Day 5 (Consulate General of Sweden & Swedish Research Institute)

We’re standing on Istiklal Street, the main street of the Beyoğlu municipality. Although it’s just before 11 am, the sun is heating up well over the usual Lund Spring temperature and forces us to remove our jackets and sweaters. Around 2 million people cross Istiklal per day and today is no exception. The red Istiklal tram is running up and down the street, street sellers selling freshly made bagels to hurrysome businessmen and of course, tourists like myself running around with selfie sticks, baseball caps and disorientated looks.
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Istiklal’s characteristic tram
We’re here because we’ve been invited to the Consulate General of Sweden. Purchased in 1757, it’s the Swedish state’s oldest building on foreign ground, representing two and a half century of good diplomatic relations between the two. It’s a majestic building, indeed, with a beautiful garden in front of it and the Swedish flag waving high in the middle of a green grass circle.
   Outside the gate, however, a more brutal reality is apparent. Syrian refugees are standing outside the Consulate General, seeking to apply for residence permit in Sweden. My phone, which has been informing me nonstop about the hardships and realities of the war in Syria, is now manifesting itself in flesh and blood unbelievably upclose. Istanbul, being the East-West divide in many different aspects, serves as a port to the Western world and for the many refugees that have given up their lives unwillingly to build a future in the “Swedish paradise”.
   It’s now 11 am and we’re greeted by our contact person at the entrance to the Consulate General. The interior is by all means posh, with a 19th century rococo flamboyant atmosphere, associating my thoughts to big British balls for the royalty and aristocracy. We’re seated in the main hall and three members of the staff give us insight in what they do. They talk about their most frequent concerns up to date, regarding the migration situation; Europeans fighting for Daesh; cultural exchange programs between Sweden and Turkey; the establishment of Swedish companies in Turkey and drunk Swedish people losing their passports.
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Syrian refugees outside the Consulate General
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Outside the entrance to the Consulate General
Question and information round about the staff’s work
The selfie stick in action
After a mandatory selfie stick group photo with ourselves and the staff, we go directly behind the Consulate General building to the Swedish research institute. Here, we’re told, is just as it sounds, research in progress with emphasis on Turkey, the Middle East and Central Asia over a broad range of academic, journalistic, artistic and educational areas in the spheres of Humanities and Social Sciences. The research institute was founded in 1962 as one of three Mediterranean research institutes, who all faced threats of closure last year as the Swedish government sought to make budget cuts. The interior of the research institute differs in every aspect from the Consulate General. Instead of the almost antagonizing grand halls with its diamond rattling chandeliers, the research institute is filled with rooms of typical Scandinavian design, with high ceilings and a white archipelagian touch. When we explored the small maze of different rooms within the research institute I bumped into a psychologist from Uppsala University who invited us to his lecture on religion’s coping mechanisms for Syrian refugees on the Turkish-Syrian border, where he had carried out his field work.
Handing out the mandatory UPF Lund gifts: the latest issue of Utrikesperspektiv and a bag of tea (Lundablandning)
At the research institute
Rickard plans to do his research at the Institute someday in the future 
When we left the Consulate General and research institute we all went to grab a shish kebab in a joint across the building and then people were free to do whatever they wanted to. Since most people were still tired from the weekend and the study visits (trust me, they are super interesting but exhausting) we had a calm night with a dinner at a restaurant close to the hostel, that tasted close to nothing (it is very easy to get fooled in the touristy areas of Sultan Ahmet), but was enjoyable all the same with such a fun group as we were.
/Peter

Day 4 (29th of March) – The Asian side

Hey!

Today we all traveled to the Asian side together Ali. We started the journey with a vary late “breakfast” at around two a clock and there are few times in my life that i have eaten so much food. Me and a few others ordered a full Turkish breakfast with enormous amount of bread, a chili paste, yogurt with honey, jam more and we also ordered a Turkish omelet-type dish with eggs, tomatoes, cheese and pepper as well as fried bread with cheese.

So much food

Yummy

After the delicious meal we moved on and arrived at the ferry that took us over The Bosphorus. It was one of the most peaceful experiences in my life. On the ferries top deck you could see the vast city and seemingly neverending city in all directions with all its mosques, houses and streets. All to the roaring sound of the ferry ans the seagulls that followed it, it was really beautiful.

