dormitory in Germany, which offers rooms for girls as well as boys and national students as well as international students. But when I applied for a room in the Turkish dormitory in order to be close to the university and get in touch with Turkish students fast, I received the answer that the Istanbul dormitories do not offer rooms for international students. Even though the Erasmus students obviously pay a little bit more if they rent their flats at typically Erasmus landlords, the price for renting a flat is in Turkey almost the same as in Germany.
TrafficThe most dangerous thing if you are unknown in this city is probably not the crime but rather the traffic, to which I am even at the end of the exchange program not used to. In Germany is honking in town forbidden and is used rarely only for warnings or to complain about rude behaviours. Compared with Istanbul where honking is part of the everyday life and even used to pass road users. Another example is the zebra crossings, which are almost unnecessary, because no road user pay attention to the passengers who are willing to cross the street. On the other hand the prices for public transportation are much cheaper than in Germany. Even if I made two bad experiences with taxi drivers who cheated on me with the money or the route, all in all it is safe and very cheap to use public transportations.
Culture & FoodIn the first weeks I started to try all the food specialities and discovered Istanbul. I tried the typical food like Tavuk Pilav, Kokorec or even the wet burger, who were suggested me to eat after partying by my Turkish buddy. When I tried the Turkish Kebap I just noticed that even if we call the food in Germany Kebap, they have actually not too much in common. While the German Kebap is much bigger, includes more meat and yoghurt-sauce is part of it, the Turkish Kebap is more spicy, tastes very fresh and does not include any sauce. Even if I am used to the German style of Kebap, I think the real Kebap can only be found in Turkey. A highlight for me was the Raki night in which I really enjoyed the Turkish traditional food and culture. Luckily I got the chance to celebrate the Raki night among only Turkish people, which enabled me to see the eventually way and procedure of such a night. It was really familiar and close and showed me that family and friends have a really high priority for Turkish people. I could recognize this familiar behaviour even on the streets in Istanbul when normal friends walked arm in arm along their ways now I understood why people call us Germans cold.My favourite meal became Kumpir, very delicious, enough to satisfy hunger and simple. It is prepared out of big boiled potatoes, which are cut in the middle and mixed with butter and cheese. Then, you choose your side dishes out of a large number of offers at will. Kumpir is not originally from Turkey but can be found meanwhile everywhere in the country. For breakfast I love to go to Besiktas, the best area for good breakfast in Istanbul. A lot of small coffees in this area offer the typical Turkish breakfast menus. The breakfast consists generally of white cheese (similar to feta), old cheese, olives, butter, honey, jam, tomatoes, cucumbers and an omelette. The omelette is called in Turkey Menemen and the best part of Turkish breakfast in my opinion. Actually there is not such a big difference between the German breakfasts except one - no coffee in the morning. The Turkish people love to drink Chai, a variant of black tea, in the morning. There is a possibility to find Turkish coffee in Istanbul but I honestly prefer the western style of coffee and kept on drinking tea in Turkey. In the afternoon we often played Tavla while enjoying a Chai and smoking Shisha. Tavla is the most typical Turkish boardgame and is known in Germany as Backgammon. The game is a combination of luck and strategy, which makes it always very thrilling.
JourneysAfter these impressions of the every day life in Istanbul I made a lot of more great experiences. Istanbul itself with an area of 5,343 km2 makes it impossible to see all of it but I tried to see as much as possible during my exchange. As time passed I found my favourite places and made a lot of trips, which I want to mention. I love being in Karaky, full of small teashops with a lot of young people, and walking along the Bosporus. The Galata-Tower is one of my favourite places I visited, which enables you the greatest views over Istanbul from upstairs. When I wanted to enjoy the green parts of Istanbul I went with my friends to one of the big parks, for example the Macka Park, which is placed right next to my faculty and is a meeting place for every kind of people. We spent there a lot of time by slack lining, other kind of sports or just sun bathing. Another highlight was a hop on hop off ferry tour on the Bosporus, which I used to see Kadiky. This part of Istanbul on the Asian side offers a lot of nice places near the water and showed me probably the best sunset so far. Not to forget Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia, which shows one of the most impressive buildings in my opinion. Beside the architectural aspects, the historically and religious aspects of Hagia Sophia are very interesting as well. Near to Sultanahmet is the Topkapi Palace located, which was one of the major residences of the Otooman sultans for almost 400years. Beside a museum and exhibitions of old Turkish weapons, the palace offers fantastic views over the Bosphorus. It has nice places for taking unique pictures and enables you to see the Asian side from there. Furthermore the Imperial harem is part of the palace, which occupied one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan unbelievable that the harem contained more than 400 rooms.When the warnings in the centre of Istanbul increased, I decided to spend one day at the Belgrad Forest to avoid the crowded places. For tracking fans a paradise with long tracking paths and great views over the lake, positioned in the middle of the forest.
After some local trips in Istanbul and surroundings I also did some long distance trips. The first trip was to Cappadocia and organized by ESN the Erasmus Student Network. We left Istanbul of Thursday night by bus and arrived quite tired on Friday morning after only a couple hours of sleep. After some breakfast and rest time, we had our first sightseeing stop at Rose Valley. There you have an amazing view over the valley and you can see the famous tree full of Nazar boncugu, the blue eye that brings luck and protects you in the Turkish culture you can find it almost everywhere. In the afternoon we reached our next target the Fairy Chimneys. It is a valley full of stones whos shape reminds to chimneys or mushrooms. A personal guide, who joined us the whole trip, gave us always background information and explained us that volcanic eruptions are the reason for these special shapes. Then, the bus driver took us to our hotel in where we stayed during the weekend. We had dinner and got ready for another special part the Turkish Bath. I was not in saunas and wellness centres for a long time, therefore, I was really excited. It started with a facemask, continued at the sauna area and finally transferred to the Turkish massages. Relaxed and pain-free did we die out in the whirlpool. The next morning started very early in order to see Cappadocia from upstairs. A bus drove us to the starting point of the hot air balloons, the probably most exciting attraction of Cappadocia. In almost 1000 m height I could see the most amazing view of this trip with an uncountable number of balloons around us. Later in the day we visited the underground city, which was built in the 8th -7th century and extended to a depth of 60 m. Unbelievable that around 20,000 people were able to live there. Next point on our program was the Turkish Night and took place at a typically Turkish restaurant with a nice atmosphere. Belly dancers during the meals gained our attention and after some Raki drinks even some of us got in dancing mood. In the next morning the bus was already waiting for departure and a ten-hour bus ride was imminent. All in all it was an unforgettable trip, which I highly recommend to everyone.
Another trips aim was to Izmir and environment, 500 kmsouth from Istanbul. To not lose time I decided to takethe plane, which only takes 45 minutes from IstanbulAtatrk Airport. With a group of ten people