Home Economics Institute of Australia Inc.


Food and textile tour of Turkey

2015 Professional learning tour for HEIA members

During June and July, two groups of HEIA members and their family and friends visited Turkey for a food and textile professional learning tour (53 people in total). The 11 day tour took in some popular cities and sites on the western side of Turkey. While the focus was on the food and textiles of Turkey, participants were also exposed to the range of other historical and cultural experiences Turkey has to offer. 

 Sharing a home-cooked meal
   Making stuffed vine leaves    Canberra group in Ephesus
   Olive oil museum


Tour group leader, Barish Akbacak from Dreaming Turkey Tours, led the tours. Barish is based in Melbourne; however, has spent 15 years taking groups of all sizes around his beloved Turkey. The tour highlights included:

Participants also visited the Gallipoli Peninsula on the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. Participants visited a number of sites including Anzac Cove, the Lone Pine Memorial and Chunuk Bair. A stay in Istanbul was also part of the itinerary, which has been named the #1 travel destination for 2014 on Trip Advisor’s Top 25 World Destinations list.

 Tour 1: Blue mosque, Istanbul
   Hot air balloons, Cappadocia
   Tour 1: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul  
 Tour 2: Anzac Cove
   Tour 1: Anzac Cove
   Tour 1
View more images in the slide show below
Tour review. By Diane Harris, HEIA member from ACT

The trip to Turkey wasn't just good, nor was it great - it was amazing. We knew we were going to enjoy this trip but I don't think anyone quite realised just how wonderful it would be. Turkey is a big, beautiful country. With so much history and archaeology it is often referred to as the 'museum of the world'. During our two weeks in Turkey our guide, Barish, introduced us not just to its wonderful food and textiles but also to its culture and long history.

Upon arrival in Istanbul we were picked up from Ataturk Airport and transported to our hotel, The Grand Yavuz. The main highway in the 'new' city of Istanbul had wide streets with freely flowing traffic. We drove alongside the tall, thick and ancient old wall that surrounds the old city of Istanbul. Once we entered the old city things changed dramatically. The streets were paved with cobble stones and became steep, winding and narrow. One of the first thing we noticed was the number of cats in the streets. Even our hotel had its own cat who welcomed us at the front door.

There were 23 of us in our group (some from Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and ten from the ACT)! On our first evening together we had a welcoming dinner and watched the sun set over Istanbul. The first two days Barish took us around Istanbul by foot. We began the tour in the Hippodrome near the Egyptian granite obelisk and Serpentine column. The Hagia Sophia was magnificent (although we had to come back to it as three cruise ships had docked on the morning we were scheduled to visit and the wait to get in was ridiculous)! The Blue Mosque was very beautiful and the decorative tiles and interior well worth seeing. We also visited the Cistern Basilica and marvelled at how water was fed into the ancient city. Our walk included the Topkapi palace (the kiosk here served delicious cold lemonade), the Spice Markets and the Grand Bazaar (where we had more delicious, cold lemonade as well as good coffee)! A few of us ended up with blisters and swollen ankles but we would not have missed any of it. Our introduction to the city of Istanbul was incredible but what we would see and experience later would be even more wonderful.

Day three of our tour began on the tour bus. The scenery across the bay as we left Istanbul was magnificent. Our visit to the Turkish Delight factory gave us an insight into how the worlds best Turkish Delight is made. We enjoyed watching the process and also the tasting. This was followed by our first stopover, Saffronbolu, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mansion we stayed in was 300 years old and very rustic. Being the holy month of Ramadan, at 3 am we heard the drums come through the village to wake the townspeople so they could eat before sunrise. The dogs started barking, then the Imam began prayer. Babies were crying and roosters were crowing! Apart from this we all slept like logs!

We continued our trip on the bus the next day and the geography changed dramatically. We left the mountains and entered the inland flat plains where we passed a big salt lake and fields of cumin. Nothing could prepare us for the stunning scenery of Cappadocia, sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world. A tour through the underground cities carved from the soft volcanic earth was most interesting.

Other activities while in Cappadocia included a visit to the pottery workshop. This was educational and fun. Many of our group made some purchases of Turkish pottery. (We must have impressed the shop attendants because as we left to board the bus someone called out 'Goodbye Golden girls')! The visit to the Turkish Bath that night could only be called an interesting experience. Most of the group arose at 4 am for the balloon ride over Cappadocia which everyone raved about. The Goreme Open air museum allowed us to explore the old caves and view the ancient religious frescos. We made a brief stop at Pigeon Valley, where one of our group posed riding the rock formation in the shape of a camel. After this we continued on to a local village where we were treated to a cooking demonstration by a local family. Tolka, his mother Eva and wife made us feel very welcome. We had a BIG lunch that was made up of delicious traditional dishes. Most considered this a highlight of the tour. A visit to the Turkish rug factory was next. We all learnt more about the various weaving processes used and the differences in quality between wool, cotton and silk rugs. For some, this visit also included the purchase of a handmade rug.

We then left the area of Cappadocia and, after nine hours on the bus, we reached our destination of Pamukkale. This was another area of spectacular natural formations made up of calcium deposits from spring water. We walked through the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis and paddled in the warm water of the travertine terraces.

In the following days of our tour we visited the House of the Virgin Mary, enjoyed a traditional Turkish lunch served on a low round table while seated on cushions, visited the ancient cities of Ephesus and Pergamon, (where some of the group purchased parchment paper) and went to the Olive Oil Museum. Then we continued on our way to Canakkale and Troy.

The most memorable part of Troy was getting there. Barish did give us warning that the road was a bit scary and that the traffic would be 'ridiculous' coming the other way. We were told not to 'freak out'! 'Just don't look' was the instruction. That would have been OK except the people travelling at the front of the bus were oohing and aahing so it was scary for some even if you didn't look. Barish (I believe in an attempt to take every ones mind off the road) began the story of Troy. The story was lengthy, just like the road trip!

The area of Canakkale is the area of the Dardanelles. On our last day we took the ferry from the Asian side of Turkey to the European side and Gallipoli. Barish explained where each of the important areas of World War 1 were on a large map. At the ANZAC Cove cemetery we shared ANZAC biscuits and walked along the beach. We walked through the cemetery at Lone Pine. Everyone found it a most profound and moving experience. It was a fitting end to the trip.

Trying to pick a highlight of the trip was almost impossible. The organisation, knowledge and professional approach of our guide, Barish, helped to make it a superb experience. Barish had told us 'Do not expect to be on holidays'! This was so much better than a holiday. The people were very friendly and during our tour there was not a hint of any problems nor did we have any worries that we wouldn't be completely safe. Experiencing Turkey in this way was quite unforgettable. Many of us will be 'Dreaming Turkey' for a long time!

Another review is provided by Kathryn McGrath-Kerr and is available here

  Tour leader Barish Akbacak


back to top