Peace Starts with Baklava: Religious Tolerance and Co-existence in Albania

I loved Albania from the first time I visited it. Having spent the biggest part of my life living in two crossroads of civilizations, Thessaloniki and Istanbul, I recognized in this small country a part of myself. I loved Albania’s duality, the fact that it balances between old and new, conservative and modern, simple and abundant. Dual and ambiguous; just like me. -Mary Drosopulos, PhD in Cross-Cultural Studies

Mary Drosopulos, PhD in Cross-Cultural Studies

In 2016, Pope Francis had praised Albania, saying that this small country was a bright example of religious tolerance and harmonious co-existence for the whole world.

Located in the Balkans, a geographical place which has suffered from wars, conflict and division due to religious and ethnic differences, Albania is a unique case where Christianity and Islam co-exist in harmony. Interfaith marriages are common practice, resulting in families celebrating both Christian and Muslim traditions. 

I visited Tirana for the first time in 2011, in a period when I was still living in Turkey. I remember I was so impressed by the hospitality and warmth of its people that as soon as I returned home, I decided to study the language and learn more about the people. 

In the next years, I would master the Albanian language and dedicate a large part of my time conducting youthwork at a grass-roots level with young people from rural and disadvantaged areas, who fought with a number of problems that are so common in the Western Balkans, such as unemployment, poverty and lack of perspective.

Christmas tastes like Baklava
Korça, Albania, December 2019

This year, by a strange twist of fate, I found myself celebrating Christmas in Korça, surrounded by friends who opened their homes for me as soon as I called them from the bus station. A day which started in frustration for me due to canceled itineraries ended in the sweetest way: at a traditional Albanian home, located in a small picturesque village outside Korca, celebrating Christmas with my muslim friends. We cooked burek in a wood burning stove, chatting vividly in three languages: Albanian, Greek and Turkish.

Hearing about my family’s origins, spreading all the way from Pontus down to Izmir, one of the hosts, Renato, aged 29, told me how his own mother is an Albanian originally from Anatolia:

‘Dear Santa’, at the Greek School of Korça

My mom is a Muslim and my father a Christian. I grew up with both religions. God is One. I enter both the church and the mosque. The place is not important when you pray; what matters is what you carry inside your mind and heart.

The last plate of this beautiful sofra was baklava, the traditional dessert symbolizing Albanians’ hospitality. History says that ‘baklava’ was brought to the Balkans by the Goranis (Goranlılar), an ethnic minority living in the Sharr mountains of Kosovo, who had mastered the art during the Ottoman times, when cooking for the Sultans. Cherished by both Christians and Muslims, baklava is always present in celebrations all around the Balkans.

In Turkish we have an expression: ‘tatlı yiyelim, tatlı konuşalım’, meaning ‘let us eat something sweet, so as to talk sweetly to each other’. Everything starts and ends with words. Sometimes all we need to do is simply share a kind word with each other. This is enough to make a change in our families, in our communities, in our region. İn this sense, peace can start with something as simple as sitting at the same table to eat baklava. 

PROTEST AGAINST GOLD MINING AT MOUNT IDA

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE INTERVIEW

Baklava Mag: Recently, everyone is talking about how the Canada-based gold mining company “Alamos Gold” destroying the northwest of Turkey. Tell us what’s on at Mount Ida and around.

Büşra​: Apart from the Canada-based “Alamos Gold”, there are two German companies and a Turkish one which destroy the natural resources and put the region in danger. The number of the trees that have been permitted by the “Environmental Impact Assessment Report (ÇED)” was 45.000; however, the number has increased to 195.000 today in a sudden. We are all aware of the fact that it is not going to be the end. The project is designed to run for six more years, which also represents the number of the years that we have to deal with the spreaded acid, cyanide, radiation and arsenic on air. The members of the government who are in charge of the current actions should have immediately face with the facts and take action.

Baklava Mag: Have you been in the protests against the devastation? What do you think about the ongoing “The Great Water and Conscience Meeting”?

Büşra: Yes. We had already planned a camping trip to Çanakkale before all those protests happened. When we heard about about the protest, we made a call for the protesters in order to give them ride to the region; but I would like to emphasize that being exist in the region is not the only way to raise your voice. There is no way for us to ignore the effort and support of all those people who deals with tough conditions in Turkey. Most people are not able to be there since they are struggling with various challenges including financial issues. Anyway, we didn’t spend the night there.

Baklava Mag: How about the locals in the region? What do they think about those actions and protests?

