Tufanbeyli to Divriği via Darende: apricots, mosques, and Anatolian hospitality

Wow, this section was really fun.  The scenery wasn’t great, it was fairly windy and too hot, but the people were wonderful, the apricots were plentiful and tasty, there were things to see, and the mosques, well, the mosques were perhaps the most interesting I’ve seen in Turkey.

The route started in northern Adana (Tufanbeyli İlçesi), passed through Kayseri (Sarız İlçesi), (Kahraman) Maraş (Afşin and Elbistan İlçeleri), Malatya (Darende and Kuluncak İlçeleri), before ending up in Sivas (Kangal and Divriği İlçeleri).  So that’s five provinces (İl) and eight districts (ilçe).  I’m guessing it’s more distance than I covered in any other week of this tour (so far!).

Here’s a sample of the scenery:

IMG_20200728_145305 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200729_073541 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200802_085335 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200802_153815 by bryandkeith on flickr

You’ve been warned.

The first tourist site was the Roman city of Comana in Şarköy, not far from Tufanbeyli.  I was offered tea at the village entrance, turned it down, but was grateful for the rather detailed directions of how to find the sites around town.  They’re a bit spread out, a bit hidden, and there are no signs.  First, however, I thought the village store was in a beautiful building:

IMG_20200728_081616 by bryandkeith on flickr

The Roman hamam was less impressive:

the remains of the hamam at Şarköy by bryandkeith on flickr

and there wasn’t much left of the theatre either:

IMG_20200728_081951 by bryandkeith on flickr

Up the hill a little was quite a gate, but it was the only thing standing.

IMG_20200728_085352 by bryandkeith on flickr

The large paving stones and huge diameter pedestal made me wonder if there wasn’t a large temple here.  All wikipedia says is that it’s a “a fine Roman doorway” and “the exact site of the great temple has not been satisfactorily identified”.

The reason Şarköy is on tourists’ radar is a bit further up the hill, the Şar Kırık Kilisesi (a 4th century Roman church).  The most impressive bit is the western face so if you’re there first thing in the morning like I was, well, it’s a bit hard to get good photos.

IMG_20200728_091323 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200728_091348 by bryandkeith on flickr

Not bad for a forgotten village.

The next day it was the Romans again with Hurman Kalesi, guarding the confluence and crossing of two creeks.  There’s a church up in the castle as well.

IMG_20200729_082032 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200729_082823 by bryandkeith on flickr

I followed one of the streams up a pretty valley to Dokuztay, crossed the creek, and started climbing for real.

IMG_20200729_090518 by bryandkeith on flickr

Before long I was mostly above the trees and into the shadeless heat.  In Büyüktatlı I was given a cold drink.  Further on in Örenli I stopped to rest in the shade of the trees in someone’s yard.  Serdal, about to start high school, came out, and we had a good conversation.  He was a bright kid who listened well.  His mother wouldn’t let me go without giving me yufka.  Yufka is a popular Anatolian village flat bread, usually with no yeast.  It lasts a long time.  Many households keep a stack like this:

IMG_20200730_154012 by bryandkeith on flickr

The road still climbed, was kind of high, kind of rocky (just like Serdal had warned me), and kind of remote, crossing from Afşin to Elbistan (both in Maraş, famous throughout Turkey for Maraş ice cream).  This is the road:

IMG_20200729_152519 by bryandkeith on flickr

There had been no traffic at all, and then a small truck/van came.  It was İlyas from Afşin selling (or in this case giving away to me) Maraş ice cream!  Unbelievable.

İlyas, the mobile Maraş ice cream seller from Afşin.  He gave me some Maraş ice cream in the middle of nowhere between Örenli and Alkayaoğlu near the Afşin-Elbistan border (in Maraş, of course!). by bryandkeith on flickr

I felt like my smile was even bigger than İlyas’!

This area was dry, rocky, and desolate, and then I came across a couple families who had run out of gas.  Yikes, it was hot and dry.  I told them where I had seen water.

