Recently, the puppets joined me on a trip with the Archers of Okçular. Clinging onto the backseat, the puppets didn’t complain as we wound our way through the mountains of the northeastern Black Sea region near the Georgian border. M’Lady was thrilled to be so close to Georgia – a place she visited during Soviet times in what feels like a century ago.
Whilst exploring the small towns near the border, we came across an ancient Keystone Bridge. The puppets insisted on getting out and taking some pictures – it’s not every day you see such a relic. Check out the pictures here from the old bridge in the small hamlet of Güneşliköyü, which is even locatable on a Google map. And, I might add, the use of the word “hamlet” is a generous one – we saw only two houses on the winding river road.
As we poked around the bridge, a figure emerged from the hazy green distance. He carried a hoe and wore a plaid shirt with a rolled up sleeves. His hair was silvered with the ages and his eyes were twinkly. Greeting us with warmth, we worked our way through the pleasantries – where we were from, how lovely the area was, falan filan. (i.e. yadda yadda in Turkish). His name was Fazlı.
Fazlı Bey soon whipped out his cell phone and asked for assistance in programming it. “Who the hell knows how to work these damn things anyway,” he said with a chuckle, I’m a pistachio farmer… This isn’t my expertise.” None of us could figure out the magic touch. Losing interest in the cell phone, Fazlı Bey announced that we would be ceasing that activity and would henceforth be gathering hazelnuts.
“You will not leave without a bag of my hazelnuts! Even though my wife and I are locked in an argument so deep I can’t even remember what it’s about anymore, she’d kick me if I didn’t share some of our beloved nuts with you – and I want to share with you!” Kenne, the Queen of Manners, nodded her head in approval. “While this man is somewhat disheveled, at least he has a mind for manners!” Mercan Bey shot Kenne a sidelong glance, pointing out that he was a farmer after all, his hands dirty with honest work.
As those ornery puppets began to quarrel, we tromped on into the fields just off the road, and quickly filled the plastic bag with fresh hazelnuts. It was a treat to see where the central ingredient in Nutella comes from…Recently, the United States’ National Public Radio reported on hazelnuts, mentioning the tradition of hazelnut farming in Turkey.
“Karim Azzaoui, vice president for sales and marketing at BALSU USA, which supplies hazelnuts to the U.S., says the hazelnut trees grow on steep slopes that rise from the Black Sea coast. The farms are small; grandparents and children help to harvest the nuts, usually by hand. “It’s a very traditional way of life,” Azzaoui says. “The Turkish family farmers are extremely proud of the hazelnut crop, as it has been part of their family history for centuries. Farmers have been growing hazelnuts here for 2,000 years.” Nutella is now making this traditional crop extremely trendy…That’s pushed up hazelnut prices. And this year, after a late frost in Turkey that froze the hazelnut blossoms and cut the country’s hazelnut production in half, prices spiked even further. They’re up an additional 60 percent since the frost.”
Back in the States, as I listened to the radio on my way home from work, it was wonderful to have a face to add to the story in my ear.
I wish Fazlı Bey all the best for his hazelnut crops for years to come!