Merhaba Istanbul & Back to Bosna

I wanted to document my entire trip to Turkey in a single post, but the last few months have been accompanied by a little extra (but very sweet) chaos – which includes moving to a new house, getting engaged, career tides rising and falling, and the excitement of new beginnings. But, I figured, today would be a fitting day to talk about this beautiful Islamic land considering we just elected our first two Muslim women among many, many other impressive candidates into Congress in the US. Today is a happy day for many, and I have hope in where this country is headed. So, cheers to making history, breaking down walls and barriers and on to my adventures in Turkey :).

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The minute I stepped off the airplane into Turkey’s beautiful breeze and glowing sun, I was swept away by the culture and kindness. Prayer rooms in the airport, al of the writing strictly in Arabic, and the biggest cars squeezing through impossibly tiny streets. This place was worlds apart from the US and I loved it.

During my stay in this beautiful city I spent my days in the old city and my nights sleeping at the Hagia Sophia Hotel, right by the Blue Mosque.

It was an inexpensive and super super fancy hotel surrounded by endless options of great restaurants. The bazaar and museums were within walking distance as well. The bazaar is a unique experience to walk through but after noticing that the stores on the streets were cheaper we tried to refrain from buying anything here; owners try really hard to pull you in with their charm. But the chaos was totally worth experiencing.

My time in Turkey was spent walking around the historical city, admiring the beauty of the mosques, shopping for handmade artifacts and most importantly, eating. Food is usually the most appealing part of traveling for me.. and the food here is addicting.

Breakfast in Istanbul was my favorite part. It was a mix of homemade food I grew up eating as well as Turkish food I’ve never tried before. I used to eat ciriluk all the time when I was younger and this really brought me back to my childhood.

There is no better combination than baklava and coffee😍.

Breakfast was the only time I had “american” coffee. I prefer it the way Turks drink it, small and (incredibly) strong, just like in Bosna. Unless I have work or studying to do and I hit a rare moment where I need the familiarity of starbucks, I always go to local coffee shops and bakeries for my caffeine kick. The ones in Turkey were so authentic and their desserts were unreal. We killed multiple cakes from the bakery in under 10 seconds, then went back for seconds.

The way honey is served here is so neat. It’s like it’s straight from the beehive itself🍯🐝.

One of the most memorable things we did was visit the largest mosque here in Istanbul, the Suleymaniye Mosque.

This place was gorgeous. The atmosphere was indescribable. The moment you enter the grounds you’re surrounded by a stillness that I can’t quite put into words; it really feels like the rest of the world falls away, and all that’s left is you and this monumental structure that radiates with spirituality and history. I realized for possibly the first time how and why people view mosques as so much more than just a place of worship.

The marble entrance literally dips down, sinking under the weight of years of passing footsteps.

I can’t explain what it’s like to step inside one these massive mosques. When you enter a mosque is when you realize what it truly means to feel peaceful. I’ve always appreciated and took pride in where my family and previous ancestors came from and everything they had to, and continue to, endure coming from an Islamic country. Being in a place like Turkey where similar values and morals are shared makes me so happy and thankful, and also a little nostalgic to my very youngest years. I was born in Germany but my heart will always lie in Bosna, and there are moments where I absolutely wish I could go back, because what used to be of that country is where the values I was raised with lie.

We live in a world run by propaganda and massive change that’s constantly convincing us we need more of everything, and complaining and competing over social media and other superficial things appears justified. I consider myself so lucky to have been raised in a different environment.

I was a refugee – I didn’t come from old money and I barely had any friends because I couldn’t speak English. We came here after the war and it certainly wasn’t easy. Most people wouldn’t consider a childhood as a refugee very appealing, but I was raised by parents and relatives who put everything on the line for their kids to make sure that we had better lives than they did, and to make sure we didn’t suffer through our 20’s the way they were forced to. I had parents who taught me the importance of being selfless, and giving love and respect to others without expecting it in return. I was raised by role models who taught me that true, hard work does pay off, and the low income jobs that others laughed at my parents for working would end up being the foundation that allowed them to save money, buy a house and start a business that would lead to sending both of their children through college and so much more.

I say this because I think we all have moments where we get swept away and distracted by what seems like never-ending problems, work, studies, and life stressors, and sometimes we forget to cherish and appreciate what really matters. It may not be a mosque for you, but for me, this was where I was reminded of my values and the things that truly matter in my heart. I think it’s necessary, every so often, to go where you can get a break from the constant buzzing of the world and be at peace with yourself and your thoughts.

I’m still in awe at the beauty of this place. The pictures don’t do the Suleymaniye Mosque justice, and the serenity that surrounds this architectural wonder cannot be captured into words. I will forever cherish what the beauty and history of Turkey has shown and taught me.

There are so many things in this life that are misunderstood and taken for granted. I want to encourage you to open your mind to new perspectives and different cultures.
So, keep fighting for what you want and remember to hug your parents and relatives once in a while.
Or, if you’re like me, every single moment you can.

All the love,
Selma

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