PAT – Running around AktaI

Running around AktaIWhen I arrived to explore the NiIde area last week, the only frescoed church I’d heard anything about was the one in the monastery at Eski GumuIler Fortunately, the NiIde authorities are currently having a blitz on promoting tourism Resting on a shelf in my hotel lay a fine brochure containing some beautiful and unexpected photographs. The one that most caught my eye was the one that showed a stone-built church in a place called Eski Andavil.

I knew absolutely nothing about it, but if the picture was anything to go by, its walls appeared to be just as densely covered in frescoes as those of Eski GumuIlerAktaI, said the text, so in the morning I headed straight out to NiIde’s dismal local bus station, on which not one kuruI can have been spent since it was first built, and boarded the bus for AktaI.In front of the local teahouse, the group of elderly men whiling the day away in the sun were somewhat taken aback to have a foreign female descend on them asking directions to Eski Andavil.

I waved the photograph in front of them “Oh no, you’ve gone wrong. You need the Yeni Mahalle,” one of them told me.

“It’s four kilometers back the way you came.”It was 12:20 pm There wouldn’t be a bus back that way for another 40 minutes, just long enough to take a quick look round whatever attractions this part of the village might have had.

Off I went, startling a falcon into flight as I peered down on a stone quarry and skirting a farmyard very gingerly after spotting a dog in the yard. A much newer church, erected in 1842, had been turned into a mosque, but the door was firmly locked against visitors.

I returned to the teahouse. It was 12:45 pm “There are two small churches up there in the rocks,” a man told me.

“You went the wrong way.”Oh no! Off I bolted to take a quick look, and in my wake came a man who was probably the local historian and wanted to tell me a story involving a bluish-colored stone.

Just as he was getting into his stride I heard the shrill shriek of the bus starting off on its return journey.“Sorry” I yelled as I ran down the slope and leapt aboard.

In the Yeni Mahalle, the ruins of a rare stone-built sixth-century church stood protected by a metal shelter behind a fence that allowed me only tantalizing glimpses of the magnificent probably 11th-century frescoes on its walls. Right next door was a primary school.

Wandering over in the vague hope that perhaps the teacher might have a key to the church, I stepped carefully over the sad remains of a tortoise that had been crushed by a passing lorry, its innards collected in a pathetic puddle on the tarmac. Bearing in mind the children who might have had to look at it, I tried to steel myself to move the body out of sight.

I’m ashamed to admit that I couldn’t make myself do it.Of course there was no key to be found in the school, although there was tea and camaraderie with the local English teacher There were just 50 children in the school, she told me.

Then I heard the shriek of the local bus about to head back to NiIde. “Sorry” I yelled as I raced away again.

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-church in Greme in Cappadocia.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman