After working for Explore for nearly 18 months I one day found myself on the eve of my first trip. I was about to join our Eastern Turkey tour and was deciding on what I needed to pack. It was an amazing holiday to look forward to considering I had never been to Turkey. What excited me in particular was that we would be visiting areas that not many tourists visit. Even though I've travelled numerous times before, this felt different and I found myself getting a bit nervous about what to expect from the trip. Concerns like finding the Tour Leader at the airport, wondering if I'd get on well with the group, the long drives between places...the usual concerns of an Explore first-timer!
After a short flight followed by a long wait to get through passport control, I collected my bag and was greeted by Sezai, our Tour Leader for the next two weeks; he had the most infectious smile and was very knowledgeable about the places we visited. A short transfer later and we arrived at the hotel where we met with the rest of the group. Everyone seemed really nice and throughout the holiday we would all gel really well together.
One of the main highlights of the trip for me was the Sumela Monastery, a fantastic religious site nestled on the ledge of a steep cliff deep in the mountains near Trabzon. Once at the base of the site, we found ourselves walking through forests and passing streams to get to this iconic place, at which point the Monastery came into view...and it looked beautiful. Once we got to the entrance, the stairs opened up into a courtyard where we could see the buildings that were once home to the monks of the Monastery. This place was significant for a reason aside from its wonderful location, as it was also home to a large collection of religious frescoes, many of which depicted the Virgin Mary. Whilst the frescoes found in the Rock Chapel did appear to be damaged by the course of time, you couldn't help but stand in awe of this place.
Another highlight of the trip for me was visiting the bee hive houses of Harran. These curious set of houses looked wonderful! They were cosy yet they seemed quite spacious as each of the huts that made the house were linked together in a mini-complex. The locals were really friendly and invited us to drink some tea and coffee, and managed to dress a couple of unsuspecting group members into traditional Harran clothes - which brought out plenty of laughs.
All in all the drives in-between places were not overwhelming and we had plenty of opportunities to stretch our legs, take some photos, and to refresh ourselves. The concerns I had before the trip were now a thing of the past as everything seemed to fall into place. I had an absolutely fantastic holiday and would definitely recommend it to everyone!
By Kyle McCandlish
Kyle travelled on out Eastern Turkey adventure.