The winter came to Kayseri quite suddenly. This was November 1st, the time of year in Siberia when you are already wading knee-deep through snow or at the very least through cold muddy puddles:
Almost two weeks later, mid-November:
And then, a month later, BAM! Snow!
And it kept snowing and meanwhile in Siberia there was barely any snow and that’s how we came to discover that we are living in the Siberia of Turkey. They day I posted these pictures, everyone from Russia commented on how much snow we have compared to them:
Our campus in the autumn and in the winter: I was really glad that my parents sent me my winter coat and Mike’s fleece-lined jeans, although wasn’t THAT cold. It got down to -20C (-4F) at night at most, and down -15C (5F) during the day. Seeing as how this is the coldest city in Turkey in the winter, we were astonished at how little warm winter clothes are available here. There aren’t any warm parkas or coats (like mine, stuffed with goose down), or even sheepskin coats. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to find any skiing gear which is really inconvenient considering there’s a skiing resort in Kayseri.
But now, towards the end of January, all the snow has melted and for the last week we’ve been having sunny warm weather which makes you want to take your jacket off. Apparently, this has been an uncharacteristically warm winter and now there’s barely any snow left in Eriyes mountain. There used to be a saying ‘when the snow on Erciyes melts’, as in “This will happen when the snow on Erciyes melts”, meaning it’s highly unlikely as the snow wouldn’t melt even in the summer, apart from the last few years when it had melted several summers in a row.
Speaking of global warming, or rather, the contributing factors. Since the beginning of the ehating season, pollution levels here in Kayseri rose significantly and visibly. Kayseri is located at the foot of Eriyes mountain and it’s also surrounded by hills and and mountains, so we are basically at the bottom of a bowl. All this makes air circulation problematic, so when the heating season starts, all of the smoke hang low over the city and you can actually smell the acrid smoke from burning coal and taste it at the back of your throat. On particularly cold days my clothes smell as if I were a witch freshly escaped from a burning pyre. Not good! I mean, you shouldn’t be able to SEE the air, right? Yet here in Kayseri we do. When we went up Mount Erciyes, the black loud hanging over the city was clearly visible.
And whenever you look ahead, there’s a black curtain of smog hanging over the horizon.
I wonder if it’s this that makes the fogs here particularly thick. There’s been quite a few mornings when the fog was really bad:
This pollution has definitely curtailed our outdoor activities, and we fondly think back to our last winter in New Zealand with it’s pure air and lush greenery.
In December, we had a lovely Russian-themed party where we made pelmeni (dumplings filled meat) and other Russian food and played the electronic version of the board game Catchphrase.
This was followed by my birthday party 2 weeks later when I turned 30. The big 3-oh. I was cool about it, and refrained from shouting, Joe-from-Friends-style “Why are you doing this to me, God, why?”. Turned 30? Keep calm and… You know the rest:
Speaking of food. Colin, Mike’s colleagues and our local master chef made me a special cheesecake for my birthday:
It was out-of-this world delicious (like everything he makes) and when he said it needs to be chilled in the fridge for another few hours, I stashed it behind some jars and containers hoping nobody would remember there was cheesecake and I would get to wolf it all down by myself (possibly sparing a few slices for Mike), but everyone knows just how good Colin’s food is so they didn’t let me “forget” the cake in the fridge. In case you were wondering, the triple X is there to mark my age in Roman numerals.
I also got an unexpected gift one week later from my friend Yulia all the way from London. We came to London together and she was my best friend there and now that I don’t live in England we don’t see or talk to each other as often as I’d like, but that’s what happens when you live in different countries. I still think of her often, and miss our never-ending Friends marathons and girls’ night in. Anyway, she sent me a mug with a sausage dog on it and a sausage dog necklace. She knows how to make me happy!
(I was going to insert a photo of Yulia and me in London but I got depressed looking at pictures of me at 19 where I look so young and thin(ner) that I gave up and sat on the sofa sighing mournfully until Mike asked what’s wrong and then made him tell me I still looked young and beautiful)
What else? We have been to a cave restaurant. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant built in the side of a hill so inside it’s cave-like. Very cosy.
The menu was completely in Turkish, and while we know some most popular dishes and we know that lamb is kuzu, there were a lot of kuzus on the menu, so as always when you don’t know the language well, every food order is a bit of a gamble. A few weeks earlier I was trying to order a pizza delivery. A friend recommended a pizza with ground beef, but I forgot how you say it in Turkish. After a few unsuccessful attempts at pronouncing “kıymalı”, the men on the other end of the phone hopefully said : “Margarita?”. “Margarita”, agreed I, giving up.
This time our gamble paid off as our dish turned out to be lamb with mushrooms and tomato sauce served on a frying pan. We were also served 2 boiled potatoes as chef’s compliment. I guess they were trying to be original, as normally Turkish restaurants serve salads and bread as an appetizer, which usually comes free of charge.
I also went to a cooking lesson. Sort of. It was meant to be a lesson, but the lady cooked everything herself, narrating what she was doing and then we ate everything. It was still nice, because I got to spend an evening with my friends Leyla and Peggy, and the family whose home we were in was very lovely.