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February 18, 2013, Monday

Pomegranate village (1)

I think it's probably fair to say that users of public transport don't feature very highly in the list of priorities with the movers and shakers of Nevşehir, our provincial capital. I don't say this just because the new bus station is way out in the middle of nowhere -- that, after all, is a feature of public transport countrywide these days. No, I say it because this week I decided to pay a visit to Nar, the once small village a couple of kilometers away from Nevşehir that these days struggles to retain any kind of separate existence as high-rise housing blocks increasingly fill in the space between the two settlements.

It's not that there aren't plenty of dolmuşes to Nar (which means pomegranate in Turkish even though there's precious little sign of such a fruit in a village whose emblem is instead a giant bunch of black grapes). No, the service runs like clockwork every 20 minutes. The problem is where you have to wait for it since Nevşehir lacks one of those desirable köy garajs (village bus stations) where all the local transport is handily collected together in a place providing somewhere to sit down, shelter from the weather and even, perhaps, the chance of a nice cup of tea.

Instead we have to wait at the Meteris Kavsağı, an ugly mess of a crossroads where the only seats provided are for passengers traveling east to Göreme and Avanos. Even those are made of cold, hard metal and placed in a location which in summer is way too hot and in winter way too cold. As for the Nar folks, forget it. They must stand on a narrow stretch of pavement with no kind of shelter from the elements at all. The board listing the times of the bus services says it all really. Made of metal, it looks as if it's been nailed to the wall since the declaration of the republic, and certainly for so long that the bottom part has started to curl up in despair.

Nar itself, when I got there, turned out to be a pleasant place, sleepy and quiet, a world away from Nevşehir even though the Forum Shopping Center now dominates many of the views. But like so many of the Cappadocian villages that missed the tourism boat, its population is in sharp decline with many of its residents long since moved into Nevşehir. To walk round the Asağı Mahalle (Lower Neighborhood), where most of the old cave-houses were, is to walk amid ruins with modern houses inserted into the spaces in between them. It's impossible to escape the thought that this is what Göreme might have been like had it not made such a success out of tourism.

And why had I come to Nar, a place that hardly tops most people's itineraries? Well, I was in pursuit of one of the first expats to settle in Cappadocia. Joyce Roper was a British woman, a disillusioned art teacher who moved to Nar and lived there for three years at the start of the 1970s, writing a book about her experiences, “The Women of Nar,” which provides a poignant reminder of not just the old residents but also of a way of life now on its very last legs. (to be continued)

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

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