The Karagöz puppets are all a-twitter about the upcoming Valentine’s day celebration. Between valentine-making parties and the preparation of sweets, you can imagine that they haven’t been thinking much about blogging.
So this morning, I asked them to tell me a story about the best of love, something I could write a blog post about. And of course, the puppets immediately reminded me of a special experience we had on the Georgian border a few months ago.
As they recalled, the puppets were a bit carsick after driving through the high-up switchback roads in the mountains on the Georgian-Turkish boarder…you can see one such road here.
It was no wonder they were so quiet and relatively unwilling to get out of the car at the end of the road – even if there was a lovely green park to explore. I had to drag them along with me through the woods, their clothes got a little muddy as a result.
But what happened next really took all of our breath away.
Upon emerging from the woods after a short walk from the parking lot, we saw a young couple in their wedding clothes, ambling hand in hand by the side of a pristine mountainside lake.
But what was even more wonderful than that, was the fact that this couple in the blush of new love was being serenaded by a Turkish piper who just happened to be up at the lake with some of his buddies.
Animated and full of hot air for the pipes, the piper played a range of Turkish folk tunes leaning towards the political (he was from Artvin, a well-known hotbed of leftists, as M. relayed to me). M. translated some of the lyrics – which were clearly Gezi Park-inspired and anti-establishment in tune. Nobody seemed to mind much.
Turks from the Black Sea region call this the guda in the Laz language, or the tulum in Turkish. You can read more about the tulum here. With a blow pipe on top and chanters on the bottom, the Tulum looks and sounds much like a modern-day bagpipe. Made from sheep or goat hide, it is allegedly commonly treated with nothing more than salt. And, although we did not witness this, according to tradition, a shot glass full of Raki, a homemade Turkish brandy of high alcohol content, is poured inside the Tulum after use. Its antiseptic qualities helps prevent the spread of bacteria and even prevents the pipes from rotting.
We were soon enveloped in a circle of dancers. We presumed they were members of the wedding party but soon found out that this was just a motley crew of visitors to the lake all keen on celebrating the newly-married husband and wife.
From the teyze (auntie) replete in her flowered pants and headscarf to the economics student from Istanbul and her friend from Denmark, nobody seemed out of place. And while I am two left feet-personified in the dance department, nobody cared, and everyone just launched into the celebration of life and hope.