Before Turkey's sunny south starts to sizzle and humidity becomes almost unbearable, locals of the region know that they have to quickly get their hands on the pristine blocks of snow sitting on top of the mountains to cool off.
With mini heat waves starting to hit Turkey, locals from Antalya and Muğla have begun their journey up the Taurus Mountains to collect snow, strap them to the back of their trucks and take them back down to the coast, later to be turned into delicious, cooling treats for people of all ages.
Called "karlama" in Turkish, these icy desserts are not exactly original. From El Salvador to China, many countries indulge in similar treats – the Filipinos enjoy halo-halo while the Mexicans partake of raspado for a cool respite. In Turkey, the snow and ice brought from the chilly mountains and highlands are first shaved or ground into fine pieces and then flavored with a variety of molasses, fruit syrups or traditional sherbet, topped off with nuts or chunks of fruit for some added flavor. Some people scoop the ice into balls and serve it in real or paper cones to make multicolored snow cones, and some just add fruit juice to make an icy slushy.
For those who sell these icy treats, the snow is a great source of livelihood. The most prosperous spot with the finest snow is the 2,250-meter-high (7,382-feet-high) Evyaka Plateau, located on the skirts of Akdağ, the second-highest peak of the western Taurus Mountains, lying between Antalya's Kaş and Muğla's Seydikemer districts. The snow is first cut with motorized saws or handsaws into rectangular prisms weighing 60-70 kilograms (132-154 pounds) and then put into sacks to be cleaned, inspected and shaved before being turned into dessert.
Speaking to Demirören News Agency (DHA), Emre Alaca, a businessman who comes to collect snow from the Taurus Mountains every year, said: "We collect snow from here during early summer. Then we take it to Kaş and turn it into shaved ice. We use cinnamon, molasses and lemon (for flavoring). We help cool people down."
Not all locals are in it for the business though. Some families make day trips to the mountains just for the scenery, while others go to pick up some ice to bring back as presents for their loved ones.
"Shaved ice is something we love and eat in this hot weather. It helps us meet our bodies' water needs and refreshes us. It is also much better and healthier to eat natural snow than to eat those artificial, mass-produced ice creams on these summer days. We have no problems at all," Mehmet Akbıyık, a karlama convert, told Ihlas News Agency (IHA).
Yusuf Şahin, another local, said they didn't manage to reach the very top this year so they decided to just grab some snow to take back home and distribute to their neighbors to help them cool off.