Mustafapasa

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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.

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TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Dolmuş make the 6km run from Ürgüp’s otogar to Mustafapaşa (9 per day; M-F 8:15am-6:15pm, return 7:45am-5:45pm; $.65 each way). Dolmuş stop in Mustafapaşa’s square, where a shop labeled “Information” sells postcards and trinkets while doubling as I he tourist office. (Open daily June-Aug. 8:30am-7pm; closed in winter.) On the wall to the left of the door, an imaginatively scaled diagram (be sure to read the labeled distances) indicates the location of the closest sites. Alternatively, walk uphill from the town square and turn left to reach the small, outdoor wooden cabin for Tourist Information and keys to the locked churches (see Sights, below). In medical emergencies, call the Sağlık Ocağı clinic in nearby Ürgüp (343 33 64). Around the comer from the tourist office, take the path to the left for the PTT. (Open M-F 8am- 12:30pm and l:30-5:30pm; Sa 8am-12:30pm.)

Postal code: 5042

ACCOMMODATIONS

Hotel Pasha, a former Greek mansion, has a beautiful terrace restaurant, with kilims, a fireplace, couches, and a bar. The family-run hotel serves a superb home-cooked, five-course dinner for $5.50. (358 50 04; fax 353 53 31. 11 rooms. Breakfast included. $10 per person.) Monastery Pension  downhill and to the left from the dolmuş stop, was once a Greek monastery. The cave bar, complete with disco ball, supplies the only nightlife in Mustafapaşa. (353 50 05; fax 353 53 44; monas. Breakfast included. 13 rooms. $6 per person.) Restful, accommodating Hotel Cavit offers 10 clean rooms and a vine-covered terrace for fabulous Turkish breakfasts. (353 51 86. Breakfast included. $9.70 per person.) The massive Hotel Sinassos 0 provides affordable opulence. A breathtaking restau¬rant, disco ball, and swanky reception area spell luxury. Large, comfortable rooms with private bath. (353 54 34 or 353 51 26. $15 per person.) Paşa Camping , next door to Aios Vasilyos church, boasts bathrooms, shower facilities, and a makeshift disco. (353 50 18. $1 per person, $1 per tent, $6 per caravan.)

SIGHTS

 In addition to the various tours that stop here, Ozgur at Hotel Pacha leads hikes around Mustafapaşa’s beautiful valleys. The town’s most stunning sight is the Gömede Valley, whose entrance is a mostly uphill 2km hike from the center of town. Few pains have been taken to make it accessible to hikers; after climbing the cobblestone road from town, turn right onto the dirt path and wralk to a paved road. Follow the steep downhill trail (by the water dispenser) to the bottom and up again, then turn right on a dirt path. The valley hike is a moderately difficult 71cm trek past pigeon houses and abandoned cave dwellings. On the way, you may see the 1200-year-old Kara Ala Kilise (Black and White Church), named for the striking contrast of its frescoes. You can also explore the more spacious Tavşanlı Kilise and the recently discovered Kimistavros Kilise, whose ceilings are carved with 1100-year-old crosses. (Gömede Valley open daily 8am-6:30pm; in winter 8am-5pm. $1.50.) If the valley hike hasn’t tired you out, the mountainside cave dwellings of Golgoll make another great hiking or driving destination for skilled or

4×4 drivers only. For Golgoli, follow the dirt road that begins at the end of town beyond Monastery Pension; the hike takes approximately 2hr.

Access to Mustafapaşa’s two most famous churches requires a key from Tourist Information and a preposterous fee of $7.30. Northwest of the» old fountain in the square, a gravel road leads downhill 1km past the Paşa Restaurant to the 7th-century Byzantine Aios Vasilyos Church. The visible portion of Aios Vasilyos is an uninspiring stone cubicle the size of a closet, but two flights of stone stairs lead down to a magnificent subterranean church. Because it’s carved into the side of the valley, windows let in enough daylight to illuminate some of the frescoes. One such window, the only one accessible from the ground, served as a sentry post: the church could be sealed off by rolling an enormous boulder in front of it. Closer to town, 50m downhill from the town square, the exterior of Aios Costantlnos-Heleni Church is more impressive than its barren inside.

Much closer to the center of town is Monastery Valley, featuring the Aios Stephanos Kilise, Aios Nikalaos Kilise, and the Sinasos Kilise. The hike itself is just a few kilometers, though without arranged transportation you’ll probably have to hike out and back to the entrance. For a taste of regional flavor, tiy the Şarap Farbrikasi winery, where you can take a free tour and sample local wines.

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