Travel Guide: East of Trabzon

Tea Plants

The land east of Trabzon is the quintessential Black Sea country. The west has mountains; in the east they are higher. The west has a wet climate; the east is even wetter. Hamsi are more abundant. Accents are thicker, the music is wilder and the idiosyncracies of each valley more pronounced. Markets are livelier and fewer women make concessions to the “modern” look. It is the uplands that make the difference. The colors and smells of teafields at Rize or the eccentric sights of a hawk-trainers’ cafe in Ardeşen are memorable in themselves, but serve as a mere prelude to the alpine beauty of Uzungöl, the wilderness of Hemşin valleys or the medieval glories of Artvin.
Tea Country: Tea plantations begin immediately east of Trabzon. Beyond Surmene, they invade every slope, field, garden, backyard, beachfront, nook and cranny. They make a pretty sight. The squat clumps of tea bush look like endless herds of electricgreen sheep. They are often seen in neat rows on incredibly steep hillsides where easy drainage creates the ideal environment for their cultivation. When they are old enough (each shrub can live up to 80 years if properly tended) they turn into a single, impenetrable thicket blanketing the land.

As a rule only women work “at tea”. Men are never seen in the fields. From April to October the enduring image of the region is the sight of hunched women moving slowly through a sea of greenery, cloaked in bright red keşan west of Çayeli and wide-brimmed straw hats east of Pazar. In early morning they nip the top two or three leaves of each bud. The first two are the best; the third is a politicians’ concession to producers; the fourth counts as cheating.  On appointed days the women show up at buying stations scattered along the farm roads, carrying amazing loads of tea in conical straw baskets strapped to their back. On a busy day one can see dozens of them lounging in the arbor outside a station, many young and ravishing, chatting up passers-by while the children frolic in piles of heaped-up tea leaves. Countless processing plants contribute the olfactory element that imprints itself on one’s memory of the region: the intoxicating aroma of slowly fermenting tea.
The 160-kilometer strip between Sürmene and the Soviet border produces all the tea needed to supply the national addiction-over 700,000 tons of raw leaves, or some 150,000 tons of packaged tea annually. Curiously, the introduction of tea culture to this region is a fairly new event. It was the brainchild of a single individual, Zihni Derin, who proposed the idea in 1924 and organized the importation of the first seedlings in 1937. He was also instrumental in the opening of the first state-owned processing plant which went into operation in 1947. His idea transformed the region from one of the poorest in Turkey, where people died of starvation in the 1930s, into one of the richest. The infusion of the equivalent of 150 million dollars a year also helped make the traditionally rebellious Laz into some of Turkey’s most loyal citizens. Today, Zihni Derin’s modest bust stands in the garden of the Tea Institute in Rize as a tribute to his work.

Hemshin people tea market, Rize Turkey

Hemshin people tea market, Rize Turkey

If Rize means tea, tea means Çaykur. This state-owned monolith processed and packaged all tea in the region until 1984. Despite the arrival of private competitors after that date, Çaykur still dominates the industry with its 48 processing plants and a share of over two thirds of the total sales. Its base buying price (about 25 cents per kilo) sets the market rate and its IOUs count as currency
throughout tea country.
In 1985 the region was jolted by a series of bankruptcies that affected the new private companies. In the following year it bore the brunt of the Chernobyl disaster: the contaminated 1986 tea harvest was bought up by the government and allegedly buried at a secret site near Ardeşen. Still, cultivation continued to expand steadily and the projected opening of export markets now brings a gleam to the farmers’ eyes.

Trabzon Markets

Women work in the fields. Unlike the rest of the country, they also sell the produce. The women’s market is a basic institution of Black Sea towns. It exists practically everywhere between Bartın in the far west and Hopa in the east. The best are to be seen on the short stretch between Vakfıkebir and Çayeli. Aficionados swear by the markets of Of (Thursday) and Çayeli (Wednesday). Rize (Monday and Saturday), Sürmene (Tuesday) and Akçaabat (Tuesday) are runners up. It is not that these markets are bigger or richer than elsewhere. But the sight of hundreds of women hawking, haggling, strolling and gossiping in the psychedelic-red shawls typical of the region is a sight that one does not easily forget.
Memis aga konak Surmene, Trabzon