IMG_20200730_102052 by bryandkeith on flickr

In Kurudere, a tiny village of shepherds, a couple was hauling milk up the hill.  I asked about buying cheese, but they insisted on giving me some (partly because I insisted I could only take about 200g; it spoils too quickly in the heat) — yufka too.

A 600m descent brought me to another of Turkey’s Disneylandesque waterfall attractions, Günpınar Şelalesi, complete with colorful letters reminding me that I had made it to Darende İlçesi.  The annoying, bored kids and the stupid conversation were in sharp contrast to Serdal up in Örenli.  Clearly that stop didn’t work out as well as it could have.

IMG_20200730_110311 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200730_120123 by bryandkeith on flickr

Darende is in Malatya, and if you’ve heard one word about Malatya, well, it’s “apricots”.  Turkey grows over 20% of the world’s apricots (by far more than any other country), and the production is centered around Malatya.  Almost as soon as I crossed into Malatya I started seeing apricot orchards.  I bought a bag of dried apricots on the side of the road on the way up to the waterfall.  For days I stopped at many trees and ate fresh ones, as many as I wanted, almost whenever I wanted.  I felt a little bad about nicking the drying ones because a bit more effort (by someone who makes their living this way) had been expended, but sometimes they were too tasty to resist.

IMG_20200730_151716 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200801_104925 by bryandkeith on flickr

In Karaoğuz I had a late lunch with the Güleç family, whose multiple generations work at the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) in İstanbul.  They were in their village for the holiday.

IMG_20200730_154538 by bryandkeith on flickr

It ended up being dinner for me.

In addition to apricots Darende is also known for its kerpiç (adobe) architecture.  I started seeing it in Karaoğuz:

IMG_20200730_152311 by bryandkeith on flickr

It continued the next morning in Balaban where a couple invited me for breakfast of menemen, tea, bread, tomatoes, cucumbers from the garden, cheese, olives (plus cheese and yufka to go!):

IMG_20200731_083659 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200731_083851 by bryandkeith on flickr

As Pat Yale points out, in Balaban one could be forgiven for thinking they were in Yazd (conspicuously minus the badgirs).  Maybe Rayen is a better comparison?  Mom, Dad, Megan — comments?

IMG_20200731_084105 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9501 by bryandkeith on flickr

The first photo (above) is Balaban, the second Rayen.

The adobe continued in Irmaklı where I had to really insist to turn down breakfast since I had just eaten in Balaban.

IMG_20200731_100410 by bryandkeith on flickr

I reached Darende on the first day of the four-day Kurban Bayramı holiday.  That’s when people kill a cow or sheep or goat and share the meat with family, friends, and people in need.  For me I suppose the highlight of the day was swimming in the pool at the Somuncu Baba memorial complex.

I passed a couple restored 18th century Ottoman bridges on the way into town.

an 18th century restored Ottoman bridge by bryandkeith on flickr

The canyons at Somuncu Baba are certainly pretty, and the pool taking advantage of the cool natural spring water is clean and tastefully done.

IMG_20200731_145326 by bryandkeith on flickr

IMG_20200731_143605 by bryandkeith on flickr

For me, that was perhaps a better way to celebrate the first day of the holiday than slaughtering an animal.

IMG_20200731_111544 by bryandkeith on flickr

I stopped quickly at another tomb complex on the way out of Darende, this one the Hasan Gazi Türbesi.

IMG_20200731_162101 by bryandkeith on flickr

I climbed out of town that evening and found what ended up being a very windy campsite, so windy that my tent poles collapsed.  I’ve never had that happen before.  I changed the orientation of the tent and added the fly (which allows for five additional stake points on the upwind side) and survived the night.  The tent appears to be undamaged.

The first thing I did on the first day of August in Turkey was put on my down jacket and take a selfie!

IMG_20200801_055819 by bryandkeith on flickr

Two hours later (it heats up quickly when the sun comes up), as I was pedaling uphill, three guys from Malatya stopped and gave me a cold beer.  So that’s how I ended up celebrating the second day of the holiday with an 8am beer!

