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February 06, 2012, Monday


Unless you’ve been away on a desert island, cut off from all forms of modern communication (are there actually any such places left in the world?), you won’t need me to remind you that last week was the week that the whole of Turkey became blanketed in snow.

 One wag tweeted that Ankara would see minus 15 degrees Celsius but İstanbul would complain more with just minus two degrees, but it’s what you’re used to, I suppose, and here in Cappadocia, this is probably still quite a mild winter in comparison with the days of yore.

Still, it remains something of a wonder to me. I don’t know what is the more amazing -- the staggering silence that falls over Göreme after heavy snow, the utter stillness as the building work grinds to a halt, the traffic gives up on the hill and the hot-air balloons are grounded -- or the way in which the thick coating of snow transforms the landscape, obliterating the litter and ugly street markings and rendering everything beautiful once again. Sweeping past Üçhisar in the dolmuş, it was impossible not to think of cakes, the landscape suddenly a mouth-watering patisserie window display of chocolate meringues sprinkled with icing sugar, of dark fruitcake with a crust of sugar icing and a layer of marzipan, of coconut-sprinkled cones.

As an added bonus, this year’s heavy snowfall coincided with the onbeş tatil, the mid-semester school break that loosed the children on the altered landscape. While I was indoors trying to prevent 13 cats with cabin fever from sharpening their claws on my rugs, the kids were out in force on the sloping ground beside my house, improvising sleds from cardboard and trash bags, and tossing snowballs at the unwary. Round town some mighty fine snowmen popped up, but they were mainly the handiwork of bored turizmcis (those in the tourism sector), obliged to keep their businesses open despite the paucity of tourists to patronize them.

This year, the snow seemed to be brighter than normal, if that’s actually possible. It was so bright that, venturing out without shades, I failed to distinguish the patches of compacted ice from the softer snow and fell head over undignified heels in the public arenas of the bus station and the post office garden. Luckily, at this time of year, there were few people passing, and I was able to check for broken bones (none, thankfully), then gather up my shattered dignity, without anyone rushing to ask if I was all right. But two falls in two days left me very bruised morale-wise and reluctant to venture along any of the side streets, which have been transformed into frozen waterfalls.

Actually, the village is pretty empty at the moment since everyone with the means to do so flees to pastures warmer at this time of year, leaving the rest of us to pounce on stray tourists with a relish we can’t quite rustle up at busier times of year. A young couple passed through last week. He was American, she was Romanian and they had been hitching and couchsurfing their way round the country despite the freezing temperatures. Would I have chatted to them in July? Probably not. It’s all part of the metamorphosis that takes place in winter, you see.

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.

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