Today was fabulous, and don't let anybody tell you differently. We took a ten-hour bus and walking tour of certain sectors of Istanbul, guided by an extremely knowledgeable professor of History and Built Environment, Orhan. (Don't ask me how to properly spell his name, cause I won't.) We bused from neighborhood to neighborhood, getting out for forty five minutes at a time to listen to him talk. He talked about "modern" vs. "pre-modern" Turkey, migration within the country into and out of Istanbul, certain neighborhoods that grew from migration and cheap labor, working class neighborhoods facing government-funded gentrification, and I don't know...a lot of other stuff. Seeing the even just the buildings of the city from this perspective was so cool. For one thing, they LOOK really neat because they're built so close together. For another, each neighborhood we visited looked and felt slightly different, and learning why made it much more meaningful.
For example, one neighborhood was built around and partially built to fund the Greek Orthodox church it surrounded. Because of its location around the old church, the modernization process it had undergone had not been able to straighten out the streets into a grid of any sort, so it was just winding everywhere and going up and down hills and in general being very picturesque. In the neighborhood undergoing state-led gentrification we could see the buildings that had been recently renovated TO LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THEY HAD BEFORE whether or not the dwellers could afford to renovate or move. A couple houses we passed had signs in the windows that said, "Hands off my house!" in Turkish. That neighborhood was mostly made up of families, so it was completely safe for kids to play around in the streets without adults.
I feel like I learned so much relevant information in just one day - and we're only still in Istanbul! I'm nerding out, and am stoked for the rest of this trip. I will try to post a few pictures.
Edit: It should be noted that the gentrification lecturer was quite into himself, and not the nicest guy. His tour was far too long. This turned off most of the group - I'm still not sure why I enjoyed this particular bit so much, because people are still very bitter about the eleven-hour tour. Anyway, I thought I should disclaim that. It's interesting and amusing to me.