I fell in love with the east of Turkey. But how did I end up here?
Already at the beginning, I was sure that I want to see as much as possible from Türkiye and maybe even the neighboring countries. It was one of the reasons for me to do a year of voluntary service. Going abroad, seeing a different part of the world, and experiencing the varieties of cultures there. That is why a trip to the east of travel was in my mind for a long time. During my time here working for Pi, I gathered some vacation days which I could finally put to use this month and go to the east.
What does “the east” mean? Where does it start? How can I go there? With whom will I go?
These big questions turned up when I started to plan the almost two weeks I could take off. I was very lucky that in July Islam celebrated Eid al-Adha the most important Islamic holiday, the Holiday of Sacrifice, which gave me some extra free days to use to travel. But I have to say, the planning was not easy. It was rather stressful because of many reasons: almost every train and bus was booked because of the holidays, arrangements with everyone I would travel with had to be made, and setting the final dates and routes, …
Moreover, I and some of the other volunteers noticed an interesting thing. A lot of people from Izmir, who we know from a different occasions, told us the east of Türkiye would be dangerous, the people there would be more conservative or even uneducated, and if we are sure that we want to go. But the answer to our responding question “Did you ever go there?” mostly stayed the same: “No”.
Nonetheless, of course, nothing could keep me and all my companions from successfully planning this rather big travel and somehow we made it to the east.
It all started at the train station of Izmir. To be honest our start was not the best. Me and my friends were running a little late, I had forgotten my headphones and then the wagons of the train had to be changed, so it was already an hour delayed.
Arriving in Ankara with now three hours delay, we got breakfast and started our journey to Mardin, getting there only by hitch-hiking. Already on the way, we quickly felt that our time schedule would not work the way we thought it would. Luckily my two friends did not get stressed about it at all (like me). They just went with the flow, which is so necessary for traveling, especially longer distances, which I realized way later than them. It was the moment we were sitting in our, I think, fourth truck during the hitchhike and we were going up the hill at maybe 10 km/h, which was so hilariously slow that we could only laugh about it. Moreover, the scenery of the landscape was so beautiful and the driver and his son, who accompanied him, were so open and kind, that there was no other option than to relax and enjoy. And the coming days and destinations were so worth enjoying.
My friends and I spent the first night outside of Izmir on a field, which turned out to be a fruit garden the following morning, next to the highway in our tent. Falling asleep under a gigantic sky full of stars and waking up to people collecting the ripe apricots or better „Kayısı”. We firstly felt caught, our sleep-over on their property could definitely cause some problems. But the owner welcomed us with open arms, brought us coffee, led us through his gardens, told us to pick some fruits ourselves and try them, and finally gave us, happy, full, and ready for the day, a ride to the highway.
From there on we continued hitch-hiking all the way to our first destination and arrived there quite exactly two days later, counting from the very first start. Our home for the next two nights would be the apartment of a friend of a friend of one of my friends. In spite of this distance and lack of knowing each other, we were (again) only met with kindness and hospitality. Her home was our home. The next one and a half days were spent exploring the old part of Mardin, „Eski Mardin“. We tried to create a good balance between trying different foods, visiting museums, and strolling around and experiencing the history ourselves.
The old houses full of stories from centuries ago fascinated me. But what stuck with me the most was our view at night. We climbed up the hill to the bottom of the castle of Mardin, which sadly is not accessible because it’s declared NATO territory, and sat down between some trees, sipping our drinks and reviewing the day. After some time of looking in the far distance, I spotted a long, dimming line, which drew along the horizon from left to right, almost without interruption. I quickly figured out that this must be the border to Syria. At this point, the concept of Syria, a country that always seemed to me full of war and violence, felt so close and still so unreachable, so incomprehensible. My before existing picture of it was clashing with this country lying calm and dark behind the glowing line.
To be continued…