Haven’t posted in a few days so I have a bit of catch up to do here…
Wednesday I took a series of buses to go to the little riverside town of Avanos, a village known for its pottery that is created from deep red and white colored clay gathered nearby. The town itself is not very distinctive, it looks similar to many of the towns of the area, except that it is located along the banks of the KizilirmakRiver. I spent the afternoon there browsing the potteries among crowds of people on various bus tours. The merchants hawk at you while leading you into endless cave rooms stacked full of various clay objects, some rather beautiful, being painstakingly decorated with detailed patterns. I am not a shopper, but I like to look around and ask questions. The merchants soon realize that I am not a serious buyer and, thankfully, shift their attention to other shoppers. In general, I do not like to be pressured or stood over while I am browsing, it makes me feel hurried and nervous until I flee, moving onto the next store. Most of the merchants here ask a scripted set of questions..’Where are you from? Are you married? Are you traveling alone..?, then shoving an item at me saying, ‘I make you good price..” The first day or two I would tell the truth, but as time has gone by I have started to embellish my story, changing my nationality, history and marital status while speaking in broken English to complete my disguise… ‘I Sweden, yah.. husband with 6 kids next shop there, pretty tour bus, yah..’ etc.. Curiously, I have not encountered one female shopkeeper.. and it somehow bugs me that these men feel entitled to fire off these personal, aggressive questions towards me, as if they think that this behavior will convince me into buying something. Of course, this is not the first time while traveling that I have came across this sort of hawking, but for some reason it surprises me here in this traditional, religious climate. I realize that these men are just trying to make a living, and seeing me enter with my khaki pants, backpack and tennis shoes makes them see dollar (or lira) signs as it were, it still rubs me the wrong way. I, admittedly stereotyping here, imagine their scarved headed, young wives at home keeping house and children clean and fed while these men approach female tourists in a disrespectful manner. After a short coffee stop at the cafe on the village square, I retraced my steps via series of buses home, leaving empty handed.. and as I am realizing now, without taking any pictures of the day.
On Thursday Mary-Ellen (the new artist in residence here) and I again, boarded the series of buses to visit the Zelve Open Air Museum and Imagination Valley, and having an hour or so in between buses, we enjoyed lattes (a rare, expensive treat!) in Urgup. Zelve is said to be is among the earliest-settled and last-abandoned monastic valleys in the region. The cave dwellings were used by local villagers up until 1952, when the structures were determined to be unsafe and the villagers were moved en masse over to nearby Aktepe, or New Zelve. We walked around the pathways and stairs to visit all of the little dwellings and rooms in the blaring sun… it was amazing.
Next we walked down the road for a bit to visit Imagination Valley or Dervent Valley, named such because of the particular shaped fairy chimney tops, which are said to look like different animals and people, one even like the Virgin Mary.. use you imagination. The last picture below, the formation with the plaque and flag out front, is apparently a police station.
Alain De Botton, in his book, The Art of Travel, spoke of a phenomena called ‘spots of time’ that my mind keeps chewing on today. In Bottons writing he is describing the 18th century poet, William Whitworth, a naturalist and a man who continued to follow his curiosity. Whitworth, argued that he had experienced short glimpses, or moments of such visual serenity, in particular of his walks in the Alps, that would stay with him for the duration of his life and, every time these moments enter his consciousness, offer a relief from present difficulties. This concept is very similar to ones ‘happy place’ or serene visual used in meditation or in flash back movie sequences. The idea that a few moments overlooking a canyon or a visual snap shot of a certain sway of a tree can number as one of the most significant in ones lifetime really affects me. I think of the ‘spots of time’ that I have collected in my memory and call upon.. sometimes these moments are connected to an emotional situation of a person that I was with or a time in my life, both joyful and painful.. sometimes its unclear to me whether I actually experienced these times or if I remember it from a dream. In regards to travel, I wonder if one of the reasons that I have such ‘itchy feet’ could be to refill this bank of images, these brief, critical moments of simple clarity or beauty… I prefer to think of it this way instead of dismissing the call as ‘running away from’… both, I’m sure a form of healthy, if not fleeting, escapism. I’m curious about this idea..perhaps I sense that some spots of time in my mind have become painful or used up, over used.. so I feel a need to update them with new images of who I have become or strive to be. Similarly, my boyfriend, Greg, uses a phrase, ‘taking the poison off’ when revisiting a place that holds bad memories in order to make good memories in their place, neutralizing them as you would an upset stomach with warm milk. In any case, I am sure that many of my experiences here in Cappadocia will stay with me for a long time to come and influence my visual language in unforeseeable ways. The surreal landscape here is so unique and unlike anything that I have experienced, the physicality difficult to describe in words or photographs. Much of the ‘spots of time’ will be lost and pushed back into the depth of memory, while the highlights, I imagine, will float to the top of consciousness at random moments to be reframed and inserted into future overlapping collages.
I find that I am running out of new places to visit in the region.. I have been here now for over two weeks and, having taken a majority of those days for full days of exploring, am starting to sense that I am reaching a state of being visually ‘full’. I have gathered much material and have accomplished more in these two weeks than I anticipated in completing in four. I have photographed 6 houses, 1 caravanerai and 1 modern cave hotel, all thanks to Mehmet serving as liason and interpreter.. I have not been able to gain access to any of the villagers here in Ibrahimpasa as anticipated.. they are very devout muslims and wary of foreigners. I have plenty of material to work with and am very happy with what I have gathered. Now, it will just take many hours of working with the photos, drawings and writings to bring it all together into the final book format. I feel like I may be better able to see it all once I get home and have a little bit of distance and perspective. For the next week I plan to visit the remaining few areas that I have yet to explore, Ortahisar and Love Valley, and try to finish up what I can.