Time is really flying. Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday that I got off the plane and stepped into my new life here…and yet now Christmas has come and gone. Being our first Christmas away from home, we weren’t sure what to expect. We didn’t know if we’d feel sad, homesick, angry, or nothing it at all. We figured at the very least, we would be a little down about not getting to spend time with family, so we decided to treat ourselves to a weekend away.
Our first stop was Eskişehir, a little college town about three hours away by train. We had a lot of trouble deciding where we should go for the short break, but we’d heard good things about Eskişehir and got a killer dealer at a luxury hotel (an unfamiliar experience for two recently graduated college students), so we decided to go for it and the experience did not disappoint. We spent most of the first day just soaking in the luxurious bed, room service, and SILENCE. When you live at a boarding school with 400 something teenagers, peace and quiet is hard to come by.
After some much-needed sleep, we woke up to what may go down in history as one of the best Christmas presents I will ever receive – SNOW. I nearly cried tears of joy when my husband told me to look outside and I saw the white-dusted rooftops from the balcony window. Having been warm and sunny for nearly all of December, I didn’t waste even an iota of energy hoping for snow, least of all in a place that feels as un-Christmasy as places come (Sorry, Turkey. I love you, but you don’t really understand Christmas). It’s been about five years since I last experienced a true White Christmas, and needless to say, it made a memorable first Christmas abroad.
Our second day in Eskişehir mostly involved a relaxing spa experience at Rixos, including our first encounter with the Turkish art of hamam. After a nice lunch and some time in the thermal pools, we stripped down and nervously awaited our attendants. We were told to lay on a warm marble slab while the masseuses rubbed off all the dead skin from just about every square inch of our bodies. Afterward, they poured warm water over us, lathered us up with soap, and then dumped warm water over us again. I found the whole thing to be incredibly relaxing; my husband did not enjoy it quite as much. Nonetheless, my skin still feels amazing.
After a fabulous two nights in Eskişehir, we made the bus trek out to Maşukiye – a woodsy little gem near Lake Sapanca – for a lovely Christmas party put on by one of our colleagues. We stuffed our faces with delicious (albeit largely unrecognizable) food and sipped on sangria all evening. We also played a good number of Christmas-themed party games and danced.
We woke up the next morning and took a hike in the mountains, which had the most incredible view of the town and Lake Sapanca. Unfortunately, all of our travels did not go undetected by our phone’s SIM card and it locked us out, so we didn’t manage to get any photos. Major bummer. On the way back down, we met the most amazing furry dog that actually looked like a lion and stopped at a quaint little coffee shop near a campsite for some Turk khavesi and salep.
After stuffing our faces with leftovers for lunch, we packed our things and were forced to return to the realities of the daily grind.
It was an absolutely amazing weekend, but I’m not gonna lie – it didn’t feel like Christmas. I kept waiting for that magical feeling you get that makes you feel at home, but it never really came. I suppose nothing can really replace a classic Christmas at home with your loved ones. Hopefully one of these years, we’ll be able to make the journey home to have that again. Until then, I suppose it’s time to pack away the tree and make way for the approaching new year.