Here’s the penultimate blog in a series of 5 travel reviews, following my travels over the last 12 months.
Tonight’s travel blog focuses on Turkey. I was fortunate to visit Turkey at the end of last year, on the back of a charity project that I worked on, in partnership with the United Nations Refugee Agency. The charity project took me to the centre of Turkey, and the province of Nevsehir. This trip was very different to my previous experience of Turkey, a visit to Istanbul in 2011, to stay with a friend who lives there.
Today’s #5aday is dedicated to Turkey and my two different, yet very interesting experiences:
- First Impressions – Istanbul is one of the most amazing cities I’ve had the chance to visit and certainly the most unique, straddling two continents – Europe and Asia, separated by the blue Bosphorous. This culminates in a truly east meets west mix of culture, architecture and atmosphere, old and new. The Adhan, the Islam call to prayer left quite an impression early in the mornings but I soon got used to its haunting sound and of course its integral part of the religious fabric of the country. The region of Nevsehir was very different, with cities, crammed full of high-rise buildings, and wide open expanses in between cities. However, this region has a hidden gem in the form of the magical, historical region of Cappadocia.
- Istanbul – We did all the things you’d expect when in Istanbul – we had a compact 24-hours visiting the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, as well as exploring the delights of the Grand Bazaar. I went on a couple of runs alongside the glistening Bospherous, exploring the suburbs of Istanbul. We also spent a day at Hotel Les Ottomans, enjoying a traditional Hamman treatment, which was pure bliss. I recently read Dan Brown’s Inferno, which is set in parts within Istanbul and it was a lovely reminder of the magic that is this great city.
- Cappadocia – Talking of magic, Cappadocia was quite a surprise. Located in central Turkey in Anatolia, this incredible ancient landscape, is famous for its fairy chimneys. We spent two nights in the region while visiting nearby Nevsehir. Our hotel, the Sofa Hotel in Avanos, looked out over this lunar-landscaped region. The hotel is built into the caves, so filled with many nooks and crannies, and finished off with traditional rugs and antiques. Not only is it a very pretty hotel, it’s great value too with excellent service and everything you’d expect from business hotels today, including wifi. Avanos, the town is also famous for its pottery. On our last day we woke to the most spectacular view of hot air balloons taking off over Goreme.
- Turkish Food – I love Turkish food – especially the speciality that is the most Turkish of foods, the kebab. I sampled several varieties, grilled to perfection over charcoal and served up with flat bread. I love the meze (starters) with my favourite being the smokey aubergine dip. I was lucky enough to be introduced to many different dishes which I probably wouldn’t have sampled had I chosen from the menu myself. It really does pay to be adventurous and eat the specialities of each region. And then there’s Turkish Delight!
- Charity work – The reason for visiting Nevsehir was to witness some of the important charity work that the United Nations Refugee Agency is supporting within Turkey. With its position on the crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Turkey receives a large number of refugees every year. Many of these refugees are children, the victims of tragedy in their home countries. I went to several schools which have been set up, through donations, for these children, giving them essential education while they are waiting to be resettled in a new country. This resettling can take up to five years. It was amazing speaking to the children and seeing them enjoy the day-to-day classes and activities that we all take for granted when growing up.
I have had two very different trips to Turkey; both have opened my eyes to its magic and mystery. Generally when you travel to places, while you might see the poverty on the streets, you are shielded from the harsh reality of it. It was a privilege to be able to go and see how money raised by companies, such as Lebara, actually does make a difference to people’s lives.
By Sarah Mayo