Büşra: They are extremely sad. I felt like I lost my mind when I walked by an old man who cries in front of the destroyed trees. Unfortunately, being sad does not bring the trees that has been cut down. We have to raise our voice all around the country. The locals are immensely angry and confused. They are willing to take action collectively so that they can survive; that is the main reason for them to support the protesters.

Baklava Mag: Collective awareness platforms are full of campaign regarding to that issue. Do you think they will result in a way that is desired by the protesters?

Büşra: Today, it is impossible for us to deny the power of social media. The greatest example of its power was the Gezi Park protests in 2013; however, it is a must to discuss the sustainability of those campaigns and platforms. I mean, what we have changed so far by signing a campaign on digital platforms? I literally think that it is not more than an easy way for hiding ourselves in our comfort zone. What I strongly believe is that the collective movement is the answer for a continuous solution.

Baklava Mag: There is an undeniable polarization between those people who run against of the destructions as well. What do you think about that?

Büşra: This is something that has to happen. First and foremost, we all have to accept that every single thing that we do and don’t do is political. There is no need for us to stay away from the political stage and to develop some kind of a phobia. What happened in Mound Ida is not the first political action as well. There is going to be more of that since the exploitation culture is permanent and an unbreakable part of the politics. Even the existence or non-existence of those trees are the results of politics. Being apolitical is not the option in this case. We should always keep in mind that one of our most fundamental rights is the freedom of political struggle. If today is not the day, then when is the day for us to raise our voice? We should keep resisting.

Baklava Mag: Do you have one last thing to say for our followers?

Büşra: Keep resisting for the victory of hope over darkness. We are the ones who has the opportunity to save the nature, the humanity and the universe. Au revoir!✨

An escape in the south: Through the Eyes of Denny Zlatanova

Or why Turkey has become a top destination for their north neighbours

Editor’s note: Denny is an intelligent Bulgarian woman who will certainly leave you feeling inspired after reading her experience in Turkey. Undoubtedly she will be your lodestar for your next visit to Turkey since the way she observes Turkish culture and social dynamics are well beyond average.

“There is no surprise – Bulgaria and Turkey have shared a great amount of history. It comes naturally that both Bulgarian and Turkish people tend to know each other pretty well – in fact much better than anyone else of their neighbors. Culture, traditions, food & drinks, dances, music, lifestyle and even a great amount of Turkish vocabulary – all of this can be found extremely easily in everyday Bulgarian life. Also, there is no doubt – everybody here appreciates a good kebap after work.

Growing up I have always been surrounded by Turkish people, as they are the biggest minority group in Bulgaria. But it took me 21 years to land on Turkish soil for the first time, as a work/travel trip from the foundation that I’m a part of. Little did I know what a megapolis Istanbul was until I paid a visit – it’s situated on 2 continents (and it is the only city in the world which holds the title), but it’s also over 160km. long, a home of more than 20 million people (according to unofficial data) and it is the biggest city in Europe. “Tsarigrad”, as many Bulgarians still call it, is only 5 hours away with a car and it is truly something you have never seen before, especially on the scale of little Europe. 

The most modern Turkish city stretches along the Bosphorus, dividing the country into two – Anatolia and Thrace – or Asian and European Turkey. It doesn’t matter which part of the country you will decide to visit – wherever you are in Turkey you will be treated with immense respect – for being a tourist, a foreigner, or especially a Bulgarian. I have never been greeted more warmly and respectfully anywhere on the Planet.  Turkish hospitality cannot be mistaken – you will be left with the impression they are ready to do anything for your comfort and pleasant stay – and it is true.

Balat/Istanbul
Credits: D. Zlatanova

Over 2 million Bulgarians have visited Turkey only until October this year – the numbers are growing massively as countless Bulgarian tourist busses snake around the border area waiting for hours to cross over. And it is not only Istanbul which entices the Bulgarian wave to go south – Turkey has become one of the best holiday destinations, offering affordable vacations in Izmir, Bodrum, and Antalya. 

A coffee shop in Istanbul
Credits: D. Zlatanova

The geographical closeness to Bulgaria undoubtedly has a huge role to play when it comes to tourism. But besides Greece, the other Bulgarian neighbor who also receives marvelous touristic attention especially in the summertime, Turkey attracts visitors for one major reason – it is different. A few hours drive from Plovdiv, for example, (or “Filibe” as it is famous in Turkey), takes you to another world, kissed by the lavishness and vividness of the Orient, its myriad colors and fragrant odors, and most importantly – its people, who will make you feel like at home.

