My love and I stand on the balcony of the house he grew up in. We look out over the village. It’s been snowing, everything is white, and the sun that has made the snow sparkle all day, is slowly disappearing behind the hills. It’s cold. Then I notice that only a few houses have a smoking chimney. It could be, says my love, that some people are trying to save some money and only use a heater in the morning. The chimney of ‘our’ house is one of the few that is smoking. ‘You know’, says my love, ‘this house has the most modern heating system in the village. We are lucky.’
Well, I didn’t feel lucky a few hours before. My love and I are alone in the house, since his family is visiting relatives in the south of Turkey. My love has taken over the family business for a few days. He left early in the morning. I kissed and waved him goodbye on the doorstep, shouting: ‘Don’t worry baby, I’ll get the heater going, no problem!’ He explained to me how to do it, and anyway I saw his mother do it some weeks ago. Half an hour later, I put on my boots, put on a warm hat and went to the natural cave beneath the house (Kapadokya is full of caves). There is a stove for the central heating. It’s lit with coal. The procedure is: you put coal in, then a layer of wood, then a layer of dried lemons (the village lives on lemons, see this earlier blogpost, and dried lemons burn well), then a layer of newspapers and then another of wood. You light the whole pile, it goes voooom and then the house gets warm. Piece of cake!
Three attempts and three hours later, I’m about to cry. A whole lot of smoke is produced, but hardly any flames. I try again and again, put more wood on, push in extra newspapers, but no, nothing. The whole cave has become smoky, it makes breathing hard and my clothes, my whole existence, is smelly, ultra smelly. No way I would call my love for help, but I surrender and get the phone. Help me! Please!
Two attempts and another one and a half hour later, the house slowly gets warm. I have a shower to get rid of the awful smell. Then we sit down with our backs against the heater and have a glass of wine – yeah, that’s how late it got in the meantime. We might have a house in this village in the very near future ourselves (besides our house in Istanbul), and we discuss the ways of heating it. Gas is not available yet here. Electrical heating is way too expensive. The only options are a wood stove and central heating working on coal. The last one is also not an option, since we will be renting a house and house owners never make the huge investment needed for central heating. So a wood stove it will be.
My love’s parents had one for decades, until this winter the central heating was installed. I remember my love’s mother carrying heavy iron barrels filled with wood into the house. To have a shower, you had to put a huge aluminium kettle on the stove to heat water, pour that into a bucket and pour the hot water over yourself with a small bucket. That’s what my love and I will do when we get a house here – it could very well be I’ll only have showers when we are in Istanbul 😉
Today, standing on the balcony, holding each other and drinking coffee to stay warm, he promised we will get four of these iron barrels and fill them up in the morning and put them in the house, to make the situation as easy as possible for me. You know, I grew up with central heating that worked in an instant after you turned a switch. And here, in this small village in central Anatolia, a coal-burning central heating system is the ultimate luxury. Again, I get a bit more conscious of the luxury and comfort I’m used to. I nagged and complained a lot today. I will not do that anymore. Or, at least I’ll try.