Istanbul Travelogue

Collage

Prologue…

I did M.Tech. from IIIT-Bangalore in 2012-2014. In the last semester at IIIT-B i did thesis on the effects of entrenchment on cooperative behaviour. It is based on Multi Agent Systems and Game Theory. Had the best time of my academic life so far doing research in an area which i found very interesting. I successfully defended my thesis and graduated. My dream was to get the paper based on my thesis accepted in a good conference. And as they say, if we try hard enough, our dreams do come true! πŸ™‚

We submitted our paper in one of the tier 1 conference in the domain of multi-agent systems. And then one day we got the mail informing about the acceptance of the paper πŸ™‚ I was on cloud nine! It is the best thing that can happen to one’s thesis.

With the acceptance came lots of things and planning to do.. Had to submit the final camera ready paper, create a poster and most importantly look for funding for travel to attend the conference. I would like to thank my employer for funding my trip and giving me the opportunity to present my work and attend the conference. It made things a lot easier. With a tatkal passport, tickets and visa, i was all set to fly to Istanbul, Turkey, the world’s fifth-most-popular tourist destination. πŸ™‚ My first foreign visit! Luckily the Prof. under whose guidance i had done my thesis was also coming with his family πŸ™‚

The Trip…

We boarded Boeing 787 Dreamliner of Qatar Airways! One of the most hi-tech planes of today. And for a window seat lover like me, the huge electrochromism-based smart glass windows were the coolest thing! There was a small stopover at Doha and then we headed to our destination, Istanbul. In the first look itself, Istanbul looked beautiful. Clean roads lined with lawns and trees and with an amazing view of sea, fast moving cars and a pleasant weather just like Bangalore.

We checked in at the Zeynep Sultan Hotel. It had been recently renovated. Had a nice, small and cozy room at a reasonable price in the heart of the city. Major landmarks like the Blue mosque were at a walking distance from our hotel.

We were mainly busy at the conference. It is the first tier 1 conference i have attended. And the difference was obvious. Met people from all over the world. Had interesting discussions during breaks. Our presentation was good. Also attended many other talks and presentations. Saw many posters and demos. So many tracks went on parallelly that sometimes i wished i could be in multiple places at the same time! It was a great learning experience. It was cool to meet so many people from around the world who are all excited about a particular subject (MAS). Also got to see the amazing high quality work that gets accepted in a top conference. I hope i will do more such quality work and present in similar conferences in future πŸ™‚

We also visited the SoSLab of the Boagazici CS department. The university is beautifully located with a wonderful view of the strait. It has a lush green campus situated uphill. Had interesting conversation with the Prof. and students of the lab. Talked about topics like topic modelling, annotations, social semantics, sentiment analysis etc.

Did some sight-seeing in the evenings and over the weekend. Istanbul is a huge city with so many places to see that even a week willΒ be less. The two major highlights of our tour were – the Bosphorus cruise, a two hour cruise with a breathtaking view! We saw wild dolphins! It was awesome πŸ™‚ There were a lot of jellyfishes in the strait. The view on both sides was beautiful with lots of mosques, high end houses with there own yachts, huge suspension bridges and deep blue water and sky! The second highlight was our visit to the Galata tower, one of the oldest towers of the world! Its like the Eiffel tower of Istanbul. The view from up the tower just cannot be described in words! I could stand there forever. The blue strait, houses on slopes with orange slanted roofs, the European and the Asian side and the cool breeze! Enjoyed snacks in the cafe at the top of the tower πŸ™‚ We descended via stairs and saw the tower’s built from the inside with the stony walls and small openings for natural light. We travelled by the world’s second oldest tram which was literally pulled uphill using huge automatic pulleys! Also went to the blue mosque and the gulhane park which were close to our hotel. I promise i will wake up early morning everyday and go for a walk if i have a park like gulhane park close to my house πŸ˜‰ Huge trees, blooming flowers, chirping birds, lush green lawns, Turkish tea and an amazing view of the strait!

