Today is Turkish Republic day. Hurrah! On October 29th, 1923 Ataturk declared Turkey a republic and they’ve been celebrating ever since. In Erzurum, it is a tradition to climb Palandöken Mountain on Republic Day to celebrate strength, bravery, and history of Turkey. Yesterday, Leah and I were fortunate enough to meet a group of men who own an Alpine shop and guide businesses in town. They invited us to attend the hike today. We had no idea what to expect but I was too excited about the prospect of outdoor activities to consider saying “no.”
As usual, this was the correct choice. The hike took from about 9:00-2:00 and we covered over 1,300 meters in elevation while traversing 7 or 8 kilometers of distance. The trek was not too difficult, but hiking in snow and ice definitely added an element of interest. The pitch of the slope also made for careful walking, but it primarily just made me excited for ski-season. After reaching the 3000 meter mark, we could see the mountain range extending in all directions. It was the perfect time of year as the highest peaks are covered in snow, but the weather is still warm enough to traverse most areas. As I looked south, beyond Palandöken, it was hard to see anything that displayed human presence. No roads, power lines, or fences. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a place that looked so wild and yet so inviting.
We hiked with a large group of students who all study in the School of Sport at Ataturk University. I met a few students who had previously been on the Turkish National skiing team and they promised to take me skiing with them this winter season. We also met a speed skater, a boxer, a wrestler, and a number of other awesome athletes who all are now “retired” (in their late 20’s) and studying to be coaches and trainers. When we reached the top, the students all pulled out Turkish flags and banners which they waved around while they danced and sang songs about Republic Day. We got pulled into all of these activities, of course. It was pretty magical: the falling snow, the red flags, the seemingly boundless mountain ranges, the sound of our voices carrying out of the plains of Erzurum. All the ups and downs sometimes culminate in a rush of beauty.
A few pictures for your enjoyment: