Talented actress and an adventure junkie, Shriya Pilgaonkar was recently in Istanbul with Supriya Pilgaonkar (her mother) to celebrate pre-birthday bash of her mom. The Mirzapur actor feels travelling once a year is the key to being on top of her game. Here’s all that she did in Istanbul. By Kumar Shree

Magic of Turkey

Turkey was on my and my mother’s bucket list for long. It had been a while since we all went for a holiday. Last year, on my mother’s birthday, I was shooting in London for a British series and wasn’t there to celebrate with her. That’s why, I wanted to do something special this year. So, I surprised her by booking this trip. In fact, her best friend, who is also very close to me, travelled with us, too. My father was busy in Bombay, so he said you guys go ahead and have a good time.

We went to Istanbul and to Cappadocia — it was a 10-day affair. In Istanbul, we stayed at this really nice family-run hotel called Faik Pasha-Suites in Çukur Cuma, which is an antique vintage district of Istanbul. It was not like a typical hotel and was a very personal, traditional, Turkish experience. It felt like we were staying in someone’s house in Turkey. We had the chance to have traditional breakfast there, which was really nice. In Cappadocia we stayed in a cave hotel.

Cappadocia was something that I’ve been dying to go to, because we wanted to do the hot-air balloon ride there. The ride takes you to a point from where you can see the whole landscape of Cappadocia, and that itself is very unique. We did that and I explored Cappadocia on an ATV, which again a lot of fun.

Even in Istanbul, instead of packing in too many places, we decided to explore it at a leisurely pace. We visited all the touristy spots and then went to the non-touristy neighbourhoods, too. Just going to the different cafés, bookstores, and shopping at the local bazaars was exceptional.

Mingling with Locals

For me, there’s nothing better than mingling with the locals, talking to them and understanding their history, cuisine, culture, likes and dislikes from their perspective. It’s all about engaging and interacting. We had a great time because we met so many wonderful people. Turkey has incredible people inside out. No wonder, Turkish people are known for their hospitality.

In today’s age and time, where everything boils down to religious discussions, it was so nice to meet and interact with people who were so kind and liberal, who seek nothing but want the people to smile, be merry and love each other. The people there actually believe everyone should be able to practice what they follow and we should all respect that. Meeting them, I felt that it’s so easy to be cynical about the world today, but there are people out there who have a simple ‘live and let live’ ideology, which all of us need to have.

As an actor, as a storyteller, I travel for these discoveries, these experiences, which later become inspiration for something that I do. I believe these are the characters you meet who leave you with a more open mind and heart. For me it’s very important to travel every single year, because I come back better, refreshed and ready to take on the stress of my acting life.

What Kind of a Traveller are You?

It depends with whom I’m travelling. I’m an adventure junkie who cannot stay in bed. I wake up early, want to go out, do things — I’m quite prompt that way. Since this time I was travelling with my mom and her friend, we had a different pace. I did not want to rush them. At heart I believe I’m a tour guide. I read so much about a place and when I finally reach the place, I end up telling tales to everyone about the place.

Food for Thought

I loved trying the kebabs and the Turkish sweets. There’s such a great variety of Turkish sweets; everyday we used to focus more on what desserts are we going to have than the food. My mom and I, we love sweets, so we binged on all the wonderful Turkish desserts. I love tea and they have these different kind of teas — I tried all of that. Also, there’s a lot of similarity between Indian and Turkish cuisine, which is very interesting. And, because half of Turkey is in Europe and the other half in Asia, it is an eclectic mix of both. It’s like having the best of both worlds at one destination.

Also, the culture of sitting outside at roadside cafés where people are just chatting, having their coffee or tea, without any disturbance and no honking at all, was such a pleasant experience. For people who love coffee, there’s tonnes of Turkish coffee. For me, exploring a place through local food is very important.

My Star Grandfather 

A big inspiration for me is my grandfather, who is 80 years old and has travelled to more that 85 countries. He is an extensive traveller and we have taken trips to Iceland and Mediterranean cruise, and what not. He has so many stories to tell. When I see his enthusiasm, I realise this is what keeps him young – his desire to travel and push himself and do all these enthusiastic things. When I’m travelling, I always feel that I’m taking my grandfather with me.

On Bucket List 

I do have one, but not written somewhere, it’s on my mind. I’m fortunate enough that my work also takes me to places. I want to do scuba diving, so it’s in the back of my mind that I must go to Maldives. Other destinations on my bucket list are Berlin and Prague. Two years ago I went backpacking by myself to Japan, which was a dream for me.

I Recommend

In Turkey, besides Istanbul you have to do Cappadocia for sure. In Cappadocia, I will recommend the hot air balloon and the ATV. Be ready with your walking shoes, and there’s a lot of uphill climbing there, too. Also, I’d say instead of staying in a hotel, stay in a place which is more like a family-run hotel or something like an Airbnb, which is much more of a personalised experience. Though I went during summers, I’d recommend visiting Turkey in a little cooler weather.

I also got a Turkish Hammam experience and I’d definitely recommend people to get a hammam. The one that I got in was established in 1595. Also, there’s nothing like sitting at a café and talking to people there. Go on a shopping spree too, because the Grand Bazaar and all these places have so much history, it’s nice to explore as the experience is exceptional.

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