Topluca - Arhavi

Ștefan Cândea
We spend one more day in the Lazi villages. In the morning we learn that the mukhtar had forbidden the young men to surprise us in the dead of night as is the custom with guests come to visit for the first time.

Today the men of the village are dancing a local dance – Horon – on a 2.000 metre-high plateau. The TRT team are shooting several takes in various locations. We go up to the first filming location accompanied by Osman, a 55 year-old baker who worked in Zurich for thirty years. We talk in German. He emigrated when he was young, started his own family in Switzerland and now he has returned home. He wants to re-establish himself in his native village and travel to the surrounding countries he has never seen. He has three children – none of whom want to return to Turkey. They come only during the summer holiday. While we talk, the car almost reaches the plateau. On our left, the sea, on our right, the Kaçkar Summit (almost 4.000 metres). Nowadays, although they don’t have a certain traditional costume, men do have one element in common: revolvers. Living in a mountainous region, it is tradition that every man carry his own revolver. And on holidays each of them fires the revolver a few times into the air.

We finally reach the Isina plateau, the last filming location, where the mountains and the sea are much more visible. A cluster of shepherds’ houses seem to be inhabited. We ask if we can enter to take pictures and the people invite us to tea and halvah. Two men and six women are having lunch. The young man proudly shows us his revolver ‘destined’ for the animals in the forest. We finish our tea and, after we leave, they all get to work. The women let themselves in for carrying some wooden beams stored in the valley near the main road while the man with the cigarette in his mouth arranges them in front of the house.

Every angle and manner of filming the horon have been exhausted, so it’s lunchtime. We descend from the plateau to where someone has brought bread, cheese and vegetables. I chat up another Osman, the same age as us, who has a tourism firm in Ardeşen. He organizes excursions in the mountains of the region and is thinking of moving to Istanbul. Among the packages he offers us there are several for Cuba. He tells me that he and his friends still speak Lazuri; however, slowly but surely the region is losing its young people. The children understand the language, but they don’t speak it so well anymore.

Their bellies full, the young men take out their revolvers and get ready for a target shooting contest. A car parked on the edge of the road is taken as a support point; on the opposite hill bottles, cucumbers and cigarettes pop up – everyone is setting up their own target. Up into the air we see Colt, Beretta, Smith & Wesson revolvers and even a Luger. From pockets which earlier held seeds, now ammunition comes into sight. Some are sitting on the edge, admiring one another’s revolvers which are lying, together with the bullets, among the vegetables and cheese on the table. Others are firing several chargers into the air, whistling. Those who don’t have a revolver are taking pictures or making a video with their mobile phones.

In the afternoon the gathering is over. The mukhtar offers to put us up for another night, but we have to refuse. We reach Arhavi at night. Next on our list is Kars.