Memis aga konak Surmene, Trabzon

The market’s emphasis is on fresh produce and dairy products brought down from the surrounding villages. They are grown, picked and hauled into the market by the peasant women who do the hawking. There are also professional marketmen who sell kitchenware, cheap clothes, plastic toys, chicken wire, spices, religious tracts and Dr. No’s Latest Cure For Rheumatism out of the back of their trucks. Abdullah the watermelon-man arrives each week with a truckful of “sunny babies” from the far south. Hobbled chickens squawk in protest as they are poked and probed by discriminating buyers. But it is the women whose cries rise loudest above the general uproar: “oozy figs better than honey!”, “creamy cucumber for 200!” and “taste my ripe mulberries! “.
It is not all buying and selling but also a social occasion, an opportunity to break out of the tedium of isolated far-away farms. One meets old friends and makes new acquaintances at the marketplace. A surprising number of teenage girls stand out in the crowd. One of them will perhaps pretend to take a stroll to the other end of the market, dying to know if that boy who’s been looking at her all morning will follow. At first she’ll affect to ignore him, then perhaps throw him an ambiguous smile over her shoulder. That’s how her parents met, and her grandparents before them

Surmene

The towns of Yomra, Arsin and Araklı are uninteresting except for good sandy beaches that extend between the first two. Sürmene, on the other hand, distinguishes itself with the mighty Yakupoğlu Castle on the coast and the impressive churches of the valley inland. The valley of Gürçay (Manahoz) provides good hiking opportunities and a few socio-historical curiosities. The village of Dirlik, about five kilometers inland, used to be the only Greek settlement in the region before 1923. It retains two interesting churches. One of them is abandoned and decaying while the other is kept in tiptop shape as a mosque which has a splendid view over the valley. A delightful moss-covered stone footpath leads to the church/ mosque through cherry orchards and walnut groves alongside meticulously constructed irrigation channels. Both the path and the canals date from the last century and contrast starkly with the usual haphazard style of Black Sea villages.
The muhtar (village headman) relates that the local priest left in 1923 at the age of 19 and returns every year with Greek groups to visit his old stomping grounds. Villagers love it, partly out of instinctive hospitality and partly out of the hope that, sooner or later, the old man will reveal the whereabouts of the hoards of gold and silver that all know are surely buried under the church. Further up the valley past the bustling market town of Köprübaşı one can visit the Greek-speaking (but devoutly Muslim) villages of upper Sürmene. In the large village of Yılmazlar (Mezire) seek out old man “Khomeini”. He is an exconvict, ex-world traveler, twice pilgrim to Mecca and veteran of many marriages and will try to gain instant converts to Islam with an enormous twinkle in his eye. With his advice it is possible to organize a spectacular six-hour hiking expedition to   uzungol over the next valley or climb the yaylas of Soganh Mountain (2870 meters), where the regionally famous  Sultan Murat Martyr’s Festival is celebrated on June 23.
Back in Sürmene, one may have a good fish lunch at the Belediye Restaurant before moving on. The grand residence of Yakupoglu Memiş Aga-known locally as the Kastels located approximately three kilometers along the way to Of. It is somewhat hard to find. The only indication for the motorist is a little teahouse which advertises itself as the “Kastel Restaurant”. The castle itself is located amid tea fields just off the road. Like its Haznedaroglu cousin in Bolaman, this is a late-18th century seigneurial residence which belonged to the local dynasty of derebeyis. It is a graceful stone building with an enormous mushroom-like roof. Its grim past is hinted at by rifle slots along the parapets and a small jail located on the first floor. The intricately designed and painted carvedwood ceilings and superb stone fireplaces of the second-floor living quarters, by contrast, indicate the highly refined lifestyle of the Yakupoglus.
Inhabited until 1978 by the descendants of Memiş Aga, the Kastel has now fallen on hard times and seems set for an irreversible decline. This is rather surprising, given the fact that Mr Cevher Ozden, alias Kastelli. Turkey’s most outrageous billionnaire, is also a Yakupoglu descendant. This flamboyant high school dropout managed to collect a staggering 40% of the nation’s private savings before going bankrupt in 1982. After a stint in jail, he resurfaced as the country’s biggest real estate mogul but went bust again in 1989.
In former times the castle was only accessible from the sea. The first Rize-Trabzon highway was built by the Russian occupying army in 1916. To spare the castle, the Russians constructed the road in a loop around it, with a high retaining wall that still stands. The current highway was constructed in the 1950s on a strip of land reclaimed from the sea.
One of the best beaches of the whole Black Sea coast is found at the foot of a steep cliff a few kilometers further east, past Çamburnu Village.