It was 8am on the second day of bayram (the four-day sacraifice holiday).  Three guys from Malatya stopped and gave me a cold beer! by bryandkeith on flickr

In Ayvalı wanting to take advantage of the cooler morning weather I turned down a couple offers of breakfasts, but by noon I found myself at Alper’s house for a lunch of kurban eti (meat from the previous day’s sacrificed sheep), yufka, tomatoes, cheese, and watermelon.

Alper holding his daughter Eylül Elif by bryandkeith on flickr

His wasn’t the only house where I saw both adobe construction and drying apricots.

IMG_20200801_135426 by bryandkeith on flickr

There’s an active creative artist in the village of Konaktepe.  The mural at the village fountain was my favorite:

IMG_20200802_085011 by bryandkeith on flickr

From here I guess you could say I was getting anxious to get to Divriği.  That was my excuse for turning down lunch with Yücel in Akçamağara (that and I had earlier accepted a bunch of lunch supplies from a couple guys in a truck when I mentioned I hadn’t been able to find a store).

IMG_20200802_151230 by bryandkeith on flickr

Coasting toward Divriği the next day an old woman stopped me and gave me a bunch of apples she had picked that morning on the way home from visiting her husband’s grave.

IMG_20200803_074853 by bryandkeith on flickr

I know, I know, what about the mosques? you’re wondering.  Don’t worry, saving the best for last, I think.

Medişeyh Mosque and grave (türbe) looks like what?, a Luigi Manini castle?

IMG_20200730_173801 by bryandkeith on flickr

Darende’s Çarşı Camii is perhaps not dissimilar to Medişeyh?  Or perhaps more like Portugal’s (since we’re on the theme) monastery cloisters?

IMG_20200731_134413 by bryandkeith on flickr

Darende’s Ulu Camii (Selçuk style) looks like a warehouse (and even more like a warehouse from the inside!):

IMG_20200731_141705 by bryandkeith on flickr

There’s an unusual roof in the mosque at the Somuncu Baba Complex:

IMG_20200731_150040 by bryandkeith on flickr

İğdelidere’s mosque: Chinese pagoda style?

IMG_20200802_093423 by bryandkeith on flickr

Divriği has at least three mosques with wooden minarets.

IMG_20200803_114238 by bryandkeith on flickr

The star, however, has to be the Şeyh Abdurrahman Erzincanı Camii in Balaban.  It supposedly has five sides, representing the five pillars of Islam, but it’s hard to tell when you’re there.

IMG_20200731_071659 by bryandkeith on flickr

In the inside the mihrab and minbar are combined into one piece.  Have you ever seen that before?!

IMG_20200731_072909 by bryandkeith on flickr

It also has an interesting ceiling:

IMG_20200731_073033 by bryandkeith on flickr

Well, I’m sure no one is quite so excited about all that as I am.

IMG_20200731_073703_6_fused by bryandkeith on flickr

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4 Responses to Tufanbeyli to Divriği via Darende: apricots, mosques, and Anatolian hospitality

  1. Mike Painter says:

    Very nice! Great as always.

  2. Jennie Werner says:

    Brian, your blogs are fabulous and this one made me cry. I so miss the warmth and hospitality and cultural diversity and beautiful scenery (and food!) of Turkey and other places in your part of the world that are off limits to us pariah Americans who can’t seem to get our own affairs in order. Our California and Utah/Nevada road trips have been wonderful, but fires and smoke have even put the kabash on those now. We just have to remind ourselves how lucky we were to live in all those exotic places around the world where we could get out and explore amazing spots on our weekends, holidays, and vacations without going far, kind of like you are doing now. We all are so very fortunate! Big hugs and lots of love, Jennie

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Jennie,

      Yes, I also keep thinking about how fortunate we are. It’s been distressing to read that covid 19 has put the brakes on and even reversed the tremendous success that the world has had in pulling people out of extreme poverty in the last few decades. This pandemic is particularly devastating for the world’s most vulnerable people who can normally rely on neighbors, fellow villagers, or relatives in a distant city for help in a crisis. This crisis, however, affects everyone.

      Thank you for the great comments.

  3. kerem says:

    A great post, lovely pictures, keep pedalling man!

    Kerem, from Istanbul

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