Since meeting Berkay, I’ve had opportunity to experience a lot of different things in Turkey, things a normal tourist probably wouldn’t. Whilst this can sometimes be frustrating, when I just want to sit on a lounger by the pool and relax, these opportunities have allowed me to see more of the ‘real Turkey’.
One such opportunity presented itself back in September. On the way back from the village in Beyagac, Denilzi, we went through a rural area called Kale, near Tavas. Kale is
famous for growing tobacco, and the people we went to visit have their own tobacco farm.
The people who own the farm land are related to Berkay’s step mum. The family spend a few weeks planting the crops in spring and then around 3 months later they begin the mammoth task of harvesting, drying and curing the tobacco leaves. To do this, the whole family leaves their house in the city behind, and moves onto the farm land for ease, they stay living there for around 5 months of the year.
On the day we visited, it was absolutely boiling, around 36oc, so getting out of the car air conditioning and sitting in the middle of a hot, dusty field was the last thing I wanted to do, but, that’s exactly what we did!
I was pleasantly surprised just how cool it was inside their little makeshift home, and it was so clever and resourceful. They had old tree branches and pieces of wood as beams, keeping the roof up. The roof had layers of cardboard boxes and plastic sheets and plastic ‘walls’. The floor was covered in different rugs, there were even seats and cushions which were sturdy enough to hold a lot of weight! It had a separate area as a ‘kitchen’ with basic supplies of staple foods and oil etc, and they had made a little ‘oven’ from bricks and coals. They grow some of their own vegetables as well as the tobacco, and there were beautiful flowers growing around the tent area too. It really was impressive and so clever. They also had a small outside cubicle curtained area further along the farm which is used as a ‘toilet’, and another as a ‘shower’ – I wasn’t brave enough to investigate these further!
The family consists of two parents and 6 children, but the older two sons have jobs outside the farm, so only the parents, their two teenage daughters and their two youngest children stay here for the full 5 months. I assume they all sleep on the floor together, which isn’t unusual in Turkey anyway. Their youngest daughter is 3 years old and all I could think is how boring it must be for her to be there for months on end with little or no toys, it’s certainly a different life than we’re used to, but when that’s all she’s known I guess she is used to it.
They harvest the tobacco leaves and impale them on metal sticks and then leave them to dry under the sun, of which there is plenty of! They also grow peppers and string these together and dry them too – they double up as good decorations around the ‘house’!
Despite being in the middle of nowhere, they were still prepared for guests. As soon as we arrived one of the daughters went to prepare Turkish coffee, and the other brought out a table cloth for the floor, along with a tray and bowls full of nuts and biscuits, followed by some homegrown melon! If there’s one thing you can say about Turkish people, it’s that they are very hospitable!
The family make a lot of money from their tobacco crop, a few hundred thousand lira each year, but it is undeniably a lot of hard work and I certainly couldn’t live like they do, but it’s so interesting to visit and see a bit more of ‘real rural Turkey’ and appreciate just how resourceful they are, a simple life with the bare necessities, but always ready with a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit for visitors!