We thought food might be a problem as we are vegetarian. However we mostly found something good to eat πŸ™‚ The breakfast at our hotel was good. I have never tasted such juicy strawberries before. One must try figs and olives in Istanbul. Also tried turkish bread and pizza which was yummy. Our plain Indian dal is called lentil soup in Turkey πŸ˜› which was also good. We found a pure vegetarian restaurant and had delicious falafel! Tried so many new dishes. For food connoisseurs like us it was fun πŸ™‚

The grand finale of our trip was the idyllic time we spent at a cafe in the gulhane park overlooking the Bosphorus. It was a calm and peaceful evening. The sky was slowly changing colours and slowly it was getting dark. And then gradually the Asian side lit up! The view was fantastic. Ships and yachts were sailing across theΒ Bosphorus. We had a yummy HUGE baked stuffed potato (which we craved for since day one :P) and endless cups of turkish tea over interesting discussions. If only time could be paused, i would have paused it then… forever.

Overall, this trip has been an amazing experience. Its a treasured memory for a lifetime πŸ™‚ Rarely things turn out to be better that what we imagine (atleast for me) however this Istanbul trip is an exception, it turned out to be much much more awesome than what i had dreamt πŸ™‚

Bag of words…

Blue. Water. Fishing rods. Selfie Sticks. Reflections. Huge bridges. Speeding cars. Trams. Dolphins! Jelly fishes. Sea Gulls. Birthday. Cruise. Chilly winds. Galata tower. Sloping orange roofed houses. 2 and 4 engine jets leaving streaks in sky. Long walks. Useful pre-trip advice. Turkish music which sounded same. Blue mosque. Huge grand bazaar. Byzantine ruins. MG Road. Full moon background and mosque minarets. Blue symbol which wards off evil. European windows which open from all sides!Β  Royal shoe polishers. Cats. Lots of cats. Extroverts. Sufi round-round dance πŸ˜› Pide. Strawberries. Olives. Natural Jams. Honey. Huge bread loafs. Vegetable salad. Hot chocolate. Cakes. Different varieties of cheese. Copper tea pots. Mini rice cooker. 3 course rice meal. Fast trams on road. Ice cream vendors. Turkish delights. Baklava. Dry fruits. Spices. Saffron. Sumac. Aryan (buttermilk). Kurus fasulye (white beans cooked in tomato gravy).Β  Geeky jokes πŸ™‚ Asterix and Obelix. Morse code. α—…α—Ία—·α—…. Big Bang Theory. Skype Watsapp Viber.Β  Greenery. Blooming flowers. LOTS of pics. Memories. HAPPINESS.

Some key takeaways…

  • A line which makes us happy when we are sad and sad when we are happy – “This too shall pass!”.
  • Buy experiences, not things. It may seem to be counter-intuitive, but its true!
  • Never give up. Even in case of failure, make the corrections and try again!
  • Sometimes things may not seem to be perfect immediately, but in hindsight, they mostly do!
  • All the hard-work, perseverance and tons of effort seems to be worth it and more when we visit places and attend top conferences.
  • A tier 1 conference is actually number 1 in the quality of work and diversity of gathering!
  • Well maintained water bodies and/or historic relics within city can boost tourism.
  • If the people have basic civic sense, even a city of 14.4 million people can be spotlessly clean.
  • Cats looking like statues may actually be real. πŸ˜› Cats and dogs can happily coexist! Cats actually do not care! πŸ˜€
  • Traffic woes are the same everywhere!
  • Trip hangovers can last realllllyΒ long. Even after a week, sometimes i feel i am in Istanbul!

Thanks…

  • Thanks a lot to my Prof. under whose guidance i did my Masters thesis. I look upto him. I have learnt a lot from him, about the interesting courses he taught in college and more importantly about philosophy of life! Thanks a lot for being my guru and mentor!
  • Thanks to my employer for funding my trip and giving me this amazing opportunity of presenting and attending the conference.

