Cappadocia: The Stone Village of Goreme , Avanos Ceramics, and the Cave Church of Cavusin
18 July, 2008, 09:08 am in "Turkey"
We arrived in Goreme around noon and took a room in the first hotel we walked into, The Blue Moon. It had a good price and looked new and clean. It is not a cave, the traditional form of housing in Cappadocia, but I didn't feel like looking at a bunch of different caves trying to find one with nice air circulation.
Goreme is a tourist town. It seems entirely made up of tourist amenities: hotels, restaurants, tour agents, and souvenir stands. It has that odd atmosphere of a small town invaded by tourists: like you're in a Disneyland version of reality, the Turkey that the tourists want Turkey to be.
In spite of this, the town has a lot of attractive features: the towering rock pinnacles and carved stone houses.
But many of the caves and houses seem to be crumbling under the weight of tourist feet and time.
After much debating we decided on a tour of the Ilhara Valley tomorrow, then a 3 day tour to Mt. Nemrut. With these plans taken care of, we decided to give Rowshan his ceramics fix and go to Avanos.
The bus ride passed lots of characteristic Cappadocia landscapes: sculpted rock towers, wind shaped hills with stripes of creams, tans, and salmon. It looks like an occupied version of the Badlands in South Dakota: places where settlers took one look and said, "No Way!" and moved on to greener places leaving ominous names like "Devil's Canyon", or "Dead-man's Gulch" behind.
The pottery workshops of Avanos are used to tourists.
In fact, they seemed to be more shops than workshops with rooms full of wares, much coming from Kutahya or Iznik. In the first one we went into, we were whisked off to a showroom and offered a chance to watch someone throw something using a kick wheel or watch people decorate pieces. The finest quality looking pieces were from Kutahya and Iznik and since we've been to both of those places now, there wasn't much point in spending time in a showroom. The Avanos pieces are courser and more utilitarian pieces, more often painted than glazed. Even though the intricate designs were pretty, similar in style and color to Ancient Greek animalistic style, due to the cheapness of paint instead of glaze, they wouldn't have lasted long.
The next couple studios were a little more laid back. We got a wheel throwing demonstration (the wheel was electric) and R chatted about pottery with the guys working. It seemed like this studio was at least a working studio and the guy at the wheel did a very good job at throwing a vase.
At the last studio the artist was doing something original, swirling light and red clays together in tiny pieces.
We caught the bus back towards Goreme but got off halfway, in the town of Cavusin where we had noticed some interesting rocks as well as some ceramics shops.
We walked through the towers and into a carved out pigeon coop in one of the hills.
Cavusin also had an ancient painted church carved inside a rock face. There were several different rooms. The most impressive one had walls and ceilings completely covered with paintings representing scenes from the bible. Most of the faces on the lower walls had been gouged out. Those on the ceiling remained.
We walked back towards Goreme, taking a dirt road for a better look at some of the stone towers. Rowshan raced off to take pictures of some of the cave riddled rocks while I sat in the road in the shade of the trees lining it.
About 15 minutes later, he came running up with a hat full of apricots he'd picked from a tree.
We enjoyed a snack, then continued on to town.
Even though it was getting towards evening,it was still hot. While walking around town, we met some local women. First they waved at us as we walked by. I waved back. When we walked by again, they gestured us over. They were sitting in the golden early evening light wearing shalvar pants and white veils. They asked us if we wanted to buy any of the white scarves. We said no. Rowshan was looking for a view and one woman offered to show us her house which had a good view. I knew this meant we'd have to buy something from her. Her home was a traditional cave house with the rooms carved out of the rock. She showed us to her roof where apricots were drying in the sun. Several other roofs also held golden apricots in various stages of drying.
She sold R a white beaded head scarf which he made use of the next evening by soaking in ice water and draping it on his forehead in an attempt to reduce the fever he had from heat exhaustion.
We made an effort to find a restaurant locals went to go but were unsuccessful. They definitely do not go to the kebab place we had dinner at, which gave me a nasty bout of food poisoning, which wiped me out for the next 2 days. After that unfortunate meal, we walked to a residential area (but didn't see any businesses).
I did see a huge spider. Seeing me staring, and following the huge creature around the road, a woman ran out of one of the houses and smashed it with her slipper. She said it was a scorpion but I think it was a spider since it didn't have a tail. It did have very nasty jaws.
Goreme is such a strange place. It is full of ruins but you can't tell how old they are because the new buildings are built the same way. The ruins are left, broken towers of rock with exposed caverns, piles of stone, and new houses are carved into the rock.
Even the newer houses look like they have parts that have fallen down or been repaired. I wonder if there are any building codes regulating cave houses. I wonder if one day it will all be ruins and no one will live here but the pigeons.
Day #2 in Goreme-- I spent in bed while Rowshan went off to Urgup seeking fairy chimneys. He returned via Uchisar and hiked through Pigeon Valley in the hot sun, returning to the hotel with a bad case of heat exhaustion.
Day #3 We had to cancel our trip to Nemrut due to our respective illnesses. Rowshan spent the day puking and feverish. I managed to eat breakfast and go to the market next door. I spent the rest of the day sleeping, reading, and doing computer stuff. In the evening I took another short walk.
Day #4 We both are feeling better and have managed to eat breakfast and take a walk.
While visiting the Argos gift shop net door to the hotel, R learned about a local potter doing high fire, fine art ceramics. The Argos is owned by Mehmet, who was originally a professional musician but who has had the shop for 9 years. He also makes lether work. R was attracted to it because of the beautiful contemporary ceramics pieces. It is more of a gallery than a souvenir shop with handpicked samples of work from artists in Cappadocia.
The pieces at the Argos are works of art and I felt that Mehmet was doing something important for arts in the region by encouraging a higher level of quality. The Avanos pieces are finer than the pieces I saw in the workshops in Avanos. He also had a beautiful set of plates with designs similar to the intricate Greek type designs we'd seen painted on pieces in Avanos, but here they were glazed, guaranteeing the pieces would last. M put R in contact with Tayfun Kucukcan (tolseramik.com). We arranged to meet him and his wife towards evening in Avanos.
Tayfun and Nilgun live in a village house with an open courtyard. The first thing we noticed was a handmade gas kiln roaring off of 2 Aygaz tanks.
Tayfun explained it was for raku. Nilgun, also does ceramics but focuses more on sculpture. She originally is from Istanbul. We all chatted a bit then R and I had to run off to catch the last bus back to Goreme.
In the evening we walked up to a panoramic point and watched the moon rise.