It is Saturday and our fourth day here at over 6000ft above sea level.  Several members of the party of 10 have been feeling the effects of altitude

It is Saturday and our fourth day here at over 6000ft above sea level.  Several members of the party of 10 have been feeling the effects of altitude – in particular your faithful Fethiye Times correspondent who has ‘flu like symptoms that seem to come and go.  This evening we will perform at the 5-star Toprak again, this time for an audience of ambassadors and high-level Turkish politicians.  So we decide to have an easy day and start by visiting one of the many local memorials to men who died in the battle of Sarıkamış which raged from 22nd December 1914 to 17th January 1915.  The battle was fought between the Turkish Third Army which started out with 95,000 troops, and the Russian Caucasus Army numbering 65,000.  Despite the numbers being clearly in their favour, the Turks lost and 75,000 of their troops died – more from the cold than from wounds received in battle.  The Russians lost around 16,000 men.  The Turkish dead are honoured by several memorials in and around Sarıkamış of which we visited only one.  A sobering moment.

The next task was to get those members of the group who had booked a ski lesson for Sunday kitted out with rented gear in the right size.  Finally we nipped into Sarıkamış for a little light shopping and the obligatory visit to the cake shop.  Then whilst two of us stayed down in the Toprak Hotel, the other eight members of the group took the ski lift to its highest point at 9000 feet and came back raving about the views.  The mulled wine consumed in the caf矡t the top could also have contributed to the euphoric atmosphere.

We were all back at our hotel by 4pm for final rehearsal, nap, early dinner, costume change and then by minibus to the Toprak for our ‘big’ performance.  This was also going to be filmed by TRT who were covering the ambassadorial gathering.  Of course we arrive early and then have to wait a total of two and a half hours before we perform.

{mosimage}We wait in the lobby from where we can see up a short flight of stairs to the entrance of the banqueting suite where it is all happening.  Suddenly a folk dance vision appears at the top of the stairs.  A team of twenty slender, young people: girls dressed all in white and silver with high head-dresses and full length gowns – think Snow Queens.  The boys are all in burgundy: tight-waisted frock coats with drain pipe trousers tucked into high leather boots.  These are Kafkas dancers – think Cossacks – and we are amazed when we realise they will be the first part of the entertainment while we are closing the show.  Unfortunately we couldn’t watch them perform.

Then a young Turkish guy who speaks excellent English comes to talk to us.  He’s a student at Kars University who also works as a tourist guide and he has been guiding the diplomats around various historical sites all day.  From him we learn that our audience of ambassadors includes ones from Lithuania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Japan, Ireland, the Philippines, a representative from the US Embassy and others whose names escaped this writer as there wasn;t a pen handy at the time.  By now everyone is definitely deep into ‘butterflies’ territory.  But the performance is good, not a step goes wrong, the audience love it and we end with a thank you and “This evening, in this gathering, a saying of Atatürk’s would seem particularly apt: ‘Peace in the country; peace in the world.”  A good note to end on, in both English and Turkish.

We have a celebratory drink downstairs, pose for photo opportunities with various Turkish dignitaries as they leave, and then finally return to our hotel and bed.  All of us secretly amazed that we have performed before such a prestigious audience.