Epilogue…

Istanbul is a beautiful city. An amazing conglomeration of people, religions and cultures. Hope i get an opportunity to visit Istanbul again! My first foreign visit is like a cluster of happy memories! I have enjoyed each and every moment of the trip. Hope to haveΒ many more such experiences in future πŸ™‚ Life’s good ! πŸ™‚

My First Flight Experience

I got an opportunity to visit from Ahmedabad to Bangalore by flight on May 02nd, 2012. This was my first flight experience. My Dad and me reached the airport at 8:30 PM. We got our tickets and then had the security check. Our Spicejet flight SG 345 was scheduled to leave at 9:30 PM. So we had our dinner at the airport itself. The flight was on time and luckily i got the window seat (the child in me was so happy :)).Β  It was a hopping flight with a 30 min break at Pune. So i had double benefit in my first experience πŸ˜€

We were ready and waiting for the take off. Firstly the plane went on the run way till the opposite end and all the while i was feeling as if i am sitting in a bus :D. But finally it took an about-turn and the speed increased exponentially. Within a few seconds we were high, up in the sky. The view was breath-taking. The roads seemed like bright lighted lines, the houses and cars seemed like toys. The actual city looked like a toy model of a city. My ears were humming initially when the plane increased the height, but later on everything was fine.

Time just flew and very soon we landed at Pune. After a 30 min break, the plane again took off. Almost everyone was asleep, but i was so happy and excited that i could not even think of sleeping πŸ™‚ Again there was similar view from the top. Our pilot Mr. Shashidharan was an expert. We reached Bangalore before time at 12:30 AM.

The Bangalore airport is awesome (maybe because the domestic and international airport is common). A bus dropped us till the airport. So may planes were lined up there. Our plane was at 72 numbered stop so you can imagine the view. There was so much rush at the airport that it seemed like a railway station πŸ˜€ I must admit that i am in love with Bangalore at first sight. Even at night the city looked so beautiful and well maintained. It is like heaven for a nature lover like me πŸ™‚ It was so cool and pleasant that unknowingly i fell asleep in the taxi 😦 and missed the night view.

I would also like to add my second flight experience πŸ˜€ since it was a morning flight back from Bangalore to Ahmedabad the next day. I am sure you won’t believe me when i tell you this, “There were soooo many sparrows chirping merrily inside the Bangalore Airport”. Firstly i was shocked and then i was surprised. I am sure that the nearby people must have thought that i had seen the sparrows for the first time πŸ˜€ But i didn’t care :D.

The view while returning back was also very beautiful. Almost all the while (2 hrs.) i was happily looking out of the window (yes! again i got a window seat :)). The rivers and roads seemed like snakes. The green patches were beautiful. Very soon we were at 33000 feet. Even the clouds were below us. I thoroughly enjoyed myself all the while πŸ™‚

Some of the points i thought up above in the sky were –

  • After seeing this view i have an urge to look at the Earth from the space πŸ™‚ I hope i get a chance one day !
  • The feeling of “ME” vanishes and the “EGO” dissolves. From 33000 feet we are not even equivalent to a speck of dust. So even at this great height i was grounded to the Earth πŸ™‚
  • It felt flying like a bird in the sky. I want to try sky-diving now !
  • Importance of time. A 30 hour-long tiring journey by train substituted by a mere 2 hour flight. I saved a lot of time and energy (for my forthcoming exams)
  • Nothing is impossible. If we take up some task and give our best we can get what others say is ‘impossible’. For eg. man can fly like a bird and swim like a fish. An interesting quote related to this – When you do anything new, at first people laugh at you, then they challenge you, then they watch you succeed and then they wish they were like you πŸ˜‰

It was one of the most memorable experience of my life ! Thanks a lot Dad πŸ™‚ In 24 hours i traveled by a car, bus, plane, jeep and auto that day πŸ™‚ Later on the complete journey felt like a dream. I hope i have such dreams recurrently πŸ˜€