The kick-off meeting of the project ‘Italy, Greece and Turkey on Foot’ aiming to certify the Via Eurasia as a Council of Europe Cultural Route took place on 16 – 18 April 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey.
The focus of the meeting was to introduce all the stakeholders to each other and define the roles and responsibilities of each co-applicant and associates. It also aimed to increase exchange and dialogue between partners, leading to the on-going support of the future route by the public and private bodies. The meeting brought together the Culture Routes Society, European Association of the Via Francigena Ways, Trace Your Eco, Sultan’s Trail Foundation, Via Egnatia Foundation, three municipalities from Turkey (Edirne, İzmit and Bursa’s Nilüfer Municipalities), Hiking Istanbul, the Evliya Çelebi Way, Tolerance Way, as well as independent experts in charge of management of certification dossier and the scientific report.
During this 3 days-long kick off meeting the participants shared ideas about the creation and management of the Via Eurasia, made presentations about their sections of the route and exchanged the best practices. Ms Kate Clow, the chairman of the Culture Routes Society, presented the work of the organization and conducted an interactive workshop where participants first discussed the strong elements of Via Eurasia and then worked on maps to specify the condition of their routes, the areas where further work was required and the work needed in joining sections of route together. This encouraged team bonding and the workshop resulted with the following outstanding elements of the route: history, traditional architecture, modern architecture and art, landscape/views, variety, gastronomy, local interaction/ hospitality, cultural exchange, etc.
Mr. Luca Bruschi, the Director of the European Association of the Via Francigena Ways, demonstrated good practices of the Via Francigena and its marketing strategies. The head of the management committee, Ms Elena Dubinina, explained the criteria of the Council of Europe to certify a cultural route and the content required for submitting an application. This successful meeting highlighted a great potential of the Via Eurasia of becoming a collaborative platform for various stakeholders from Europe and Asia and working together on preservation and valorisation of the heritage and traditions, revitalisation of local communities and lifestyles as well as providing a breath-taking experience for explorers and travellers.