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Posted on June 18, 2014

Eight Cal U students explored Turkey on a 10-day trip organized by Cal U’s Office of International Programming and sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Center of Pittsburgh. Each day they sent news of their activities to share with the Cal U community.

June 25: Here's one final note from Dr. Rebecca Regeth, who accompanied the students on their travels.

Airport in TurkeyHome. Four of the students had a flight home on United at 8 a.m. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time, but we immediately got confused. The airport was huge and we could not find the United Airlines counter. We asked so many different people and got as many answers, but none of them really helped much because either they didn’t understand us or we didn’t understand them.  

Finally we realized that the United flight was on Turkish Airlines. They flew through Frankfurt, Germany, and Washington, D.C. The flight was delayed, but eventually it arrived.

My group flew on AirCanada at 11 a.m. The flight took off about two hours late, so we missed our [original] connection, but we were able to get on the last flight of the night. The flight from Istanbul to Toronto was 11 hours long; fortunately there are movies and music onboard. When I finally arrived home, I had been traveling for 26 hours.
It was an amazing experience that I will remember forever. Many thanks to the Turkish Cultural Center and Cal U for providing us the opportunity of a lifetime.

June 24: The students wrap up their trip with a final account from Emily Dickey.Street scene in Turkey

Today was our last real day in Turkey. Without any real plans, our day ended up being more American than Turkish. We started out by flying to back Istanbul [and after meeting our guide] we went to a shopping mall with a food court for lunch. The mall was in the Asian half of Istanbul; during our previous stay in Istanbul we’d spent our time in the European section of the city.

Many people slept on our ride back to our lodgings, but we woke them up before we crossed the bridge that connects Europe and Asia.

We finally got to the place we were staying, Fatih Koleji. It is a college, and we stayed in the guest house (because we're VIPs!) and ate dinner at the college. We had stuffed peppers, a bread/pastry dish with cheese, soup and salad.

Then we took two taxis to Taksim Square because we liked it there the first time we were in Istanbul. We walked around, did some shopping, got some snacks and found a geocache before going back to get ready for our departure the next day.

June 23: As the students’ journey nears its end, Hannah Fleming and Emily Dickey describe a visit to the city of Konya, home of Melvana University.

Today we got up, packed our bags, ate breakfast and loaded into a van-bus for the drive to Konya. The scenery in this area was pretty flat, with a lot of farmland; it looked kind of like Ohio. About half way through the drive we stopped for a break at a place that was actually meant for that, hundreds of years ago: It was kind of a pit stop/hotel for businessmen traveling on the famous spice route. 

Before long we arrived at Mevlana (Rumi) University. We ate lunch in the cafeteria and then we got a tour of the university, which had some interesting rooms, like an anatomy lab with a real cadaver, and a courtroom.Building at Melvana University in Turkey

Next we went to a museum where the poet/philosopher Rumi is buried. It is also where [an Islamic sect known as] the whirling dervishes lived. We also went to an Orthodox church … in a little town next to Konya, called Sille. At the church we saw a bride and groom getting their wedding pictures taken. 

[Later that evening we visited] a Turkish family's house! Here we met the host family: mom, dad, daughter, oldest son, neighbors and many other people. We all started out with small talk about ourselves and Turkey. We were worried that it would be awkward because none of our hosts spoke English, and our guide Mehmet was the only one out of the 15-20 people there who spoke both English and Turkish. However, everyone soon opened up.

After a while the mother brought in tea and Turkish trail mix (it had different stuff in it than American trail mix). While we were eating, the family said they wanted to show us their home, so we went on a house tour.

Afterward the mother brought us more tea, watermelon, bananas and plums. Then she showed us how to make Turkish coffee; we had drunk it many times before, but we’d never seen the process of making it. 

[Before we left] we gave the family gifts to thank them for their hospitality, and they gave us gifts, too!  

We were very sad because today was our last day with Mehmet, who has to fly back to the States. We are definitely going to miss him (and his sense of humor) tomorrow. Thank you, Mehmet, for helping us have such an enjoyable trip. We should all go geocaching sometime, and we're looking forward to the reunion dinners!

We only have one more full day in Turkey. We will all be kind of sad to leave, but I think we're ready to be home; we're drained! Tomorrow we get to have a day to do whatever we want, and we’ll wind down before going home.

June 22: All eight student travelers — Cody Cross, Matt Shorraw, Hannah Fleming, Lauren Johnson, Amy Burnett, John Burnett, Clark Bacharach and Emily Dickey — contributed to this account of the group’s visit to the historic Cappadocia region of Turkey, where they visited another underground city.

