This is Sunday in Kars. Outside of the city, by the river and on hillsides, parked by the road, half-sheltered in the ruins of a church, hunkered beneath the castle -- groups of men, grilling.
Here and there are a few -- very, very few -- families (men, women, children) picnicing around their kebab-erias. But for the most part this is a man's world. On this day 95-98 percent of observed outdoor grillers and eaters are male. Here in Kars the American male's obsession with cooking protein over glowing embers is taken to a whole new level: women are excluded not only from the act of barbecuing, but from the enjoyment of the grill product as well. To a degree we've not yet observed elsewhere in Turkey.
What gives? Your guess is as good as ours.
We've been here in Kars since the middle of last week, heading out every morning to walk the area's stunningly beautiful electric green hills. We've broken our walks with plenty of tea breaks, thanks to the hospitable shephards and cowherds -- and yesterday, the hospitable manager of a hydroelectric power station -- we've met along the way.
The serious walking begins soon enough, when we embark on a multi-day hike. Food will feature prominently, in the villages we overnight in. Tune in next week for a taste of yöresel ev yemeği (regional home cooking).