Thunder, strawberries: gifts of Mother Nature

Thunder, strawberries: gifts of Mother Nature

Wilco Van Herpen DÜZCE - Hürriyet Daily News
Thunder, strawberries: gifts of Mother Nature

Photo by Wilco Van Herpen.

In my whole life, I have never been afraid of a thunderstorm. I love to see nature in its purist and most powerful form. In the distance, you see the lightning and then start counting and calculating the distance to where the lightning hit the earth. The beautiful beam of the lightning is a work of art in itself and it turns night to day for just a millisecond. I have never been scared of thunderstorms at all – except once, when I was in Saçmalı Pınar Köyü.

Late one afternoon, I found a nice place to park my camper. Together with my cameraman, I drove all the way up a mountain road from Düzce and parked the camper at a nice open place high up in the mountains. The weather was great and the view was even better. From the place where I parked my camper, I had a beautiful view of the plain below me. Some clouds drifted by, but those clouds were beneath me. It was breathtaking, and I enjoyed the view.

Storm at the region

That night the weather changed completely as it often does in the Black Sea region. Big clouds gathered, piled up and then hell broke loose. One lightning strike after another left a trace in the sky. Slowly the thunderstorm approached us, the rain started and the lightning came closer and closer. It came so close that I could not count the seconds anymore. One lightning bolt after another struck the ground and some trees near me. The sound of the thunder was hurting my ears. All around me I saw lightning bolts striking the earth, and I was praying that it would finish quickly. Finally after one hour it looked like the thunderstorm slowly moved away from my camper. I was relieved and fell asleep.

The next day when I woke up it was as if nothing had happened. The sun was shining, the clouds were gone and the view was even better than the day before. I went to the village I saw a day earlier, but going there turned out to be more difficult than expected. The storm had flushed away big parts of the road, and there were even a couple of trees blocking my way. Finally I reached the village and some women were bringing their cows to the meadows. The cows were all decorated with colorful beads and fluffy little balls. It was as if I were in Austria with the green mountains, some houses hidden away on the green mountain slopes, the cows, the clouds and a beautiful blue sky.

The reason why I went to Saçmalı Pınar Köyü was strawberries – but not just any kind, oh no; in Saçmalı Pınar Köyü, they grow mountain strawberries or wild strawberries. The mountain slopes are covered with them: little fragile white flowers, the characteristic strawberry leaves and the beautiful little strawberries.

When I arrived in the village, some women were picking the strawberries by hand. Their strawberry field was not very big, maybe one dönüm, but there was a lot of work to do. One by one the small mountain strawberries disappeared in little buckets the women brought with them. Their work was endless. By the time they started with the last row of strawberries, the first row had some new ripe strawberries again. Little buckets were filled up and directly brought to people who use them in the food.

Remembering the past days

In the past people used to make jam from them and some even made liquor, but nowadays people sell them. One of the ladies told me that in the past, people used to make a kind of puree from the strawberries and used this puree to brush their teeth. Nowadays most of the strawberries from this village go to Düzce where they make famous strawberry ice cream. I thanked the ladies and got into my camper. After seeing (and of course also eating) those beautiful strawberries, I was very curious as to how wild strawberry ice cream would taste. Driving back to Düzce, I found an ice cream parlor in the center. “How strange life can be,” I thought. In 1999 I visited Düzce frequently because of the earthquake. It was utterly chaotic at that time, with people desperately trying to find relatives or friends. The nights were incredibly cold and many buildings had collapsed. After many years, I was back in Düzce again, and it was as if nothing had happened. I sat down and ordered a cup of strawberry ice cream.