I was checking news feed on Facebook and one post stopped me: Who want to go to Turkey, contact Perpetuum for more information!
And I did.
During short conversation over inbox, I decided to go to Turkey as part of youth exchange program. It was not important who will go, where, how, when… Participating in something like this is on my “to do list” for years, but I always managed to find excuses which prevented me from leaving. The time has come where I have to look for reasons why I should not stay.
There was 5 of us. Mario, group leader and vice president of NGO Perpetuum. Alan, who we physically met at bus station just before our flight. He was definitely an indispensable member of our team. Stjepan and Valentino, brothers, cute students from Samobor. Concerning the fact we all like to talk a lot, we become friend instantly and enthusiastically started our trip.
This was my first airplane flight. I tried to fake indifference, but the seat next to the window encouraged panic every time plane shook, changed speed, direction, altitude, everything. It was entertaining for guys. Food was good. Not enough to fill your stomach, but enough to open your appetite make you want to eat more. After landing in Istanbul, we had boarding for Ankara. We landed in Ankara around 03:00 am so we decided to sleep a few hours at the airport, walk around Ankara and go to Kirsehir in the evening. Kirsehir was our last stop. Tip for traveling: take pictures of everything because you will forget a lot! One non important picture of something during the day will help you sort out things chronologically.
Drama started at the beginning. Boys felt asleep right away. I was cold with two jackets on after just an hour so I decided to walk around the airport, which was huge, in order to find power plug or socked because of low battery on my cell phone. Tip for traveling: always take extension cable with you! You will be happy if you find just one socket and there will be a few of you with low battery phones, laptops, tablets and everything else. That was when I learned my lesson. In the toilet, there were a few sockets under the sinks. It was used to power soap devices. A smart idea came across my mind. You cannot see anything under the sink unless you bend down. So I decided to unplug one of the devices and left my cell phone to charge. I was thinking to myself: airport is empty, there was nobody but us, it is ok. I even suggested the guys to do the same thing. Valentino took my advice. After an hour I went to take my phone. It was gone. Valentino`s, which was right next to mine, was still there. My phone was gone. Confusion and panic made me look for a security around the airport. Tip for traveling: Nobody speaks english! Prepare yourself for an art of using your arms and legs to communicate. And everything else you find useful. Frustrations are not helping. After a while, a man approached me and gave me my phone. I felt relief and happiness. But! In a meantime, Valentino`s dropped his phone behind the sink where the pipes are. Imagine the fuss while trying to explain the situation. We took care of it as well. Luckily for us, we were not in the hurry.
Fuss again, but this time because of trying to find a bus to take us to the center of Ankara. We tried to sleep but we were disrupted by the unbelievable ride through the city. Illicit speed, ignoring the traffic signs, horns, pedestrians, parking… Everybody is crazy (video). We found out later that, in Turkey, you get a driving license after only 10 hours of driving in driving school. Ignoring the stoplight, ignoring traffic rules. Crossing a road, anywhere in the country, is a suicide attempt (video). The city is huge. Market is huge. That is where you can buy everything. People will invade you personal space offering their products (video). As they spoke in Turkish, we spoke in Croatian. A few hours is not enough to see everything and decide what do you want to buy. We found some stuff and went away.
We saw some kind of castle. The same thought came across our heads and we went up the hill with no comments. View from the top was something the most beautiful we have ever seen. There was the whole Ankara. It is huge, there was no end. Photo session and creation of the dearest photos we have, made us extremely happy. There is too much to see and not enough time.
Our trip was followed by another shock – bus to Kirsehir. Something that rarely appears in Croatia: clean bus that smells nice, extremely polite driver and host. While getting on the bus we were looking forward to two hours of sleep. Hahaha… No! Every seat had a screen. There are a few good playlists with over 500 songs, TV program, around 20 movies, internet. But that is not all. Host, a young polite boy, is walking through the bus and giving chocolates to the passengers. Happiness up to the heaven and back. Despite excitement, we were too tired and managed to fall asleep. When we arrived to bus station in Kirsehir, Muhammed and Merve were waiting for us. Muhammed was one of the organizers and Merve was a project host. Everyone started gathering at the hotel and the following day we could start with the activities.
