In the Snow

Earlier this month, we took a long weekend trip to the Black Sea.  Nearly 2 years ago, I traveled this region by car, camping, swimming and driving into the cool mountains and high plateaus.  This year I was anxious to see the Kara Deniz during these cold winter days, as the last time I visited had been in the hot and green summer.

I was picturing snow everywhere up to our ankles, so naturally the only shoes I brought with me were snow boots.  However, when our plane arrived into Trabzon late on a Thursday night, the air was warm and dry, a high contrast to the rainy Istanbul we left behind.

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a quick sketch of Ozgur on the flight to Trabzon

 

Central Trabzon during the day was sunny and pleasant, yet as we drove further into higher elevations, our view was blinded by snow.  Our first excursion into the mountains was to Hidirnebi Yaylasi, where there is an impossibly beautiful view to the sea.  Yet alas, because of the thick fog and falling snow, we could only see a few feet in front of our us.  This obscurity served as a completely different kind of beauty, and we walked among frozen trees and hanging icicles as if in a dream.  After a walk though the deep snow, we warmed our red faces and cold feet by propping them in front of a burning stove in a local cabin.  We were served our own çaydanlık, or tea kettle, and sipped glass after glass of black tea.  Later on, we ate honey on toasted bread and olives and more çay as it brewed on the stove beside us.  I could barely make out the images of huts and homes outside of the window, but did a little sketch regardless of the ambiguous view.

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A sketch from Hidirnebi̇ Yaylasi

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On the the following day, we drove again up the winding mountain roads to a village by the name of Zigana.  The snow was just as deep, but the air remarkably clean and the landscape luminous.  The fog of the previous day had lifted and we could see onto neighboring mountaintops for miles.  We walked through the village, analyzing animal tracks in the snow, taking pictures of the view and feeling the cool bright air on our faces.

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A Little Drawing at the Han

Yes, I am enamored with this place.  Ever since my first trip to Buyuk Valide Han nearly 4 years ago, I am always eager for another visit.  Whether its a day of yoga and picnicking on the hot rooftop in the summer, or sitting bundled up in the corridors drawing doorways and arches while a kind worker offers a warm salep in the dead of winter…hours pass by at the Han as if I were in a time warp.

Last Saturday, we visited the Han to do a bit of research and a quick interview for an upcoming article I am collaborating on with Emilie.  After our conversation with the Kapıcı, or doorman, we climbed up to the roof to take a look at a view that has become so familiar, yet endlessly breathtaking.  On that day, a warm Lodos wind was blowing in from the south, making it difficult to even remain standing as the wind whipped our hair around.

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Me and Ozgur on the rooftop, photo taken by Emilie.

 

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When the wind was no longer tolerable, we settled ourselves on some cement steps in the corridors below for a quick drawing.  I have recently been carrying around a small sketchbook with me, in order to do more daily drawing, even when I only have a minute.  The pocket sized notebook makes it easy to complete a fairly detailed sketch in a short time.  I was happy to see that regardless of its size, the little drawing still had presence.

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Ozgur and I left early as Emilie finished her graphite drawing, which turned out incredibly lovely.

 

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Emilie‘s sketch

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An Unexpected Adventure

2 weekends ago, I hopped on a plane with a few friends and flew a mere 45 minutes to Izmir, Turkey.  From there it was only a shuttle ride away from the town of Selçuk.  Selçuk was the first town that I visited in Turkey, way back in 2008 when I was traveling with a group of college students, all of us learning to draw on location while experiencing a foreign culture.  This time however, I was here for a very different reason…deve güreşleri..or camel wresting.

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Its something I have always hear about…Turkey has 2 kinds of famous wresting..camel wrestling and oil wrestling, and after a 6 year affair with this country, I’ve finally seen one of them.

I am usually not one to pass up cultural experiences, or weekend trips to a nostalgic town.  So very spontaneously, I found myself on the sunny Aegean Coast, just miles from the ancient city of Ephesus, but instead of strolling through ruins I was in the midst of hundreds of picnicking locals and elaborately dressed camels.  The air was thick with smoke from BBQs as onlookers grilled vegetables and meat, passed around mezes, poured rakı and danced to gypsy bands weaving their way among the crowd.

As the day continued, the action in the ring fell into the background as we wandered the area.  We sat for a time and watched a group of men performing a traditional Turkish folk dance, talked with locals who visit the event every year and bought our own camel wrestling scarves…a checkered and fringed type of shawl which usually features an embroidered camel in the center.  We visited the adorned camels, and learned they had names like “Black Uncle,” “Half World” and “Lightening.”

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After some time, we found a comfortable place on the grass, and sat down to sketch one of the waiting camels.  I usually don’t draw animals, because I never seem to have the chance.  But these stoic creatures were standing so still that it was the perfect chance to try it out.  We eventually gathered a crowd of curious festival fans and photographers and pretty soon were tourist attractions ourselves.

At the end of the day, we loaded onto our shuttle smelling like camp fire smoke and grass. Each one of us exhausted and sunburned, our ears ringing from the constant thump of drums and the blaring clarinet…tired and happy.

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Me and Emilie‘s sketchbooks

 

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My sketch of “Demiroz”

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