Edirne through the eyes of Denny

Another reason why Turkey is becoming more and more popular is because of shopping. Edirne is a city, situated in the north part of the country, 10 minutes away from the border. The number of Bulgarians who go there on an everyday basis is tremendous –  local people have learned to speak Bulgarian and they do operate with Bulgarian currency. Turkey’s retail industry has been indeed blooming for years and overflowing the Bulgarian market (cities like Asenovgrad have transformed into shopping centers notably for the Turkish clothes import). But as it turned out, it is still way cheaper to travel a bit and go buy Turkish clothes on the spot! Moreover – anything that comes between shampoos and detergents to make-up and personal care – in Turkey you will bargain those goods for a price which is minimum twice cheaper compared to Bulgaria for the same quality! And don’t be surprised when people from Edirne greet you with komshi (a word that I very much adore and which translates into neighbor) – almost every second person you meet in Edirne will be a Bulgarian, on the weekends – pretty much everyone. 

It’s mesmerizing how just a few hundred kilometers can offer you the ultimate getaway, which, yes – will stand in stark contrast from what you have experienced so far in the old continent. When it comes to me – I’m truly anticipating my next trip to the beautiful land of baklava, which always manages to stunt me with its authenticity, generosity, and love.

Bir dahaki sefere kadar, Türkiye!

Meet Ilaria: An Italian Free Spirit

Ilaria is a 23 years-old Italian traveler and a “dreamer” as how she describes. She is a strong woman who knows what to dream and forces herself to get closer to her dreams.

Read on to meet with her positive vibe and get inspired by her unique experience!

“I’m a positive soul who loves to connect and share experiences with people from all kind of backgrounds and cultures. I would say that my primary passions are traveling, self-development, yoga, photography, and writing. At the moment, Tenerife (Canary islands) is the place where I call as “home”.

“I have lived in Italy for all my life; but, then the desire of exploring the world and challenge myself out of the famous “comfort zone” made me live a nomadic life for a while. I have lived and volunteered in Germany, I have experienced life in Australia, lived in Sweden for half a year, and called home also London and Greece.”

Ilaria’s tattoo. Yes, it really is real.

Living in Tenerife, Canary Islands

“Tenerife is the place that stole my heart from the very first moment. Being an adventurer, I always used to tell myself that I didn’t want to stop in one single place for anything and anyone, but when I arrived here, with my backpack, a pair of boots and my camera, I had no idea what I was going to live. Everyone I had the opportunity to meet during my trip told me the first days “this island has something magic, it’s like a trap, I’m sure you’re not going away”. And at the beginning, I could not understand why. Well, maybe it is better not to mention that I decided to miss my flight and to change all the plans I had for my future.”

“Living in Tenerife means spending days at the beach in the middle of January. It means going out for a walk and smile and talk to each person you meet. It means having the possibility, every day, to choose if you want to head to the ocean, to the mountains or to desert areas. This island has it all and nature is simply breathtaking. For outdoor enthusiasts like me, it’s easy to fall in love with this vast and changing territory. The sun and the waves, all year-round, make me feel that inner peace I was never able to reach in order places I have lived. And the warmth of the people makes me feel like in a big family.”

“I am happy to live in Tenerife now and I would not change this island with anything. However, this is the place where I am based, but I don’t have any intention to stop my adventures around the world!”

Comparison in a Triangle: Italy, Sweden and Greece

“Italy and Spain are really close from a cultural point of view. Compared to the other countries where I have lived, people are warm and relaxed, the rhythms of every-day life are calmer and the traditions and habits of the country represent something that strongly influences its habitants. For sure, this factor has its pros and cons.”

“I have really loved Sweden because of its order, its incredible advanced system and the open mindedness of its citizens. The cold weather and the darkness, though, are something I could not bear for too long. In the end, I am a girl from the south of Italy: I need the sunshine, the sea and smiley people around me in order to be happy. Roots are roots!”

“After a whole winter in Sweden, I was really feeling the need to enjoy the outdoors without freezing. But not only: I had previously heard that Greek people were the most open and welcoming people on earth. And guess what, this is exactly what I found! I was dreaming about Greek tavernas, typical music, dances, and sunsets by the sea. I started looking for a place with an environment where I could have helped others and, at the same time, grow as a person. It’s in this way that I found the opportunity to do an internship in Thessaloniki.”

“I have worked as a mentor assistant of a group of volunteers from EVS. I had to coordinate and organize with the other mentors of the organization the different tasks and activities of the group. There were many different projects: from social media to video making, from language tandems to cultural events with refugees. I have learned a lot regarding human rights and I have create such strong connections with people from all over the world. Living in a big house with many young people, all from different countries and with different stories to tell, is something that without doubts changed my life. Traveling teaches how to share and, in my opinion, it is the best gift that life can ever give to us (just to mention one of my favorite quotes: Happiness is real only when shared).”

