We continued driving up into the mountains, all eleven of us together with the goat, on the way to Grandad’s House in the remote village of Karatut. The weather was getting colder and the snow deeper, as we carried on up the steep dirt track roads, buildings were fewer and other traffic almost none existent. However, the scenery was breath-taking and the stuff that movies are made of. I was enchanted by the wild grey foxes who startled by the engine noise, ran alongside the edge of the tracks .
Fortunately, I was unable to see the sheer drop from the road down the side of the mountain, or I am sure I would have been holding my breath for the remainder of the journey. We eventually drove into the village which was a scattering of basic structures; although despite the village’s remoteness there were still satellite dishes dotted along the tops of the buildings. This was Turkey at it’s most traditional and a lifetime away from resort life and foreign visitors.
Most of the villagers were intrigued by the new arrivals and stopped and peered in the car windows, some of whom were known to the family. I was particularly alarmed by a smiling elderly woman who sat outside her house holding a rifle across her lap but fortuitously for us still managed to wave a greeting with her empty hand.
We carried on driving through the village and came to a halt at the top of a dirt track with no visible houses. Man, women, child and goat alighted from the vehicle carrying various bags, pots and pans and then started climbing down a steep incline which led to a wooden house complete with a wraparound balcony nestling along the side of the cliff and amongst the trees like something from a Grimm fairy-tale.
Having removed our shoes, as is the custom whenever you enter a Turkish home, I was surprised when we walked into an immaculately clean small hallway leading onto a salon where again a soba oven kept the room toasty. There was a basic kitchen in one corner and in another primitive showering facilities. Tapestry floor cushions were scattered around the homely room. All the family greeted their grandfather in the Turkish respectful fashion of kissing his right hand and then touching it with their foreheads.
Grandad was a wizened old soul with a particular fondness for moonshine Raki and a twinkle in his eye, who was equally entranced by my mobile phone pictures of home as I was by the loveliness of his. Despite his advanced years he had lived in this village his whole life and now entirely alone since his wife had passed several years earlier.
As I looked around the salon, I couldn’t help but wonder how this large family managed any bathroom privacy. One of Ahmed’s brothers sensing my unease jokingly told me that the entire family showered together whilst soaping each other’s hard to reach places and then translated for the rest of the family which made them all laugh uproariously. As we continued to sit there laughing and joking whilst drinking çay , I couldn’t help but think that many of us had lost some of this family harmony and tradition and I hoped that I would be taking home, along with the usual holiday souvenirs, something a little more enduring which would remind me of these truly golden days.
That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest.
Henry David Thoreau