Feeling spontaneous, I hurriedly shoved a few things into a carrier bag and set off with my intern room-mate for a weekend of exploring. It’s just over two weeks into my AIESEC exchange, and I figured it was time to venture out and leave Adana behind for a few days.
After an exhausting journey on a night coach and very little sleep, we had arrived in Ankara, the country’s capital, for a day of sight-seeing and an evening of partying and mingling with the international group of AIESECers either visiting or based in AIESEC Ankara. Antikabir, the first destination on our whistle-stop tour of museums and castles, was fascinating and offered an interesting insight into the war history of Turkey. My faux pas of the day (because it’s beginning to seem that there is ususally at least one a day) was getting told off for taking a photo of the guests’ comment book signed by AIESEC: I seem to be acquiring a collection of forbidden photos.
After my photography session, we headed off for Ankara Castle, a huge, circular building positioned on top of a seemingly never-ending hill that we faced in the mid-day heat. On the walk, I was bombarded with people selling souvenirs and jewellery. When reaching the top of the castle, however, it felt like I was in a completely different world. Standing on top of a brick wall and gazing at the amazing view, I felt myself drifting off into a day-dream, but remained very aware that I was in fact stood on top of a relatively narrow wall without any kind of safety measure in sight. This unsettled me a little, and the walk back down in my slippery shoes was a little embarrassing, but the view was unforgettable.
As the sun went down, we were in our dorm rooms, getting ready for the barbeque party ahead. With the dorms being segragated into boys’ and girls’ rooms, the place had a slightly ‘school-trip’ feel to it and was rather basic, but with sleep rarely being a part of any AIESEC agenda, we were not in our rooms for long. Another coach journey later, and all AIESECers were in a university campus, only the university atmosphere was replaced with music, Efes (a Turkish brand of beer) aplenty and barbeque food.
The following day began with the distinct waft of hang-overs and lethargy, but after some much-needed sleep on the coach, we had arrived at a Salt Lake, a place unlike any I had ever seen before. Nothing but white surrounded me: it looked like a winter wonderland but was over 30 degrees, and the crunchy texture of the salt had reduced me to hobbling around without my shoes. Feeling revitalised, all AIESECers were rounded up once more for the rest of the journey to Cappadocia. I could tell we were near when the view outside the window bizarrely transformed into a surreal view of huge rocks, as if looking out onto a view of a different planet.
Most of our time exploring this strange new land was instead spent the following day, as we were to check in to the hotel (which was a huge improvement on the dorm rooms) and desperately try to make it in time to view the sun set from the panoramic view-point, one of the most well-known view points in the country. Feeling like I was in an African country, I drank in the beautiful view of orange sky, dotted with fluffy clouds that surrounded the mesmorising sun.
Although next on the agenda was supposedly a mere evening to a restaurant, I soon learnt that the night held much more in store, an extravagant wedding reception in fact. We were led into a beautiful room decorated with flags from all over the world. After observing a moving religious ritual of Semah, my mood was quickly transformed with the abrupt yell from a Turkish waiter of ‘Are you ready?’.
Suddenly, traditional dance flooded the dance floor and wonderful food appeared from no-where. Joining a congo-line, I was taken out of the room and outside where there was a huge fire we danced around. The fabulous atmosphere, helped along by the steady flow of wine, was in full swing by now, and was heightened upon the entry of a belly dancer, who emerged from a glass box that came through the ceiling. The remainder of the night flew by with dancing until our feet ached, and ended with another forbidden photo to add to my collection. I took a photo of myself and my friend’s picture imprinted on a souvenir plate, and walked back to the coach after being shouted at in Turkish that I was to pay 10 lira, rather than take a picture.
Early morning, and everyone shook off the return of the hang-over in order to make the most of exploring the nooks and crannies of Cappadocia’s historic landscape. The afternoon was filled with a pottery-making session followed by wine-tasting, which everyone seemed recovered enough from the previous night to enjoy. Before finally heading back to Adana, we took a trip to an Underground City: a claustrophobic maze of tunnels and caves dating back to the 2nd century. When in a particularly small cave, a power-cut plummeted everyone into pitch black. Although this only lasted a few seconds, it felt like forever.
Exhausted, I returned to the coach for Adana. Never have I packed so much into three days and never have I learnt about a culture so intensively. Now to acquire a firmer grasp of the Turkish language in order to complete my experience.
16-18th July 2010.