Seeing Dave and Janet Hopkins' description of snow in
Turkey prompts recollection of a post-Christmas storm during our second
winter in the village. My site partner, Allen Neill (now Allen Neill
Schauffler), and I lived in a village about 28 km. inland from Vakfikebir,
southwest of Trabzon and due south about 8 km. from our small market town,
Tonya. The village lies at an altitude of somewhere between 2000 and 3000
feet, in relatively rugged forests, with larger mountains and summer
pastures (yayla) farther to the south. Our first winter had been mild, with
one sixteen-inch snowfall that melted quickly, and pear trees in bloom
during the first week of
Our area rep, Ted Nelson, drove up from Ankara for a mid-January 1966
meeting in Trabzon, with the five CD volunteers from the surrounding area.
Tom Turner, Ephraim Frankel, and Carol Franz came in from their villages in
Macka, and Allen and I came in from Tonya. Ted was accompanied on the trip
by his wife Debby, Deputy PC Director Bob Taylor and his wife Betty, and
Imre Kusu. After our last courtesy calls with various folks in Trabzon, Ted
and Debby, Bob and Betty, Imre, Allen and I headed back for our village in
one of those huge GMC Carryalls that you had to pole-vault into. It took a
couple of hours to drive from Trabzon to Vakfikebir along the coast, then
inland to Tonya on a relatively good road, and on up into the mountains to
our village on a rough, narrow road cut into steep river banks. As we left
Trabzon, it started to snow. It was a pretty drive -- uneventful -- we
arrived back in our village around 4 in the afternoon. The Carryall was
parked at the coffee! house on the village road, and everybody walked
the 500 yards or so to our house, where we spent a leisurely couple of hours
in conversation, preparing dinner.
Shortly after dinner, Imre requested directions to our plumbing facilities,
which were located next to the barn, about 75 feet across the front yard.
He came back into the house laughing. You should see what it's done, he
said. While we had cooked dinner, the snow had accumulated considerably.
We all took a look, gave quick consideration to sending our guests on their
way, and rejected the idea because the road was too dangerous. So we
settled in. The women slept in our house, and the men walked down to stay
overnight with the kahveci in the coffee house where the Carryall was
The following morning it had cleared, and you could see from the pile of
snow where the Carryall had been that something was under there. But you
couldn't tell what it was. We managed a crude estimate of 55 inches of snow
on the ground. With the help of villagers in home made snow shoes, we were
able to beat a path back up to our house. Our five guests stayed three
nights with us. On the fourth day, they borrowed a couple of backpacks and
carried out what they could, following a number of the villagers for several
hours on foot down to Tonya and beyond, as taxis were not able to drive as
far inland as Tonya.
Allen and I stayed in the village, expecting that things would open up again
before too long. Instead, we had a second massive snowstorm that brought
the total snowfall to about 130 inches. The villagers had to carve stairs
out of the snow down into the front doors of their houses that, in summer,
were a few steps up from the ground. I shot the only roll of color film
that I had brought with me, and I learned how to use the villagers' snow
shoes, which were built for someone about 25 pounds lighter than I was. My
landlord's son and I shoveled the roofs of his house, my house, and his two
barns, to keep the weight of the snow from pulling the roofs apart as the
By the second week in February, Allen and I had begun to run out of things
we needed -- principally kerosene for lighting. We packed what we could
carry, walked out of the village and down to Tonya, then took a minibus into
Trabzon, expecting again to be able to return in a fairly short time. But
the weather remained cold, and the snow stayed put. After six weeks in
Trabzon, the folks in Peace Corps Ankara requested that we come to Ankara
for new assignments (our two year stint was up in June). So I went back to
Tonya and walked back up to the village, spent three days packing our
worldly possessions, and selling or giving away what we didn't want to take
with us. I walked back out and didn't see the village again until 1975.
The Carryall stayed until late April, when the road finally reopened and
somebody was sent from Ankara to retrieve it.
The villagers said it was the worst winter they had seen in sixty years. In
my experience, it still is.
--Sandy Pfunder (T-9), Çayiriçi
Köyü, Tonya, Trabzon
Now, on a different topic, following up on the comments
about the snow . . . anybody remember this kind of thing, in January of
1963 . . . ?
"In Giresun (and in Gaziantep last year) it hardly snows at all, much less
very hard or for long. In Antep it snowed once, to a depth of 1/8 inch, all
last winter. Here, when it piled up to a depth of 2" Christmas Eve, and
lasted well into the next day, it was labeled one of the biggest snow storms
in recent memory.
"Two days ago it began to snow. It was fun, nobody expected much. It
continued into the night, however, and by morning there was a good six
inches on the ground. Well! That's something else again. That made it a
really big snowstorm. Yesterday morning in the teachers' room we devoted
our breaks mostly to this topic, calling on the memories of respected
elders, etc. Everybody felt light and happy and playful with this strange
stuff stacked all over the place.
"Then, yesterday afternoon, we watched a new storm come boiling in off the
Black Sea from the northeast. It hit hard and fast, with heavy fog, high
winds -- and heavy snow. It snowed as hard as I've ever seen for some
short periods, and since yesterday afternoon it has accumulated to at least
18 inches, and is still going this morning.
"Giresun borrowed a road grader from a private construction company and ran
one straight sweep up the main street last night. This morning that had
disappeared and, except for one individualistic truck, there has been no
traffic at all. The roads out of town are even worse, since there was
hardly any road to begin with. It may be another two weeks before we get any
"A few storekeepers are shoveling a little, but there's no place but a
little path in the middle of the street to shovel to. I'll head over to
school after a while, to see if any mail came before the snow did, and talk
it over with all the teachers and maybe some of the kids. One thing about
it - they didn't call off school; there is no way to. Even little kids are
slogging it through the drifts. No radios, few telephones, etc. The only
way you can find out if there's no school is to go."
I find my memory of Turkey is preserved in my letters to a much greater
extent than it is in my mind. It'll be fun reading through them.
--Dave Hopkins (T-1), Gaziantep, Giresun