Winter sun

When winter's cold sets in it's time not to turn back but to set out, if you're one of those who love Turkey under the winter sun.

S now fell, white, like silk / A girl trod lightly over it as in a dream / I remembered my friends, favorite things / As if everything was for us and always would be / Songs played in rooms / I thought about how one needs to love all people / Except our enemies / For our enemies / Became our enemies / Because they destroyed love.” So says Ataol Behramoğlu in his poem. That was years ago, when snow fell 'like snow' on the big cities. The snow that is feared now because it will paralyze the traffic was a joy in those days. But snow no longer falls on the cities as it used to…

Back then, when snow fell in Edirne, the pigeons that perch on the domes of the Selimiye Mosque would glance down curiously to see if the old man who sold birdseed had come or not. Snow would close the narrow roads through the Istranca Mountains. Below Mount Ağrı, the mist over Doğubeyazıt would do its best to impede the giant trucks passing through the city. The snow would listen to the scrunch of the tire chains. At the Great Harbor in Amasra people walking with their hands in their pockets, and fishermen with their caps on their heads for warmth, were startled suddenly by beating wings. Wild geese, like great white ships, halted on their migration by the cold and the heavy snow, were seeking a refuge.

For wild animals, winter is a fine line between starvation and survival. On days when the snow rises meters high, forest rangers at Safranbolu   struggle to bring huge sacks of feed to Sırçalı Canyon. Highway officials trying to clear the Ilgaz-Kastamonu highway brush away tiny icicles clinging to their mustaches with the back of their hands. At Amasra children blow on windows to steam them up and then wipe the condensed moisture away. Sliding on the icy roads and watching friends take a tumble is a source of merriment. Sometimes the snow blots the sun away, sometimes it grants nights of blue moonlight. And that is when the earth assumes a poetic aspect in the snow's reflected glow.

Uludağ, Kartalkaya, Palandöken, and Ilgaz all brim over with city-dwellers eager to spend the weekend on skis. The aroma wafting up from itinerant vendors of 'sucuk ekmek' along the Abant road stops passersby in their tracks. As they sew colorful clothes for their dolls, young girls in Tokat's village of Nebiler surreptitiously pull from their bosoms love letters from their beaus off to be soldiers, and their cheeks blush.

Sneak in the door of whatever house you want on a winter night in Düzce, İkizdere or İspir, and you'll get the fright of your life! The pop-pop-popping of the corn on the stovetop will unnerve you. When snow blocks the road from Van to Bahçesaray, military helicopters ferry food to   the town. But if a hot chess game is under way in the coffeehouse even as the choppers are landing, no one will be in a hurry to get up. In winter everyone clams up and only the smoke rising from the chimneys talks.

Blinded by a blizzard even in broad daylight, the watchman in the lighthouse at Sinop switches on the beam before going to steep his rose hip tea. Unassembled ship's models are being painted in tiny home workshops. The big fishing boats wait impatiently to venture out in search of anchovies. And while it's true that travelers and photographers slow down in winter and wax contemplative, the intrepid souls that don't fear the snow's teeth catch shots few people ever get to see. Especially in places crowned with trees and forests like Mudurnu, Pınarbaşı and Küre, the contrast between the white snow and the dark beams  of the timber houses makes for striking contrasts. And if gaily dressed girls happen to be strolling by at the moment, and a flock of pigeons take wing…

The coast of the Mediterranean is inundated with visitors in summer. Lured by the sea's blue, people in the thousands flock down to the coastal towns scorched under the summer sun. But real travelers wait until winter to visit the Mediterranean's shores. For only then does the sun that cooks a person's brain withdraw and another sun appear that caresses the skin with its soft light. Gone are the noise, the traffic and the endless lines for food, and in their place emerge quiet Mediterranean towns. When you gaze at the sea from Kaş in this season, you can see grey waterspouts. And if you climb up from Demre after a rain, you may just encounter a double rainbow. At Kekova the flying fish, savoring the pleasure of the water without fear of summer's tour boats, pass by to the putt-putt of our outboard. If you're traveling by night, your headlights will illuminate the foxes crossing the road at Kumluca. Perched on the Taurus like a white cap, the snow is adorned in a frame of pine trees. In short, whether they want to cast off a disappointment in love, learn the alphabet of silence, or see the countless ancient cities that dot the pages of history, people go down to the Mediterranean in winter.

When you see the yachts at the marina, you'll be reminded of Hesiod's words from the 7th century B.C: “When winter comes and the wind begins to blow from every direction, instead of going out on the wine-dark sea, work the land. Moor the boat on the shore and secure it with stones…

Remove the plug from the bottom so Zeus's rains won't rot anything. Stow all the rigging in a corner of your house, carefully roll up the sails, hang the rudder next to the hearth, and wait for the sailing season to roll round again.”

Albeit in small amounts, snow does fall on Istanbul, too. The Fethi Paşa Woods at Kuzguncuk on the Bosphorus turn white in winter. The trees bend under the weight of the snow. The whole quarter is blanketed in the color of the white-bearded holy man, Father Kuzgun, for whom it was named. In the streets near the water, snow flakes cling to the vine leaves that wreathe doorways. The advertising billboards on the Kadıköy-Bostancı coast road are slowly plastered over with wind-tossed snow. At Eyüp on the opposite shore winter's chill mingles with the cold of death. When you've wound your way through the graves up to the Pierre Loti Café, the grey air of the Golden Horn remains down below. First you murmur some lines from Onat Kutlar, who came here every new year's morning right up to his death. Then you down your coffee and make your way to Sütlüce. For you are curious to see how the tiny structures at Miniatürk look under the snow…

If despite all these alluring scenes you're still determined to spend your snow days in the warmth of your own house, then this piece of writing has not achieved its purpose. Nevertheless you should know that even as you read these lines, your writer is knee-deep in snow and, carefully clutching his tripod, is about to click the shutter on a herd of wild boar visible on the opposite hill. If he presses the release button, it means you will certainly see that photo one day. If not, he will have frozen to death for the sake of a shot!