Cohort 9 learns about Istanbul’s history

Members of Cohort 9 visit the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul.

Today, Stetson University Executive MBA Cohort 9 explored Istanbul’s most popular cultural sites.

“The city has a fascinating history with the inheritance of Byzantine ruins, splendid palaces, ancient mosques and churches, bath-houses, and exotic bazaars,” said Wendy Lowe, Executive MBA program coordinator. “Istanbul is the only city in the world reaching across two continents, with its old city in Europe and modern Istanbul situated in Asia, separated by the Bosphorus Strait. Modern Istanbul exudes trendy bars and nightclubs, western boutiques, office blocks and elegant suburbs. Today, we visited Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome of Constantinople, the Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace. We enjoyed touring the ancient artifacts, diamonds, empire clothing, paintings and the picturesque gardens and views of the Bosphorus.”

Hagia Sophia is the Church of the Holy Wisdom in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin, and Aysofya or Aya Sofya in Turkish. It is a former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. Now a museum, Haghia Sophia is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world. We enjoyed touring the ancient artifacts, diamonds, empire clothing, paintings and the picturesque gardens and views of the Bosphorus.

The Hippodrome of Constantinople is the largest of the ancient world and the largest stadium of all times with a design that was based on the Circus Maximus in Rome which had a capacity of 250,000 spectators. Initially built at the time of Septimus Severus, it was later enlarged to surpass in grandeur the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus in Rome at the time of Constantine the Great, who moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople, Istanbul, in 330 AD.  The first chariot races were held here!  Today thousands of tourists crowd the area to get a glimpse of life long ago and further understand its place in history.

The Basilica Cistern, or Underground Cistern, was built by Justinian I after the bloody Nika Revolt in 532. During the Byzantium Period, it was used as a reservoir for water storage for the Great Palace and other buildings in the First Hill. During the Ottoman Period, the water was used for Topkapi Palace and watering the gardens of it. However, the cistern had its brightest days during the Byzantium Age.

Cohort 9 enjoyed a traditional Turkish lunch with lavash bread, Turkish pizzas and shish-ka-bobs at the Restaurant Khorasani, in one of the meandering roads near the Topkapi Palace.  After lunch, students visited the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque.

Students visited the Topkapi Palace grounds today in Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace was first built by Mehmet the Conqueror just after his capture of Constantinople in 1453. His successors lived there for nearly 400 years until they began to take up resident in the Dolmabahce Palace, just across the Golden Horn. This palace is much more enclosed and built around 4 courtyards, vs. the European concept of being more open. Here, the cohort viewed the famous harem and treasury items.

The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I as a rival to Hagia Sophia and designed by architect Mehmet Aga. The mosque began construction in 1609 and took seven years to finish. Sultan Ahmet died only a year after completion of his masterpiece at the age of 27. He is buried outside the mosque with his wife and three sons.

The Welcome Dinner tonight was at Restaurant Kosebasi, in a chic neighborhood of Istanbul. Students delighted in tapas style sharing of cold starters, warm appetizers, and lamb, chicken wings, barbecue ribs all marinated in Turkish spices, along with Kunefe, a traditional oven baked desserts with a molten cheese center, syrup and kaymak.

“Suffice to say that Cohort 9’s trip is off to an adventurous and informative start!” said Lowe. “Despite a few adjusting to the time change, one upset stomach and one sprained ankle, we have bonded together like a solidified unit, and we march on with excitement at what’s next!

“Tomorrow, the business visits begin!”

Cohort 9 International Trip itinerary

In just a few more days, Stetson Executive MBA Cohort 9 students will depart for their trip to Istanbul and Budapest! Here’s what’s on their plate after they arrive Saturday, June 16:

Sunday, June 17:

Cultural Day in Istanbul

Students will take a guided tour of Roman & Byzantine Era and Ottoman Istanbul, seeing such sights as the Hagia Sophia Museum, Hippodrome of Constantinople and the Underground Cistern. Then they’ll go to Topkapi Palace and the Sultan Ahmet Camii-Blue Mosque. Students will also have their Welcome Dinner on this evening.

Monday, June 18:

Business Visits and Bosphorus Cruise

Travelers on the Alumni/Guest trip will take a cruise on Istanbul's Bosphorus. Photo courtesy of GoToTurkey

Students will meet with executives from General Electric, Pozitron and Koc Holding. Ibrahim Gokcen of GE will give students an overview of Turkey and discuss the country’s role in the world economy. Firat Isbecer of Pozitron, a mobile and alternative communications company, will teach students about entrepreneurship in Turkey and the role of government in Turkish businesses. At Koc Holding, Funda Gundor will talk about holding companies in Turkey’s private sector.

After the business visits, students get to go on a cruise down the Bosphorus for astonishing views of the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus Strait.

Tuesday, June 19

Business Visit and Dancing

Executives from Divan Hotels will meet with students to discuss Turkey’s tourism and hospitality industries. Later, students can visit the Grand & Spice Bazaar and enjoy a show at Turkish Dance Night at Hodjapasha.

Wednesday, June 20

Business Visit and Travel

Executives from Mercedes-Benz Turk A.S. will explain why such a world-renowned car manufacturer chose Turkey for its operations. The students will then travel to Budapest for the second part of their trip.

Thursday, June 21

Business Visits

Students will learn from executives at Nokia and IND Group. Yrjo Eskola, director of operations at Nokia, will discuss the company’s strategies, both global and local. Later, Tamas Braun and Adrienn Barath of IT company IND Group will teach students about the marketing strategies of a company that’s expanding within Hungary.

Friday, June 22

Business Visit and Budapest Tour

During a trip to Budapest Bank, students will learn about the impact of the financial crisis on the local economy and compare it to the situation in the United States. Later, they’ll tour Budapest, with stop-offs at the Parliament, the Royal Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Citadel, followed by a river cruise.

Saturday, June 23

Budapest Safari Park

The students’ final day of the trip will be spent participating in a philanthropic effort. Students will take children who are in state care to the Budapest Safari Park and help them solve animal-related tasks at stations throughout the park. Solving the exercises will involve cooperation of the children, volunteers and cohort members.

Who’s ready for the trip?