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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

January 28, 2011

GREETINGS FROM ISTANBUL

We have been in Istanbul for the past week though I have written plenty about the city; it has mainly been vignettes and yet people do ask, “What is the city like?”

In a nutshell... it is like any other mega city in the world. Istanbul has about 15 million people and if someone plunked you down in the middle of the city you would be hard pressed to specifically identify the place or people. They look like... people. Nothing terribly exotic. People dress like you and me. Yes, I know it has a Muslim heritage and so we think that all women wear scarves and/or veils. Fact is…very, very few women cover their heads. Young women dress like you’d see at the local malls in Columbus, young men like any young man on campus. Businessmen and women dress for success. Little kids have sports sweatshirts, little girls have “Hello Kitty” outfits. I have seen more than one old gent wear a NY Yankees “NY” ball cap.

Language-wise it is Turkish. Most of the business people know a smattering of English so we can limp along (we know zero Turkish). “Hello“, “bye-bye”, “how much”, “Coke”, “give me that”… all will get you through the day. They write out the cost or show you the calculator total for a meal or pair of shoes (of which I have first-hand knowledge). Or they tell you the cost, many speak excellent English. The waiters at the hotel restaurants are very fluent, the small local eateries which we frequent know little English. We point on the menu, when we finish, they point to the cost on the bill. (Add a bit for the tip!)

“Wranglers” outside the restaurants are quite insistent, so are many of the shop owners in the Bazaar. You really have to take it with humor otherwise you’ll be worn out. (Smile, walk fast and tell them you are from Chicago... keep MOVING) Those guys are world class when it comes to talking, yelling, insisting, showing and enticing you into their restaurant or shop. You are safe, but worn out.

There are also world-class fashion stores and arts and crafts. It’s a vibrant city of hills and mosques and ferry boats. We went up into the Golata Tower which overlooks part of the city. (Google it) Across the water are many mosques which dominate the landscape (and a zillion apt buildings and businesses), But the mosques appear to be huge space ships come down to earth which settled in the midst of neighborhoods. I was told that as each new Sultan came to power, he tried to outdo the previous sultan with a great mosque. (Sort of like Presidential libraries in the U.S.) Thus, Istanbul has its quota of mosques. The New Mosque is 400 years old, which gives you an idea of their conception of time.

Ferry boats take you from the Asian side of the city to all parts of the city. Many people live in Asia and commute to Europe. Ferries everywhere. Oil tankers and massive cargo ships head up and down the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. Ocean going ships go north and south; ferries go east and west. Guess who wins when they meet at the intersection?

Istanbul is as massive as New York, as watery and hilly as San Francisco and as crazy as Mumbai. With 15 million people, I imagine you would get as many opinions as to who they think they are, but suffice it to say, they are citizens of a great city, unlike any other and proud of it.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

To follow Bob's journey via his blog, check in daily at:   www.revbobsjourney.blogspot.com

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