Nice view with some nice people

The Bosphorus

Well on the Asian side we walked around and absorbed the atmosphere with Ali as our guide. After a while we stopped a took some coffee and after another while we stopped for dinner. In this place you could choose from several already cooked meals that where served instantly. After this we went back to hostel for an early nights sleep.

Dinner on the Asian side 

/ Rickard

Day 3 (28th of March) – Sightseeing de luxe

Hi everyone!

So for our third day we did some proper sightseeing after sleeping in! We met up with former UPF Secretary Ali who was here for the weekend and he showed us around. We started of with a trip to the Blue Mosque, which was very beautiful, and Ali was a great guide giving us a little history lesson about the different mosques in the city and the sultans they were built for.

blå mosken

The Blue Mosque

After that we continued with a trip to the Basilica Cistern, which is an old underground water reservoir that dates back to Byzantium times that isn’t used anymore but is really cool to look at. We also swung by the Royal Gardens. It really was a day with a lot of walking so we needed some sugar and Ali and his friend took us to a really great cafe were we ordered Turkish desserts in all forms and shapes before going back to the hostel through the spice bazaar to prepare for a night out on the town.

basilicaThe Basilica Cistern

cafeHigh on sugar!!

Istanbul kryddorSpices everywhere

For dinner we gathered everyone (plus some extra hostel people) and ate a great dinner on the main street in Taksim (center of Istanbul). Afterwards Ali took us to a blues club where we also hung out with these cuties:

cats

Later on we ended up in a club street where we went to different clubs, one of them with an amazing view. All in all a very good day with both new and old friends!

utsikt

/ Emelie

Day 2 (March 27th) – Woman’s and LGBT rights groups

Hey!

Today we had two meetings, one with Women for Women’s Human Rights and the other with the LGBT rights organization SPOD. The first meeting was with Women for Women’s Human Rights, which started from 10am. It was a very nice and interesting meeting. The organization gave us a very detailed introduction about what they are doing. In the meeting, we discussed the current women’s situation in Turkey and what the organization did to help Turkish women to raise their social awareness. Good time always runs fast.

iSTANBUL 1Our first study visits 

ISTANBUL 2People listening with interest

When we finished the meeting, it was lunchtime already. We decided to have lunch together. We are a big group. And most of the restaurants are small and crowd. It is difficult to find a proper place to hold all of us. Finally we found a place with cozy environment, nice food and reasonable price.

ISTANBUL 3Good food and company

The other meeting with LGBT guys was at 2pm. Their office is in an old building located in Taksim. This organization is young which was founded in 2011. They experienced some hard time. But comparing with several years ago, LGBT people in Turkey have more liberty now. In the meeting we also introduced our UPF and tell them what we had done in Lund. They were very interested in our organization and we exchanged our contact information to keep contact. It was a long meeting. When we finished the meeting, it was already 4 pm. The weather in Turkey is changeable. It was sunny in the morning but when we walked out of the LGBT office, it started to rain. But walking in the rain is also romantic experience in Istanbul.

ISTANBUL 4 Todays second study visit

After some relax in the hostel, we went to Taksim, trying to find some nice food. Takism is situated in the European part of Istanbul, which is a major tourist and leisure district famed for its restaurants, and shops. However, like all the other tourist areas, the restaurants there are expensive and taste like the same. Okay, since we are the tourists here, then let us do what the tourists do. Eat, drink and enjoy the nightlife in Istanbul. Night just begin.

/ Elaine

Day 1 (March 26th) – Arriving in Istanbul

Hello everyone!

Today most of our travel group arrived in Istanbul. Due to the number of people we arrived at different times, some came here one day earlier and had already had time to visit the blue mosque and aya sofia by the time that we arrived plus some other things including buying selfie sticks. I arrived together with a group of five that left Copenhagen by direct flight at 12:30. Our journey started with a beer or a glass of vine after we forgot the time resulting in that we arrived to the gate as the last ones just before the plane was depart, causing somewhat of a cross reaction from the flight crew, but we nevertheless arrived in Istanbul high in spirit.

 Some arrived earlier

After collecting our bags we took the tram to the hostel just as night had just fallen. Our hostel was located in the old part of town in an area called dgxft and just by both the blue mosque and aya sofia. Apparently both these of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks are in front of each other separated only by a small park. In the hostel we live in a 30-room dorm and for the price we paid I am surprised with the high standard, it was far above my expectations. Living in such a big room, we had the share it and as one could expect this would resulting meeting the others staying there. During the previous day the ones arriving first had already started to know some of the and they seem like an interesting bunch.