In this underground city 3,000 people lived, but they only went there when there were enemies outside. This city seemed more spacious [than the one we visited previously]. The tunnels were shorter but wider, and there were a lot of rooms that were very big. However, you had to watch where you were walking, because there were holes all over the floor for storage, traps, communication and ventilation. Hilside dwellings in Cappadocia, Turkey

Next we went to a market store to try some locally made food, such as milky pumpkin seeds, apricot chocolate, sun-dried apricots, dried mulberries, Turkish delight, and pomegranate tea.

We continued through Cappadocia, which is a region, although most people think of it as the place with the pointy stone houses and rock formations. We stopped at an area where we could see those structures down in a valley … then we went down to get an up-close view of what we had seen. Here we could climb all over the old houses and desert hills.  It was so much fun. 

[After lunch] we needed a break after all that climbing, so we went to a place where they teach women how to make handmade rugs, which Turkey is famous for because they use a double knot instead of single knot. The process was amazing and so were their final creations, which are made of silk, wool and cotton. They are like art, very expensive and very beautiful.

Some of us were tired of looking at old pretty things, so when [Dr. Rebecca Regeth] told us there was a geocache nearby, we were excited to go! We found a more remote area of Cappadocia and climbed up some hills. After a few minutes, we found it! We were all very excited, especially our guide, Mehmet. 

After dinner we found a park area where there was a fountain with colorful lights synchronized to music. We also went to a store like a Turkish Target.  It was interesting to see what kind of stuff Turkish people buy, because obviously they don't just shop in the Grand Bazaar all the time. 

Some other interesting things we saw and learned today:

  • To us, things seem really cheap in Turkey, because $1 equals approximately 2TL (Turkish lira), but for Turkish people, a lira is like a dollar because they don't make as much money. 
  • Being good to the environment is important here.  For example, the lights are on motion sensors and turn off if there's no one in the room, and in the hotel rooms you have to put your key card in a slot to be able to have electricity and air conditioning.

June 21: Today faculty member Dr. Rebecca Regeth describes the group’s visit to Kayseri, a city in central Turkey.

We woke up early and took a flight to Istanbul, then another flight to Kayseri, where we were shown an area like the Grand Bazaar. At this point, though, we were tired of shopping. The students said they missed just knowing the price and paying without all the negotiations. A picture of Kayseri, Turkey

We went to a mental hospital from the 12th century. They trained doctors there and helped the mentally ill by playing music and treating them with kindness. I teach psychology, and I know that throughout history people who are mentally ill were not treated well. I really liked seeing the hospital and will talk about it to my students when I teach about the history of mental illness. 

Our guide Mehmet had a surprise for us after lunch. We drove up to the mountains. We could even see snow at the top. The best part of the mountain was the enclosed chairlift that took us to the top. The view was amazing! Most of us hiked up the mountain from there. It was very steep and the air was very thin, so I had trouble breathing. I looked at my GPS and it said 8,930 feet elevation — almost two miles above sea level. No wonder! 

The next stop was an underground city. We entered a small passageway and ducked down as we walked. … The city was amazing. At one point there was a hole that the original occupants would jump over.  Enemies didn’t know it was there, so they would fall to their deaths. 

At dinner I had a bad headache. The combination of not enough sleep, huge elevation changes and dehydration got the best of me. I went to bed very early.

Student Emily Dickey adds these thoughts: Students enjoy a meal in Istanbul, Turkey

[In Kayseri] we went through the old Grand Bazaar and ended up in a very interesting square. It is unique because from it you can see architecture from five different eras in Turkish history.

We made our way through a new park with beautiful fountains to a very old insane asylum/school. It was very cool to learn that even though this place was [many centuries] old, they used music and water sounds to try to treat the mentally ill. 

As we exited the museum, Hannah pointed out a snow-capped mountain in the distance. It was the very place we were going next! … [After a van ride and a ride on a chairlift] we were up so high that we were pretty close to some snow in one area. We had such a fun time looking at the rocks, plants, animals, mountain scenery and the amazing view. 

But it was so cold! Luckily there was a cafe back near the cable cars where we sat with blankets wrapped around us, drank hot drinks and talked about Turkish and American (and Spanish) cultures and languages. We have been learning so much this way, from Mehmet, his friends that join us, and our guides and drivers. I like to think we are also teaching our Turkish friends a little bit more about the U.S. on this trip. 

After the mountain, we went to an underground city. We had no warning that we were going to be walking in a tunnel that was too small to stand up in and WAY too narrow for more than a single-file line of people; in some areas we had to turn sideways! Then we got to a larger area that was another entrance to the city. It had a stone door to roll in front, and a trap that would catch enemies who didn't know it was there. …

By this point in the trip, the food has started to become familiar to us, but for dinner we had food unique to Kayseri — a soup/pasta dish you eat by putting yogurt on top and sprinkling on spices and herbs, including mint. Another main dish was ground meat on flat bread that you rolled up with your fork. This meal was so delicious!

