Yesterday was a very busy day. Idris had been kind enough to offer to drive me around to some local villages on his day off so, after calling Halil’s trusty taxi to whisk me to Urgup (a lot faster than the bike …), we set off for Mustafapasa about 11:30. This town is five miles from Urgup and is the same vintage as Ibrahimpasa; however, unlike Ibrahimpasa, most of the rock and cave houses here are in the process of being refurbished. In the last couple of years a university has come to Mustafapasa and, with that, more attention and probably more money.
The first stop here was the Secret Valley, a small valley at the crest of a hill in which there is a very nice café and a beautiful small chapel that has been renovated by the caretaker. During the summers there are art and music events here. After wandering around there for a bit, we headed back down the hill and I took some pictures of the village and its inhabitants, two and four legged. Because the weather has warmed up, all the horses and donkeys are being brought out after a long winter indoors. We also stopped at St. Nicholas Church; this church was still being used up to about 40 or so years ago; you can see the bits of twisted white paper attached to the bushes here that represent the wishes and prayers of local people.
From Mustafapasa we drove along a quiet winding road to the very small village of Cemil which has a disused Catholic Church. Luckily, the door was unlocked and we were able to enter the church and look around. Two lively local kids showed us the place. It was eerie; bits of blue paint on the pillars, and wall and ceiling frescoes remain, although the figures and scenes are barely decipherable now. Graffiti adorns all the walls and pillars. Bullet holes have been shot into the walls, columns and main door into the nave, evidence of a violent past village quarrel between the Turks and Greeks. Like many in the area, this village used to be primarily Greek until the early twenties when the Greeks were asked to leave or expelled back to Greece. A few kilometers past Gemil is the Keslik Monastery, a complex of churches, refectories and gardens, very quiet now but the plants are starting to grow. The final stop on the village tour was the Sobesos excavation site in Sahinefendi where archeologists have uncovered amazing mosaics from Roman times which will apparently change the known history of Cappadocia. The dig site is huge and it will take many years to uncover the amphitheatre that is thought to lie somewhere underneath the hill there.
After returning via Halil to Ibrahimpasa, I ran into Willemijn on the village square and she asked if I’d like to come with her to visit her Turkish family in Goreme. We waited on the terrace of the tea house while a funeral was being conducted for a local woman; the men of the village offered their respects and prayed and took the casket away in a pickup truck to be buried in the cemetery. After the funeral procession had left, we drove off to Goreme. Stopping first at the Meeting Point café, we had coffee with Cenap and then drove to the family’s cave home just across the street from the Flintstones Pansiyon, strangely a place I had visited just last June. There we enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the family, with whom Willemijn had lived for several years when she first came to Turkey. After chatting with the family patriarch Bayram, a political mover and shaker in Goreme, we were invited for dinner and had a wonderful meal of local specialties including my favorite, a kind of cauliflower stew prepared by Hanim and her daughter Filiz. Cansu, Filiz’s daughter, made both Willemijn and myself lovely purple beaded bracelets which she presented to us before we left.
See pictures here.