Comenius Lifelong Learning Project
Comenius Visit To Akhisar, Turkey
15th- 19th May 2014
Thursday 15 May 2014
We left from Cologne Bonn airport in the middle of the night. It had already been a long evening and a long night was before us. Fortunately, we were able to sleep a bit on the plane, but we were still very tired when we arrived at Izmir airport and a friendly taxi driver met us to take us from the airport to Akhisar. Being able to sleep a bit made the journey pass quickly. When we finally arrived at the hotel, our hosts were already awaiting us. The students were taken home by their hosts and were looking forward to the first day together.
As we Germans were the first to arrive for the meeting, we had plenty of time to settle in. Throughout the day, other partners arrived, but it wasn’t until the next day that our team was complete. Still, for those who already had arrived, there was dinner planned for the evening.
Friday 16 May 2014
After a good night’s rest all students and teachers gathered at our partnering school to be welcomed by its headmaster. The meeting now started officially with the students of each partner institutions presenting their works. After that the students went to have their lunch together at a restaurant nearby whereas the teachers went to have lunch at a restaurant outside the city where they had a first opportunity to taste the delicious traditional cuisine of the region. For some of them it was the first time to try original Turkish coffee and Ayran, a traditional drink made with yogurt and water and a little bit of salt. Back at the school we were invited to a concert of a group of students who presented some traditional songs and dances. One of our Turkish colleagues, who works in the music department, had brought some of his traditional instruments to play us some folklore songs to which he had asked a friend of his from a folklore group to present some former traditional dances of the warriors of the region.
After the concert the students left to spend time together in the city or with their host families. The teachers held their work meeting, in which they worked on the joint final report, the final product for the project and finalizing the application for the new project.
Saturday 17 May 2014
The next day took us to Izmir very early in the morning. The travel on the bus gave us the chance to see the beautiful landscape around Akhisar and all the way to Izmir. We approached Izmir from the mountain which gave us a great view on the city and its suburbs from above. The city stretched along the coastline and behind it the sea was visible.
We drove right down to the famous sea walk Kordon. Before our hosts took us on a tour through an old part of Izmir, we spent some time walking along the seaside and enjoying to view on the sea. Passing by the Place of the Republic, there were the old port authority building to admired. Since it was still early in the day, there weren’t many people about. After a while it was time to head for Kemeralti, a very old part of Izmir, where ther was a bazaar that was well worth seeing. Students and teachers split up into groups accompanied by our hosts and set off to experience the atmosphere of a traditional part of Turkish culture. There was a lot to be seen: shops selling herbs, coffee, traditional jewellery next to shops selling leather clothing, shoes and household goods. A very enjoyable mixture of scents and sounds. But better not to get lost in the labyrinth of alleys and passageways – it was easy to lose orientation in this quarter. From there we went to a restaurant that was situated in the middle in a small bazaar to have lunch. We all chose something traditional. It was very tasty. After we had finished eating our host’s wife got up to got to pray in the mosque only a few metres from the restaurant. She kindly invited all those of us who were interested to come with her. There wasn’t an official prayer going on so it was no problem to go inside. It didn’t even matter that we didn’t share her Islamic belief. We only had to take off our shoes before entering. After she had prayed she also answered questions and explained a few things to us. The last thing on that day was a visit to the Bornova shopping mall. While the students walked around the mall for some window shopping, most of the teachers sat down in a café and had a drink. And then it was time to go back to Akhisar.
Sunday 18 May 2014
The next day we spent exploring Akhisar. We started with a visit to the local history museum. The walk there took us through some streets through the city, so we got a good impression of what the city center is like. As it was Sunday, there wasn’t much traffic and it was very quiet. In the museum we looked at displays of archaeological finds from the area, local artisanary and scenes of traditional life. From the museum we walked to a mosque. As there was no prayer going on then, we were able to go inside an have a look around. The mosque used to be a catholic church which had at some time been turned into a mosque. Though of course the architecture still reminded of a Christian church, the decorations and alterations in interior showed clearly that we were inside a mosque. Our host kindly answered every question and showed us around the building. After this the students had time to stroll through Akhisar and the teachers went to have lunch in a restaurant that now served as a kind of museum as the building used to be an old olive mill. There were even several varieties of olive oil to taste and buy for those who wanted. After another, by then ‘traditional’ Turkish coffee and Ayran, we walked on to an archaeological site. The site we went to was the grounds where ruins of a former cathedral had been found. And during the excavations, even older pieces of buildings had been found from ancient Roman times. It was an odd mixture: the remains of a Christian church next to remains of Roman temples in the middle of an Islamic city. After lunch our hosts took us by bus to a place that was both an open air museum and a working farm. It was the home of one of Akhisar’s most important industrial families. The had built and worked the farm since the beginning of the last century. It isn’t normally open to the public but our hosts had been granted access on a special license so we were able to see not only the old family home but also the late owner’s famous collection of fine oldtimers. It was very impressive. After a light refreshment we went back to Akhisar, where we ended the tour with a visit to the local resort where families like to go for a pick-nick and a nice walk by the artificial lake. While the teachers enjoyed some rest in the restaurant next to the lake, the students all went to the funfair nearby.
Monday 19 May 2014
Sunday evening came much too soon for us as it meant we had to pack and get ready for our journey back home to Germany. Again our flight left late in the night, so we had another long evening and long night ahead of us. This time it was harder to find some rest. Having to say goodbye was a hard thing indeed; many tears were shed by girls and boys before they were able to part. Knowing that this was the last meeting of the project and not knowing if and when we would meet again made us reluctant to leave – we had enjoyed our stay and the time we spent among friends so very much. Luckily we had a new joint project to hope for and look forward to.
Also luckily, the plane was nearly empty which gave us some quiet and the possibility to find a row of free seats to stretch out on and get some sleep. And just in time for breakfast we arrived back at Cologne Bonn airport.