[email protected]

June 04, 2012, Monday

A Nevşehirli in Çanakkale

Last Friday I was poking about in the back streets of Kilitbahir opposite Çanakkale.

It was a lovely sunny day after a week of what had seemed like never-ending rain and I was at my happiest, peering along roads that still retained their original cobblestones at the last fragile wooden houses more or less held together by sheets of metal, staring out over the perfect blue of the Dardanelles, then pausing to inspect the last of the neighborhood çeşmes (fountains) where local women would once have gathered to collect water before they all got plumbed-in kitchens.

Then the phone rang and I was temporarily distracted by a sad saga unfolding further south in Manisa, near Gördes, to which one of my Göreme friends recently moved. She had gone shopping there with other friends but as they were returning the sound of a cat became audible inside the car. A search revealed that a small cat had climbed inside the engine, presumably in an attempt to escape the sudden heat, but now it was so terrified that it was impossible to get it out. “We’re going to call the fire brigade,” my friend said and we both laughed since in our childhoods in the UK calling the fire brigade out to rescue cats stuck up trees was a standard joke scenario.

Time passed and I progressed up a hill to inspect the tomb of Cahidi Sultan, a 17th-century scholar who founded the Cahidiyye sect. The view from the adjacent graveyard was so breathtaking that I briefly forgot about what was happening in Manisa. Then the phone rang again. The fire brigade had indeed arrived but my friend was very twitchy since they were attempting to remove the cat right beside a busy main road. She rang off again and I ambled back down the hill and along the road towards the unexceptional-looking Fatih Cami where I came to a standstill beside an unexpectedly impressive fountain of the type that would have seemed more at home near İstanbul’s Dolmabahçe Palace than here in the back of beyond.

Then the phone rang again. “Not a good end,” my friend reported. The firemen had managed to get the cat out, but it had run straight out into the road and under a car. “At least it was quick,” she said sadly.

I blinked back an automatic futile tear of distress for an animal I hadn’t even seen, then looked again at the fountain. It really was unusually beautiful. Slowly I ambled round to the side to read the information about its age -- and then did a double-take, because here I was, in Kilitbahir, staring at a work that had been commissioned by the very same Damat İbrahim Paşa of Nevşehir, the tulip-loving grand vizier and son-in-law of Sultan Ahmed III, about whom I seem to be writing endlessly lately. Apparently he had ordered its construction in 1722 when perhaps he too had come here to look at the shrine.

Hmm. Could it be, I wonder, that I’ve missed my vocation? Could it be that instead of roaming around the country visiting hotels I should be buckling down to learning Ottoman Turkish so that I could sit in the archives and compile a biography of Nevşehir’s leading man? I suppose it’s never too late for a change of plan.

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.

Previous articles of the columnist