Tag Archives: Evliya Çelebi

Central Anatolian Trek, or Büyük Anadolu Tür: Part 4

Day Three. Tuesday, 19 August. Derinkuyu to west of Bağlama.
Contributed by Donna Landry

Donna on Titiz
Donna on Titiz

This morning some of the farmworkers’ children came to have a ride on the horses. The amiable Kelebek did sterling service as Ann led her round. We set off at 7:50, heading for new villages on the plain before planning to arrive somewhere in the foothills of the Melendiz range. When asking directions, we were headed towards Çiftlik, some 50 kilometres away. Wherever there are asphalt roads in Turkey, there is an assumption that travellers will want to make use of them. We had to keep asking for toprak yollar, dirt roads in American, assuring everybody we were in search of the old routes, the old ways and not the black-topped highways.

The first village today was very much an automotive stop near the highway, not very prepossessing in architecture or natural setting. Yet Ağacaşar was surprisingly welcoming. We watered the horses at a pump with a hose near a petrol station. Men gathered round to chat and help fill buckets for the horses to drink from. Boys on bicycles rode up. We said we were followers of Evliya Çelebi, taking to the road and following in his hoofprints to learn what we could from travelling as he had done. An old boy on a motorbike offered to escort us and show us the best way out-of-town to meet with a toprak yol. He was as good as his word, with the added advantage that he took us via his favourite teashop, where we could tether the horses and sit in the shade, drinking delicate little glasses of tea and checking in with the local men at their leisure. This was our first proper tea stop, one of the great pleasures of travelling in Turkey, especially by horse, which is indeed thirsty-making.

Soon we were on the road again, this time to Alay Köyu, which lay on the far side of many irrigated fields, some of yonca. We passed modern concrete houses that had been turned into farmsteads with chickens, geese, and beautiful cows. Once a heifer broke away from some women in a courtyard and bounded towards us, attracted by the horses. She was beautiful, a lovely pale pinky-brown with a dark nose like a Jersey cow, with a sweet expression of astonishment. She showed us her horns, then her heels, turning with a dash and bounding back towards the courtyard. Not far on, a herd of cattle, including a bull, turned and began crossing a field in our direction, gathering speed. The cowherd was quickly to the fore, however, and turned his cattle back, waving his stick and halloing. A few paces on, his dogs were lying at their ease in the shade.

At a small house by the track, a woman with a small boy came out and walked beside us, cautioning that there were pesticides in the fields and not to let the horses graze the verges there. Was this an omen of things to come?

A few fields later, men were cutting up the carcase of a cow they said had been poisoned by pesticides. We rode on, feeling uneasy at this accumulating evidence of modern agribusiness going wrong, or of people’s lack of understanding of how to make use of chemical pesticides, and no doubt, herbicides and fertilizers, safely. We came into Alay, heading for the main square, accompanied by the geese who often serve as early warning systems in villages without many dogs. The tea shop was in a modern range of low shops with a chemist, bordering a small green space lined with willows and poplars that provided some shade. Opposite it was the mosque, with a public lavatory that was spotlessly clean. Nearby were a stationers’ shop and two small restaurants. Soon a crowd had gathered to see the horses and Ercihan was in full public-speaking mode. He told them about Evliya, and how important it was for them to connect with their Ottoman equestrian heritage. Some questioned this, suggesting that where there were poverty and unemployment, there was a need for food on the table not Ottoman horse history. As our truck arrived with water buckets for the horses, so did an invitation from a restaurant owner to give us lunch. At the Alay Pide Salonu we feasted on wood-fired-oven roasted peppers, tomatoes, and chicken wings, kuşbaşılı pide (‘birds’ heads’ Turkish pizza, with small chopped morsels of meat), spicy ezme (salsa-like) and yoghurt, washed down with ayran, the yoghurt drink.

When the jandarma arrived to check our passports just as we were mounting up, they were, as usual, friendly and interested in the horses. But an unfortunate incident was about to occur. These things happen in Turkey, too.

After walking through Alay with the horses, we mounted up, escorted by kids on bicycles and dirt-bike scooters. There were muddy streets to cross, shambolic yards, modern concrete houses serving as smallholdings, sometimes with geese and other livestock. It was as if people had moved from their picturesque stone villages to this ugly modern and functionalist one, and many were now both landless and unemployed. The large gathering of young men hanging out near the tea shop suggested that prime minister, now president, Erdoğan’s advice to families to have at least three children was reaping its fruits.

With Jude leading the ride on Anadolu, we continued on across fields keeping the highway in view since our direction was the town of Bağlama that lay along it. We met up with the support crew by the roadside and learned that our destination was a campsite near trees in the far distance at the base of the Melendiz range. After crossing the highway we tracked across a stony plain marked with cairns and dry watercourses. We had left modern farming behind, for now, and entered the land of hill shepherds.

