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YUVACALI

Turkey's best village home-stay                  Population: 400

DSC09641As you whip through the countryside on the way from one big tourist centre to another have you ever wondered about life in the villages along the way?

Although some 75% of the Turkish population now lives in towns there’s still a sizeable section that continues a traditional lifestyle in villages, some of them with very rudimentary facilities.

For most visitors, however, the villagers are completely invisible. When they do make it into a village it’s usually in somewhere such as Cappadocia where long years of exposure to tourism have made a huge difference to local life.

Thank heavens, then, for a home-stay project way out east in Yuvacalı, a small Kurdish village near Hilvan, itself a small town close to the vast Atatürk lake.

Tourism is very new to Yuvacalı, a village that boasts around 100 households, most of them living on the proceeds of subsistence farming topped up with remittances sent home by male members of the family who work in Marmaris during the summer.

Visitors to the village can now stay with a family living in a house right beside a huge settlement mound that will remind many British visitors of the mysterious Silbury Hill in Wiltshire.

“Home-stay” is one of those terms much tossed about by those in the tourism industry but which may not mean a great deal to those outside it. Basically, the idea is that instead of putting up in a hotel or pension you stay with a local family and join in with their life in an attempt to discover the “real” country.

By their very nature home-stays are vary considerably, but what makes Yuvacalı such a stand-out is that it’s a thoroughly authentic experience with, as yet, almost no concessions made to outsiders (women visitors are asked to wear a long skirt).

At the same time visitors are supported throughout their stay by Alison and Ömer Tanık of Nomad Tours whose presence eases any possible linguistic problems and ensures that you will be able to ask all the questions you want to make the most of your experience.

What to expect 

DSC09589Turkey is justly famous for its wonderful hospitality, which is on display in all its splendour in Yuvacalı. You may have to sleep under a quilt and mosquito net on the roof and pad down a tricky flight of stairs and across the courtyard to the outdoor toilet, but you will be so speedily wrapped in the warm embrace of the host family that these will seem mild discomforts, more than compensated for by the chance to share in village life at first hand and sample the wonderful flavours of local food.

Pepper for breakfast, anyone? You may or may not want to share in this particular local tradition, but the spread of delectable home-made bread, cheese, yoghurt and jam will go down a treat with everyone, as will the big evening meals, always eaten sitting on the ground en famille with everyone dipping into the same big dishes.

What is there to do on a home-stay?

Here as everywhere rural life kicks off at first light and guests are welcome to rise with the larks and watch their hostess baking enough bread to get the family through the day. Then after breakfast you can try your hand at milking the sheep, which is not necessarily as easy as you might assume.DSC09619

After that you have a choice of possibilities. Yuvacalı’s location means that it’s actually possible to make a day trip to Nemrut Dağı to view the Commagenian heads high up on the mountain that are a fixture on most itineraries of Eastern Turkey. You get there by one of the most scenic routes imaginable, driving up to Siverek and then catching a ferry across the lake before proceeding to Kahta on the other side.

Alternatively, you can make a day trip to Şanlıurfa to view the sacred carp pool and the cave in which the Prophet İbrahim is believed to have been born.

In both cases, after a full day’s sightseeing you’ll still be back in time to share the evening meal with your hosts.

But to really make the most of what Yuvacalı has to offer it may be best to drop all preconceptions of traditional tourism, and instead take advantage of the chance to chill out and sample life in the slow lane.

Home-staying is inevitably a tailor-made type of tourism, and here you can do as much or as little as you want to. Fancy sitting on the terrace all day with a book? Then that will be fine provided you don’t mind a few chickens and cats ambling across your path. Want to find out more about how the village ticks? Then why not ask to take a look at the village primary and pre- schools, both the beneficiaries of donations from recent visitors.DSC09605

The soaring settlement mound is also a reminder that this is a part of the world that was much more densely populated in prehistory, and if you venture into the surrounding countryside you may be astonished at the clues to a forgotten past scattered about in the fields. Just a short drive away from the village, for example, you will be able to see what looks like a vast stone circle but may in fact be the boundary markers for an Iron Age hill fort. Since excavations are yet to take place your guess is likely to be as good as the next visiting archaeologist’s.
 
You can also visit the hilltop shrine of Hacı Ömer, a site with a fascinating backstory. Today’s local residents may all be Muslims, but their distant ancestors appear to have been Yezidis, or fire-worshippers, for whom Wednesday was the most important day of the week. Until very recently locals used to converge on this hillside on the Wednesday that marked the start of spring to make sacrifices. The “tomb” on the site turns out to be empty, suggesting that it was put there mainly in an effort to exorcize memories of an outmoded religion.
 
With its lack of public transport or even a postal service, Yuvacalı may already feel like the end of the world to most urbanites, but there are villages around here that are even more remote and cut off.
 
Take Goli, for example, which can be reached via a long, rough road, and is home to just two extended families. Piped water only arrived here in 2007 before which local women had to haul water from a deep well. Proper toilets are also a novelty. This is another place to snooze the day away with the locals, although if the heat isn’t too debilitating you might like to let someone show you vague traces of what they say was once an Armenian church.
 

DSC09635As the evening draws in and the cows and sheep wander back from the pastures, you can undertake an archaeological walk around the village, spotting traces of stone buildings that must once have gloried in mosaic floors to judge by the white tesserae littering the ground.

At the end of the walk you climb up onto the settlement mound and look down on the village as it prepares for the night. It’s a world away from the tourism most people associate with Turkey, but you’ll come away from your visit with a much more rounded view of the country than the beach bunnies.DSC09637

Read the full article: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-215035-a-visit-to-yuvacali----another-face-to-tourism.html

Details

Nomad Tours (www.nomadtoursturkey.com, Tel: 0533-747 1850) can arrange a home-stay in Yuvacalı as well as sorting out onward travel arrangements for you.

Transport info

Buses heading to Diyarbakır from Gaziantep and Sanlıurfa pass through Hilvan where you can arrange to be picked up.DSC09649

Day trip destinations 

Göbeklitepe

Harran

Nemrut Dagı

Şanlıurfa

Soğmater

Suayib Şehri

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