During the spring break of 2008, the history department sponsored a trip to Istanbul as the first installment of its Encounters Afar program. In preparation, the group’s leaders–Drs. Roy Campbell and Richard Heiser–taught a course on the history of the city, with the six day trip serving as the culmination of the class’ studies. Dr. Heiser focused on the city’s history as Constantinople under the Romans and Byzantines, while Dr. Campbell focused on the city’s time under Ottoman rule.
The professors led a group of 24 students on the trip, during which time they stayed in the city’s Sultanahmet or “old town” district, with the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque in view from their window. In addition to these sites, the group visited the Topkapi palace of the Ottoman Sultans and cruised along the Bosporous, making a stop at the Fortress of Europe. They also had the opportunity to eat dinner in a Byzantine era cistern and watch Mehvlevi sufis, or “whirling dervishes.”