“During my stay in Thessaloniki, I decided with my friend of adventures, Claudia, to reach Istanbul and explore its magic. What an adventure! We have hitchhiked for one whole day and arrived in this huge city safe and sound. We decided to be hosted by local people in order to dive deeply into Turkish culture and explore all its shades. Its atmosphere, the people, the food, the history and much more made this adventure unforgettable. Turkish people have been the kindest to us and we have always felt very welcomed. People are fun, with a big heart, and always ready to help if needed.”

Greece versus Turkey

“Regarding Greece, I would say the values people have, the shades of the sea, its welcoming culture. Regarding Turkey: the magic of its places, the mix of different worlds (European side/Asian side), its flavors and traditions.”

She hitchhiked from Thessaloniki to Istanbul

“Maybe I haven’t experienced Turkey enough to be able to compare these two countries. I have visited only Istanbul and I know that there is a lot more to explore. I’m really keen to come back and discover the south, Antalya, as well as Cappadocia and the Black Sea.”

“I would absolutely live in both Greece and Turkey for a longer period if I have time. They are both the places where I feel I can learn something new every day, where even the contrast between “advanced and ruined” is interesting.  In both of the countries, I have broken down many mental walls. In fact, many people only associate Greece with the crisis or the massive tourism on the islands, when I have found out that Greece has a lot more to offer: People are happy, enjoy life, enjoy the moment. It’s more important to spend some time talking and laughing than complaining or stressing out for them, or at least, this has been my impression. What about Turkey? Well, I have heard all my life that it was way too dangerous for me to travel alone in this country or as well as with another girl. I have never felt unsafe and I never walked through Istanbul’s streets with fear. My advice: Switch off the TV and go live the reality!”

The Van Adventure

“Traveling with a van has always been a dream for me, but it’s only when I met my boyfriend that we both decided to turn this dream into reality. We both love traveling and we realized that converting an old and broken van into a tiny and cozy home on wheels could have been the right solution to travel more, explore more and have the freedom to stop where we want and have everything we need. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worthy. We had no previous experience, but step by step we have learned how to cut wood, how to build a bed, how to install electricity and much more.”

Ilaria and her boyfriend’s van

“Before, we had noticed that it was becoming a real obsession: we were all day long talking about the van, what we needed to do, how to find inspiration, how much we needed to save in order to realize this project. After, we got a one-way ferry ticket to Portugal where we have inaugurated and tasted what it feels like living on the road.”

An International Love Experience

“When there is love there is nothing that a culture, a language, or a habit can put apart. Adrian and I have different backgrounds, a different culture, a different education and language, and maybe this is exactly what made us fall in love in a very short time. Even though sometimes there are some differences in the way we express ourselves or in the way we see things in life we both know that our main goal is to be together and to get to know each other every day a little more.”

Achieving the Dreams

“My dream today is to be a digital nomad and fully dedicate myself to a life on the road with my boyfriend and my puppy. Our goal is to convert another van, a bigger one, that could serve us as a house and that allows us to live in different countries for a while. We want to explore as many places as possible while living a simple and sustainable life.”

“We work every day in order to reach this goal. I have left my secure job to start my own business online, now I am working as a freelancer and I am able to work from any place I want. I want to inspire people to be happy, to be free, to be the life they want to live, and to be aligned with their real selves. There is no need to feel stuck in one place. If you want something all you need to do is to work for it.”

We wish nothing but the best of lucks to our lovely reader and traveler Ilaria. If you have any further questions, contact her via Instagram.

PS: She has one of the loveliest feeds you have ever seen.


Greek-Youth Turkish Orchestra

Where people fail in communication, music speaks!

A few years ago, “Greek-Turkish Youth Orchestra” greatly used the universal language of music to build friendship between #Turkish and #Greek communities. It became a wonderful attempt, thanks to the efforts of Konialidis. For a few years, we all witnessed a remarkable reunion of Turkey and Greece. 

60 young, brilliant musicians from both sides performed in highly prestigeous venues such as the Acropolis (#Athens), Megaro Mousikis(#Thessaloniki), İstanbul Lütfi Kırdar / Istanbul Lutfi Kirdar – ICEC and Ahmed Adnan Saygun Sanat Merkezi (#İzmir). They even hosted a special concert where Bill Clinton and over 50 heads of states participated.

The las time we heard from them was in 2017; however, we keep our fingers crossed for more performances for 2020.

