Each time I visit Turkey, I’m always reminded why I love the country so much. Scenery, history, food, culture… all of this is just wonderful, but what makes this country extra special, is the Turkish hospitality. I have lots of stories showcasing this, and could write essays about it, but here is just one story that happened to me earlier this year.
I was in Trabzon, researching our new Black Sea Odyssey Tour, and I really wanted to visit the Sumela Monastery. Since it is currently closed for restoration, no Tour Guide would take me. This monastery was something I had been reading about and hearing about for years – I was so close to it, and all I wanted was to lay my eyes on it – clinging to the green mountains!
I approached a taxi driver, who said he’d take me. His beaten-up taxi barely made it up the mountain track, but we engaged in interesting conversations about his family, my family, and the tourism industry in Turkey.
When we got to the entrance to the monastery (amazing!) the walking track was blocked off. ‘I’ll help you’, said Mehmet, who pushed aside the barrier, and accompanied me all the way up the steep 700 metre track, pointing out the best photo points too!
On the way back down the mountain, Mehmet invited me to share dinner with his family, before he drove me back to my hotel. We first stopped in at his local teahouse for two cups of tea with the men (for those who have been to Turkey, you’ll know how rare it is to see a woman in the teahouse, let alone a young blonde one!!!), then to the bakery for some fresh bread, and then to his home.
The thought did briefly cross my mind that I could be putting myself in a lot of danger so at the last minute, I snapped a photo of his taxi numberplate, just in case. Like that would help!
The door swung open to his humble apartment, where his two grown-up daughters were watching Disney’s ‘Frozen’ with their two toddler children. It’s the same all over the world!
We sat down to a delightful feast of home-made lentil soup, then a chicken and potato stew. We asked each other questions about our home towns, religion, families and jobs.
When it came time to leave, Mehmet gave me a big bag full of hazelnuts from his village (they’re the local speciality) and some fresh, local mineral water. All 6 of us, Mehmet, me, the two daughters and grand-daughters piled back into the taxi to drive me home.
Kisses, hugs and exchanging of Facebook details, we said goodbye, and I went to bed re-assured that travelling gives you the most incredible experiences, and can teach us so much about other people and different cultures!0