Of and Surmene

uzungol uzungol2
Of and Surmene look a lot like each other. In fact they are polar opposites. Surmene leans left; Of is dyed-in-thewool conservative. Surmene has the
thickest “Black Sea” accent: Of’s is equally thick but different. Traditionally there has been no love lost between the two highly idiosyncratic communities.
Of has a long tradition as one of the strongest bastions of Islamic piety in the country. In the past century, the Of and Çaykara districts claimed no less than 350 medreses (theological schools), an unbelievable ratio of one per sixty inhabitants. Their graduates had a high reputation for religious learning throughout the Ottoman Empire.
Things have not changed much: Dr. Sait Yazicioglu, the current Director of Religious Affairs, in effect the Turkish analogue of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is a native of the district. Just about every village proudly displays the sign for its Kuran Kursu, the modern equivalent of a medrese, where children between 6 and 18 years of age learn to recite and interpret the Quran. Hocas (Muslim learned men) and hacis (those who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca), identified by their thick beards and white skull caps, seem to form a majority in the streets. The most palpable sign of the spirit of the place is the astonishing number of mosques. Many of these are enormous multistoried buildings that dwarf the villages in which they are located-colossal monuments to traditional piety and modern construction techniques. Some have a positively fairytale aspect, standing alone on a wild green mountainside.
To add another touch of the bizarre, many of the region’s inhabitants have grown up speaking Greek as their first language, especially in the inland areas around Çaykara. Hocas explain the apparent incongruity by pointing out that questions of race and nationality are meaningless before the universal appeal of Islam. Historians unruffle nationalist feathers by pointing out that the adoption of Greek was itself a late (probably medieval) development. A tribal language seems to have survived until as late as the 17th century.
One can only speculate about the origins of the district’s religious culture. Some have suggested a link with the celestial beauty of the surrounding landscape. On a less poetic note one may point out that the valleys of Of were first converted to Islam at a relatively late date. Prior to their conversion 1690s, they had the reputation of being a notorious bed of lawless bandits. From a more sanguine perspective, their clans were too independently-minded to submit to the control of an outside authority. Was religious devotion an antidote, then, to the memories of an unruly past, a badge of honor worn to set off the scorn of outsiders or a sign of hardearned “civilization”?
Uzungol a lakeside  eden
So much piety is sure to be rewarded by paradise even in this world. All one has to do to get there is to drive the narrow and rocky road past Çaykara to Uzungol. What is remarkable is that this lakeside Eden has remained so little known until now, to the extent that hardly any guidebook has ever made reference to it. So, before the word gets out and before the planned paved road and lakeside hotel are built, the traveler is urged to take in the dreamlike beauty of   uzungol
Part of Uzungol’s allure lies in the two-hour drive up from Of and especially in the rough stretch past Çaykara. The road follows the spectacular blue-green course of the Solaklı River as it flows down from Uzungol, forded occasionally by wooden footbridges. The forest is thick with underbush, moistened by the spray of gushing waterfalls and frequent rains. Farmhouses of rich brown chestnut wood with festive yellow stalks of  corn  decorating their windows preside over the intensely green groves of tea. The region offers an excellent selection of the typical chalet-style houses of the traditional mountain architecture. Some of these have an unusual latticework construction that is unique to this district. For a wholly unspoiled ensemble make a short detour to the village of Atakoy, on the Çaykara-Bayburt main road one kilometer beyond the Uzungol turnoff. As elsewhere in the Black Sea most houses here are accompanied by a serender, an elaborate but on stilts that serves for winter storage. The curious wooden disks one sees on each stilt help keep mice away.
Back on the road, stroll across the covered bridge of Hapsiyaş, a 250 year old wooden structure with a tiled roof. On the bridge, local fisherman cast for trout with makeshift wooden rods. At the quaint little village of Çamlık, another small bridge crosses the brook. On the porch of a tea house a group of old timers sit, passing judgement on each car that lurches by.
Uzungol is located at 1250 meters, the altitude where stately conifers begin to replace the leaf forest. The lake is a small one barely three kilometers in circumference. A huge mosque with dual minarets casts its
whitewashed reflection on the water’s surface. In the main part of the village, a short walk up the slope, another mosque echoes the müezzin’s call to prayer. The horizon is encircled by the majestic peaks of Mt. Ziyaret (3111 meters) and Mt. Haldizen (3193 meters) which remain snow capped through July.
On the far side of the lake lies the trout farm alabalık tesisleri) of Hüseyin İnan, which doubles as a mountain resort of modest proportions. It is a delightful place: four log cabins with wood stoves and hot water line the river bank. Each can sleep six comfortably. A spacious restaurant, also made of wood, serves wholesome food: fresh trout fried in butter, crisp salads and homemade soup. No one speaks English, but sign language works surprisingly well at this altitude. If backgammon is your forte you may try your hand with Ismail Inan, a former gambler and alcoholic on the mend who plays with a wolfish grin and is considered champion of these parts. As Ismail will readily inform you,   uzungol is liquor-free and will remain so as long as the mullahs have their way.
Across the arched stone bridge, the village of Uzungol (also known as Şerah) is a charming collection of old timber houses. Beyond it, several different paths cross through crocusfilled meadows up into the pine forests and the alpine yaylas. Whichever path you choose, you are certain to find a series of pastoral scenes: fathers and sons spread piles of hay to dry on the hillside; young girls struggle up the mountain trails with towering loads of firewood strapped to their backs, while women milk the cow.
A further four-hour walk (cars can reach the village of Demirkapı by bad road) will get one to the glacier lakes of Mt. Haldizen located on the treeless grasslands at 2800 meters. The peak itself is a short and easy climb beyond the lakes and affords a stupendous view over the distant Çoruh River Canyon to the south.