Every time I think of how lucky I am to have gotten the chance to do this, I can't help but smile! This wonderful experience in Turkey is going to come to an end sooner than I would like!

June 20: The group visits the historic city of Ephesus, and students Matt Shorrow, Emily Dickey and Amy Burnett describe their travels.

Today we ventured outside of Izmir. Once we got out of the city, the land was mostly dedicated to agriculture; there were a lot of peach, tangerine and pomegranate trees. It was great to look at the scenery, which was much different than what we're used to in Pennsylvania. A statue in Ephesus, Turkey

We passed through some other towns until we arrived at the Virgin Mary's house — as in Mary and Joseph; the mother of Jesus Christ. It was incredible to think of that history, even for the people who aren't particularly religious. The house was up on top of a mountain, nearby to the main area of Ephesus, where we would be going later. It was made of stone and still in relatively good condition.  

After that we made our way down the mountain and witnessed a ceramics master making a pot and learned about the process from start to finish. Then we went downstairs to look at their masterpieces, and I think we were all confused when the man said he was going to turn off the lights.  We were astonished when the glaze of the pottery glowed, due to a special moonstone recipe!  Then everyone bought some pottery, because there was no way we could pass up such beautiful artwork for such a good price.  

After forcing ourselves to leave the ceramics studio, we went to lunch in the small town nearby. Being in a small town made it seem like home. We ate at a restaurant where you told the man behind the counter what foods you wanted and he just put them on your plate. We all ate a different combination of foods so we got to try lots of things.  

Later we made our way to Ephesus, which we had all been looking forward to. …  It was like stepping back in time. It was so awesome to walk where so many important historical and religious figures had been. …

We were a little ahead of schedule, and much to our surprise, we were told we weren't going to the hotel; we were going to the beach! We were so excited! The beach is a little outside of Izmir and it is on the Aegean Sea.  

Since we hadn't planned on going to the beach, we didn't have swimsuits, so we just waded in the water and looked for shells and rocks. We only spent a short time there, and after we managed to wash some of the sand off, we had a nice relaxing drive back to Izmir.  

After dinner we went back to the hotel to pack up and rest, because tomorrow we fly to Kayseri. Although we've only been touring Turkey for four days so far, the number of things we have seen and done makes it seem much longer. When this trip is over, we're really going to miss Turkey, its culture and spending time with all the new friends we have made. This is an experience that is going to be with us for the resto of our lives.

June 19: Today students Hannah Fleming, Emily Dickey, John Burnett and Amy Burnett, along with faculty member Dr. Rebecca Regeth, report on their visit to the city of Izmir.

Today we woke up in Istanbul and after breakfast went straight to the airport.  There we got on a very nice half-hour flight and landed in Izmir. 

(For lunch) we had pizza with many Turkish toppings, and many kinds of stuffed breads.  Many students tried Ayran and Turkish coffee. Ayran is a drink made of yogurt, salt and water. Turkish coffee is very thick and (served in small cups) like espresso; it tastes very strong. Then we walked down a long street lined with stores where they sell cheap clothes. The deals were so good we couldn't pass them up. 

Then we got to go on another boat ride. The boat dropped us off on the other side of Izmir, where we … wandered the streets a little and went to look out on the sea. Then we got in our vehicle and rode up the mountain to get a view of the city from above. It's like Mount Washington in Pittsburgh. From there we could see the mountains, water, and buildings. Turkey-Izmir.jpg

Izmir is a lot different from Istanbul; the buildings aren't as tall and they are more spread out.  Twenty million people live in Istabul (one-third of the Turkish population) and 4 million live in Izmir.  At the look-out area there was a restaurant where many of us tried a different assortment of drinks, such as a spicy carrot/beet drink, more Ayran, and peach juice.  

After leaving the beautiful view, we headed to dinner. At the restaurant there were chickens and peacocks that roamed around. After myriad appetizers, we had pita bread with beef on top, with sauce on top of that, and yogurt on the side.  It was so delicious!  We asked Mehmet if we were going to have dessert and he said that this restaurant doesn't serve dessert.  He fooled us all, because much to our surprise, as we sat there sipping our tea, the waitress brought out a cake with candles, singing happy birthday to (another student in the group) Cody! 

On the way out of the restaurant we were passed by a long line of cars honking their horns, which we thought was obnoxious until we learned it was a wedding!  Then we went back to the hotel for a little bit before going out for a late-night walk along the Mediterranean.  It was such a nice night out, especially compared to the heat of the day.  Some students went to look for a geocache with (Dr.) Rebecca (Regeth). We have been looking for them various times throughout the trip, and it's so cool when we find one. However, we couldn't find this one.

