A warm walk on ice
Selahattin SÖNMEZ /Eray GÖRGÜLÜ - ANKARAA snow white empire in the Lake Çıldır in the eastern province of Kars, where the temperature can hit -20 or -40 centigrade, welcomes us. The lake is completely frozen and stands on a dreamlike geography. Even though the lake freezes in the “empire of ice,” life goes on under and above the water surface with all its colors.
Daily Hürriyet’s Ankara journalists, who are familiar with working against the frost of the capital’s steppe and waiting for a photo or for a few words for long hours, are the guests of Lake Çıldır tonight. Everyone left Ankara’s busy agenda behind for a few days and started discussions on eating fish for dinner.
Meanwhile, the main reason why we came to Lake Çıldır is an unexplained excitement in everyone’s heart.
Let’s start from the very beginning of this adventure. Following a nearly one-and-half-hour flight from Ankara with the Medyatrek team, we arrive at Kars Airport. We are welcomed by Mukadder Yardımcıel, who will not leave us during our travel.
After having breakfast in the city center at a table decorated with the city’s famous cheese, we set off on the first stop, Gülyüzü village. When we arrive, the excited villagers, as well as children, welcome us. We give them aid materials that we brought with us, and later start our difficult travel.
Everyone is ensuring their tools are working before starting an eight-kilometer travel in the endless “white desert.”
The team is thrilled to make their first of such a trek with such a crowded team that will pass through the Lake Çıldır for the first time by walking. We complete half of the road, although team members show signs of fatigue, we continue walking with short breaks.
If you want to pass the Lake Çıldır by walking on 40-centimeter-high snow, physical capacity is not enough. While struggling against snow and cold on one hand, you also have to endure psychological fatigue because you do not know how much more distance is left. Therefore you need to maintain mentally strong during this time.
At the end of nearly five hours, our walk ends. Even though we do not see fishermen netting fish through the ice, we get the chance to taste the famous yellow fish of Çıldır in a small fish restaurant. After a long conversation with villagers, it is time to set up our tents on the lake for accommodation.
And the night is full of silence, whiteness and solemnity, which accompany us in our dreams in a peaceful night. During sunrise, the beautiful view is accompanied by sunlight and a new day begins.
We start the day with a fantastic breakfast and a brief music session in a village house. The village’s local poet, Berkan Öztürk, performs the famous epic poem “Sandınız mı Kars Kalesi Alınır,” composed by poet Aşık Şenlik.
It is time to hit the road again. Our last stop is Şehit Astsubay Tuncay Güneş Primary School in Doğruyol Village to deliver our aid materials.
After meeting with talented children here, we start walking to the lake again. When we arrive in Atalay’s place on the lakeside, we see those walking on ice and cherishing the snow and view.
Some come from the city center, some from neighboring cities or distant places like we do. Now that we are here, we should enjoy the sleigh. After a short travel sleighing on ice, we return to reality and leave Çıldır for Ankara.
Scary but fantastic
Speaking about the adventure, the cameraman for private broadcaster Kanal D, Bayram Şahin, who was one of the 19 press members in the group, said the most difficult part of such journeys was having no other choice but to reach to the point of arrival.
“It was very hard to walk due to harsh winter conditions. This is the first time such a big group of people come to Lake Çıldır. Physical and psychological endurance is necessary in such activities,” he added.
“Hard nature conditions are a part of daily life there. Winter lasts nine months, and summer and spring lasts three months. The night is full of the sounds of wolves howling and the cracking sound of the ice on the lake. Villagers call it the screams of the lake. We walked for six hours on the lake. Then the hospitality of villagers and nature were like an award for our effort,” said Kenan Şener, reporter for private broadcaster CNN Türk.
NTV reporter Serkan Kaya said it was scary to stay in a tent on an ice mass. “I can’t say that I slept well but it was worth having the experience. It was fantastic to wake up to sunrise and looking at a clean sky,” he said.