Rize travel guide

city, northeastern Turkey, on the Black Sea. The city lies on wooded hills stretching down to the sea, with its commercial section on the narrow strip of flat land around a small bay. Rize enjoys a mild climate and luxuriant vegetation. It is linked by road with Trabzon (41 miles [66 km] west), Hopa (55 miles [88 km] east, near the Georgia frontier), and Erzurum (south) and by ship with Istanbul. Rize is a processing and sea shipping centre for the tea grown in the surrounding area; it has a tea research institute, founded in 1958. Pop. (1997) city, 73,994.
Between Of and Rize, the village of İyidere offers an especially good sandy beach that is a favorite for vacationers from Trabzon and Rize. The tone is set by portly mothers who sit chatting away under colorful umbrellas while swarthy men with slicked back hair strut up and down the beach.
Rize, the capital of the tea region, is a pleasant modern city which first flourished during the early boom years of tea production in the 1950s. Its roots go back to the ancient trading port of Rhizaion, but only a meagre (and recently reconstructed) Byzantine fortress survives. Lack of history is compensated by the beauty of the natural setting. The city is located on a broad bay flanked by steep mountains. A mild and extremely humid climate has brought about a botanical extravaganza. Banana and citrus trees and the tangle of overgrown creepers give a tropical aspect to the landscape. Tea is everywhere-in gardens, backyards, roadside patches and on the hills, as well as in shops which display hundreds of local tea brands not sold elsewhere.
Appropriately, the major attraction of Rize is the Tea Institute-at once a research institution, a botanical garden, a beauty spot and a public teahouse. In the institute’s greenhouses located on a hill overlooking the town visitors can observe the development of new and experimental strands of tea. The products can be sampled in the lush confines of the tea garden. The grounds offer exotic species of flora from around the world. The panorama is superb.
The next town along the coast offers more of the same. Çayeli is the final (and purest) bastion of the keşan-and-peştemal look. It has a clannish reputation somewhat like Of, underscored by the fact that a large number of important political jobs in  Istanbul and Ankara seem to belong to people from Çayeli.

Lazland and Laz People

In the 19 kilometers separating Pazar from Çayeli, the familiar red shawl vanishes from the scene: not a single peasant woman will be caught wearing a keşan in the marketplace of Pazar. The tongue twisting consonants of an unfamiliar speech overheard on the street reinforces the feeling of having crossed a cultural boundary. From here to the Soviet border, and continuing for a few more villages beyond it, is the land of a peculiar tribe of people who have come to personify the Black Sea-the Laz, descendants of the kings of Colchis who defended the Golden Fleece against the Argonauts.

