Day 1 - Day 2: May 31-June1. Flying in and Getting Settled.
The group's rendez-vous was to be at the Boston Airport. Of the 14 going (13 students, 1 prof; 11 guys, 3 ladies) 11 were in Boston already, and 3 (including yours truly) had to fly in that day and meet up with the rest. So it was for me, I got up early and had an 11:50 flight to Boston. Once I got to the airport, I chilled in the bar right outside of security with some dude from Ireland, talking soccer. (Helpful hint from the dude: if ever visiting Ireland, specifically Dublin, the only 2 things to see in Dublin are the Beer and Whiskey factories. He says the rest of the city is worthless; go to smaller towns or to the countryside for the rest of your sightseeing.)
After a couple of hours, the rest of the group arrived. We were flying British Air that day, Boston-London-Istambul. Comfy trip for the most part, and the staff was excellent. 747 to London was nice, but we got to the airport a bit later than we anticipated, and we had to scramble to get from one end of the airport to the other for our connecting flight to Istambul. (Some almost didn't make it, which would have been quite the predicament.)
When we got to Istambul, we were greeted by two members of the Patriarchal staff: Dn. Bessarion, and Mr. Emmanuel Wedlock, who works in the English office of the EP. The two very kind gentlemen took us out to a charter bus (which in Turkey is quite a bit shorter than ours here, largely because our style busses wouldn't fit around the tight turns of the Istambul alleyways) and we headed off for the port in the Old City. Along the way we traveled near the old Sea Walls, and Mr. Wedl. pointed out some of the monuments we passed: the city walls, the Golden Gate, Agia Sophia, etc. When we got to the port, we realized that we had a bit of time to kill before the next boat to Halki Island (where we were going to stay).
So we proceeded across the street to the other side, where we went to a restaurant built into a bridge (it was quite nice; Turkish ice cream and Turkish tea were actually quite good). After the brief rest we went to a Mosque across another street - we had to actually go under the street to cross (we also got the first of many warnings about the pickpockets in Istambul, who appear to be quite numerous and definitely a serious problem). We didn't really enter the Mosque (a few people did), but instead stood outside in the Atrium there, and listened to the Deacon talk about how the Moslems borrowed much from the Rum (Turkish for Roman, and the name they give to the Orthodox to this day) in Istambul after the conquest, especially in architecture. The Mosque we were standing near borrowed most of its design from Roman era Churches, including the aforementioned Atrium and the domes, to name a few.
We then proceeded back across the street to the port and caught the ferry boat to Halki Island. The trip took us to the Asian side of the city, and then to the "Prince's Islands" - a group of 4 inhabited islands in the Sea of Marmara. Halki is the third, called heybeliada in Turkish (meaning "donkey saddle," obviously referring to what they think the Island is shaped like), and is quite beautiful. When we got there we discovered that automobiles are forbidden on the Island (there are only 3 motorized cars there, for specific reasons); there was a flat horsecart waiting to take our stuff up, and we all hopped on horse carriages to take us up the shortest of the hills, the peak of which had Holy Trinity Monastery (always has been a monastery, and for a long period of time included a Patriarchal High School and the Theological School).
After being greeted by Fr. Dorotheos (who had been informed that only 8 of us were coming), we settled into the rooms. The Monastery is still in pretty good conditions, which seemed to be an indication of their constant state of preparedness for the unlikely event that the school will be re-opened. We enjoyed a wonderful meal - the first of our countless 5 and 6 and 7 course meals that would be had in Turkey. Like the others, it was very simple (easy to make, not complicated dishes, and quite inexpensive), very fresh, and quite tasty. We met the Metropolitan who is the Abbot of the Monastery, who was quite kind to us. After settling who would sleep where, we had some time to settle in and (finally) rest.
Interesting footnote: Dn. Stephen (a member of the trip) and I had discussed an article he had read in some magazine about "cool" traveling; this was obviously one of those neo-trendy type articles. Anyway, according to him, the more flight connections and modes of transportation, the cooler your trip was. And only the coolest trips included non-motorized transport. He and I then measured the coolness of our first-day trips (since we both had to fly into Boston that day): car, 3 flights, bus, boat, horse-cart. According to the standard of the article (which was probably written by some moron anyway), we had to have been the coolest travelers on earth those first two days.