The orchestra was supported by Greek Ministry of CultureGreek Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Η Ελλάδα στον Κόσμο, T.C. Atina Büyükelçiliği / Turkish Embassy Athens / Πρεσβεία Τουρκίας Αθήνα, Turkish Office of Tourism in Athens, AGC Equity Partners, Bilkent ÜniversitesiDeree – The American College of Greece, Dogus Foundation, Vehbi Koç VakfıKoç Üniversitesi, Mrs. Kyriacopoulos K, John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, Maria Tsakos Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural CenterRodos Palace HotelSchwarz Foundation and Yaşar Üniversitesi.

Meet Nadia: A Former Gymnast from Bulgaria

Nadia is a brilliant young woman who lives in Sofia, Bulgaria and recently, we have approached her to listen how it makes her feel like to study and to live in one of the most attractive spots of Balkans.

Read on to get inspired by the words of this young, brilliant woman.

“This is going to be my second year living here in Sofia. My hometown is called as Kyustendil, a small and charming city in Western Bulgaria that is close to the borders with Serbia and north Macedonia -and actually, quite close to Sofia, too. Both Sofia and Kyustendil are rich in history and offer a great deal of pleasures for visitors and locals. Of course, life in Sofia is much more busy since it is the capital city of Bulgaria. Whereas in Kyustendil, daily routine is a bit more relaxed than Sofia.”

Kyustendil, Bulgaria
Click on to see the source

“When I am in Sofia, I find myself very bust with university. Most of my days revolves around studying and attending to the classes. Depending on my timetable, I wake up between 7 to 8 am. I have something for breakfast and get ready to go out. It takes about 40 minutes to reach to the campus from where I stay. Luckily, I have great colleagues in my department and time goes pleaseantly. We have breaks together for lunch and so on during the day. In the evening, I usually meet with friends or go to the gym.”

“Sofia is beautiful at every moment of the year and every season, it has its charm in some way. For tourists, I would recommend to do plan their trips for the summer as the city is less crowded.”

“I have always been in love with autumn season in Sofia, with the incredibly beautiful colors of three crowns and the leaves falling upon pavements. all those make Sofia even more enchanting and leaves a nice and cosy aftertaste.”

Sofa, Bulgaria

“Sofia is a city of great traditions so that many vents take place on annual basis. One of the most famous ones -and my personal favorite- is the preparation for the first of March, for the day that is known as “Baba Marta” or “Granny March”. If you decide visiting Sofia a couple of days before Baba Marta, you will see -absolutely- everywhere people selling and buying “martenitsi” -the bracelets from pieces of red and white cotton that are given to fiends and family members as a wish for happiness and health for the following year. We wear them until we see a blooming tree or a stork -both are the symbols of spring.”

Martenitsi bracelets
Click on to see the source

“According to my experience, I would say that people in Sofia are very approachable and easy to communicate. There are many job opportunities as well here, especially for the youth. That is the main reason for us to come to that city. Every year, Sofia is hosting more and more people. There is little something for everyone here. Being here is a thing that worth trying, do not hesitate to pay a visit sometimes, guys.”

Meet Janek: Comes from the heart of Poland

Janek is a 22 years-old law student who majors in Uniwersytet Warszawski and currently works in a law firm in Warsaw. He has been gaining experience in European projects and recently, he has become the Participant Coordinator of Model European Union Warsaw 2019. He describes himself as a federalist who imagines to see a united states of Europe in the future.

Read on to see what Warsaw looks like through the eyes of a real local.

“I was born and raised in Warsaw and currently, my whole life is going on here. I have never had the opportunity to live in another city or country; but I am planning to experience it soon thanks to the Erasmus program. I have knowledge about the other cities mainly from the trips I made and the stories of my friends.”

“Warsaw is the largest city of Poland and I am lucky to be the one who lives very close both to the work and to the campus; so that I do not have to spend much time on the public transportation. This was the first thing that came into my mind when I imagine and ordinary day in Warsaw. Despite the good conditions regards to transportation, we have unfortunately some people who spend more than an hour on their ways to reach to the city center.”

“A significant part of a typical day of mine is definitely the time when I get lunch in one of the restaurants. Almost all of them offers lunch with affordable price. Gastronomy, for me, is one of the most important features to assess a city. I always try to spend my evenings with friends since those are the only times that I can get relax. I prefer to be around Vistula Boulevard in summer, and in restaurants or bars in winter.”

