It is absolutely certain that millions of people both within and outside Turkey share one big desire: to travel freely once again. Those days, when travel was not only permitted but also encouraged, are on the horizon with the rolling out of mass vaccination programs.
The pandemic has caused a tremendous impact on every sector, which has affected our daily lives. And on top of that, global debt has almost reached $300 trillion, which may mean more difficult times ahead for countries. Nations have been struggling to minimize the damage caused by the pandemic, searching for new strategies to lessen the striking losses from finance to health care. Travel has remained one of the hardest hit.
But little by little, countries are setting new rules and instructions to help people adapt to the standards of "the new normal" to mitigate economic loss but still keep the majority healthy.
Turkey is planning to go into a new phase of normalization in which restrictions will be reduced in parallel with its vaccination policy, especially after the country’s own vaccines will be ready in late April.
Hence, the month of March will be the milestone in returning to a "new normal" life. However, individual precautions still have utmost importance to achieve herd immunity in collaboration with the state's efforts with vaccination programs. This would mean safer and healthier times are in the near future for us.
At the same time, many travelers and backpackers look forward to traveling once again without the fear of contracting coronavirus across Turkey and the world.
Most of us have had enough pressure in our daily lives over this past year. There are those of us who prefer staying safely at home while some of us have opted to pack up shop and escape to small cities and towns to run away from the crushing pace and stress of big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara.
Therefore, one of the best ways to reduce economic loss and eliminate stress has been to encourage local tourists to travel within their own borders while taking all preventative measures. However, it should be noted there is a cause-and-effect relationship between this infectious disease and traveling, hence the onus falls on both the domestic tourist and touristic facilities.
As summer approaches, people hope for betterment in their livelihoods, lesser restrictions and fewer virus cases. People are looking forward to putting the past year full of pressure behind them and wholeheartedly beginning a post-pandemic era.
I'd like to share a province that would be worthy of adding to your itinerary when we reach that point.
The people of Manisa are welcoming and sincere, as most Turkish people are, which will make you feel safe and at ease. This Anatolian province and its 17 districts have been ruled under different empires throughout history, which adds to its historical texture. In fact, three of the seven churches mentioned in the Bible are located in Manisa, and these include the Temple of Artemis, Philadelphia in Alaşehir and Thyateira in Akhisar.
Each district provides a range of diverse historical and traditional places as well as new flavors to taste for adventurers. Some of the local tastes in Manisa include the famed spicy Mesir paste, the 150-year-old Sultan tea, cilveli kahve (literally translated "flirty coffee" – a type of Turkish coffee served with ground almonds on top), kokoreç and other various regional and traditional foods.
Places of note include Manisa Castle, the Sultan Mosque, the Hafsa Sultan Hamam, the old Kula houses and the Aigai ancient city. The ancient city of Sardis in Salihli, the fairy chimneys in Kula and Mount Spil (the ancient Mount Sipylus) also attract loads of tourists. In addition, there are numerous thermal and mineral water springs also worth visiting for those interested in improving their health.
Manisa is also where most of the country's fruits are produced, so you'll be able to spot fields of watermelons, melons, cherries, strawberries, grapes, mulberries, olives and more during your trip. I'd advise you to time your trip according to the harvesting time of your favorite fruits so that you can get the chance to reap your favorite fruits by hand.
And perhaps when the pandemic is over if you have the opportunity to attend a traditional Anatolian wedding, don't pass on it. Not only will you be able to taste traditional foods reserved for weddings such as keşkek and mantı, but you'll also get to enjoy the many dances and music.
Here's a breakdown of some of Manisa's most interesting districts and towns:
Akhisar: It is one of the most populated districts of the city. Travelers seeking to connect with nature will find that this district is abundant in olive trees. The city’s various high-quality olives and olive oil have blessed the breakfast tables of people worldwide. Another unforgettable taste in Akhisar may be kellepaça soup, which is made from the head of sheep, goats or even cows.
Gördes: It is a small district known worldwide for its carpets. These carpets are unique, elegant and decorate many houses and offices in Turkey. The district is also famous for its aromatic and juicy quince. If you decided to try kokoreç, Monday is the best day in Gördes as it is the day of the weekly bazaar.
Köprübaşı: It is a small, pleasant district where premium-quality, tasty and alluring strawberries, most of which are exported abroad, are harvested. It is known as “the city of strawberry.”
Demirci: It is another town renowned for its carpets with its own distinct patterns. The current carpets at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque were weaved in Demirci. The town is home to natural thermae, or large imperial bath complexes, which attracts many tourists from surrounding cities as well. The town's delicious jujubes and cherries are another reason to visit.
Alaşehir: It is called the "town of grapes" thanks to the high quality and tasty grapes grown here. The town also has many thermal and mineral water springs, one of which is Sarıkız, a brand that is synonymous with the city.
Kırkağaç: This is a beautiful district between Akhisar and Soma, both of which are more populated than this small district. Kırkağaç rose to outstanding fame with its tasty and juicy melons. People traveling from Akhisar and Balıkesir stop by to buy those unique and legendary melons at local stands lined up on the roadsides.
So whether you seek to feast your eyes on natural beauties, satisfy your stomach with traditional foods or nourish your soul with pieces of historical past and chats with cordial locals, Manisa may be a great choice that is also off the beaten track.