During our first night we went out for dinner at a local restaurant, giving us our first try for Turkish food and is was delicious. Afterword’s we went back to the hostel and a vary pleasant time in their bar and we are all seeing forward to seeing more of this city in the following week.

Our first Turkish dinner

Over and out

/ Rickard

Wednesday, day 13 – West Zone Cultural Center and some sightseeing

We had our last meeting with West Zone Cultural Center during the morning. Unlike previous meetings this one was mainly focused on West Indian culture, traditions, arts and entertainment. The meeting later evolved into a conversation about both India and Sweden where we talked about both monsoons, cows, snow and nature. We got a private tour around the museum which is located in a beautiful royal house from the 1700s. Our talented guide Yussef taught us all about the royal family, history and fun India trivia.
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Pictures from visit at WZCC

Afterwards we spent the day just strolling around in the beautiful city of Udaipur, drinking chai tea, doing last minute shopping and saying good bye to our newly found friends (both dogs, people and cows). We finished off the evening with a nice dinner at a roof top restaurant. Cheers to India!!!
Tomorrow we leave for Mumbai… we have heard it is supposed to be a bit cold, only 28 degrees!
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Anahita trying to figure out which bedcover to buy

/Stina & Katrin

Tuesday, day 12 – Chai, Seva Mandir and Indian cooking class

Today we woke up early to take a walk before breakfast (we meaning today’s bloggers, Sandra and Frida). The main plan was to catch the sunrise (05:45), but because of our struggle getting out of bed at that time, the plan became somewhat compromised to just a walk in the morning sun. However, that gave us the chance to see a glimpse of the real Udaipur, with the locals focusing on their own lives instead of the tourists. Families gathering by the lake shore, bathing and doing their laundry. They were all very relaxed and we got a very peaceful feeling instead of the usual busy and chaotic atmosphere. Meanwhile the city (including the rest of the group) was waking up, we sat by the water enjoying the day’s first cup of chai.IMG_9686People of Udaiur swimming and doing laundry in the morning

10306237_908788425803721_5923309419388792948_nChai Masters with friend 

After having breakfast at our usual restaurant, we headed out from the city to today’s meeting with the organization Seva Mandir, a meeting organized by Stina. Founded forty five years ago, Seva Mandir has been working with community strengthening with focus on education, health care, women’s empowerment and natural resource development. For example they have an income generation program for people in the surrounding villages, such as Sadhna (that we visited yesterday). We all got the impression that the organization was well established and worked with people’s best interest in mind. They also told us about their work against child trafficking, specifically connected to child labor in the BT cotton fields (BT meaning that the cotton was genetically modified). Their impression was that the government only focused on rescuing and rehabilitation of the children, while Seva Mandir saw a greater importance in protecting the children from ending up in such a situation. Key areas they worked with to improve this situation for children was to make sure they went to school and not dropped out, and by helping families out of economic struggles.

IMG_9791 Group Photo with the spokespersones of Sava Mandir

IMG_9800Another group photo! 

After the meeting, we had some hours free before our cooking class began. Sandra and Fredrik went to their tailor and tried their new suits and we simply enjoyed resting in the sun. By 5pm we were picked up by two autorickshaws who drove us to our cooking class. A very friendly woman greeted us and took us, step by step, through dozens of delicious Indian dishes. We kind of got a wakeup call on what we had actually been eating for the past weeks. That meaning, sugar with some sugar, and some more sugar. Yum. No, just kidding, sugar and some vegetables and oil. The Indian cuisine is a great variety of ingredients; everything mixed together and based on loads of colorful spices. It was the best meal so far and we all felt very proud to have been a part of the cooking.

IMG_9892 Chai in the making 

IMG_0049And finally, the last group photo with our amazing chef, Shashi!

/ Frida & Sandra  

Monday, day 11 – Not only cows but elephants in the streets

After breakfast we went for a walk on the streets of Udaipur. We headed towards the spice market known as the Mandir market. Since it was in the morning the market had just come to life and the stalls salesmen were towering up small pyramids of spices in all the different colours. Everything from huge sacks with whole dried red chilli fruits, wagons covered in green chillies to tea, legumes and big stones of sugar made out of canes could be found. After strolling around the market streets and buying saffron at a ridiculously low price we headed back to the hostel preparing for the trip’s next meeting.

