It’s been snowing for a few days here in Ankara. We probably have over 14 inches of it. It’s beautiful. Children are building snowmen. My husband is hailing me with snowballs. But as always, with snow comes trouble.
Ankara, and likely most of Turkey, is not prepared to handle snowfall. I learned this a couple of months ago when we got about 6 inches of it. Now it’s worse. The very same people who don’t know how to drive on beautifully clear and warm sunny days are out there trying to maneuver the powder-covered streets. There have been accidents everywhere and unbelievable delays.
On top of that, snow plows are a rarity. There is no such thing as a neighbor putting a snowplow on the front of his pickup truck and stopping by to plow your drive. In fact, it’s almost just as rare to see pickup trucks. Last night I saw my first snow plow, and it really wasn’t getting the job done.
Ankara also does not use salt. I know this is a good thing for the environment. I don’t know, however, why they don’t use it here. Decisions like this usually have more to do with politics and money, or even supply and availability, than with environmental concerns. Cars that have been parked in underground garages throughout the storm will likely be stuck there for another week, until they can make it up what are currently icy slopes.
All-wheel-drive vehicles are also less common due to their cost and the price of gas. Many Turks do have snow tires that they put on for the winter months. It’s so different from life in Philadelphia. We all have all-weather tires. They may not always work. But then, we aren’t silly enough to take our vehicles out in 14 inches of snow and drive through deeper parts to squeeze between a a stranded car and a parked car.
Shovels are a rarity too. While they can be found in stores, homeowners don’t have one. In the city, there are no single family homes until you get to the outer edges. Downtown, we all live in apartment-like buildings. Each building has a kapacι, a man who cleans, takes care of repairs, etc. My building in Aşağı Ayrancı happens to have a great marble stair case leading up to the front door. Our kapacι did take care of sweeping the stairs. He may have even had a shovel. But soon they will ice over. No salt will be laid. No one will go out and buy kitty litter to lay for traction. No one will experiment with boiling water and Dawn dish soap.
Last night, things became more serious. There was an ambulance stuck on the other side of the street, at the end of the block. When my husband and I first appeared, we weren’t sure what was going on. There was a car and a taxi in front of the ambulance. The car looked like it was having difficulties, but was mostly waiting for the taxi to move. The taxi had already made a right turn, but was not proceeding for some reason. (He probably saw us with grocery bags and was waiting to earn a fare!) When the taxi finally moved, so did the car. But the ambulance couldn’t. He was trying to turn left, instead of right, up a short but steep incline, to make the swing around to the other side of the road, where the hospital is located.
The ambulance couldn’t make it up the hill. My husband spent about 10-15 minutes trying to convince them that we could block the traffic so that he could back down the road. The hospital is in the middle of the block. Then they would only have about 25-50 meters to carry the patient. Or they could back a little farther down where there is a turnaround, cross to the other side where it is more level, and proceed a short distance the wrong way on the street, towards the hospital.
Let me tell you, for the past two nights, everyone has been going the wrong way. This is not even unusual in good conditions. But the ambulance driver decided to pull out chains to put on his tires instead. As he was doing it, he was bitching about Ankara under his breath.
Funny thing is, the ambulance was from a neighboring city, which may not have gotten hit with this storm. The driver knew to bring chains, but failed to put them on first. Luckily, since he was coming so far, this was more than likely a transport of a patient rather than a dire emergency.
In the end, the ambulance made it to its destination. Cars continue to go the wrong way and be stuck every where. Street dogs and cats struggle to keep warm and search for food.
And I’m still here, walking the streets with my Pentax in hand, enjoying the last of the “great snow of 2011.” Did I mention I’m the only one I have seen with snow boots?