My trip from a rainy Sarajevo to Antalya started on September 27th. As I stepped in the ground of Antalya I also became aware that it was a full summer over there. Tolga and his friend Nurdan welcomed me and we headed to the apartment where I was going to stay during my visit. I arrived in the evening, hungry and curious about how the whole buddy exchange was going to look like. I was happy to have positive first impressions: I was welcomed with tasty traditional Turkish food, warm and easy-going people and they even let me have the best bed in the apartment.
The first night went in a long conversation with Tolga and his friends, exchanging things about our countries, cultures and interests. Since I had already been introduced to Turkish culture – because it is a big part of Bosnian culture – , this was an unique experience for me to see their side, how different it is and how it has evolved.
The next day we went to see Antalya and Tolga’s daily surroundings. I was amazed with the university campus they have in Antalya. Tolga is famous among the students and every now and then we were bumping into his friends. Every day we lived a part of the local life and got to know places, traditions and specialties of Antalya. It is a lively city 24/7 and you can always find something to spend your time with quality. The main street, Kaleichi, is always crowded and you will find people trying to sell you something: if you’re buying food, it is totally normal to taste a some bites before you buy it. Coffee and cay (tea) is a must do and I enjoyed it because it is a big part of everyday life in Bosnia too. Nargila bars are everywhere and everyone goes to it, day or night, to chill or watch a football game. We also watched football matches with nargila and I enjoyed to meet true Besiktas fan – which I sometimes provoked about Fenerbache – and I was able to confirm: no matter where you are, people love football.
We explored Antalya as much as we could: Antalya Tower, Hadrian’s gate and the old town. We had an amazing time camping on the beaches of Olympos: a place of preserved nature, where we went swimming in the sea and had a good rest, disconnected from the crowded city life.
I also had the opportunity to meet many of Tolga’s friends from different parts of Turkey and other countries as Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iran, each of them with strong stories that will definitely stay with me.
As time passed by, I became aware of the things I learned about Turkey and about my buddy Tolga. Turkey has this mix of Euro-Asian culture that you can see in the people, and also through music. Turkish people are the be best hosts: whether you are at home or in the bar, they will try to make you feel the most comfortable they can. There are also many similarities between Balkan and Turkish people, although Balkan people are little bit more hardcore.
Due to all events happening in today, I find this as good opportunity to talk about safety in Turkey. . And for me it is definitely safe. As an individual visitor in Turkey I did not have negative experience, or felt that anyone was being conservative. I met lots of people of different backgrounds, and everyone was open-minded and friendly.
There are always some events we cannot control, and the only way to understand someone is putting yourself in their shoes. That was exactly what I was doing with my buddy exchange and it was totally worth it.
From Turkey to Bosnia and Herzegovina
After saying goodbye to Turkey, Tolga and I rushed to the airport for the Bosnian part of our exchange adventure.
My buddy really felt the change in weather, culture and mentality of people, especially because Bosnia and Herzegovina is mixed in many ways. We spent three days in Sarajevo and Mostar, which was an opportunity to show him the history of Bosnia, its beauties, problems and how things work in my country.
We also went to my hometown, Travnik, during the buddy exchange and lived for four days with my family and friends. I was hoping to show Tolga a part of my Bosnian lifestyle from work, drinking coffee, helping my parents around the house to the night life. It was an interesting experience also for my family and neighbors and I was surprised to hear only positive reactions about my buddy exchange.
At the end, the two weeks of buddy exchange brought a lot of new information to shape my opinions, break stereotypes and gave me an unique experience, that will stay with me in the future. Thanks to Tolga I learned a lot about Turkish culture and the situation in Syria. In the everyday walks during our buddy exchange, we learned about each other’s background, and it was interesting for me to hear more about Arab and Middle East countries and Alevi identity. It was two weeks of discoveries that we wanted to continue: but our friendship is going to stay and I am really happy and privileged to have Tolga as buddy and friend.
Written by Josip, NOW participant and science student.