Saturday, July 23, 2005

 

MEMORIES OF TURKEY 2005 - Trip of a Lifetime

Kayseri AirportThis was the trip of a lifetime - the trip the two of us (Caroline and I) had dreamed of after being involved in the breed collectively for over 40 years - and one of us is barely 30, the other has reached an age that is impolite to ask! :) Both had our own thoughts and feelings of what was in store for us but I think our expectations reached way beyond anything we could have imagined.






The BusWe travelled well over 2,000 miles across Turkey reaching as far East as Kars and Agri. Our trip was not a holiday or a sightseeing trip - although we saw a great deal of Turkey - it was a 'dog trip' and our experiences were absolutely incredible to say the least. We spent time with shepherds and their families right across the country, enjoying their culture, food, company and the most warm and welcoming hospitality I have ever known - as well as their dogs! We visited government breeding schemes, private breeding establishments, the Turkish dog symposium, the wonderful Kangal festival and also the dog show.


Kayseri Town
Kayseri Town

Kayseri Town
Kayseri Town

Turkish Flag on the side of a mountain
Turkish flag on mountainside

Running Stream
Running Stream

Valley view
Valley View

Oltu Castle
Oltu Castle

Information about the Oltu Castle
Oltu Castle information (click to enlarge)


A guardian dog in UlasIt was incredible to have the opportunity to visit the country that we heard so much about from the late Natalka Czartoryska (Hisar). As readers will know, Natalka visited Turkey eleven times during her lifetime on dog expeditions sometimes for months at a time. The magical accounts she recalled over the years, we have now experienced and seen with our own eyes. I now fully understand her passionate love for the country and its people - the dogs were a bonus! She called the shepherds 'flockmasters' and I now appreciate why she gave them this name. They are shepherding experts because their lives literally depend on doing it right.


Another guardian dog in UlasAnother guardian dog in Ulas


Lakeside View
Lakeside View

One family a few kilometres from Kars welcomed us like long lost relatives, the women elders eager for us to come into their homes - dirt floors and few possessions, yet spotlessly clean and cheerfully and brightly decorated with colourful wall coverings. Life is quite obviously very hard and I suspect their expectations are low; they seem to have a fatalistic view of life and make the best of everything. The children wearing brightly coloured clothes were forever smiling and happy and contented; real community life with everyone looking out for each other and everyone looking after all the children as if they were all their own.


Turkish shepherd and his flockTurkish Shepherd and his flock

I felt Natalka's incredible stories coming to life as the scenes unfolded around us. At another village in the same area, we met a shepherd as he returned from the hills after grazing his flock. We walked with him and a hundred or so sheep of various colours back to his village with his dogs and a small donkey carrying supplies. I will never forget that walk and I will never forget the village as long as I live, or its people. The shepherd took us from dwelling to dwelling where its owner welcomed us, and eventually the talk turned to dogs and we were shown two absolutely beautiful puppies - one red and one fawn. In this area it is the custom to remove one third of the tail as well as cropping the ears, although the tail is cropped young, the ears are not done until one year of age as the belief is that cutting before that age impairs the growth of the head. Before we knew it a beautiful rug had been laid out on the grass for us to sit on and we were served Turkish tea in this stunning and idyllic place. We sat and chatted whilst some women nearby gathered dried, cut grass into large piles with wooden implements. The village community had several flocks of sheep and most of the adult dogs were not in the village at this time as the flocks were still out grazing in the hills. The shepherd who we had walked with had two dogs, one white and one fawn, both identical type and both beautiful. They were tall, lean functional working machines working independently and then as one depending on the behaviour of their charges. There were two older dogs in the village, left as guards as the area is plagued with predators.

Reluctantly we had to leave the village, vowing to return, not only to see the return of the adult dogs, but also to experience more of the village and its people.

Road buildingThe mixture of new and old was fascinating, in all things; smart new cars travelling alongside a horse and wooden cart loaded with hay gathered from the fields. The road along which we all travelled had a stretch of decently prepared road surface, which suddenly became a bumpy dirt road and we were engulfed in a cloud of dust. Fine new buildings in pastel colours nestling alongside little dirt houses with turf roofs.

I was fascinated by the haymaking that was going on. I had left just that being undertaken at my home when I left for this trip. Huge round bales of newly cut and dried grass from our fields being wrapped in black plastic by an amazing contraption that spins the bale around whilst the lengths of black plastic wraps around it creating silage bales for winter feeding. Two tractors were there, one with a huge trailer behind bringing the bales from the field and the other loading the bales on the contraption and making a neat pile of them in the corner of the field. The whole process was just one morning's work for a couple of men. I recalled this as I watched an entire family - mother, father, children, and grandparents, possibly uncles, aunts and cousins too - all lending a hand to gather the cut grass into neat piles. It was interesting to note that the piles of hay were of differing shapes in different regions we passed through. A horse and wooden cart or wagon stood silently in the field as the family worked. The heat was blistering, but the women were fully covered, the men all wearing caps. We often saw little piles of stones neatly placed here and there, a pile of four or five stones with the largest at the bottom graduating to a small one on the top. We wondered what these piles of stones meant and it was explained to us that it was the boundary markers for a farmers field! So simple! No electric fencing here! At one village I was able to look at some of the farm implements, which were hand made, basic wooden implements similar to those displayed in museums at home!

Women drying fleeces[ Women drying fleeces ]

As we entered village after village, women ran out from there homes to greet us, stopping whatever they were doing - beating rugs, hand milking a cow, feeding chickens - they begged us to come into their homes and within seconds one of them appeared with a tray of tea (chai) or a yoghurt drink called Ayran, sending children scattering to find rugs and cushions for us to sit on. The men came and sat and talked while the women served the refreshments, but they did not take their eyes off us; taking everything in and not missing a thing. At first the children stifled giggles from behind a wall or an old tractor and then they started to slowly make their way towards us and when finally they were close, touched our clothes and even held our hands, so trusting. Always, their faces looking up at us with beaming smiles and big brown shining eyes. Beautiful!

View from Kangal Hotel
View from Kangal Hotel

View from Yozgat Hotel
View from Yozgat Hotel

I am so totally amazed, moved and humbled by my experiences in Turkey, I believe it will take me some time to collect my thoughts and these notes are just a few disorganised thoughts the day after our return. My companions and I have started to go through hours of video tape and thousands of photographs and next week I will start by giving an account from day one.

Ann Grove - Text
Arkadas Anatolian Shepherd Dogs

Caroline Southen - Pictures
Hisar Anatolian Shepherd Dogs

with Remzi Mustafa -
Tuzla Anatolian Shepherd Dogs

Comments:
Could the dogs mentioned as "tricolour" be actually bi-colour or pinto dogs?
It is mentioned that Kars has also been visited. Are there any dog photos from that region like the ones mentioned in the article with cropped tails?
 
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