Click on to see the source of the visual

“I assume that there is no specific traditions originated in Warsaw. Just as in the other cities, the inhabitants have their own language. For instance, we meet in “Patelnia” (frying pan) -the square which locates in front of the Centrum Metro Station, in the center of Warsaw stands “the Pekin” (Beijing) -Palace of Culture and Science. In Polish, the acronym of the Palace of Culture and Science is “PKiN”, which sounds like the Chinese city “Pekin”. Lastly, to drink beer, we go to the place which we called as “the stairs” -boulevards on the west side of the Vistula, which looks like stairs.”

“I think you can experience the greatest charm of Warsaw when it gets warm. Meaning that you should come here from May to October, so that you might enjoy the Vistula River and get a chance to have a walk through numerous parks and gardens, which are considerably a lot in Warsaw. If you choose coming here in colder times, try to fit your trip into the Christmas period. Decorations around the city are all hung over and the city looks phenomenal!”

“Warsaw consists of a huge mixture of people. We can meet a diverse community of students here and many people live here for their works. The funny thing is that the hardest thing to find in Warsaw is a person who actually comes from Warsaw. The term słoik (jars) is used to refer to the people who migrated from their hometowns. Initially, it had a negative connotation; but now, it just seems humorous. The term has been used by the ancestors. Anyway, peple are attracted to here for various reasons so that we should be happy about that.”

“You can become a Varsovian even though you were not born in Warsaw. What I have heard from my fiends who come from other cities was that the residents of Warsaw are friendly and smiling. It is very easy to talk to a stranger on the street or simply change smiles on the road. I think that precisely because we, as Warsaw locals, are such a diverse society. That is why we become happy to welcome all new comers.”

“As the largest city and one of the largest in the whole region in Poland, Warsaw offers a lot for people. Honestly, someone who can not find a job in Warsaw might not want to find a job. as most of the entrepreneurs gathers here, people with all qualifications are sought after. Both for the students and the graduates, it is not a big deal to get a position here. For sure, you have to have real expectations, no one will become a manager or a director without having prior experience, but I think that the current market situation allows you to believe that one day you will become this leader you have imagined.”

“If you are looking for a proper place to live, come to Warsaw. If my career would not force eme to do it, I definitely won’t move out of here for a long time.”

“I would like to encourage you all to have a visit here. Maybe some of you think that you do not have any time, money or a company, understandable. But the doesn’t have to be like that. Traveling does not have to be expensive and solo trips may also make you feel pleasant. I know that from my very ow experience which taught me that every tip broadens horizons and there is nothing better than observing new cultures. I hope you will make it and come here!”

Meet Zehra Mehpare: A Young Entrepreneur from Galata

Department of Modern Greek Language and Literature was founded as part of Department of Western Languages and Literatures at Ankara University in 1991 and graduated its first students in 1995. Even today, the number of the departments that has Modern Greek Language and Literature in it is only three in Turkey. When we asked about her specific reason to go for that department, “Considering the fact that we have lots of things in common with Greece both historically and geographically, it is not surprising that Greek language and literature is one of the things that attracts us the most, no?”, she replied.

Zehra Mehpare is a 30 years old young woman who majored in the field of “Modern Greek Language and Literature” in Istanbul University. Currently, she has been running her own touristic coffee house which locates at one of the most iconic spots, Galata. In addition to that, she is renting flats for university students.

Read on to learn more about her experience as a student of Modern Greek Language and Literature.

“There were a lot of reasons for me to go for the Modern Greek Language and Literature as a major; but honestly, the moment I has seen the Turkish soap opera “Yabancı Damat”, which was known as “Borders of Love” in Greece, I made my decision for life. When I considered the other factors afterwards, I thought the program just fits me.”

Yabancı Damat, a famous soap opera in Turkey
Click on to see the source

“When I got accepted to the department in 2007, there were only two faculties in Turkey which run the Modern Greek Language and Literature program. One of them was in Istanbul and the other locates in capital, Ankara. I went for Istanbul since it was the city I admired the most.”

“It was hard for me to see all those talented instructors who left the department by the time I began. More significantly, the syllabus was not well prepared at all, after the first year which we got used to learn the spoken language, we jumped into the Greek literature in the 17th century for instance. Basically, we had to face with the most difficult subjects until we reached to the senior year. When I think about the revolution of greek language, I can say that changing the order of the topics that are covered in syllabus might be more effective than it is now. Besides, some of my colleagues left the program just because they think it is too hard to adaptive into that system.”

“Our department had a diverse population in it. As far as I know, I had two Armenian and a Cypriot colleague in my class. In the other classes, there were some students from Thessaloniki, who have Turkic roots and lots of people from Cyprus as well. I am pretty sure that we had more.”

