The decline of the Ottoman Empire started long before WWI, but was truly finished by the end of the war. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a Turkish army officer during the war led the Turkish National Movement to victory in the Turkish War of Independence in 1923. As the first President of Turkey, he enacted a variety of reforms, including using the Roman alphabet for Turkish rather than Arabic, building thousands of new schools and primary education made free and compulsory, giving women given civil and political rights, and creating a secular state. This statue commemorates these reforms.
We saw photos of Atatürk many places (his last name was bestowed upon him for his sole use in 1934), and he reminded us of a Hollywood movie star.
One of our tour days took us to the New District where many buildings were from the 18th and 19th centuries. The main drag, Istiklal Street looks like a major shopping district from any large city, boasting all kinds of American stores (for better or for worse) as well as trendy European boutiques.
We enjoyed this view of the New District and the Galata Tower across the Golden Horn.
We took the funicular up the hill and got out at Taksim Square and met at the Monument of the Republic.
Here Yaren told us how she was part of the Gezi Park protests in 2013 which started at Taksim Square where the park is when the government decided to create a shopping mall in the park, a park that was near and dear to many Istanbulites. This protest led to more throughout the country concerning the freedom of the press, expression, assembly, and the government’s changing stand on Turkey’s secularism. Stories like this certainly put a personal face on a national episode.
History lesson learned, the tour took a cheerier turn as Yaren led us on a culinary adventure, having us taste a little bit of something in a variety of places from her favorite spots.
We started with dessert at İnci Pastanesi – these profiterole – a cream puff that is drenched in chocolate sauce, I could have been happy with this alone for the rest of the afternoon, but we had only just begun. We also had one of these little pastries. You can see one of the Atatürk pictures on the wall in the shop.
Next we sucked on hard candies procured from these large glass jars.
Moving backwards from sweets to regular food, we landed at Saray, and had this su boregi stuffed with cheese to go with our tea.
When I thought that I couldn’t stuff any more into my mouth, we walked a little ways to a side street where we were offered two kinds of adventurous street food. The first was stuffed mussels, and the second was sheep’s intestines on a roll. I decided to be brave. After all, I was in a new country for cultural experience! I tried the sheep’s intestine, and I could not believe how delicious it was. I ended up having two…. I think that sometimes you should try a new food without knowing exactly what it is before you make up your mind about it!