Cleaning is never much fun in Cappadocia where dust is the bane of our lives, but this year the task was made even worse by the damage caused by the harsh winter. Everywhere I look my walls are slowly peeling away, covering the floorboards with a sprinkling of what looks like the topping for an apple crumble. Damp has rotted an old sandık (dowry box). An old spinning wheel has shed its spokes. Most of the twigs that protect the walls against frost have fallen down.
It’s all a bit demoralizing. On the other hand the process of restoring cleanliness and order soon had me rummaging through my memories. There on the bedroom wall was a pair of the padded jackets that Turkish women used to wear in winter, one found in İzmir, the other here in Göreme. There on the terrace hung a strange boat-like pair of shoes picked up on a solitary visit to Hakkari. And there was a small goat hair rug that had somehow fetched up in Ürgüp from Siirt in the east.
The bathroom walls were adorned with several pairs of colorful woolen socks. One pair came from Tokat via a hamam in Ürgüp that had started life as a church. Another came from Ayder in the Kaçkar foothills. Then my eyes alerted on a third pair, and at once I was back in a village in the Assos hinterland amid the crazy antics that ensued once word leaked out of a foreign woman in search of socks.
I’d been taken there by an Assos hotelier who was going to deliver some photographs from an American card-weaving researcher. “Want to come with me?” she asked, and off we set, bumping along the rough road that led there through some truly idyllic scenery.
In the village we headed for a house so simply set up that it was obvious that its occupants, while settled now, had come from a nomadic background. A primitive loom, little more than planks tied together, stood against one wall, while against another bolsters and quilts were piled high. All was calm until the word “socks” was uttered. Then as if by magic, women started pouring into the house brandishing their maroon and white handiwork. Soon I was pinned up against the wall as sock after identical sock was thrust under my nose. Finally the furious house owner opened the door, threw her neighbors’ offerings out into the dust, then locked the door behind them as they ran to retrieve them.
“Open that door,” I ordered. “Or I won’t buy any socks from anyone.”
Shocked, the hotelier and I beat a hasty retreat to her car. As we drove off, in the rear view mirror we glimpsed women yelling at each other, pushing each other and generally behaving like children in a school playground. The house owner herself whipped down a side road to cut us off at the pass and show off her own knitting. Relieved of the pressure, I agreed to buy two pairs of socks although somehow I also ended up with a pair of linen-like bloomers patterned in navy and maroon. They’re all still hanging on the walls, vivid reminders of a mind-boggling encounter.
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.