Easter escapes

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KEARVAIG BOTHY, SCOTLAND

By Benedict Gardner

If you want an escape from the ordinary, you do not need to go far away: some places close to home are hard enough to reach. Kearvaig Bothy is a place where you have the time, far away from life, to do nothing.

If you want an escape from the ordinary, you do not need to go far away

First, catch the train to Inverness. After 4 hours, the rails end, but the road continues.The number 805 bus, in reality more of a minivan, runs once a day, three times a week, to Durness Post Office. Here is the last town, and the last pub, and the last hotel to be seen before you cross the water. Be sure to stock up on food and wood, as fuel is scarce where you are going and there is no shop. Bring plenty of beans and coffee, and a gas stove and wool jumpers will be your friends.

If there was ever an ominous sounding journey, it is the ferry across the Kyle of Durness to Cape Wrath. Luckily, Stu the ferryman is no Charon, and at least here there is the option of a return ticket. Most people, if there are any others with you, will be headed to the minibus and the lighthouse beyond. Whilst I would recommend a visit, you should continue on your journey, for there is still a two-hour walk to your destination, Kearvaig Bothy.

Bothies are small walkers huts spread over some of Britain’s most secluded and beautiful places. They are free to use: you just turn up and open the door, though they are not to be abused. They are mostly converted shepherd’s huts, but as their original purpose and construction varies, the bothies also have their own individual character. Kearvaig is exceptional for its location as well as its interior. It is owned by the MOD, which means that as bothies go, this is one of the more comfortable; they demand only the best for their live ammunition practice. Oak panelling and real wood floors are some of the luxuries you will experience here, as well as a wood-fired stove to keep warm by at night.

Bothies are small walkers huts spread over some of Britain’s most secluded and beautiful places

However, the real treasure of this place lies not on the inside, but without. Set right on the beach, it is so close to the sea that you might be afraid the waves will reach the walls. The bay and the valley formed by its heads were the last first (or last) safe mooring for visiting Vikings, and with the land rising up all around the house, this does feel like a safe place – the last to be found in Britain.

Besides, nothing dangerous would bother to make the journey. The land is desolate and barren, and so your focus is directed towards the sea: on a clear day, you can see the Orkneys, and closer than that dolphins leap out of the waves. Go and see the lighthouse, go for a swim, read a book. At night, the stars are bright and at dawn the sunrise is brighter, but the fire inside is brightest.

INSTANBUL, TURKEY

By Elif Karakaya

Widely sought after as a summer vacation, Turkey is often overlooked as an option for an Easter escape, yet the country has an expansive regional variety. Although it is a wonder to visit at any time of year, it is especially a privilege to visit Istanbul in the springtime.

 it is especially a privilege to visit Istanbul in the springtime

In this season, Istanbul annually hosts a tulip festival, celebrating the country’s love for the tulip flower across an entire month, with the official dates for the festival being from 1st to the 30th of April. Originating in the central Asian mountain ranges, the tulip was first brought over and cultivated under the Ottoman Empire before being brought over to the Netherlands. 

It seemed to hold a spellbinding quality, captivating whoever made contact with it, forming not only a traditional symbol of Turkey – in relation to arts and religion – but mania if in one’s possession, for it seemed consuming it visually would not satiate the desire. In the Netherlands, a single tulip bulb would be sold for between $40,000 to $80,000 – the price of a house in Amsterdam. The world was enraptured by this flower that seemed to have a life of its own, a certain vitality perhaps due to its individuality – for even bulbs that grew a single colour one year, would grow multicoloured the next, as though controlled by its own command. 

This festival has a long history in Turkey, yet was reintroduced by the government in 2006, where millions of tulips were planted every year, reaching 30 million in 2016. Half a million tulips are planted in Sultan Ahmet Square alone to make a flower carpet in front of the Blue mosque and the Hagia Sophia museum, making this a must-see spot. 

Half a million tulips are planted in Sultan Ahmet Square alone to make a flower carpet

Similarly, Emirgan park is another site which holds a great number of tulips within it, for it is one of the largest parks in Istanbul, hosting multiple tulip gardens within. These locations are significant, for not only are they great tourist attractions, but incredibly culturally significant, historical sites, highlighting the importance of this relationship between tulips and Turkish culture. However, you are bound to spot a tulip even if you do not visit these sights, for any open ground is an invitation to partake in the festival. Other flowers are planted in this period too, in order to contrast the colours and shapes of the tulips, creating an enchanting vision.

It serves as a union between culture and nature, demonstrating the artistry both in the floral arrangements, as well as the artistic symbol of the tulip itself. The Tulip Period of 1718 to1730 is an example of this, for it was an era of peace and enjoyment in the Ottoman Empire, as well as the artistic bloom that came around due to this source of great inspiration.

Yet it was not limited to the artist, for it is even adorned by the religious, used commonly in the decorations of mosques, praised for its relationship between Allah and the sky; it is planted anywhere on open ground, a single, simple request for survival, and yet when in bloom, the tulip too bows its head before God — a symbol uniting the entirety of Turkey. 

MILAN, ITALY

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Italy, being perhaps one of the countries most visited during the summer season, is admittedly bursting with tourists from afar locations hoping to soak up the Italian sunshine.

However, the same cannot be said for the winter and spring months. Upon my visit to Milan during early Spring, it was nothing like your jam-packed holiday destination. With the streets being admired by a handful of American and Canadian gap year students, European citizens, and Italian school trips, it was astonishingly quiet. But, with less people, a more authentic experience awaited me, making Italy the perfect spot for a mid-summative season break. 

The country has endless locations to visit from Milan to Rome to Venice to the more underrated locations such as Siena, Bologna, Turin and more. 

The possibilities are endless with large cities such as Milan, where they can act as base locations for those wanting to take day trips across the country to other locations such as lake Como, Bergamo, Turin, Verona, or perhaps even Florence or Bologna if you are willing to travel two hours with the high speed Frecciarossa and Italo trains. Alternatively, for those looking at visiting the south, Naples is a great base location with Pompei, Amalfi, Sorrento, and many more beautiful locations to satisfy your Italian dreams.

The possibilities are endless with large cities such as Milan

Each city has its own rich cultural identity which makes Italy the perfect place to engage your brain and explore its history. For Milan – Fashion. Bologna – education, with the oldest university in Europe. Naples – the birthplace of the best food to grace this earth – pizza. 

Duomo di Milano

Italy truly has whatever you could be looking for, although the temperature may not be as hot as you’d expect in the north (with skiing even an option still at this time of year) it still provides a sunny escape from the reality of the British weather and rather stressful university life. With an overwhelming chilled atmosphere, even in the some of biggest cities, it can truly help you unwind and mentally reset after a busy term. 

With famous cuisine, rich history and culture at your disposal and beyond friendly, welcoming people to make your stay even more enriching, why not make Italy your summative escape?

Image credit (from top to bottom): Gracie Linthwaite, Mary Atkinson

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