03/04/2010

Week End Charter : Easter in Paris and in Ankara


ANKARA : An Anatolian Easter Egg Hunt

On the phone to my mother, last night, I caught myself being reminded, probably for the nth time, of what Easter is supposed to stand for. She was saying something about Maundy Thursday, and I said, hold on, but isn't Easter on a Monday? So she told me, again, the story that begins with a big meal and ends with a death (or does it end with a resurrection? There you are, I've lost the plot again!). In short, this is just to say that I am in some way aware that Easter is not for everybody just about the chocolate.

Now I know for some people it is very much about the chocolate. But for me not so much, as you don't get great chocolate here in Turkey and most of it doesn't come egg shaped.

But my Easter is definitely all about eggs: painting them, hiding them, organising egg hunts. If you go to Istanbul around Easter, you will actually see quite a lot of painted eggs decorating shops and restaurants - a tradition passed on by the Christian communities who live there. But mostly we don't go to Istanbul for Easter. Several years running now, we've been taking part in a big Easter picnic, here on the university grounds, with sometimes as much as fifty people, from the University, the embassies, and elsewhere in Ankara. Everyone brings eggs, the adults hide them and the kids find them. There's egg races, egg painting, and picnics, huge, beautiful picnics, where everyone brings something they've cooked, or some rare pork product smuggled from back home. And booze of course – how else do you have the strength to keep an eye on thirty or more kids? They're easy enough to look after though. We bring bikes and balls, and let them loose in a large but fairly closed and protected area.

Then towards the end, or as long as we can keep the kids waiting, there is the pinata, a papier-mache creature filled with sweets and hanging from a tree that the kids take turns in bashing with a stick until it breaks and the sweets fall all around them. So normally, this time of year, I'd have had the pinata made, or just be putting the finishing touches to it. I'd be sending or replying to picnic invitations, deciding what to bring to the picnic, or beginning to organise egg-painting sessions.

Not this year, though. This year we're going for another of our Easter favourites: Capadoccia! We haven't been since the autumn, and now the weather is more clement, we really want to run around a bit, climb fairy chimneys, explore deserted churches, lie around in chamomile fields. So what does this all have to do with Easter? Well, in France the chocolate is dropped from the sky by the church bells, as they ring the Easter mass. In other countries the job is done by rabbits. Now Ankara has neither rabbits nor bells. But Capadoccia has something much prettier than bells that can be seen in the morning sky.


Sandrine (I Marianne, posted it because Sandrine went off to Capadoccia without her laptop!)

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