Suitcase and World: Mustafapaşa.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


he alarm on my cell phone rang at 9:30am. I had a hour to get ready before I had to meet up with Zeki at the coffee shop. He was going to be bringing me my rugs and I had to pay him. It was another 2 hours over coffee before we finally sealed the sales. Zeki then went off to get a car so we could go see the sights around the area. By the time we headed out, it was close to noon. It's been late starts each day for me - no need to rush :-)

It was a beautiful day today – fall weather with bright blue skies and fluffy white clouds. We headed down the road towards Ürgüp and one by one, we passed sights that I had already seen previously. Skipping all the fairy chimneys, we headed for the town of Mustafapaşa ("moos-tah-fah-pah-shah") which was, in years past, a predominatly Greek Ottoman settlement. Called Sinasos ("see-nah-sohs") by its Ottoman Greek residents, it is still called that today by many local people.

The homes in Mustafapaşa cling to the hillsides to Zeki had to carefully and slowly maneuver the car down r-e-a-l-l-y steep, narrow and windy cobblestone streets. The architecture of the buildings here is vastly different than what you would find in the surrounding areas – more Greek than Turkish in feel – lots of ornately decorated stone carved houses. Unfortunately, most of it is in a bad state of crumbling.

Today, Mustafapaşa is a small university town so you students wandering around here and there. Aside from that, there’s not much in the way of commercial establishments. The town itself looks a bit rundown but if you look beyond the crumble, you see signs of what was once what I imagine was a quaint town back in its heyday.

Along the way, we picked up one of Zeki’s guides who directed us to two stone churches – constructed into the rocky landscape similar to what you find in the Göreme Open Air Museum. The major difference is that these are not nearly as well preserved as those in Göreme most likely because far fewer tourists come here. Hopefully, someday someone will take the time, effort and money to restore them – if nothing else to remove the graffiti from the walls.

Zeki pulled off the main road onto an unpaved road which leads to the Monastery Valley. He parked the car and we walked for a short distance to the first church – Ayos Stefonos (St. Stephens). A very, very modest stone church with barely any frescoes.

Further up the road we came across Ayos Nikolas (St. Nicholas). Vastly larger than any of the other stone churches I’ve been to in Cappadocia, its unique feature is a black domed ceiling. Outside the church are the remnants of a small garden and a cemetery.

Although it was a short visit to the churches, it was a beautiful day to stroll in the Cappadocian countryside.

Back in the car, I asked Zeki to drive around to the town so I see more of it - especially the back streets. He ended up taking me to see a few of old homes that people have bought and are starting to restore – some as pensions and hotels and others as dining establishments. In fact, we had lunch at a restored home that the owner is refurbishing as both a hotel and a restaurant.

By the way, lunch was typical Turkish tourist fare - not unappetizing but I've had enough meals. I've made a note to tell Zeki to take me off the beaten path for our next dining experience.

A place off the beaten path, Mustafapaşa is worth a visit if you come to this part of the world. There seems to be a lot of real estate development work going and it's impossible to know where it will take Mustafapaşa but hopefully, it will help improve the lives of its residents and at the same time preserve the cultural heritage of this region.