Team India Report on Visit to Turkey – Erasmus Program
By Kamraan Sattar
So, finally we all have arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on September 14, 2018 and Team India from IIHM - comprising of me - Kamraan from Hyderabad, Vaibhav from Jodhpur and Mayur from Ahmedabad campuses respectively and our faculty member from Hyderabad as well, Kavitha Ma’am - boarded Turkish airlines on route to Ankara to participate in the prestigious ERASMUS program, commissioned by European Union. The journey to infinite treasure of learning and enlightenment that launched ourselves to one of the most exciting and invigorating experiences of our lifetimes. The crew throughout our flight time were very friendly and provided all the comfort that they could have possibly done. We landed at Ankara - the great capital of Turkey, the honor bestowed on it as late as October 13, 1923! Till then the rich cultural and heritage town of past civilizations was more of a home to goat’s rabbits and cats. But thereafter the city’s landscape changed drastically with the entire geographical, political and administrative offices having been shifted to the new capital along with the embassies and consulate offices of the world. Ankara was no longer a center of small time artisans and tradesmen, as it got enveloped in its new avatar of a truly cosmopolitan world capital city. As we all 4 of us checked in to the hotel lobby of the vocational hotel that was attached to the tourism school, we were offered a welcome drink, a true traditional Turkish Tea, what we accepted gratefully! Then we were served with breakfast that we all enjoyed to the core of our heart and then got all set out to start the day's proceedings. As curriculum of the Erasmus program, our first activity of the day kicked off with a quick visit to a nearby village called Girmec along with our other 3 partner institutions viz. Turkey, Sweden and France. It was a very captivating exercise for all of us as well enjoyed having interacted with each other and locals alike, plucked and tasted fresh fruits from the fields in Girmec village. It was all the more heartening to watch the locals go about their daily chores of farming and other related functions. We also got the opportunity to observe how the local soup called "tarhana" was prepared, that had in it 3 ingredients - yogurt, flour and tomato - mixed in fixed proportions. On our way back we chanced upon a Turkish bath pond, full with pure and clean water direct from the mountains, that is so healing and soothing for the skin. We all assembled for a sumptuous lunch that was organized in a nearby farmhouse - that bore a rich and authentic civilization - and with a Turkish hospitability that was at its best. As a traditional mark of honor for the guests that was shown to us, we were all handed over a tissue paper right before the lunch began. Thereafter we all visited onion fields, where harvesting of the crop was in full swing. Out of sheer delight we all too participated in the exercise and helped the local lads in doing so.
We learnt that 80% of the produce was transported to Istanbul whilst the rest 20% was exported worldwide. We also paid a visit to the beetroot fields - our last activity of the day - and helped in harvesting that too with the locals. They also explained how sugar was made out of the beetroot leaves. Turkish people are also used to boiling it in hot water and later eating it by adding yogurt to it. In the end we called it a day, that was filled with great adventure, learning and tons of entertainment.
On day two, we woke up to a very pleasant morning and as we say a good day starts with a good breakfast - that was what was in store for us - a very full breakfast that consisted with different types of bread, eggs, cheese, jam porridge and of course fresh fruits and juices. Turkish folks are used to having assorted breads with different flavors of jam that compliments the Turkish tea in the end. On day two, we woke up to a very pleasant morning and as we say a good day starts with a good breakfast - that was what was in store for us - a very full breakfast that consisted with different types of bread, eggs, cheese, jam porridge and of course fresh fruits and juices. Turkish folks are used to having assorted breads with different flavors of jam that compliments the Turkish tea in the end. We were taken through the school curriculum by the Senior official and were provided with a guided tour of the entire premises. We were also apprised of the teaching methods that we all appreciated. After we got through with this exercise, we paid a visit to a nearby food factory which was quite a fascinating affair, as we got to learn about the different types of ingredients and spices that are used in the Turkish cuisine. Among the most eye catching food that we all relished was their very popular Meat Balls. We learnt entire process of meat ball making where we came across a unique meat ball making machine that had the provision to make different types of meat balls at a time. Before we called off the day, we were gratefully taken to the most iconic and revered place in the history of Turkey - Anitkabir - it is the final resting place for the greatest of all Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk! People in India are not unfamiliar with him as we have a very prominent road in New Delhi's Consulate district named after him. We learnt that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a celebrated Field Marshal, secularist, nationalist, visionary statesman, and most importantly founder of the Republic of Turkey, who triumphantly thwarted Allied Forces attempts to acquire it and finally managed to secure Turkey from getting decimated during the war of Independence in 1915.
He was the first modern statesman of all times, as he introduced complete suffrage for the women folk. Turkey was the first one to do so among its neighboring countries, that was soon adopted in other countries as well. He was the greatest visionary of all times as he opened thousands of schools all across Turkey and made primary education both free and compulsory, that paved the way to his country becoming progressive, modern, self-sufficient and stable country of the world. An in keeping with his legendary role in Turkey's transformation from a decrepit ottoman empire capital to the modern Republic of Turkey, the parliament in 1934 bestowed On Mustafa Kemal with the title " Ataturk" meaning father of the nation. After his death in 1938 at a young age of 57 years, he was honored with a state funeral, a grand and iconic mausoleum was built in his honor in 1953 surrounded by a peace park.