There was 30 people from 6 countries participating in the project: Estonia, Lithuania, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia. Thirty people, thirty different mindsets. Everybody was different and that is why the atmosphere was great. Project started with playing games in order to get to know each other and remember names. The name which was the hardest to remember was Antoslav. He is a king from Bulgaria with whom we had a great time. Theme of the project and reasons of participating were described. Listening to information about the country from perspective of young people who want to make changes, we learned a lot. There is a big difference between following the media and firsthand information. Especially if there is discussion about the same topic held by people with different mindset and different life story. After the official part, Muhammed took us to a bar where Turkish band was playing and Esra was singing. She was a member of Turkish team. Experiencing Turkish culture with traditional Turkish dance was amazing so Mario and I joined in. Party was continued in hotel where we got to know each other very well. Always present game of truth and dare dragged out too much truth out of us and dare consequences followed us until the last day.
We did not have much problem with lack of sleep the next day. During this kind of trips, sleeping is just a waste of time. Tip for traveling: Sleep when you get a chance! Night does not necessarily mean sleeping time. An hour in a transport, half an hour while waiting for the project to begin, 15 minutes in an airplane until someone wakes you up because you snore, 20 minutes in a mosque while you are waiting for a pray to begin… You will sleep when you are given a chance or you will not sleep at all.
We visited mosque in Kirsehir. All the women who are going in need to be covered. After I put a scarf on, people realized I look Turkish. I was no longer Tamara. Muhammed decided to call me Begum. I even got a new card with a new name on. Mario and I came to conclusion that we should make a photo session where I would be Turkish girl and he would be Turkish man. It was fun. Of course, he got a new card as well. Muhammed called him Emre. Merve draped a Croatian flag over herself, Muhammed wore traditional hat from Lika, middle part of Croatia. It was a moment when we realized that this project is a beginning of a friendship. Merve became Marija, and we called Muhammed Milan. Development of our international relationship escalated incredibly quickly. We started talking about cooperation and new projects right away just so we could meet again.
The most anticipated part of the project were intercultural nights. To represent their country, every team had to make a presentation about the country they came from.
Estonians made a traditional meal so they spent some time in a hotel kitchen before the night started. They were extremely nice and sociable. Renar (video), Trinu, Piret, Madis and Signe – everyone different and interesting.
There were 5 girls from Lithuania, also very cute. We spent a lot of time with them during the project. I knew something about Lithuania already. Therefore, I was really looking forward to their presentation. Greta surprised us with a beautiful voice singing traditional song (video). Two Greta`s, Evelina, Berta and Raminta – each one with a different lifestyle and each one was really sweet.
Romania is a beautiful country. Romanians surprised us with a video in which were shown beauties of their country. They showed us a lot of traditional dances which we liked a lot. This was my first touch with Romania and I put it on my “must see” list right away. Alice, Christina, Oana, Andreea and Danu – interesting team who presented Romania well.
Bulgaria is subjectively bigger after this project. We made friend with them in the beginning and spent 10 great days together. Konstantina, Ionana, Merlin, Georgi and Antoslav – Bulgarian team without whom the project would not be so good. Rakija lovers who presented Bulgaria as a country of social people and very good homemade products.
Turkey is specific. Their team presented us traditional Turkish wedding, food, drinks and music. Everybody was fascinated with the video about Turkey. Unbelievable compilation of everything you can see in the country. Food is great. We ate kebabs a few times a day and it was not enough. Esra, member of their team, sang us traditional Turkish song while playing traditional Turkish instrument. Music was so emotional even though we did not know what it is about. Esra, Maide, Rumeysa, Ayse and Deniz – turkish team from whom we learned a lot about Turkey.