“Nowadays, I am not working in a related field but as far as I assume, our graduates have the same kind of opportunities just as the other language and literature students have. Interpretation, tour guidance, translating, private tutorship and moving forward in academy are some of those opportunities that they are able to go for. Recently, Acun Media has been offering lots of positions for our department as well. I, personally, care about communicating with the Greek customers in our coffee shop at Galata and to build friendship with them. I got tons of valuable friends from Greece over years. And dozens of songs, in addition to that!”

“I have been in Greece only for one, I stayed two weeks but it was enough for me to see the intimacy of the locals. Despite the fact that we do not share the same language and both sides has prejudices for each other, the positive vibe was all around so that I felt like I am in my hometown, Izmir (Smyrna). For me, the most inspiring thing was to see that the locals were getting extremely happy when they heard you speaking their mother tongue. They were highly supportive and warm when they see you talking. Those were mostly what I observed in Athens by the way.”

“In Ioannina, however, it was more or less the same. The locals were behaving kind and warm, but I had also some times that I couldn’t understand the way they spoke. They were able to understand me, strangely. When I mentioned this to my friends from Athens, they told me that the way the Ioanninas speak was different than the dialect I heard in Athens.”

“A funny memory has just come into my mind. I had a conversation with a friend from Crete. We were discussing the usage of a Greek word and my friend told me that they do not use such a word in their dialects. When I asked it to another Cretan friend of mine, I learnt that it is actually used in their dialect. Because of all those things, differences and so on, I aim to learn Greek int he most proper and detailed way that is possible and to live in Athens one day.”

“Considering the fact that we have lots of things in common with Greece both historically and geographically, it is not surprising that Greek language and literature is one of the things that attracts us the most, no?”

Meet Jack: Life in Cardiff, Wales

Today, we get the opportunity of conducting an interview with a young photographer, Jack Cowles from Cardiff. We were well aware of the fact that most of our readers dream about continuing their lives in some part of UK so that we asked him all you want to know about life in UK.

Jack is a young photographer who used to get inspired by the charm of the Mediterranean sun once upon a time in Thessaloniki thanks to his EVS experience in Greece. We would like to note that he is also a huge fan of Turkish coffee as well!

Read on to get your daily inspiration UK lovers!

“My city has a lot of beautiful areas, park, architecture and many shops. A typical day would be walking at 5 am and having a shower, Turkish coffee afterwards and getting ready for work. Between 08.20-17.00, I work at opticians and then between 19.00-21.00 I train with the Red Cross before returning home to bed. I work in a large optician and volunteer with the Red Cross here most of the time as I mentioned, but travel a lot as much as I can.”

“Wales is famous with its culture and history, events and sports. Whether it is listening to old tales, watching our craftsmen work, learning about the mining history or listening to the beautiful Welsh music, you will always find something to entertain you here.”

“I have lived here for 22 years and spent time in Thessaloniki, too. Strangely, Thessaloniki felt more like home than my real home. Friendly people, lively atmosphere, delicious food all being part of why.”

“Cardiff is best visited in summer season even if the weather here is a little unpredictable. I prefer summer months as there are many events to attend although you can find something all year round. A lot of cultural events happen in the winter or spring season, though.”

“Throughout most of the UK jobs are hard to come by at good rates; but if you are in the right area, there are many opportunities for everyone. There are lots of placements for students and learning programs for all ages in the workplace.”

“Locals here alike any other country can differ although most of us do tend to be hospitable and would love to show you around, so feel free to ask for advice! I would highly recommend Cardiff to people who think of moving here, work here or even just want to have a visit. There is certainly a lot to do, great opportunities and many transport links. Oh! And make sure you eat Welsh cakes at Cardiff market. They are the best ever!”

Meet Zeliha: The Story of an Award-Winning Young Poet from Istanbul

Zeliha is a 24 years-old young, passionate poet who released her very first book “Odalar ve Şehir” right before she graduated and got awarded by Arkadas ZOzger. She majored in philosophy at Boğaziçi University, which is known as the most prestigious institute of Turkey in terms of social sciences. In this article, she compares the stages of her life in #Antalya#Istanbul and #Madrid through the eyes of a metropolitan artist.

Read on to learn more about her path and to get her golden tips for a remarkable visit to Istanbul.

“I was 18 when I moved to Istanbul from Antalya, where my hometown is. Antalya and İstanbul are completely different than each other in all manners. Antalya is a touristic place and it is crowded only in summer period. The weather is much more warmer, calmer, peaceful and smaller than Istanbul. It is possible to find more isolated places around Antalya when it is compared to Istanbul. For sure, Istanbul is a metropol, a super big city! It is noisy and full of interesting people. It is much more crowded than Antalya. Antalya symbolizes my childhood with its tranquil sea; but Istanbul has its own colorful city culture and that attracts me more. I am in love with the collapsed, dirty look of the old buildings and the costal of Istanbul. No doubtly, you learn more about life in Istanbul. It offers you variety of experiences every single day.”

