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June 20, 2012, Wednesday

The shock of the new

I’ve written before about the anxiety that often overcomes me when I’m about to return to Göreme from a trip away from home, and this time, having been away for seven weeks, I was especially nervous since friends had emailed me in a warning kind of way about a line of metal poles that had taken root in front of my house.

They were supposed to form part of a fence that would be completed by stringing ropes between them. Ugly, they said. Oh dear, they said. A photo whizzed its way to me. They didn’t look like something I was going to love.

In the taxi pulling out of the bus station I was already filled with apprehension that turned instead into appalled horror as we rounded the corner and took the road that runs between our two main teahouses. Suddenly what looked like curtains of white fairy lights were hanging down over the dry water channel. Sinking my head into my hands, I wanted to ask why, except that sometimes there doesn’t even seem much point in framing the question. Göreme is supposed to be a beauty spot in a national park, the kind of place that attracts visitors in search of natural beauty, the kind of people, in fact, who are most likely to question electricity wasted on unnecessary lighting at a time when we’re all meant to be focusing on ways to cut back consumption to reduce the danger of global warming.

The next day a friend hit the nail on the head. “What we’re selling is this,” he said waving an arm at the scenery, and he’s quite right. Cappadocia is about a dream of natural beauty entwined with man-made history. It emphatically isn’t about excessive signs, excessive lighting and concrete everywhere.

By the time we got to my house I was too het up to care much about the metal posts which, in any case, it was too dark to see properly. In bed that night I thought about them though. In the old days of just a few years ago, the only people who used the path in front of my house were myself, my neighbors and the occasional builder. None of us was likely to have been drinking alcohol, so none of us was really very likely to fall over the edge of the path which drops away steeply to the road. But now with hotels on either side of me I can see how someone unfamiliar with the terrain could step out in the dark after a few beers and have a very nasty accident. The poles on their own wouldn’t break their fall. Nor would hanging ropes between them do the trick. Something sturdier would surely be needed.

In the morning I talked it over with a friend who came up with a simple solution, namely a line of the sort of stone flower containers that are fashionable around here anywhere. These would be solid enough to break anyone’s fall but would also look attractive and fit into people’s photographs nicely.

Fortunately, I then heard about a good change that had taken place. The outsized advertising screen that had appeared in the heart of the village last year has apparently gone dark. For good? One can only hope so.

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

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