Initially, Turkey wasn’t even supposed to be a proper part in the Spicyroad route as it was just a convenient station to get the Iranian visa before entering the Islamic Republic. In the end, it all came differently, we spent one and a half months there and had some of our most memorable experiences there. Apart from being incredibly beautiful, Turkey was the place where we were closest to the refugee situation originating from the civil war in Syria. We got to know incredibly inspiring people from all over the world which were doing their best to support Syrians that left behind their homes and were now fighting with the rough life refugees have in Turkey. In Istanbul and Izmir, we could even volunteer which made us much more emotionally involved and brought these issues close to our heart. And during all of this, Spicyroad went through big changes. While half of the beginning group left, 3 new faces joined us and presented a completely different crew for Iran. Turkey for sure wasn’t boring.
Coming from Georgia, the group split up as Nina and Jina (aka team Ninja) needed to leave Spicyroad soon and went ahead to discover Turkey. Ia, I (Yannic) and the freshly joined Doro needed to stay behind waiting for their Iranian visas and would follow as soon as they would receive those. While team Ninja had incredible experiences with the landscape and the Turkish hospitality travelling from the North-East of Turkey via Cappadocia to Istanbul, the Iranian visa quest quickly appeared to become more difficult than expected.
After two weeks, we finally met up again in Istanbul and another new member joined us straight from Brazil: emka*. We had skyped with emka* in Georgia and they very quickly brought in an integral part in form of emotional meetings. We would now sit down once a week to talk about our feelings and emotions to be able to understand and support each other better. While emka* joined, Jina left towards Korea, but would still stay an active part of Spicyroad by editing city videos.
Quickly after arriving in Istanbul, we organized a (M)Eat-Up which became our biggest one so far with nearly 30 people joining. It gave us a taste of the amazing Turkish food culture. During our time in Turkey, especially Cik Köfte repeatedly found a way to our hearts.
In the following week, we would spend a lot of time at the community center of Small Projects Istanbul, where Syrian refugees can find a community, learn a language (mainly Turkish and English) and get support for their everyday problems. For us very interesting was their project “Drop earrings not bombs” in which Syrian women create beautiful earrings in order to earn some money. For Ia and me it was most interesting as we had visited Small Projects Istanbul 2 years before and saw the huge developments the organization had gone through. While there, we helped out in the child care and took part in a children’s carnival. At other times we would explore the magnificent city of Istanbul and otherwise sit in front of our electronical devices to work on our online content.
The next week we went South to Izmir as another volunteering opportunity had lined up for us. For one and a half weeks we visited Syrian families in Izmir together with the Revi family consisting out of a bunch of international volunteers. Revi visits families in order to speak with them about their situation, create a community and to find solutions for existing problems. We had a great time volunteering here and organized a vegan (M)Eat-Up. Emka* and Ia even learned to cook some Syrian dishes with one family while I was lying sick at home. During our time in Izmir, we also went for a day trip to Cesme for an interview with Ali from Imecer. Before the EU made a deal with the Turkish government, a lot of refugees used to cross over from here to the next Greek island. Imecer supports surrounding inofficial refugee camps with basic needs as some are in a very bad condition. Before leaving Izmir, we spoke with Mohammed and Olivia from SNDD. Mohammed is Syrian but has lived in Syria for a long time by now and became an important person to mediate between the refugee communities and the local municipalities. SNDD is a French program which is normally active in Europe but Olivia took the initiative to build a center in Izmir due to the stressed refugee situation. In their center, they teach Turkish, do knitting classes for the women and help them with their everyday problems.
After these weeks of action, we wanted to have some beach vacation on the Mediterranean coast and stayed for a couple days in the gorgeous landscape of Marmaris. Our own empty, gorgeous beach and spontaneous dance parties awaited us. We continued inland to Denizli and the beautiful mineral hot springs of Pammukale where we parted ways once more.
While Ia and I would go for a short visit back to Germany, Nina would leave Spicyroad temporarily and emka* and Doro continued towards Ankara where they organized another (M)Eat-Up and also welcomed another new member in Eyrun from Iceland. Meanwhile Ia and me tried to help our Syrian friends back in Germany to find a flat as they were just moved around like animals. For them, life can be very frustrating as they’re very dependent on the municipalities and the help of friends.
Returning to Turkey again, we met up in Gaziantep, the city of Baklava, where one quarter of the population nowadays is Syrian due to the closeness to the war-struck city of Aleppo. Doro needed to leave us again as she needed to go to the US for her brother’s wedding and a visit to Iran would’ve rendered that impossible thanks to the US’ stupid visa policy. Eyrun, Ia and I hitchhiked into the beautiful, but cold mountain provinces in the east, where the Turkish army is battling with Kurdish forces. Although we didn’t come close to any fighting thanks to winter time, we still felt the presence of the conflict in form of many military checkpoints. In Van, we met emka* and Eszter, another new member who we had met in Georgia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran laid in front of us, ready to be explored.