Thundersnow in Istanbul Without Boots

The first snow of the season fell the other day, wreaking havoc across the city. Here’s how it looked yesterday morning from our terrace.


The snow had started falling the night before along with the rumbling of thunder. A very rare occurrence. The snow was so heavy it caused the Galatasaray-Juventus Champions League match to be suspended after just 32 minutes.

In the morning I waited with the kids for their bus to take them to school. The bus never came. We stood there for an half hour in the entryway of our apartment building watching other minibuses go by. I called up to wife and asked her to check with the bus company. She couldn’t get through to the bus company or the school. I brought the kids back upstairs. My wife was finally able to get through to someone at the school who confirmed that school was not closed.

I was going to take the kids to school then head to my Turkish class. But my wife Stephanie offered to take them so I wouldn’t be late for class. For my sake it was a good thing. For her and the kids’ it turned out to be miserable. The kids didn’t have boots. Not having boots turned out to be a Serious Fashion Oversight.

Stephanie walked the kids to the Metro where they rode up to the Gayrettepe stop. It took awhile for them to catch a taxi. When they did finally get a taxi, the driver refused to take them directly to the school because it required going down a steep hill. So he dropped them off at least a mile from the school in an area that was unfamiliar to my wife. (Taxi drivers can be selfish assholes everywhere.)

Stephanie led the kids to where she thought the school was. It turned out she was going in the wrong direction. They were all very cold, especially Henry. Henry had forgotten his winter coat at school the day before. I don’t know how you do that. But my son did. So my wife took off her long winter coat and put it around him. He tried to keep it from dragging in the snow and slush but that proved impossible not to do.

The kids, wearing gym shoes, had bitter cold feet. Stephanie at one point carried Meredith, who was crying.

My wife then realized they were a lost and asked two women on the street where the school was. The taxi driver had not dropped them off near any street near the school. Hence the confusion. The women were kind enough to walk her and the kids right to the front of the gates of the school.

They finally arrived at the school around 10am, just as one of the school minibuses was pulling in. My poor wife and kids; it had taken them a total of two hours to get there. My wife explained to the principal that if conditions were the same the next day the kids would be staying home. That’s when he explained that if it had been up to him he would have declared a snow day, but that he doesn’t have that authority. Even though it’s a private school, only the governor of Istanbul has the authority to close schools.

The school ended up letting the kids out early, at 2pm. The kids were brought home on the bus. We gave them a snack, let them warm up a bit, and took them to the mall to buy them snow boots.

While walking outside we were struck by white pellets from the sky. I thought the pellets looked more like sleet. But I learned a new term from Today’s Zaman: “graupel.”

Many İstanbul residents also noted the odd shape of the snowflakes — like miniature, lightly packed snowballs, not dense enough to be hail. Meet “graupel,” the small, foamy pellets that form when snow crystals encounter droplets of supercooled water. Supercooled water is extremely cold water found high in the atmosphere that doesn’t freeze because it’s pure. The moment it encounters something impure — like a snow crystal — it freezes rapidly, in this case into the fluffy little snow pellets that have blanketed the city.

When we walked into the Cevahir mall, we saw a large group of people (mostly men) standing near a cafe that’s usually half-full. Once I saw that the men were wearing red and gold and that they were watching two large flat screen TVs I realized what they were doing. The Galatasaray-Juventus match was being played. Our timing was perfect. I stood nearby as Sneijder scored the only goal of the match and the crowd erupted into cheers of “Cim Bom Bom!!!!!”

I then raced to catch up with my wife and kids on the escalator heading towards the children’s clothing stores. Henry was easy when it came to shopping for boots. He quickly found a pair he liked. They’re blue with a pattern containing all sorts of different sports equipment on them. Meredith kept shaking her head “no” at the boots we showed her. After what seemed like the 30th pair she said “yes” to a pair of very dark blue boots.

Afterwards, we took the kids up to the food court where we all ate some dinner before heading back home.

This morning, despite the cold and the slushy road conditions, the bus came on time and the kids went off to school without any misadventures. I went back up to the apartment write and took a little time to make a small snowman.


What would winter be for us Americans without a snowman?


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