I could never forget the first time I saw snow. On15 February 2009, the Hasslefree travel agent to Troy and Gallipoli called me to say that my morning pick up will be delayed to 3pm.
My tour guide will accompany me on the Metro public bus for the 6-hour journey to Canakkale . Reason being was because it was snowing there and they could not drive me in the company’s car. There were separate rows for men and women on the comfortable bus but since I was travelling with a local guide, I had to sit next to him in the men’s row. I was glad that he was there since all the announcements were made in Turkish.
At the end of the journey, the bus got onto the ferry for a 20minute-ride. We arrived at Maydos Hotel after 10.00pm. It was a short5-minute walk from the bus station near the Dardanelles jetty. The next morning at 7.30am, the tour began. Two old but yet interesting American women and I had the 2 guides to ourselves. Their husbands did not like to travel so they took off on to exotic places on their ownevery year. When we reached Gallipoli, there was remains of snow on the grass. There was also a small snowman. To my inexperienced eyes, it was like ice but only whiter. I touched the whiteness on the ground and gasped.
Having said that, it was on 20 February that I actually saw snow falling from the ground for the first time. It had been raining all night. I could hear the sound of water pouring heavily on the roof. The heater at Homeros Pension did not work well so I had to cover myself with 4layers of blankets. I was also wearing a pair of thermal underwear,knitted sweater and woolen socks underneath all that. The next morning, the pension owner took me to the House of the Virgin Mary. It was raining. Suddenly the windshield in front of us was hit by drops of ice. “I think it’s snowing,” he said. When we got to the gate,the guards were happy to see snow. The pension owner waited in the car and I got out.
There were 3 big European and American tourist groups there so I had to queue for a while to go into the altar. That was a rare occurrence as I almost had all the other tourist sites to myself due to the low season.Many of the visitors did not carry an umbrella, several had on clear plastic raincoats. They were obviously not concern about being hit by the snow, as was I. To avoid the crowd, I approached a closed area, it was for workers only.Some men were clearing the place with wheelbarrows and all. I used hand gesture to ask if I could enter. The kind-face bearded old man waived his hand, signaling it was okay.
I went in and just stared and stared at the white drops falling gently from the sky. I started taking photos. After a while, the man spoke tome in Turkish and gestured with his hands to the aluminum shade. Yeah,it was tricky holding my umbrella and my Ephesus guide book while clicking my camera at the same time. At times, I had to remove my leather gloves as I could not managed my camera with it on. He noticed that and asked me to take shelter. I nodded, appreciating that I could enjoy nature’s gift without hassle. It got really cold after that, so I finally headed for the car. My Ephesus guidebook cover was soaking wet with snow by then.
My encounter with snow continued to the next evening. I arrived in Pamukkale at 12.30pm on Ege Koop bus. It was a 3-hour ride and that was the first time a public bus conductor spoke in English. Apparently,only tourists go there. I had allocated 2.5 days. A few people told meit was too long. When I saw what a small village it was, I was afraid that I would get bored. I even considered changing my flight to Istanbul so I could leave a day earlier.
I had a free and easy afternoon as the Melrose Allgau Pension owner advised me to wait till the next day to go to Hierapolis and theTravertines as the entrance fee was 20 TL and it was already 1pm. I strolled to the tiny town for lunch. It was just by luck that I walked into that particular cafe. The food was terrible, the one and only meal I did not enjoy while I was in Turkey. But the owner, a friendly old man, sat in front of me and started chatting. He said I should go to Karahayit. It was a nice tiny village around 15 minutes away. He saidhe could take me there. He was also a taxi driver. It would cost me 5TL.
Now,under normal circumstances, I would not had taken such risk. I should at least check with the pension owner first. The man was a total stranger. But I was planning to spend a day at Hierapolis and theTravertines and another day at Aphrodisias. I only had that afternoon free. Of course by then, I was already able to read the local people’s intention – good or bad. He quoted money upfront, so it was safe to say that he was only interested in my $$$, and not my kidney or something. He took me to his car. I was relieved to see that it was a real taxi. Karahayit, I soon discovered, was where the tourists were. Hotels have thermal pool or hot spring, some in guest rooms. He took me to Oscar Hotel which belonged to his friend. I could swim there for 10 TL(Travertines charged 20TL). I even considered moving there.The 3-star place costed 40TL a night, similar to my pension. It had an individual deep but narrow square thermal pool in each room.
However,the scene that greeted me upon arrival at my pension changed my mind.When I entered the pretty and rustic outdoor dining house with glasswalls, the bubbly owner showed me 2 bags of snow on the kitchen table.The women folk were talking away happily, it was comforting. He saidthey scooped up the snow for their 2 children, it was rare and special.They invited me to try the syrupy snow dessert in a bowl. It tastedjust like the Ice Balls I used to have at the canteen of my primaryschools more than 2 decades ago. Only the ice is natural, not man-made.Of course by then, the 2 men were no longer in sight. The women threwthem out as they had their favourite TV show on too loudly and theycould barely hear each other. LOL!
Thenext day saw the coldest weather since I arrived in Turkey at 3 degreeCelsius. It was supposed to be the beginning of Spring already butWinter just kept coming back. It seemed that other countries wereexperiencing the coldest Winter too. On the way back from ourAphrodisias tour, there were spreads of snow beside the roads. Childrenwere playing snow balls. I was so tempted to get off the van and jointhem.
Thatwas my first Winter. My costly long waterproof shocking pink jacketfrom Universal Travel was useful though bulky. The waterproof gloves Ibought were big and useless, so I replaced them with a black leatherpair in Istanbul. And finally, I got a pair of pink Winter boots at ashop at the old bazaar in Kadikoy at 50TL. They were perfect, thoughthere was a tiny tear in front after climbing the ruins of Priene andsmall spots of faded colour from the icy rain at Miletus. All in all, Ihave to admit that Winter is kind of special. It is just so peacefuland fresh. It is a new beginning.
Originally written for Hazia’s blog