Back in Ireland we always had a traditional Christmas with the tree, Turkey, presents etc. Here in Turkey you may have the same, however, I thought I would share with you my first Christmas here in Turkey and how different it was to what I was used to. There was no Ho,Ho,Ho, though  it was one of the most emotional, overwhelming experiences I have ever had and as left memories that will stay with me forever.

It was in October 2012 when I moved here to Turkey, and one of my best friends invited me to Rize Pazar in the Black Sea when he was going to visit his family in December. He did warn me that it would be a 25-hour bus journey and I thought “brilliant, look at how much I will see of Turkey along the way”. We caught the bus from Kusadasi at 1 pm and off we went.

Now I have to say that I am not the most patient of people as any of my friends will testify to. About two hours into our journey I could feel my bottom region going numb and thought “never mind a slow boat to China, this is going to be like a painful haul to Rize”. I understood why other people getting on the bus brought their own cushions. Not wanting to whine, I quietly bought my own cushion at the next stop.

The coach stopped many times as people got on and off. I was amazed to see that many had cardboard boxes full of different fruits, veg and tea. We made it to Ankara around midnight and although it was dark, it was great to see the sight of this brilliant cities lights.

Once we reached Samsun, we followed the Black Sea coast all the way to Rize Pazar. I was so impressed by the stunning scenery and thought that this could not get any better. But it did.

It was around 5 pm the following day when we reached Rize Pazar, and this is where I was stunned by the scenes that I encountered as we made our way through the mountains to where my friend’s family lived. I was made very welcome, and it was great to relax in front of a warm soba before having a very early night.

The following morning I was looking forward to my usual coffee (I do not function without one), unknown to me, I would have to wait until the soba was re-lit and a huge kettle put on to boil the water. About an hour later I was gratefully sipping my morning cuppa and making a mental note to bring an electric kettle if I ever returned.

After breakfast (about two hours later) I took a walk around the village. It is not really a village as there are no shops and it is really a scattering of houses in the mountains. This region is famous for tea, and even though my Turkish was very poor, everyone who saw me invited me into their homes.

Hospitality is very important here and I can honestly say that I was totally overwhelmed by the welcome I was given. Food is also very important, and everywhere I went people were setting plates of food in front of me.


The following day was Christmas day, and it was not beginning to look a lot like Christmas, in fact, I did not even hear the word mentioned once. I sat outside with a piece of dry bread (I really was struggling with the food) and thought “this has been one of the best experiences of my life”. I have never been made so welcome, and I will always be grateful to my friend for giving me this opportunity to travel all the way across Turkey to Rize.

I spent ten days in total in and I was really saddened when I dug out my cushion and prepared for the long trip back to Kusadasi.

On our outward journey we too joined the throngs of people travelling with cardboard boxes. We took lots of tea, apricots, figs and hazelnuts back to Kusadasi. The journey back was as exciting as our journey to the Black Sea and it is definitely a trip I will never forget


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