Croatians wanted to make a show. We did. Mario, who is 194cm tall, wore a traditional Croatian clothing. There was huge Croatian flag spread in the background. We made a quiz about Croatia. Questions were something like this:
1. Which of these names is not a name of a real city:
It was a city on the sea
St. John neck breaker
St. Peter in the woods
Ringing peace gone wild
2. Which of these dog breeds is Croatian:
Vau Vau Ker
3. Which of these items is connected to White house:
Pršut from Istra
Stone from Brač
Wood from Lika
Cheese from Pag
Now imagine a room where 30 confused faces is looking at you and wondering are you being serious. We were. Out of 10 questions, Bulgaria had the most correct answers – 4.
Kraš became rich because of money we spent over there on chocolate. Mother Slavica donated a few litres of homemade liker made of cherry leafs and vine, plum rakija, dren liker and bazga juice. Alan brought pršut, but we ate the most at breakfast. I think it is really not necessary to point out the music we described as representative. A few hours before intercultural night began, we realized that everybody was preparing. We had all the materials, but no plan. Deal about how to go through it was made quickly. Therefore, our presentation was improvisation and we did a good job.
Serious topics were part of the project as well. We visited one Turkish university. Huge campus outside the city which was described as average. Fascinated with their average, I must admit that Croatian best universities are not not nearly close well set as that one. Dean held a meeting with us and in short conversation we got a chance to ask him a few questions. Turkey has a lot universities and a lot of choices when it comes to education. University education is free for everyone and it lasts for 2-3 years. There are some conditions that make students pay for education but it is easy to avoid it because of a lot of alternatives. Unemployment rate is 9%. Therefore, students who graduate from university do not have a lost of problems getting a job. The biggest problem on a state level is lack of knowledge of English. That is what university deans are trying to improve. Small number of people speak English and with even smaller number of individuals it is possible to conduct an understandable conversation.
Even the employees in tourist info do not speak it. Imagine 5 confused Croatians, at main bus station in Ankara, standing next to a gentleman who works in tourist info and trying to find out how to get to city center by metro and where can we store our luggage so we do not have to take it with us. We were lucky to get a map and manage to realize that there are red and blue lines which means two different directions exist. The search for wardrobe was a new venture. After we walked around a few levels up and down and hundred of meters left and right, we found it in a “basement”. An older gentleman with a lowering face knew how to say: “1 day, 4 lira”. Enough for us.
Definitely the most interesting part was our trip to Kapadokya. I do not even know where to start. Kapadokya looks like another planet. Very early in the morning we started the trip. Some people went with a bus, but Croatians tried to get comfortable in Muhammed`s car – 4 of us in the back, and 3 in front (video). During our first stop, half of the crew from the car continued by bus. It was hilarious, but very uncomfortable.
First stop, 10 minute break. Yeah, right! Croatians run up the rocks. Others made a conclusion that a chance must be used. We climbed the rocks from where we could see the most beautiful view of Kapadokya. Screaming was a reaction followed by laughter and excitement. Tip for traveling: Do not take purses, clothes you do not need, heels… One backpack for a few of you, tracksuit and sneakers. You will feel Kapadokya, not only look at it.
Absolutely impressed by the first impression, we continued forward. We had a few more stops and a few more sprints up the rocks. Getting to the “castle”, we realized that we spent too much time and that we do not have time to see underground city. Nevertheless, we were satisfied.
Entrance to the “castle” costs some money. No problem, but it closes in 20 minutes. No problem, sprint to the top and then we will slowly walk down. Mario and I got to the top before others. Screaming again. Our timing was perfect. We got a chance to see the valley during the day, sunset and evening. That was experience we could only wish for. Employee in the “castle” had to climb up and and literally chased us down because working hours were over. We jumped in Muhammed`s car and went back to hotel.
To be continued… 😉
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