Asgar and Donna, Tuvana and Ahmet
Asgar and Donna, Tuvana and Ahmet

We entered camp at about 4pm. Again it rained on us just after we had set up camp, but cleared up before sundown. The site was beautiful, in a tree-shaded stubble field, and had everything one could wish for except a water source. Yunus Emre and Mevlut prepared a delicious turnip stew. Even habitual meat-eaters praised it, though they questioned privately why we had had vegetarian rations two nights running. There was another splendid campfire. Plans were made for Ince Mehmet to lead the ride the next day on Anadolu, for Jude to ride Tuvana for a change, for Ahmet 2 to ride Zorlu so that we should not have a yedek as we crossed the mountains.

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The Evliya Çelebi Way Project: 2009 Expeditionary Ride, Part 3

Part 3
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

Caroline discovered that Evliya’s 1671 itinerary to Mecca would serve our purposes ideally since, in his typically wandering fashion, after setting out from Istanbul, Evliya turned west, away from Mecca in the east, and went as far as Izmir. Since routes Evliya travelled between towns and villages regularly corresponded with one equestrian journey recorded by Lady Anne Blunt, in the summer of 2007 Donna and Caroline journeyed into rural Anatolia on an initial exploration by four-wheel drive that confirmed we could go this way by horse.

Ways you can best travel by horse.
Ways you can best travel by horse.

Meanwhile, we made contact with the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism to tell them of our plans, and in the summer of 2008 the three of us made another brief exploratory trip of stretches of the planned route by four-wheel drive. Our eventual destination, however, was not on Evliya’s 1671 itinerary since we were headed to Cappadocia, ‘the land of the beautiful horses’ and the Akhal-Teke Ranch in Avanos.

‘Land of the Beautiful Horses,’ Sevda posing, Akhal-Teke Ranch, 2008.
‘Land of the Beautiful Horses,’ Sevda posing, Akhal-Teke Ranch, 2008.

Since travelling by horse along sections of Evliya’s route was central to our plan, we needed to find horses. Evliya had wealthy sponsors, and was regularly awarded horses as gifts or spoils from battle. We had better fortune when Patricia Daunt joined the team planning to ride, and suggested that we contact Ercihan Dilari for our horses. So in August 2008, Caroline, Donna and Mac arrived in Avanos, and stayed in a wonderful old stone house with our host Hakan and his Italian guests who were visiting from Yozgat!

Mac and Caroline, Hakan in the foreground (Donna took the picture), Avanos 2008.
Mac and Caroline, Hakan in the foreground (Donna took the picture), Avanos 2008.

After breakfast, we set out to meet with Ercihan and discuss logistics for a long-distance equestrian tour. He understood our project immediately and wanted to join.

Ercihan likes our plan!  Akhal Teke Ranch, August 2008.
Ercihan likes our plan! Akhal Teke Ranch, August 2008.
Donna helps out at the ranch, Avanos, 2008.
Donna helps out at the ranch, Avanos, 2008.

With an experienced horseman and horses now on our side, we were nearly all ready to go apart from two things: bureaucracy and finance. Meetings at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Ankara and the Turkish Embassy in London brought us formal support in the shape of visas and papers that we would show to local authorities along the way.

Metin Toprak, a Friendly Gendarme, Aydınlar, 2009.
Metin Toprak, a Friendly Gendarme, Aydınlar, 2009.

But costs remained a problem. The mayor of Kütahya, Evliya’s ancestral hometown to which we would be travelling, helped encourage local businesses to assist with sponsorship.

Evliya Çelebi’s ancestral house in Kütahya, now a museum in his honour.
Evliya Çelebi’s ancestral house in Kütahya, now a museum in his honour.

Thanks to Ercihan’s contacts and Caroline’s indefatigable efforts (and her instinctive sense of how to do these things!), the provision of horse-feed and transport as well as other essential supplies were eventually covered. Ercihan purchased a used kamyonet, and customized it to include a kitchen, outside sink with an over-head water supply, and internal racks to separate sacks of feed and bedding from luggage. Armed with a list of the villages visited by Evliya, Ercihan checked our projected route by motor-cycle. With the planned route approved, we were ready to set out.

All ready to set out: Donna and Caro arrive at Hersek camp, 21 September 2009.
All ready to set out: Donna and Caro arrive at Hersek camp, 21 September 2009.

And so it came about that the Evliya Çelebi Ride of 2009 took place. This would be an epic journey lasting a legendary forty days and forty nights.

Who was Evliya Çelebi?

