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CAPPADOCIA / Mustafapaşa (Sinassos)

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In the strange and wonderful landscape of Cappadocia is the old, tranquil and picturesque sinassos1.jpg (13080 bytes)town of Mustafapaşa 5 km from Ürgüp. Known formerly as Sinassos, this is a small town of 2500 inhabitants where originally Turks and Greeks lived side by side, and the sound of church bells mingled with the call to prayer from the mosque. The road to Mustafapaşa winds through a green valley watered by many tiny streams and is lined by rustling poplars. The old houses of the town nestle at the foot of Golgoli, a high hill of Cappadocia’s yellow volcanic rock. As you enter the central square you encounter a magnificent building on the left. This is Sinassos Hotel, originally the private residence of an Anatolian Greek who owned shops in Istanbul’s Fish Market and had this house built in 1892. Further along the road leading off the square is Şakir Paşa Medrese, an Ottoman period university college with an intricately carved portal now housing a traditional carpet centre. It was constructed in the 19th century by Mısırlı Şakir Paşa to educate the sons of Turkish families in the town. Adjoining the medrese are two houses with large courtyards dating from the beginning of this century. Over the gate of one is the date, 1900, and the name of the owner. Opposite Şakir Paşa Medrese is the Aşagı Mosque, formerly known as Camii Kebir, dating from 1600, although the portico and one minaret are recent additions. The old minaret is in Seljuk style, in interesting contrast to the new minaret.

Mustafapaşa was given tourism site status in 1981, and the 93 traditional stone houses in the town dating from the late 19th and early 20th century are under conservation order and awaiting restoration. Passing several of these brings you to a second square, on which stands the Church of Constantine and sinassos2.jpg (21428 bytes)Helen, one of the town’s foremost monuments. It is dedicated to Constantine the Great and his empress, Helena. The frescos date from 1895 and were executed by a Greek artist named Kostis Meletyades who had been trained in Venice. Seated at tables on the pavement outside the cafés around the square, elderly men sip their tea as they play backgammon or watch the visitors to the town with curiosity and smile in greeting. Another old building on the square houses the local library, and next to that is the Taş Fırın bakery of Mustafapaşa whose bread is famed throughout Cappadocia. The town is surrounded by apricot, apple and pear orchards, and vineyards. Wine production is a major part of the local economy, and there are two wine factories with a total output of around 600 tons per year, all of which is sold to local hotels and restaurants. As well as wine, the small black grapes of the region are used to make pekmez, or grape treacle. When autumn comes the local women tuck up the legs of their baggy şalvar and set about the task of making pekmez for the winter. The technique is the same as that used by the Hittites thousands of years before! The grapes are heaped into shallow stone pits and the women tread barefoot on them to crush out the juice, which is then siphoned off into huge cauldrons placed on wood fires in the garden. The people of Mustafapaşa are friendly to strangers and always ready for a chat or to invite them into their homes. Two of the oldest inhabitants of the town, Şabat Topuz and Süleyman Temur, are delighted to find listeners for their ancient local tales. The houses built of the soft local stone are cool in summer and warm in winter. Some are now run as guest houses or small hotels. The hills around are filled with Byzantine rock churches, chapels and monasteries. In the Gömede valley are the churches of St. Steven and St. Basil, and 2 kilometres away is the Church of St. Nicholas. Another church of St. Basil in a nearby valley is a three story rock church whose interior is decorated with frescos depicting scenes from the bible. So if you plan a holiday in Cappadocia, do not miss visiting Mustafapaşa, or perhaps make it your base for touring this fascinating region of Central Turkey.

Written by Turgay Tuna
Photographs by Ali Borovalı

Skylife 09/98

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