PAT – In the village of Green Tower

In the village of Green TowerFrom time to time when I’m wandering around the countryside, the name of a place about which I’ve never heard anything will suddenly crop up with astonishing regularity. So it was when I decided to hang out in NiIde for a few days and people kept talking about an elusive place called YeIilbur (Green Tower).

It was obvious that I needed to go there. The question was how since there was absolutely no sign of a YeIilbur minibus at the bus terminal.

Eventually, after an awful lot of asking around, I managed to find a minibus that regularly bore passengers uphill to reach it. It was lurking amid a collection of houses and offices.

I have absolutely no idea how a non-Turkish speaker would have been able to find it.The minibus driver reacted to me boarding his bus with much the sort of horror he might have shown had I been a passing Martian.

Nothing would persuade him that I could speak Turkish and that he didn’t need to resort to sign language. On arrival in YeIilbur, he was insistent that I must call on the muhtar (village headman) immediately.

Giving that aice a wide berth, I instead waylaid a smart-looking middle-aged man of the sort who can usually be relied upon to know what’s what. “I’m looking for the old church,” I said to him “I think it’s being used as a mosque now.

”“One minute,” he said. “Let me drop off this package and then I’ll walk down with you.

I was going that way anyway.” As we walk, he starts talking apropos of nothing that I’ve said.

“My grandparents came from Salonika [Thessaloniki],” he said. “They spoke only Greek.

”“Did you speak Greek at home as a child, then?” I asked, realizing that he must be a descendant of some of the people forcibly relocated during the Greco-Turkish population exchange of 1923. “Yes,” he said.

“And at first when I went to school it was very hard. I couldn’t understand anything.

But then I learned Turkish and it was fine.”We’ve arrived at the large 19th-century church, which has indeed been converted into a mosque but one whose imam doesn’t want stray visitors wandering in unannounced.

The outside gate is padlocked, which makes it impossible even to inspect the outside of the building properly although no one could miss the conspicuous bell tower from which a tree is growing, no doubt guaranteeing that it won’t be around for much longerI wander round behind the church and find myself looking out over a spectacular gorge filled with greenery, presumably the reason why everyone speaks so warmly of the village. Then a woman chatting to a neighbor across the gate spots me and calls out to learn where I’m from“What a lovely valley!” I say.

“Yes, but there’s no water there now. There should be water running along the bottom,” she says.

“Even the water behind the dam is very low.” I make what I hope are suitably sympathetic noises and she rushes into her garden and comes back with a little bottle of water taken from her well.

“Here,” she says. “The people from NiIde come up here for the water, it’s so good.

”Thus stocked up, I set off to walk back downhill to NiIde. It’s only four kilometers and this way at least I can spare the bus driver any more consternation.

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Greme, Cappadocia.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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