Avanos and Ürgüp: Two Towns to Visit in the Cappadocia Region of Turkey

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Avanos

     Cappadocia is by far one of the most beautiful and unique places I’ve seen so far in my travels. Its natural and cultural diversity make it a very exciting place to discover. In addition to being one of the best places to ride in a hot air balloon in the world, it has underground cities, great hiking, delicious cuisine, kindhearted people, and charming villages.

On my last day in Göreme, I decided to venture out of one of the most touristy villages in Cappadocia and see two other nearby villages: Avanos and Ürgüp. The owner of my hostel recommended that I see both villages in the same day since they are quite close to Göreme. To get to Avanos and Ürgüp, all I had to do was go to the bus station and catch a dolmuş, a sort of shared-taxi/mini-bus in Turkey that makes specific stops along a pre-determined route.

I arrived at the bus station around 10 AM ready to explore both villages on my own since my hostel friends had already left. I was alone for a while until two Korean women, who looked to be around 35-years-old, came over and sat down next to me. One of them started talking to me about the dolmuş to Avanos and we realized none of us knew what time the dolmuş was actually supposed to come. Thirty minutes later, I found out that both women were teachers in Seoul and that one of them was dating a Canadian guy-what a difficult long-distance relationship that must be! Another fifteen minutes and we were finally on the dolmuş!

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Avanos and the Red River

When we got to Avanos, the three of us decided to spend the day together. All of us wanted to sight-see and we got along fairly well. They appreciated the fact that I could speak “survival” Turkish to help us get around and I was happy they had done research on the village. All I knew about it was that it was nicknamed, “the pottery village.”

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Avanos, the pottery village

  We headed into the town by crossing a bridge over the Kizilirmak, or Red river, which one of the Korean women called, “the dirty river.” Although the river itself seems to be more brown than red, it is called “the Red river” because of the red clay that is gathered from its banks which is used to make Avanos’s famous pottery.

The people of Avanos have been making pottery for hundreds-maybe thousands- of years. It is a skill that they spend a lifetime perfecting. They pass it down to their children so they can continue the family tradition. A recent boom in tourism in the Cappadocia region has allowed the residents of Avanos to share their pottery with the public and sell their products to a wider audience.

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Pottery in Avanos

We made our way around the town, stopping in some of the family-owned pottery shops and admiring the colorful pots, bowls and plates that they had for sale. I considered buying something and taking it back home, but my backpack provided me with very limited space for souvenirs.

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More pottery in Avanos

In one of the very first shops we visited, the owner, a friendly middle-aged man, showed us how he makes small pots on a pottery wheel. We were amazed at how quickly and accurately he made each one. He made pottery look extremely easy.

He offered to let us try to make pots, too. I didn’t want to get dirty, so I opted out. One of the Korean women, however, decided to give it a go. Like me, she did not have much artistic talent, but the shop owner was very patient and helped her along the way.

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The owner of the pottery shop/studio

  After about an hour of going into pottery shops and studios, we were getting a little bored and were ready to go. We started heading towards the dolmuş stop, but we saw something along the way that made us want to stay just a little bit longer: a hair museum!

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Avanos Saç Müzesi / Avanos Hair Museum

In what seems to be just an ordinary pottery shop, we saw the sign for the Hair Museum and decided to go inside and investigate. Underneath the  pottery shop is the Hair Museum, an over 30-year-old collection of hair samples from about 16,000 women from around the world.

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Locks of hair in the Hair Museum

Why is there a collection of so much hair in a pottery shop, you may ask? Apparently the owner of the shop, a skilled Turkish potter named Chez Galip, was upset when one of his friends had to leave Avanos over 30 years ago. His friend left him a lock of her hair along with her address. Throughout the years, many women have visited Galip’s shop and, after hearing the story, they too have left locks of their hair along with their full addresses. That’s how the walls and ceiling of this pottery shop in Avanos ended up covered in locks of hair. (In case you’re wondering, I did think about cutting off my hair, too, but it was definitely too short at the time.)

After the Hair Museum experience, we decided that we were officially done in Avanos, so we caught the next dolmuş to Ürgüp, another nearby town.

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A type of Patlıcanlı Kebap (Eggplant kebab) stew at Kardeşler Restaurant in Ürgüp

Even though the Hair Museum had made us feel a little queasy, we were starving when we got to Ürgüp. We walked around a little bit until we stumbled upon a family-owned restaurant called, Kardeşler (brothers/siblings) Restaurant. They had a few different stews and kebabs on their menu that looked delicious. I decided on a Patlıcanlı Kebap, or eggplant kebab, stew that was cooked in a clay pot from the region. I was definitely not disappointed.

We finished our lunch and went to the tourism office to find out what there was to see in Ürgüp, a town that neither the Korean women nor I had researched at all. Unfortunately, according to the woman in the tourism office, there wasn’t much to see at all. The best thing to do was to climb to the top of a hill , which was a 15-minute walk away, and take in the views of the town. One thing I have neglected to mention this entire post is that it was about 40ºC, or 104ºF, that day. The last thing we wanted to do was climb to the top of a hill in that sweltering heat.

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Ürgüp with the hill we climbed in the background

Since there wasn’t much else to do in Ürgüp, we headed to a bakkal, or convenience store, and bought ourselves some ice-cold water bottles. We crossed the street and found the road that led to the top of the hill and started to make our way to the top. Luckily, there were plenty of shops along the way, most of which had shade to protect us from the sun.

About 15 minutes of climbing later and we were at the top of the hill. The beautiful views of Ürgüp and the 1 TL (0.43 USD, 0.38 EUR at time of writing) ice cream cones made it worthwhile.

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At the top of the hill in Ürgüp!

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