We relaxed at a restaurant along the side of the sea until after midnight. It is common for people to be out this late in Turkey.  Then we returned to the hotel, exhausted, but ready for another day. 

Some other interesting things we saw and learned today:

  • Don't pet dogs in Turkey or they will follow you around the streets for hours.
  • The street where our hotel is has dozens of stores dedicated to wedding dresses, that are the most beautiful we have seen!
  • There are lots of trees here, but it's not like forests in Pennsylvania.  There are lots of dirt, rocks and brown grass in between the trees.  The mountains here are also different than the Appalachian Mountains. The rest of the ground is flat, but then there are random mountains all over.

June 18: Here’s another report from Istanbul, written by student travelers Hannah Fleming, Lauren Johnson and Emily Dickey.

Today we had a tour guide to give us information and tell us the history of everywhere we went. We met her at the Topkapi Palace.  It used to be the (seat of) government in Turkey when the sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire, but now it is a museum. 

Along with touring the gorgeous palace, we saw weapons and armor, jewels, and the clothing of the sultans. The sultans had to appear to be very large, so their clothes are huge. Speaking of huge, we saw an 86-carat diamond! In addition, we saw Moses' staff and David's sword, which was awesome because they were things many of us could relate to, even though we aren't Muslim. A stone bilding in Turkey

Next we walked to the Hagia Sofia, a famous museum that used to be a mosque that used to be a church. It was very interesting because you could see both Christian and Muslim elements. Part of it was under restoration, but it was still beautiful. 

At lunch everyone ordered different Turkish foods, some already familiar to us and some not. Then we walked to the Hippodrome, which is an area with several monuments where they used to race chariots a long time ago. … Then we entered the Blue Mosque, another of the very famous places in Istanbul. It is known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles covering the walls. All of the tiles are original to the mosque, and they are very detailed.

The next place was a relief to go to because it was very cool (as in temperature, but it was also cool as in awesome). The Basilica Cistern was completely underground and consisted of arches and pillars. It's around 1,500 years old! The entire exhibit was almost completely dark, but the magic of the pillars and arches could be captured with the flash of a camera. Each pillar had a unique design. There were also giant carp living in the water. 

The Basilica Cistern was the last thing on our agenda, so after taking a rest we decided to explore the Grand Bazaar. Basically it is a giant labyrinth of over 4,000 stores where everyone is trying to sell you something. If you thought salespeople in the U.S. were persistent, you should come here! 

Then we went to dinner where they just filled up the table with all kinds of different foods and everyone dug in. Tomorrow morning we are flying to Izmir to experience a new city. 

Some other interesting things we saw and learned today:

  • They announce prayer times over speakers all over the city. In the Topkapi Palace we heard a man who sits there all day singing verses from the Qur'an.
  • -Right at this very moment can we hear cats fighting outside our hotel window. However, most of the cats we see are nice and let you pet them. There are also many dogs.

Check back soon for more news from our student travelers in Turkey.

June 17: Today’s report comes from Istanbul, a world city at the junction where East meets West. The writer is Emily G. Dickey, a communication disorders major with a minor in Spanish:


Istanbul rooftop view. Today was a great first (full) day in Turkey!  We did a lot of touring around Istanbul. At the start of the day we ate a breakfast unlike any breakfast I've ever had in the U.S. It was very eclectic, including bread, olives, a strange juice, warm yogurt and milk, French fries, watermelon, more olives, lots of vegetables, and little green sour plums. 

The first place we went to was a miniature museum, called Miniaturk, to learn about the history and background of many of the sites we would see later. It had dozens of miniature models of buildings all throughout Istanbul and the rest of Turkey. Some of us went to a photo place there and got dressed up in traditional Turkish garb. After that we went to a mosque. … The stained glass windows were awesome and the architecture was amazing. 

We ate lunch at a restaurant next to the mosque, where we fed chicken to a cat under the table. There are many cats around Istanbul. … Next we went to Taksim Square, where the protests were last year, and we walked down a walkway lined with shops. 

Then we had another short ride to go to our boat tour. … We went right under the bridge that connects Europe and Asia. After that we went to dinner at a restaurant called Vefa, which means Loyalty, where we had a lot of good food, and of course Turkish tea. After a short break at the hotel we went on a walk to find Turkish ice cream, which was a great end to our day.

Some other interesting things we saw and learned today:

  • There are many Syrian refuges in Turkey because of the violence in Syria. 
  • Turkish toilets are very different from American toilets.
  • Some French words are used in Turkey, such as merci (“thank you”).
  • People eat dinner late in Turkey, around 8:30 p.m.