“Sometimes, it reminds me of the times that I lived in Madrid. Just like Istanbul, there are always some people who drinks, dance and smoke on the streets in Madrid. Both of those places has that big city vibe with its cheer and crazy population.”

“I live in Kurtuluş, where you can witness to the past 500 years. In the past, the Greek and Armenian population was dominant here. Today, there is still some Armenian or Greek population and they are mostly the market owners. In one street, there is a mosque which locates oppose to the Christian cemetery. I think I really like this structuralisation.” 

“A typical day of mine runs around Kurtuluş. I woke up, do some works at home, play with my cat and go out. I walk through the streets and generally buy ‘simit’ from one of the delicious patisseries or from the simit sellers on the street. I spend time by staring at the old apartments and thinking about who might be living there. Then I take the subway, I go to the campus to study or to meet with my friends. In the weekend, we prefer hanging out in Taksim for drag parties and techno events. We drink in the streets and have fun at night. Basically, that is what my daily routine is.”

“There is one traditional thing that appears in all parts of Istanbul: The Ramadan drummers. During Ramadan, in many neighborhood tables which are full of traditional foods are established, especially in the more conservative districts of Istanbul such as Fatih and Eyüp, and people open their fast with the evening adhan… Even in Taksim, there are Ramadan activities. For example, since the Orthodox Christian population is predominant in my neighborhood, I am able to smell the sweet yeast bread just in April. In New Year’s week, you will certainly find those Christmas decorations on each street. What makes this city uniqe is the way how those different traditions greatly mix together.”

“It is nice to watch the snowflakes falling on the Bosphorus in winter. It is nice to have a cold beer while sitting in Maçka in summer, slightly sweaty and cold. Spring in Istanbul might be rainy and cold. It’s good to wait for the cold to be over. In autumn, we see how the leaves of huge trees turn into yellow on Kabataş Road. So in all seasons I enjoy this city. I think autumn is the one which triggers my creativity with its sadness. I love the idea of being surrounded by people who tries to chase their life in such chaos. Shoulders begin to collapse again and the traces of sunburn from the summer begin to diminish. For a moment, the color of the skins matches with the color of the fallen leaves. To describe all those, there is even a song called “Autumn in Istanbul” which we all know. I am getting sad when I think about the arrival of the season. Let it come anyway!”

“They say there are a thousand kinds of people in Istanbul and it is true! Istanbul’s taxi driver, street vendors, students, white-collars, workers, natives, retirees… But in general, I can choose grumpy to describe the locals of Istanbul. The city is extremely crowded, tiring and busy. Living as a student and having fun sounds easy but it is not that enjoyable as an adult who has to deal with the high cost of living. Nevertheless, as metropolitans, there may be moments we behave rude, vicious and angry, especially if we try catching up something. Everybody is in rush! Apart from those moments, we are sweet, polite, helpful and chatty in general.”

“If you are a student, you can offer private lessons. You can search for freelance jobs such as translating. For all those things, you need to build up a strong network. You can also work in coffee shops, bookstores and so on. If you go for being a white-collar, it all depends on how your CV is built up. There are not so much spots available in the academic field.”

“Be careful about the Facebook groups while you are searching for rental places. There are lots of swindlers in such platforms.Go for the neighborhoods, where students are predominantly live in such as Beşiktaş, Şişli, Levent, Cihangir, Taksim and Kadıköy. Those central regions enable you to socialize with locals and youth around. Landlords may not be fair in terms of rent prices, especially for the ones who comes from a country that uses Euro so that might be better for you to check the average room/flat rents of Istanbul before your arrival. Keep yourself updated for the current events of the city via online platforms, but keep in mind that the best way is to follow up the things spontaneously on streets. Oh, and please do not be afraid to give a shot for Turkish cuisine since it has variety of delicious options even for vegan and vegetarians! Make sure you clearly understand how the transportation works in the city before your trip so that you won’t spend time to figure it out.”

“Get up early on Saturday, go to Cihangir. Walk through the streets and visit the antique shops. Buy some gifts for your beloved ones. When you feel hungry, have some Turkish breakfast. In the evening, grab a steamed burger in Taksim, walk to the Dolapdere Flea Market. You will encounter the most interesting views of the world.”