“Life ends, but Istanbul never will!”
News and photographs: Andra-Gabriela Bichigean
Turkey is the country that tells you stories all the way through. Stories from the Ottoman Empire, stories from a culture that resists to changes. The whole country is wonderful and wherever you go you have something to see, to live and to learn. The same thing happens with Istanbul, the only city in the world that lies on two continents, Europe and Asia. The city with over 15 million inhabitants and the main financial, commercial and cultural center of Turkey, also one of the largest metropolises in the world.
Since I came to this great city I was impressed by how much history it has at every corner and by the unique mosaic of culture and traditions that make Istanbul to be alive. There’s one saying: “Life ends, but Istanbul never will!” So I decided to interview some of the Erasmus students from Üsküdar University about their experiences here and to discover what they think about the Turkish culture and about Istanbul.
Denisa Arsene (Psychology student from Romania): There are a lot of similiarities between the Turkish and Romanian culture
I am Romanian, so I observed a lot of similarities between the Turkish and the Romanian culture regarding the customs, funerals, weddings. We also have similar food, except the spicy ones. Since I came to Istanbul, I have tasted a lot of traditional food, I do not remember their names because there were a lot and the language is so hard for me. However, I have learned an important thing - the Romanian kebab is prepared in a wrong way here. Because it is served as wrap and actually the real kebab is not supposed to be like this. Its taste is delicious. I also tried baklava and it is so good compared to what we can find in Romania.
I like Turkish people because they are very friendly and they are always smiling at guests, as Romanians also do. And about Istanbul, it is a city full of life. I love that. I also was impressed by the Turkish males' concern towards females. I came across with some difficulties and they were always willing to help me, for example in the metro. I also learned that we have a lot of common words, like: Cearșaf, făraș, papuci, ceai, pachet.
Diana Mihai (Psychology student from Romania): Istanbul is amazing and everyone should visit it
I really like Istanbul because there are a lot of places that one can visit, for example the Hagia Sophia Museum. This place is amazing and everyone should visit it. I love that Istanbul is a diverse city, you can find here people from all around the world, you can interract with them and discover new things. In Istanbul you never get bored. I am fascinated by everything that is happening here and I hope I will have enough time to visit as many places as possible. In addition, I like the Turkish culture and also I like the people because they are so friendly and warm and they always want to help, similar to us. The traditional food is very tasty, I like Turkish breakfast because it has a lot of sortiments that you can choose. And also as a coffee drinker, I enjoy the Turkish coffee.
Lidia Miranda (Psychology student from Spain): The good part of a big city as İstanbul is that you have everything
When I arrived I thought that people here are crazy because of the way they drive. I was alone with all my stuff and I was afraid because it is a really huge city and I am not used to see that. Honestly, I do not like big cities because I think that everybody has a busy routine and people don’t enjoy little things. But the good part of a big city as Istanbul is that you have everything. If I need something I just turn the corner and I find a lot of restaurants or whatever I want. This would not be possible in a small village.
After a month, I can say that I got used to Istanbul and it is a nice city. I like Turkish people, how they try to help each other. For example, Lina, my buddy, she helped me with all the stuff. Even before coming here, she was always texting me. She helped me to do my Istanbulkart and so on. About the food, I like some of them and I can not say the same for the others. It is simply because I’m not a big fan of spicy food. But the one that I really like is dürüm.
I joined the Turkish classes and I think it is a very difficult language but when you start understanding it, then you find it more beautiful. In the beggining you just hear noises and you do not understand anything, but when you start recognising some words, then you become very proud of yourself.
Something that impressed me is that they are very good merchants because they can make you buy what they want to sell. A funny thing happened recently to me and my mom. We went to the Spice Baazar and we just wanted to smell some tea, but we returned back home with 5-6 different types of tea.
Pilar Esteban (Psychology student from Spain): Turkish people are friendly
I think that the Turkish culture is nice because the people here are more friendly than in Spain. I can see that in the way they treat us in classroom. For example, In Spain, Erasmus students are always out of the class, they do not interact with the rest of the class. In Istanbul I did not feel that. Since the moment I came here, people came to me and started introducing themselves. They are calmer than people in my country and you can feel it in the way they walk on the street. Also, I like the food, it is very good and I’ve tried a lot of dishes and desserts. But my favorite is Künefe.
And about Istanbul, I really like it. To be honest, it was shocking to me that it is this big. 15 millions people… but since the Bosphorus devides the city into two, you do not feel it at all and it feels more relaxed. I like that Istanbul has a lot of history and wherever you go you can find something interesting. Another thing that I like are the mosques because we do not have mosques in Spain.
Arne Scharf (Psychology student from Germany): There are a lof of things to do and see
My impression about this city after the first couple of weeks in Istanbul is really good. I mean I like the city especially because there are a lot of things to do and see. You can see something new everyday but sometimes the noise and all the trouble can get a bit overwhelming to me. I like the Turkish food, particulary the dessert Künefe. Until now most of the Turkish people have been nice and open towards me even sometimes it is hard to communicate but I’m trying to work on that and to learn a little bit Turkish. In addition, the place that I want to visit during my time here is a mosque because I have never been in any mosque in my life.
Sara Gil (New Media and Journalism student from Spain): Istanbul is full of history and culture
I think that Istanbul is a cool place to stay because it is full of history and culture, such as Otoman Emipre and there are a lot of things to see: beaches, parks and nice places. For example, for me, coming from a small town to such a big city as Istanbul, it gave me the opportunity to do and see a lot of things. I did not know how it is going to be living here because I have never been before. But after I arrived, I opened my eyes and saw how beautiful the country is and experienced how it feels to live here. I can say that it is very nice and I love being in Istanbul. My favorite place is Șișhane and also I really like Kadıköy. I did not know any Turkish people before but after coming here, I met a lot of very nice, humble, polite and really welcoming people. I love the Turkish food, it is very tasty. I love gözleme with spinach and cheese and also pide with cheese.
Marta Gonzales (New Media and Journalism student from Spain): I was surprised mostly about how good public transportation is
I did not use to like big cities before coming here but İstanbul changed my mind because it is a whole experience. There are so many things to do, to see and new things to try because the culture is so different. I was happy that it is cheaper and bigger than I thought. I did not know much about Istanbul and that is why I came here. I wanted to see something different and new and it was for sure worth it: food, traffic, people, the size of the city, language etc. And for being that different, you can learn many useful things. I was surprised mostly about how good public transportation is and how crazy the traffic is. Also, I was impressed by people because every time we go to a place and they do not know our language, they are always so helpful, so welcoming to us and it is kind of nice because when you are new somewhere you appreciate and you need this. Before coming here I was somewhat confused because I did not know how was going to be and I expected more rudeness and less politeness from Turkish people against foreigners. And also I expected my experience to be harder because I’m a woman. But then I realized that it is not that bad living here.
Chantre Sánchez (Psychology student from Spain): Istanbul is too crowded for me
Well, I cannot say that I completely love Istanbul because it is too crowded and the transportation is too complicated for me. But before my Erasmus I have been to Istanbul four-five times so I guess somehow I love it. The thing is that I have good friends here and because of them, I choose to study in Istanbul. I have a friend from Spain who was studying here one year ago and she loved it and she made me meet a lot of Turkish people, people who are very friendly. Also I like to visit some places like Taksim, Istiklal Street. I like European side more because it makes me feel like I am in Spain. And about the Turkish food, usually I do not eat it, but I like Kebab.