Summer in Turkey

turkeyWith much enthusiasm for our native countries, Bengi Korkmaz, MBA 2, Christos Stergiou, MBA 2. and I organized a trip to Turkey and Greece this past summer. While we wanted the trip to give an opportunity to GSBers to explore the history, culture, food, nightlife, and beaches of both countries, our only constraint was time. Of course this was nothing new to GSBers, so we planned an itinerary that covered Istanbul, Bodrum (a popular summer destination on Turkey’s West Coast), and Patmos (the famous Greek Island where Sir Christos Stergiou renews his soul.
On the 3rd of September, the official start date of the trip, I was very excited. Nonetheless, the idea of hosting 25 curious, hyperactive GSBers in my country made me nervous. The first day of the trip, Bengi and I were bombarded with questions about the history of every building, stone, or dish we ran into. We then decided to memorize the guidebook. However, realizing that some people on the trip, like Abbas Hasan, MBA 2 actually knew more than the guidebook, we decided to hire a guide who, unlike us, actually knew what he was talking about.
In the limited time we had in Istanbul, we tried to see most of the “must see” places including the ancient grandeur of Ayasofya (Hagia Sofia); the Ottoman architectural piece of Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque); the lavish home of the Sultans, Topkapi Palace; the Middle-Eastern atmosphere of Kapali Carsi (the Grand Bazaar) and Misir Carsisi (Spice Bazaar); the Byzantine mosaics of Kariye Camii (Church of St. Saviour in Chora) and Reina, Angeliquebuz and Pasha (the must visit clubs of the city).
During our stay in Istanbul, people were most surprised by the followings startling facts:

* The number of mosques in the city (yes, there are about 6000 mosques but given 99% of the Turkey’s population is Muslim this should not be so surprising)
* One meal in Istanbul can be equivalent to three meals in other places (or five Arbuckle meals)
* People in Spice Bazaar can say “Turkish Viagra, 5 times a night” in 10 different languages in 30 seconds
* Good negotiation skills are required in the bazaars (Turks should teach Negotiation Class at the GSB)
* People are good looking. I guess the trip members were not convinced by the Turkish representation in our class.

After three hectic days in the city, we set off to Bodrum. As summer was coming to an end, Bodrum was relatively empty. So we chose to relax on the beach, eat a ton, and swim a lot. One day we took a boat trip, which really excited the male members as they made friends with the topless women on the other boats in the bay.
After two peaceful days, the moment of truth hit Bengi and me, as we had to hand the reigns of our 6-day hegemony to Christos. While we were on the boat on our way to Patmos, Christos delivered a touching speech, which can be summarized as “from now on, do what I tell you to do.” During our two days in Patmos we pretty much did what he told us to do.
What we learned in Patmos:
* The scenery is amazing, especially its sunsets and its moonlit nights
* Jeff Kuo is an amazing singer. We recorded him singing so wait to see it yourself
* Christos’ mom is a great cook, hence his growing stomach is well-justified
As our wonderful trip came to a close, I left Patmos with a heavy heart, but not without a promise to return. On my journey back to Istanbul, I thought to myself how wonderful it was to have shared my country’s culture and landscape with my friends.