My favorite thing we have done recently on the Duke in Istanbul program is the Istanbul scavenger hunt. I liked it so much, in fact, that I would even claim that it has been my favorite activity we have done on the Duke in Istanbul program, omitting the first excursion to Eastern Anatolia. Here is what happened.
At 10:00 am on Monday, October 6th, the 20 Duke in Istanbulites met at a kiosk on the corner of south campus where Alican put 20 lira on each of our transportation cards. The competition was fierce. Since the prize was a city tour of Istanbul in a sea plane, space was limited to four people. Only the first two teams to finish would be able to come along. In order to win, we had to visit all 10 locations and take a selfie at each to prove we were there. Since we were only allowed to use public transportation, we were also required to document every bus, train, and ferry we took in order to prove we followed the rules. We divided into 10 teams of 2 and at 10:30, we were off.
TJ and I were determined to win. We also made a great team. We set off immediately to South Campus to grab some internet and lookup some clues. We figured out about seven of them by the time we completed the 10 minute walk to the internet, but we spend about 20 mins verifying locations. Instead of meticulously planning our route, we rearranged our clues in a logical order that we would tackle together procedurally. We left our home base a little too early; we didn’t really figure out where the final mosque on the Asia side was, but we decided to just go for it and hope to find internet on the way to look it up.
Our strategy was simple: set a target and then get on a bus that was going in the right direction. We were fearless in asking questions. In broken Turkish, we would ask our bus driver if the busses would go far enough to reach or final destination. We would ask tourists on the street who looked like they might speak english. We flagged busses down (successfully) in between bus stops. We jogged and ran about half the time. At one point, were were unable to find a bus stop and decided it would be quickest to run across the long water bridge to the old city. We were shameless and indefatigable.
I have attached a map with a general outline of the path we took through the city. We went first the Ottoman fortress by south campus and than took a bus along the water through Bebek until we got to the Ortakoy mosque. From the mosque we went to a statue on the water, and from the state we went to the Tunel, which is an old subway in a touristy part of the city that is well known. This part of the journey went extremely smoothly and TJ and I were moving quite quickly. I was keeping track of all of our public transportation as we went along so that we would have an email ready to send to Alican the moment we visited our final attraction.
The second part of our journey was slightly more difficult. We had to take both the subway and a special type of subway designed to go up and down steep hills called a Funicular (which was fun) in order to get to the bank. The bank was difficult to spot and looked mundane. I was certain we were in the wrong place, but we took a selfie and moved on. From there, we ran across a bridge to get to the Greek Patriarchate. After crossing the bridge, we tried our old get-on-a-bus-going-in-the-right-direction technique, but despite our bus drivers assurance, we were very much going the wrong way. Very stressed, TJ and I jumped out of the bus at the next stop, to our surprise, finding ourselves in front of the Valens aqueduct. This was convenient because we were planning on tackling this later. We then sprinted back to the water and got on a bus that took us in the direction of the Greek Patriarchate.
The Greek Patriarchate was very hard to find, but we asked about 20 people and found it within five minutes of getting off of the bus. One couple we asked for help was more lost than us, and robbed us of our time asking for assistance. We of course helped and then sped off to take a selfie in the Greek Patriarchate. We felt terrible going into a small beautiful church just to take a selfie, but we tried to be as discrete as possible and vowed to come back for mass in the future.
Our next task was to get to Hagia Sophia. We accomplished this by taking a bus so full that I was forced to ride pressed against the windshield for longer than I would have ever chosen voluntarily. We ran into some of the competition on the tram to the old church/mosque/church and didn’t break eye contact. We doubled our pace and headed to the bath houses. After the bath house, which was right across the street from Hagia Sophia, we just had one more location to visit: the Sun and Moon mosque on the Asia side. To get there, we decided to take the Marmaray, a subway that connects the European and Asian sides of the city underneath the Bosphorus. This was a clever move since most of our classmates chose to take the slower, more crowded ferry which only leaves on the half-hour or something.
TJ and I actually had some trouble finding the Marmaray and asked for help right away. A really helpful man actually walked us to the entrance of the Marmaray. I am stilled stunned by the helpfulness of the Turkish people. Everyone is just so nice. Once we were on the Asia side, we had literally no idea where to find the Mosque. However, I pulled up my offline maps and realized that it was right next to us. TJ and I couldn’t believe our luck. We found an internet at a nearby café and after negotiating for the wifi password in exchange for buying tea, the email was all send. Alican scared us for a moment, calling us back telling us that we had messed up one of the clues. We went to Hagia Sophia instead of the corner of Hagia Sophia where there was a stone monument. However, he called us back a few minutes later and told us not to worry about it. We had no idea if we finished first or if we were even still in the running.
However, Alican finally emailed us later that night and told us that we had come in first place. The scavenger hunt was supposed to take us six hours and we had completed it in three and a half hours, beating the second place team by an hour. We were very proud. TJ was an amazing navigator and together we were a great team. All in all, it was a great way to end an adventure. I am very excited to spend the next two months adventuring even more.