It was late spring when I moved to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey from rainy old England. The weather was just starting to move into the really warm months, and when I was deciding what clothes to bring with me to my new country, I made the mistake most foreigners do when planning for Turkish weather: I assumed all four seasons would be some slight variation on summer. As I loaded up my suitcases with tank tops and shorts, with pictures in my head of blazing sun and scorched earth, it never once occurred to me that Turkey might have something resembling a winter. After all, my new Turkish apartment didn’t have any radiators, so I figured that meant there was no need to try to keep warm on the sunny Turkish riviera.
Everything went smoothly until the first week in October, when I woke up in the middle of the night thinking a bomb had hit my apartment building. There had been a huge boom that yanked me from my sleep, and as I tried to clear the confusion from my brain, I noticed that the windows were actually rattling in their frames. I sat up in bed, trying to make sense of it all, and as the second boom came, I realised what was happening: it was a thunderstorm. I hadn’t seen a single drop of rain fall from the sky since my arrival back in May, and although I knew it would probably rain at some point, I was not prepared for the torrents of water now coming down in sheets so thick I couldn’t see past my balcony rail.
When morning came and the rain had started to let up, I took a quick walk around my neighbourhood. Turks bundled up in sweaters and jackets stared at me in my flip-flops and t-shirt. I didn’t think it was all that cold to be wearing jackets yet, but at that point I was so shocked by the sudden change in climate that I thought I’d better do some research. Five minutes on Google told me what I should have learned in the first place: a good portion of Turkey spends half the year buried under snow, and even the mountains overlooking my beachfront apartment would soon be covered in fluffy white powder. By the end of November, people would be coming to the Antalya area not for swimming, but for skiing.
Clearly some shopping was in order. I had no coat, no blankets – not even any long-sleeved shirts. I learned that families in the area used either electric or wood-burning heaters; I had neither. I spent most of the next week getting myself prepared for the winter I never dreamed existed.
As it turns out, winter is the most beautiful part of the year in Turkey. The colours of autumn come rather late, and even in November the leaves are still gorgeous shades of red and gold. In December, the oranges start falling from the trees, just in time to make a batch of Turkish mulled wine. In January and February, electrically vibrant sunrises and sunsets shine through breathtakingly beautiful cloudscapes. These days, it’s not the summer I look forward to in Turkey – it’s the six months between October and March that I truly love.