Pottery is not exactly unique to any one part of the world – many cultures on this planet developed their own version of the art. However, what I find interesting is how it differs from each country, region, and even group of people. If you are a fan of pottery, when you visit Cappadocia you will need to visit the town of Avanos which lies about 8km from Goreme. It is considered to be the centre of clay pottery in Turkey.
The river that runs through Avanos is called Kizilirmak, which means Red River. Since the Hittite period (as far back as 2000BCE), people in the area have made good use of the red clay found along the river’s banks. Of course, the original use of pottery was for daily life things like wine holders, bowls, and plates. Today, though, the repertoire has expanded to satisfy the demand created by tourism. As such, many of the things for sale are mostly decorative but one can still buy beautiful AND useful pieces.
In a visit to Avanos, you should look out for one of the many pottery workshop tours available. A great number of these workshops are still family run and if you’re lucky, you’ll find one that has its workshop in one of the ubiquitous caves that makes Cappadocia famous. A tour will generally include a pottery making demonstration.
The one I saw was a demo of a jug with a handle – incredibly enough, the man who did the demonstration only took about five minutes to make it. And not only did he make the jug, but he did so the traditional way – a foot-driven wheel. I can only imagine the leg muscle needed for this…I was exhausted just watching! Basically, the guy takes a lump of clay, places it on the wheel, kicks it to get it spinning, and then molds the clay into whatever shape he wants. And to drive home the point how much skill and expertise is actually necessary, they ask a tourist to try their hand at it. It can be quite amusing to watch people come up with some rather…interesting… things. I saw one lady inadvertently make something rather risqué which set every to giggling.
After the demonstration, you’ll be shown to the display room where you can spend quite a long time just wandering around admiring the beautiful works of art. The sheer number of items available for purchase is astonishing especially considering it is all handmade. The intricate designs and the bright rainbow of colours displayed are amazing. Choosing a piece or two for your own can be quite the difficult task! There will be things ranging from the usual bowls and vases to chess sets and giant wall art pieces. As I was backpacking, I only bought small pieces but if a large piece strikes your fancy, they should have shipping arrangements.
You can combine your time in Avanos with an evening of Whirling Dervishes. About 3km from town, there is a 13th Seljuk caravanserai called Sarihan. This fantastic building is the home of whirling dervish ceremonies today. Well worth a look.