Saturday, February 14, 2009


When I think of Turkey, I sometimes think of the lush green tea-growing areas around the Black Sea, or the wonderful mediterranean area with the famous "Blue Cruises" and the lovely beaches. Then there is the Aegean area that features not only the very bluest of water and tiny islands, as well as more Greek ruins than you can find in Greece. Cappadoccia looks as if it belongs on another planet, and as you go from area to area you find it hard to believe what you are seeing. And who can ever forget Istanbul, the city whose beauty is sometimes obscured by traffic and potholes and haze from burning brown coal but who nevertheless will let you see what she really looks like if you care. It is hard for me to pick one region over another as my favorite.

But probably the area I am most fond of is an out-of-the way place, a place that few tourists ever go and that Jerry and I probably wouldn't have seen if some distant American cousins hadn't insisted that we contact friends of theirs who were living and working on a military base outside of the old town of Eskisehir southwest of Ankara in central Turkey. Mack and Jean took us in hand and showed us what they had found. The pictures below are from that day, a day we will never forget.

There are a whole series of villages which must once have been the heart of the Phrygian Kingdom of Midas. Kumbet has a Phrygian tomb from the Roman period, with lions carved upon it.

There are Roman tombs and one or two Hittite reliefs which show that the site has a history stretching back at least a thousand years before Midas. Now because we were in this area without a historian or a knowledgeable guide, we didn't really know what we were looking at, other than everything we saw was old, and amazing, and beautiful and took our breath away.

Kumbetkoy (koy means village) was the place where I got a photograph of a lovely lady tending to the white sheet with yellow grain on them in the picture below. I posted that picture in an earlier entry. But below, you can see her day's work. The sheets with black on them were being worked on by two other women. They had big dried sunflower heads, and with a stone they were beating the seeds off the sunflower heads, whichare shown on the bottom right. These women then would spread the seeds out to dry in the intense summer heat. We saw that farming, harvesting, planting and tending were for the most part the women's jobs.

Not too far away from Kumbetkoy is Seyitgazi, where a superb tekke, or convent, crowns the hill to the west of Midassehir. Seyitgazi is named after a legendary Arab warrior in the wars between the Arabs and the Byzantines in the 8th century. In this large facility there is a large communal kitchen, where some of the neighboring villagers were preparing freshly slaughtered lamb for roasting.

According to Wikipedia (and you always take what you find there "under consideration" as to its reliability) the town was named after the 8th century Muslim saint and warrior Battal Gazi who fell in a battle here in 740. A külliye dedicated to Battal Gazi and containing his tomb, a mosque, a medrese, cells and ceremonial rooms for dervishes as well as benevolent services for the community such as kitchens and a bakery was built in 1208 on a hill overlooking the town by Ümmühan Hatun, wife of the Anatolian Seljuk sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev I and further extended in 1511 by the Ottoman sultan Bayezid II. The shrine and the adjoining complex remains much visited by visitors from across Turkey as well as by international visitors.

What I do know for sure, though, is that via our driver Ahmet our party was invited to partake in the dinner under preparation. But we still had miles to go before the day was over and we had to head back towards Istanbul, so we had to decline. Actually, I was quite relieved, because I was not yet ready to witness the slaughtering of that lamb which would have provided dinner for us.

I'd guess one reason we were so impressed with this area is that we were very new to Turkey and had yet to see anything except for the big city of Istanbul. In our nineteen months there, we saw a whole lot of amazing things, and I think maybe we saw some things that even topped this, but in my heart, Kumbetkoy and its environs will always be my most favorite part of Turkey.

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