European Solidarity Corps is at its core about volunteering, contributing to the society, making a positive impact on the local community. It’s also about gaining new experience, challenging yourself, growing as a person, making new friends and creating new memories. However, undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects about being an ESC volunteer, is the possibility to live abroad, to get to know new culture and to discover all the interesting places the country has to offer. But what happens when the unexpected comes (aka COVID-19)? Well, all your plans are destroyed. And I had many- Istanbul in April (together with my mum who was supposed to come and visit me), Cappadocia in May, Antalya in the summer…. Instead of that, all I got was almost three months in the confinement of our apartment. As someone who enjoys meticulously making plans and is a bit of a control freak, adjusting to a new reality in which I can’t pre-plan everything was (and still is) particularly difficult and anxiety-inducing. I can’t put the blame only on my personality though- organizing and planning is quite deeply rooted in our Polish mentality. Turkish spontaneity is something peculiar to us:-) It is worth to mention that despite our love for organizing, we have a saying in Polish: ‘a person makes plans and God just laughs at them’. I think it’s fitting the current situation quite well:-)
Since all of my travel plans had to get temporarily suspended, I needed to come up with new ones, more achievable in the current situation. And the perfect solution was just under my nose all along- Izmir. Now, I know it might sound weird, but I’ve never had a chance to truly discover the city. I quickly fell into the routine of going to work and coming home, of hanging around the same places. I’ve never really ventured outside of that circle- the autumn and winter weather wasn’t really encouraging sightseeing and long walks (even though I’ve survived many long, freezing Polish winters I still get cold quite easily). But most importantly- I convinced myself that I still have a lot of time to see everything I want to. Turns out, I was quite wrong:-)
So Barbara and I started with our neighbourhood- after all, Karşıyaka is a perfect place for enjoying the summer weather. The green, quiet streets, the balconies and parks filled with blooming flowers and trees, the view of the mountains in the background, the proximity of the seaside with its gentle breeze and chatter of seagulls in the distance…. All that beauty can make a person feel happy and grateful to be alive. We also ventured into the Bayraklı district, finally paid a visit to the Izmir Archeology Museum and had a pleasant hike to the Kadifekale hill from where we admired the breathtaking view onto the Izmir Gulf. Next up on the list is the cable car in Balçova, a trip to Ephesus and Şirince, and a visit to Izmirian mosques, churches and synagogues, in order to get better acquainted with the city’s rich multicultural history.
After all, Izmir is such a beautiful city that you don’t need to go far to discover something truly breathtaking…