The Laz combine the cocky pride of Scotsmen with the eccentric humor of Basques. They were never dominated by the Byzantines; nor did the Ottoman Empire succeed in subjugating them fully. When they felt their partial autonomy threatened in the early 19th century, they took up arms under Memiş Tuzcuoğlu, Lord of the Valley, and fought against the troops of the governor of Trabzon for more than two decades. The Russian connection cultivated during that struggle led to the rapid adoption of “modern” customs and ideas from the northern neighbor during the rest of the century. Today the five townships that house Turkey’s Laz population Pazar, Ardeşen, Fındıklı Arhavi and Hopa-display a remarkably progresive outlook. Hopa, at the far edge of Turkey, is one of the rare places it the country where village womer work the fields in short sleeves and (gasp!) a knee-length cotton skirt The profusion of blond and red head with aquiline noses and piercing blue eyes completes a strikingly “un Anatolian” picture.
No amount of progress, however, seems likely to dampen the ancient Laz passion for hawks. Hawking is practiced as a hobby, an addiction and a lifestyle. Specific cafes in each of the five townships serve as gathering places for hawk buffs. One favorite is the cafe underneath Hotel Avcı in Ardeşen, where, during a particularly exciting football game on television, no less than two dozen birds shouted and screamed along with their eccentric owners amid a thick cloud of cigarette smoke. The mayor of Ardeşen, a great raconteur in the best Laz tradition (“The only reason why we continue speaking Laz,” he says, “is that in no other language can one tell so many hilarious jokes.”), showed up with his pride and joy. As his favorite pet watched menacingly from his shoulder, the proprietor explained that the birds are caught and domesticated at an early age and they make superb companions for hunting quail. Since the arrival of Gulf Arabs as buyers, the price of a baby hawk has gone up to 1000 dollars. A rare falcon was offered in barter for this author’s car.
At the regionally famous restaurant of Baba Ahmet the evening continued with a bravura display of the inimitable and irrepressible Laz joviality. After the third course of hamsi and the fifth bottle of raki, a kemençe was brought out. Men stood up for aninitially clumsy, then increasingly intense and finally delirious rendition of the traditional Black Sea dance, the horon. Half a dozen hawks perched on the hatstand kept tempo with jingling bells tied to their wings.
Apart from their delightful inhabitants and an increasingly wild and craggy coastline, the five townships offer few specific sights-a fine beach near Pazar, a few totally wild ones beyond Hopa, a forlorn ruined church in someone’s back yard just outside Ardeşen, several charming village mosques behind Arhavi, and of course, the spectacular panorama of the  Kaçkar Mountains rising above the coast.
The best way to get away from the apparent impersonality of the coast is to make random excursions into the hills. A good place to do that is the hinterland of Arhavi where a number of semi-paved roads lead in the direction of Ortacalar. They meander through pleasant farmlands overgrown with tea, offering unforgettable
images of rosy-cheeked Laz beauties and ancient moss-covered stone bridges. In the front yards of remote farmsteads, one may note the tall and distinctive plants of the cannabis family.

Hopa: A Little Berlin

At Hopa, the transit highway turns inland to negotiate the majestic Cankurtaran Pass on the way to Artvin. The 21 kilometers of coastline that remains between Hopa and the Sarp border gate is a very scenic stretch of deserted beaches, roadside waterfalls and tea fields. Until 1988 this was a restricted military zone. With glasnost, it has now been opened to passenger traffic
Sarp is a tiny Laz village of maybe 600 souls, clinging to a steep hillside engulfed in tea fields on the shores of a small bay. In 1921 an agreement between the revolutionary governments of Ankara and Moscow set the frontier between the two countries at the little stream that traverses the village. At first the division did not affect Sarp very much. By the 30s border crossings were made harder; by the 50s, when Turkey and the USSR found themselves in opposite trenches of the Cold War, they were banned altogether. A visit to Uncle Temel down the street now required a 3000-mile journey through Ankara and Moscow. Prohibitions were issued against shouting messages and even staring too long across the stream. A special inflection in the müezzin’s call to prayer or a discreet whistle informed the other side of a birth, marriage or death in the family.
An agreement was reached in 1974 to reopen the border. The Soviets even built a frontier trading area and a new luxury hotel in Batumi in anticipation of fat capitalists who were expected to pour in. But politics intervened, things got delayed and it was only in August 1988 that, finally, the border was officially opened to the accompaniment of great enthusiasm on both sides.
A survey of opinions on the Turkish side of the fence during the run-up to the big “Opening” found everyone between Samsun and Artvin excited about the prospects. The Black Sea region would cease to be a dead end. Both Turkish and European tourists would come through on their way to see Russia. One day, God willing, Russian tourists might be allowed to visit Turkey and shop there. Bilateral trade would burgeon as in the days when grandfather went to market in Batumi and Sochi. One worry was voiced in Hopa: the town had flourished briefly as a transit point during the early years of the Iran-Iraq war when Iran imported a lot of western goods through this port. Would Batumi snatch the prize with its much bigger port and lower port fees, now that Iran was expected to be back in the market? This apart, history seemed to lend support to great hopes: the eastern Black Sea had always prospered in periods of increased northern and eastern trade. What had happened in antiquity, in the 13th century and in the decades before World War I could happen again.
Not much has happened yet. A few visas were granted for family visits and transit trucks. Several tour operators began organizing cross border trips in 1989, though individual ad hoc travel was still discouraged by the requirement for Soviet visas which could only be obtained in  Istanbul or Ankara.
The visaless visitor can still make a quick visit to the western half of the little Berlin that is Sarp and imagine the romance that the hills across the bay hide from view. The Caucasus, some say, is the most fantastic part of the Soviet Union to travel in, and Tbilisi its most charming city. Closer to Turkey, Batumi is said to offer a genteel 19th century ambience and Gagra, some 250 kilometers further north, is one of the world’s biggest modern beach resorts. And what seasoned traveler could resist the prospect of a complete Black Sea tour through Sebastopol, Yalta and Odessa? So apply for your visas and persevere

