Anybody who has seen Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2014 Palme D’Or winner Winter Sleep, a wrenchingly acute portrayal of an ageing hotelier in the depths of a Cappadocian January, will have been enthralled by this Turkish director’s Chekhovian vision. What it won’t have done is make them rush to book a mid-winter trip to the region.
For if Winter Sleep is exceptionally rich in tragic-comic human truths, it seems to me that the weather it presents – slate-grey skies, unremitting sunlessness, sleet rather than snow – reflect the characters’ downbeat moods at the expense of meteorological reality; I wonder, Mr Nuri Bilge Ceylan, how many days were lost to the actual Cappadocian weather during the filming of Winter Sleep? I mean to the bright-blue skies over a crisp fall of snow (the chill-dry air scented with coal and walnuts) that were no use whatsoever to you as they would have cheered up your characters no end, to the ruination of your magnificently sombre film, but precisely the exhilarating conditions I’ve experienced on the several occasions I’ve visited the region in the depths of winter.
While I’m one for Turkey in all seasons, it’s stoves, snow, bowls of lentil soup and even the howl of wolves – this last probably half-imagined – that make up my most abiding memories of the country. The depths of winter have an especially transformative effect upon hinterland Cappadocia, arrestingly beautiful at any time but magical in January. That’s why I’ve devised a winter tour, taking in the best of the region along with Istanbul, which can also look magnificent in its winter plumage. As for the queues (which after the carnage of the last two years look set to return to Turkey in 2018); you can be sure they won’t have formed this early in the year.
This trip, which I will be leading along with resident Cappadocian archaeologist Yunus Özdemir, runs from 14-21 January 2018. For itinerary and prices, click here.