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IMG_7262In the afternoon we went to visit the organisation Sadhna working with creating labour for women. The organisation was created in 1988 and has today 700 artisans (99 % women).  Through the organisation hundreds of women have become economically independent and trained in craftwork making. The women are able to do this work since they can work from home or in closely located factories making it possible to combine it with other house labour. Working groups of 20 women including a democratic elected leader on a three years mandate, reach the purpose to get a greater women empowerment and local leadership. The craftwork that is made is exported to countries such as Japan and the US and the organisation is also in a preface of cooperation with IKEA.

Inside Sadhnas shop
Inside Sadhnas shop

India it is not only people, cars, motorbikes or tuc-tuc that are crowding the streets, so are also the holy and untouchable cow. On our way to the Monsoon Palace, located on the top of a mountain just outside Udaipur, we spotted another animal than a cow eating grass in the middle of the street, it was a real live elephant. An extraordinary sight!

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At the Monsoon Palace we had a fantastic view of Udaipur and it surroundings. We ended the day watching the sun with the colour of a huge blood grapefruit falling down behind the mountains towards Pakistan.

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The classic Happy Jump photo
View over Udaipur
View over Udaipur

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/Fredrik

Sunday, day 10 – The Jain Temple in Ranakpur and the dance performance

Namaste!

Our second day in beautiful Udaipur began with an early breakfast at one of the neighbourhood cafés, before we jumped into a car destined to drive us to Ranakpur where we wished to see the famous Jain temple. Since the car’s AC made the sound of a cat clawing itself to death, the two-hour drive was less than peaceful, but nevertheless we made it to our destination.

Yaaaay, such noise!
Yaaaay, such noise!

The temple itself was breathtaking, with marble pillars and amazingly detailed carvings everywhere. But while it is important to respect religions  – especially if you travel to their temples at own will – we had some issues with the general attitude towards visitors. The fact that you need to cover yourself up and that certain parts of the temple are open solely for Jainists is to be expected; the fact that you cannot enter the building while menstruating is not. I know that this is not uncommon within certain religions, and in some ways it is impressive that they manage to keep things just as they were several hundred years ago. But we felt a bit out of place, and I personally felt like an intruder. But it was an incredibly beautiful place nevertheless.

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After a bumpy and slightly terrifying ride back to Udaipur (we were driving around in the mountains on thin roads with barely anything between the car and the abyss) we grabbed lunch and went for a stroll before experiencing an amazing Rajasthani dance performance. The dance, which took place outside, included great amounts of twirling, drumming, singing and puppet dancing. One woman in particular stood out and did several difficult “tricks” while carrying an increasing amount of pots on her head. To be honest, it was slightly painful to watch – we could tell that she was struggling with the act, beautiful though it was.

Dancing puppet picking up some tip
Dancing puppet picking up some tip
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Rajasthani dance
She initially came out with two pots on her head
She initially came out with two pots on her head and left with a few more than this picture shows

The night ended with some waterpipe smoking (“Shishah”). My references in regards to this activity were previously all from Teheran, where one in a certain part of town can find a mountainesque area with several little cafés that all serve chai alongside the shishah. People sit on Persian rugs, lean back against the tall pillows on the floor, listen to some traditional Iranian music and just have an incredibly serene time.

The joint we went to, however, completely changed my perception of what waterpipe smoking can be like. It was a balcony-type room with blue neon lights, black walls, an enormous poster of a hard rocking Ganesha, an aquarium in the middle of the room and planet stickers all over the ceiling. The chai was replaced by beer and the entire scene felt very high – which, if the readers are interested, seems to be the general vibe in Udaipur. People here are incredibly chill; even the shop owners who call after us don’t seem too stressed out. We even got a confession from one of the Rickshaw drivers, who apparently smokes marijuana every day.

All in all, it was an eventful and fun Sunday. Udaipur is absolutely lovely, and even though I myself grew to like Mumbai quite a lot before we left, it seems as though the group in general prefers Udaipur to Mumbai. I have to admit that it is wonderful to be rid of the insane humidity.

We have barely a week left to go here in India. More posts are promised, so stay tuned!

/Anahita