Ho Ho Ho, Where did Santa Go – My Black Sea Christmas Experience
Back in Ireland we always had a traditional Christmas with the tree, Turkey presents etc. I thought I would share with you my first Christmas here in Turkey and how different it was, however; 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 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. 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”, and 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.
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 this is where I had a major problem as I am so fussy and there are many foods that I will not eat.
All these dishes kept coming at me, and I tried hard to look as if I was enjoying them thinking that my Mum would be so impressed as I usually refuse to eat anything that I do not like.
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. 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 Rize and I was really saddened when I dug out my cushion and prepared for the long trip back to Kusadasi.
On our outward journey, I was amazed by how many cardboard boxes people travelled with and thought “what good be in them”. I soon found out as we took some of the Black Sea back to Kusadasi with us and were travelling with boxes of tea, oranges, figs and many other local foods.