Kars, 24-29th January, 2013
“As he watched the snow fall outside his window, as slowly and silently as the snow in a dream, the traveller fell into a long-desired, long-awaited reverie.”
– Orhan Pamuk, Snow
There is something about the stillness of a city under so much snow. I stand at Halil’s big windows and watch it fall, soft as fur. Outside on the streets, those who brave the weather stumble and slide between cars and shops.
Something had excited me about the prospect of visiting Kars in winter. Perhaps it was reading the book Snow, by Orhan Pamuk*, the opening pages of which describe the main character’s journey by coach from Istanbul to Kars, which is buried under thick white powder.
Despite the blanket that now covers even the centre of town, Halil drives me and some other friends out into the countryside, to watch a game of cirit. It’s a traditional Turkish equestrian team sport, played on horseback. The objective is to score points by throwing a blunt wooden javelin at the opposing team’s horsemen.
We watch horses charge up and down the playing field, fiercely reined and whipped by the men riding them. The horses don’t seem to be having much fun.
Also in Kars is Rebekah, whose blogs I’ve been reading for a long time. We met before in Diyarbakır several months earlier, while I was travelling with Emée and Alfie. It becomes apparent that we’ll soon be heading in the same direction, so we modify our plans to travel together.
*Snow is, in fact, a terrible book. I wanted so much to love it, but as I’ve written before, it’s a thoroughly drab read. The characterisation begins thin and slowly disintegrates into terrible cliches and repetition. Still, it made me want to visit Kars.