Our Day 3 started with a social and official visit to the local Cankaya district Governor's office. Ankara has been divided into a 16 districts and the Governor is the head of all public institutions of Cankaya region. The Governor gave us a very warm welcome and served us the famous Turkish coffee. The interaction with the Governor turned out to be a very enlightened one as he briefed us on the rich Turkish history, its distinct cuisine, food and agriculture industry. Worldwide the Turkish food is most sought after and adored. He further stated the great strides Turkey has taken in the field of education and the curriculum includes as many 3356 different courses that are being offered to people from all age groups, irrespective of their numbers. We bid goodbye to the Governor after having spent a truly memorable time. Our next stop was the famous Ayas farm - a Trout Fish Farm - needless to say that we all had had a great time at it. After we were provided vital inputs of its breeding and other technicalities, we were treated to the amazing taste of the fish itself, that we all enjoyed to the hilt.
Our last activity of the day was scheduled for the traditional market of older times of Ankara. On both side of the street shops were lined that owe their existence of nearly 100 years. It was jaw dropping moment for us as the shops were laden with all the antique items that signified the cultural heritage of Turkey from times immemorial. We also got introduced to Turkish customs and belief and one such item shown to us was called "Nazarband" - meaning thereby it safeguards you from the evil eye of enemy. The evening was rounded off by some quick shopping by all of us and thereafter we left for the hotel to look forward to yet another exciting Day 4.
Our Day 4 at this historic event of my life was the most memorable moment of my visit as we all proceeded to the Adult Education Center for our presentations. I made my presentation on a well-researched study on the new wonder food that the world finally woke up to – Smart Food – Millets. The presentation enchantingly emphasized the importance of not only the enhanced and well-rounded nutritional value of the smart food with additional benefits that it offered to the humankind unlike its more popular and sought after cousins like wheat and rice, but also drove home the point how hugely cultivation friendly this crop was to the farmers, with its capacity to withstand the fiercest of climatic conditions and the negligible amount of water required for its sowing. My second presentation revolved around the unique and first of its kind Edible Millet Spoon gratefully discovered by an Indian scientist based in Hyderabad. The entire audience sitting was taken aback and poured their heart out on this sensational discovery. I captured their live feedback on video byte that will be presented with this report. As I triumphantly went to my assigned seat, I received huge round of applause from all those present in the hall. Our second outing of the day was a visit to the ITC Integrated Waste Management Systems. Here we learnt about the processes involved in growing various vegetable and the functioning of number of greenhouses. At the end of our hugely successful day's engagements we all were invited to the delightful Turkish food that we relished along with the famous sweet dish called 'baklava', that summed up the whole day's proceedings quite fittingly.
This was the penultimate day of our wonderful expedition and we all realized how hugely beneficial the trip had been to not our social and cultural upliftment but also provided a game changing opportunity to gain vital statistics of world's top food and hospitality industry! We all checked out from the hotel room and gathered at the dining hall for our last breakfast together in this magnificent city called Ankara. We not only exchanged our contact details with each other but sat down to a very animated discussion of all that we did together, which will remain with our memories for the rest of the lives. As we set out to leave for one of the most internationally acclaimed city of the world - Istanbul, we also planned, on our way, to make a stopover at the farm house, to see firsthand of how all the winter preparations that are usually done by the Turkish people. When we reached the site, we saw that the preparation of soup was being done in full swing, that will remain in great demand by both young and old alike of the populace in the coming weeks. Thereafter we saw how preparation of pasta was conducted by the local folks. The locals were very supportive and friendly in nature and encouraged us to try our hand in cutting the pasta sheet, which we did excitedly. In the end we also managed to see how the world famous Turkish delight viz. "baklava' was prepared. We tasted it and found it to be the best that we had so far.
We all had a sumptuous lunch together at the farmhouse and spent one of the most rollicking time together with all the partner team members!!! On our way to Istanbul, we stopped by a greenhouse that produced green chilies and tomatoes and took note of its production features.
As our glorious stint reached to its finale, we landed at the premier city of Turkey - Istanbul! That was it as we all got together one final time and geared up to to disburse and depart. Despite having prepared that all good things come to its end after a short interval, we still hoped that it will continue for a lifetime. Istanbul is home to some of the iconic buildings of Turkey, chiefly being Topkapi Palace, The Blue mosque and the Bosphorus Bridge and many more. Topkapi Palace, is 15th century Big Palace that was later christened as ‘Topkapi Palace’, meaning Canon Gate has been the most charismatic and unique legacy of Ottoman Empire. It has four large courtyards, with hundreds of room that has been strategically located at a prominent promontory overlooking the Golden Sea, sitting like a giant watch tower and dwarfing the entire the city of Istanbul with its overwhelming presence. The grandest and most unique palace of Europe that was declared UNESCO world heritage in 1985 European was commissioned by Mehmut II by ordering the best of the stone cutters, carpenters and artisans, that has enthralled the Europeans, Islamic and Oriental travelers alike. As we were already under the spell of Topkapi as though which was not enough we were ushered in one of the most magnificent mosques of Turkey - Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the ‘The Blue Mosque” that was built between 1606 and 1609. The beautiful structure comprises five main domes, eight secondary domes and six minarets that makes a spectacular sight for the tourists from world over. The mosque complex consists of King Ahmed ’s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. The hand painted blue tiles that adorn the interior walls presents the breathtaking sight at night when the blue light frames through its various domes and minarets!
Our third stop was the Bosphorus Bridge that separates Asia from Europe. After a 2-hour rejuvenating yacht ride we retired to the local market where indulged in our last shopping spree of the trip, before rushing back to our hotel we all had a goodbye dinner together. we exchanged we each other’s precious feedback and the contact details before leaving the hotel to catch our respective flights for the back home!
Finally, the curtains were drawn for one of the most enterprising and enlightening sojourn of our lifetimes!
Appreciation Letter by France Team