Bullfighting in Artvin, Turkey

 “No one in his right mind would do it; it is an addiction like alcohol, and it has tradition”-so an   Artvin farmer tries to make sense of the irrational when asked to describe the all-consuming and expensive hobby of bullfighting. The setting is the annual games at Kafkasör. Unlike his Spanish cousins, the Artvin bull stands a fair chance here: the encounter is nearly-bloodless and the gladiator is not doomed to die on the arena, for his match is a bull of his own caliber.
 The passage to summer pastures has always been a special occasion in the Black Sea, a feast of summer when man and beast are decked out in their best and there is music and dancing and rejoicing. Since before anyone can remember, people gathered on the way to the pastures to watch the bulls fight each other to establish the year’s bovine hierarchy. A formal tournament has been held in Artvin since 1980. It is essentially an affair of pride and honor: the top prize-the equivalent of $750 and a ton of straw-does not even offset the annual expenses of at least $1500 in fodder alone. A multiple loser who meets his ignominous end under the butcher’s knife earns his owner $750; a star fighter can find buyers for as much as $2500.
As a rule, the fighters are cared for by women. It is a strenuous year-round training program: jogging in the morning, then a supercharged meal of raisins and oats, a daily beauty bath, massage of the head and testicles with a potion against flies, a light lunch of hay, then an evening meal of more kraft-feed. The stalls are padded against the draft and a cat is kept in to stop rodents from nibbling the all-important horns.
In June, a few days before the fight, trucks begin to haul the champs to Kafkasor, an alpine meadow 500 meters above Artvin-town. As soon as they touch down, the bulls charge straight against the embankment, drive their horns into the earth wall, raise a storm of dust and bellow threateningly at rivals in sight-signs of a declaration that they regard this territory as their own. Unfortunately there are some 50 contenders who hold the same claim. Owners scramble around to prevent premature scraps: sticks are raised to keep the bullies in line; caressing the mighty blobs dangling between the hind legs also has a calming effect.
The festivities begin on Friday. Tens of thousands from around the province arrive with their tents and rainshelters and gas stoves and enough rakı to last everybody for three days. Families cut down the venerable pines to build themselves temporary shacks. Provisional tea stands are set up: kebab-sellers move into position. At first there are singers, bagpipe players, traveling minstrels, oil wrestlers: folk dancers from Soviet Georgia are a novel fixture thanks to glasnost.
 On Sunday the bulls are called in. Women move out of the line of action: men scramble to get into a safe position near a tree or an outcropping of rock. The duellists emerge from their tethers at opposite ends of the field; they strut to the center, hoofing up clumps of soil, eyes shot red and nostrils foaming. For several endless minutes they stand frozen side by side, their heads pointing in the opposite direction, sizing up the opponent. A hush descends on the crowd. Then, with lightning suddenness, they charge each other, locking horns with a staggering headlong crash. The horns part and clash again, the massive frames of belligerent muscle and bone pushing, thrusting, stabbing each other with mad fury in a cloud of dust. Suddenly, with no warning. one of the gladiators disengages himself, stampeding at full tilt through the circle of spectators which breaks apart in wild panic, dashing straight across the far end of the field and beyond the edge of the hillock, abandoning the territory to its rightful winner.
Apart from momentary glory all that the victor gets for his pains is  corn  fodder: the cows are kept away from him as they would undermine his fighting spirit…
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