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AVANOS

Pottery capital of Cappadocia                    Population: 16,000

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Old name: Venessa (Roman)

Market day: Friday

On the banks of the Kızılırmak (Red River), Turkey's longest river, Avanos is a small town spreading out from a hill topped with an outsize Turkish flag.

The clay from the riverbed is the source of the clay used in a local pottery industry that produces everything from fine art pieces to heavy cooking pots.

The main streets are dotted with sizeable pottery emporia, some of them partially housed in underground "cities", while the back streets harbour more modest (and more interesting) one-off ateliers. 

In recent years the riverbanks have been landscaped and provided with promenades. Ducks and geese now nest on the small islands near the main bridge linking the town to Nevşehir and Göreme. Recent introductions include unlikely motorized gondolas. A particular feature is the wobbly pedestrian footbridge which will induce nausea in those prone to motion sickness.

Backstory

Avanos has a lengthy history. Once it was the Roman city of Venessa in the days when the river was so famous for its salt that it was called the Halys (Salty River).

Today there’s not much above ground to remind visitors of that distant past, although below the ground are innumerable small underground cities (more like underground villages really).  None are officially open to the public as attractions, although you can explore some of them informally while visiting the pottery workshops

According to the historian Strabo, Venessa was the third most important town in the Kingdom of Cappadocia, which existed from 332 BC to AD 17. Later it boasted an enormous temple to Zeus whose priest was supported from the proceeds of farming the rich volcanic soils beside the river.ava2

Like everywhere else in Cappadocia Venessa had a large Christian population in Roman and Byzantine times. Their memorial is the Dereyamanlı Kilisesi (Church), believed to date back to the fifth century which would make it one of the oldest churches in Cappadocia. A small structure carved into the rock overlooking a forgotten valley of glorious rock formations, it’s simply decorated with red geometric designs, one of them resembling a Star of David giving rise to the suggestion that it might once have been used as a synagogue. It's the only rock-cut structure in Cappadocia that offers sporadic church services.

If there’s not much to show for the remote past, Avanos is well endowed with  reminders of the 19th and early 20th centuries when it had a large Greek and Armenian population. They left many beautiful old stone houses whose facades are far more elaborately decorated than those of nearby Göreme, with wonderful carvings around their windows and long bands of deep relief separating the ground and first floors - - their design vaguely recalls the diadems worn by the Byzantine emperors.

Ava1Around town

The best of Avanos' old houses can be found in the Old Town to the north of the town centre behind the prominent statue of a potter at his wheel. Focal point is the Place de Nuits St Georges whose name offers a nod of recognition to the town’s long and close link with France. It’s dominated by the lovely Tevfik Körükcü Konağı which was built in 1868 and now houses a carpet shop.

More fine mansions can be found in the much quieter and less visited western outskirts of town where amid the ruins of one fine house a fresco of a mosque and some stencil-like images of flowers stand forlornly exposed to the weather. The finest of all the houses in this part of the town is the glorious mansion facing visitors as they cross the bridge coming from Göreme. Newly restored, it now serves as an outpost of the Kapadokya Meslek Lisesi (Cappadocian High School) in Mustafapaşa. 

On the outskirts of town is the restored Sarıhan (Yellow Han), a Selçuk caravanserai dating back to 1249 which is now used for nightly displays of dervish dancing. You can visit the building during the day although its position right by a main road and the rather crude restoration have stripped it of much atmosphere.

Ceramic shopping

Tour groups tend to be herded into the large ceramics warehouses that are clustered around the junction with the road to Göreme, but it’s much more fun to take time and poke about in the back streets which are dotted with the workshops of individual artists. At İkizler Çömlek Atölyesi, for example, twins Levent and Mehmet Düzgün run their business from inside one of the small underground “cities”. Ava3

Near the Sofa Motel Hasan Yaman turns out miniature pots by the thousand in the Hitit Çanak Atölyesi. 

Probably the best known of all the town-centre pottery shops is Chez Galip which operates in what is the officially designated Avanos Çanakçılar Bölgesi (Avanos Pottery Zone) to the east of town. In a rabbit warren of rock-cut rooms you can find all sorts of ceramics, ranging from cheap and cheerful ashtrays to spectacular pieces aimed at collectors. Then deep in the heart of it all you turn a corner and stumble upon a Bluebeard’s den of an unexpected attraction – the famous Hair Museum whose female visitors are asked to donate a lock of hair to adorn the walls or ceiling.

Sleeping

DoubleTree by Hilton Avanos. Tel: 0384-511 4317, www.hilton.com.tr/en/Doubletree-Capaddocia/default.aspx

Kirkit Pansiyon. Tel: 0384-511 3148, www.kirkit.com

Sofa Hotel: Tel: 0384-511 5186

Tokmak Konuk Evi. Tel: 0384-511 4587

Venessa Pension. Tel: 0384-511 3840

Ava4Eating

Avanos is a good place to come to to eat Turkish staples cooked with an eye more to local tastebuds than to the tourists. Daya'nın Yeri near the bridge on the road coming from Göreme serves particularly highly regarded kebabs. 

Recently several restaurants and cafes have opened beside the river especially near the wobbly pedestrian bridge where a branch of the ice-cream specialists Mado attracts an enthusiastic following, especially in summer when it's possible to sit on a terrace overlooking the river. This is where you'll find a branch of the small İstanbul chain of fish restaurants, Sur Balık.

A riverside branch of McDonald's opened in Avanos in 2013. Some will find this a reason to cheer, others to despair. 

Transport info

There are daily flights from İstanbul to Nevşehir and Kayseri airports, as well as overnight buses to Nevşehir with onward transfers. 

Hourly buses link Avanos with Çavuşin, Göreme and Ürgüp. Half-hourly buses link it to Nevşehir.

Travel agencies

Kirkit Voyage. Tel: 0384-511 3259

Day trip destinations

Çavuşin

Göreme

Kayseri

Nevşehir

Paşabağ

Özkonak

Sarıhıdır

Ürgüp

Zelve

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-207045-avanos-ceramics-capital-of-cappadocia.html

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