The banks of the nearby wine-colored Kızılırmak, Turkey’s longest river, have been providing the potters of Avanos with red, iron-rich clay for centuries. Roughly 100 workshops crowd the area, especially in the cobblestoned Old Town. With workshop signs emblazoned with names like “Chez İsmail,” “Chez Barış,” “Chez Celebi,” and, alarmingly, “Chez Rambo,” the town clearly caters to its many foreign visitors. Watch the potters at work or try your own hand at the giant, foot- powered wheels. If clay is your thing, Avanos is close to Cappadocia’s major tourist centers as a daytrip, and vibrant and distinct enough for an extended visit.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
To get to Avanos, take the Ürgüp-Göreme-Çavuşin-Zelve-Avanos dolmuş (departs Ürgüp M-F every 2hr. 9am-5pm, $.80) or the Göreme-Belediye buses (M-F, every 30min. 8am-7pm, $.30). Both stop at the otogar. For more transportation information, see Cappadocia: Transportation, p. 339. The tourist office is across the river from the otogar. Take a right after crossing the bridge into town and walk 100m. (511 43 60. Open M-F 8am-noon and l:30-5:30pm; closes at 5pm in winter.) Just after the bridge, an uphill stone path on the left leads to the well-marked Old Town, where most of the ceramics studios and a few of the pensions and cafes can be found.
The town square, past the tourist office, is marked by several statues (the town’s Atatürk monument is on a nearby comer). Kirkit Voyages (511 32 59, 511 54 40, or 511 45 42; fax 511 21 35;), across from the tourist office, specializes in guided horse tours (2hr. tour $8; half-day tour $24; 10-day camping trips) and rents mountain bikes ($20 per day). The Alaaddin Hamam ( 511 50 38), a block to the left after you cross the bridge, is one of Cappadocia’s better-equipped bath houses, with a cold, marble “shock pool” for a pre-steam dip. (Open daily 8am-2am; $8.) The PTT is just past the square. (Open daily 8am-5:30pm.)
Postal code: 50500
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD
On the road from the bridge to the town center, you will see signs on the left for Vanessa Pansiyon , where Mukremin, the super-friendly and energetic owner, will give you a tour of the underground city that he is excavating below his pension. Above ground, there are small but comfy rooms, and a kilim-ed terrace with two telescopes through which you can see all the way to the Uçhisar Castle. Mukremin’s record collection and “ethnography collection” of old keys, pots, and other artifacts keep guests busy. (511 38 40. $10 per person.) Kirkit Pension O offers lodgings in a restored Ottoman stone house behind Kirkit Voyages. The friendly, multilingual owner holds BBQs with live Turkish music when there are enough guests. ( 51131 48 or 51132 59; fax 511 21 35. $7 per person; $9 per person with shower and breakfast.) On the bank of the Kızılırmak, behind the Ziraat Bankası and next to the mosque, Mesut Camping and Restaurant (511 35 45) charges $5 per tent.
Atatürk Cad. is full of fine restaurants in both the Old and New Town. The Sarıkaya dining experience includes “Turkish banquets,” folklore narrations, music, and dancing, all in a massive restaurant carved into a hillside cave. (Fixed menu; $12 per person.) The Köşk Mantı Evi , next to Kirkit Voyages, specializes in mantı (Turkish ravioli, $3) and showcases traditional Turkish music in a cozy cave atmosphere. Town favorite Tuvanna Restaurant (511 44 97; fax 511 26 32) serves Italian-style pizza ($2.50) and spaghetti meals ($3-4), along with an assortment of Turkish cuisine. It’s also one of the few places you’ll find a 11 non-Turkish toilet while wandering the streets of Avanos, so have a seat. Many small, decent kafeteriya line the river. After dark, tourists and locals alike duck into the Kervan- han, in the Old Town near the square. The DJ plays Turk pop and belly-dancing music until 4am. (Beer $3; rakı $4.) Just up the street is the predominantly Turkish Labirent, offering more of the same. (Beer and rakı $3. Open until 4am.)
In the town square, a clay monument commemorates pottery and the other crafts that give Avanos its distinctive character. A trip to Avanos is not complete without a visit to Chez Galip and its quirky 11 hair museum, one block up from the town square. Let’s Go-wielding shoppers at the pottery studio can get raging discounts on the beautiful handiwork (consult Galip’s assistant). Nonconsumers can wander to the hair museum, perhaps the strangest sight in Cappadocia. This cavernous hall in the largest and most renowned of Avanos’s pottery shops has been set aside for Galip Körükçü’s collection of women’s hair. The collection, begun in 1979, now numbers over 100,000 locks and has an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. Each lock of hair is pinned to a wall or ceiling, giving the cavern an unsettling organic feel. Every year, ten locks are chosen, and their former owners are given a 2-week long paid vacation in Avanos, which includes pottery making, carpet weaving, and horseback riding. (511 42 40; fax 511 45 43)
Open daily 8:30am-9:30pm; in winter 8:30am-6pm.)