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Festival time at Ayder
2002 / FEBRUARY

As the bus climbed ever higher he watched the emerald green mountain landscape and the winding course of the Firtina River which kept the road company. All along the way new vistas caught his eye in every direction. The sun appeared and disappeared between alder trees stretching into the sky, and from a half-open window came the sound of rushing water from the river. As time went by he could feel the growing excitement of the other passengers, as if they were on their way to a wedding. He remembered the events of the previous year, and Ayder in all its unforgettable beauty. When he arrived at the Ayder plateau high in the mountains, a small town seemed to have sprung up on the meadows. Colourful tents at the side of the road enhanced the sense that this was a special day.

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Festival time at Ayder
2002 / FEBRUARY

In contrast the thermal spa, which was normally busy, was strangely silent and deserted. The thick forest of pine trees on the steep mountain slopes behind the pasture began to fade behind the encroaching mist, and dew precipitated so heavily from the moisture laden air that his hair was covered with a thin white layer. Climbing the hill and turning the bend, he found himself suddenly on the festival field. It was July, but spring was only newly coming to the high plateaus. All the colours of the rainbow were scattered over the green pasture, and troupes of dancers in traditional dress were leaping and circling to the music. From all over Turkey people hailing originally from Turkey's eastern Black Sea province of Rize were gathered here for this annual festival, where the atmosphere is a combination of nostalgic reunion and festive fun celebrating the awakening of spring.

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Festival time at Ayder
2002 / FEBRUARY
Events include bagpipe playing and traditional costume competitions, and there is dancing to bagpipe music. He found himself in a ring of hundreds of people, a ring that was easy to enter but hard to leave. At first he had trouble keeping up with the rapid footwork, but after a while got the hang of it. The sounds of music and laughter echoed back from the mountains. Although it had begun to rain a group of unheeding football players carried on with their match. The highlight of the Ayder Festival is the bullfighting, which takes place on the second day at Galer Düzü plateau nearly two kilometres away. Despite the intermittent rain the field was packed with spectators. Tents had been erected and the bonfire was blazing. In these bullfights the bull wins by driving off or frightening away its rival.
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Festival time at Ayder
2002 / FEBRUARY

There is no particular time limit, but if a match goes on exceptionally long, the referees have the right to cancel it. Some last just a few seconds while others strain the spectators' patience. The rain began again with a vengeance, mist billowed down into the valley, and heavy dark clouds created an untimely twilight. On the banks of the nearby river storming noisily down the mountainside the festivities continued exuberantly until nightfal

* Ibrahim Yogurtçu is a photographer and freelance writer

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