Contributed from Gerald Maclean

Evliya Çelebi
The seventeenth-century Ottoman travel writer known as Evliya Çelebi was born in 1611. His father, Derviş Muhammed Zilli, was a master goldsmith at the imperial Ottoman court who had moved to the Unkapani region of Istanbul from the provincial city of Kütahya. A native of Istanbul, Evliya was educated at the court before setting out on forty years of travels throughout the vast domains of the Ottoman Empire. His record of those journeys comprises a ten-volume travelogue, the Seyahatname or Book of Travels.

Although Evliya’s manuscript did not attract scholarly interest until the nineteenth century, his work has since become well-known among Ottoman scholars for providing the most detailed account of social and cultural life throughout the Empire at the time, documenting its diversity, wealth and achievements with wit and understanding. During the last decade, the Seyahatname has been transliterated into modern Turkish, while scholarly translations into English of important sections have been available thanks to the efforts of Robert Dankoff and others.

Image Credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons
Image Credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons

In 2010, Dankoff with Sooyong Kim produced An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Celebi, an excellent English translation of substantial selections and the first best introduction to Evliya and his writing. Dankoff’s An Ottoman Mentality: The World of Evliya Celebi (2004; 2006) will interest those wanting to know more.

A World Traveller and Travel Writer
What we know about Evliya all comes from his own account, but even so he was clearly an extraordinary man and an ideal traveller and travel writer for a number of reasons. Although to all intents and purposes a pious Muslim who could recite the Qur’an, Evliya was inclined towards the mystical Sufi traditions of his time, and some have even claimed he was an initiated member of a particular Sufi order, the Gülseni Lodge. He was certainly an Istanbullu, one who had been educated under the patronage of the palace, and Evliya could not help but assume an imperial, metropolitan gaze when travelling throughout Ottoman lands, meeting with Albanians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Germans, Greeks, Gypsies, Hungarians, Kurds, Persians, Tatars, and Ukrainians.

Evliya viewed the Turkish population of rural Anatolians with the characteristic diffidence learned at the Ottoman court while admitting there were exceptions. Of his father’s ancestral Kütahya, for instance, he wrote: ‘To be sure, this is Anatolia and Turkish country [Türkistan vilayet]; nevertheless, it has very many religious scholars and educated people and poets.’ For Evliya, anywhere beyond Istanbul was likely to prove provincial if not positively peasant-like and primitive, even ‘Oriental’.

Image Credit: http://www.ufukturu.net/haberler/11287/evliya
Image Credit: http://www.ufukturu.net/haberler/11287/evliya

Yet his education at court and metropolitan perspective also provided Evliya with a remarkably broadminded interest in and understanding of human activities, whether he approved of them or not. It is surely significant that Evliya earned a letter of recommendation from a Greek Patriarch describing him as ‘honourable’ and ‘a man of peace’ who desires ‘to investigate places, cities, and the races of men, having no evil intention in his heart to do injury to or to harm anyone.’ Combined with his inclinations to follow Sufi traditions of celebrating life in any and all ways, this broadmindedness led Evliya to offer his guests as a matter of course refreshments of which he, as a good Muslim, was obliged to disapprove. Insisting throughout on his own piety and personal abstinence from intoxicating substances, Evliya provides a catalogue naming seventy-five intoxicants that were readily available in Istanbul at the time, including tea, coffee, tobacco, wine, beer, arrak, boza, opium, hemp, and a variety of hallucinogenic seeds and berries. He then tells us that ‘although for hospitality’s sake I have served these intoxicating substances to my friends in my humble home, and so am aware of their names and properties, I swear by God, in true sincerity, that I have no knowledge of them.’

Image Credit: http://gezgintech.com/evliya-celebi-ve-seyahatnamesi-hakkinda.html
Image Credit: http://gezgintech.com/evliya-celebi-ve-seyahatnamesi-hakkinda.html

Whatever we make of Evliya’s protestation of personal innocence here, throughout his travels he reports seemingly offensive cultural habits with open-minded interest, insisting that other people’s habits should be accepted, however strange. One of his most repeated phrases when describing the odd manners or even extravagant customs of peoples among whom he travelled through the ‘well protected domains’ of the Ottoman sultan, is ayıp değil, literally ‘not disgraceful.’ After recounting the strange beliefs of the Albanians, for example, Evliya records how they celebrate feasts by getting drunk and going ‘hand in hand with their pretty boys and embrace them and dance about in the manner of the Christians. This is quiet shameful behavior, characteristic of the infidels,’ Evliya comments, ‘but it is their custom, so we cannot censure it.’

‘It is their custom, so we cannot censure it.’ Throughout his travels, Evliya shows himself to be thinking with openness to cultural difference such as is usually claimed for the European Enlightenment, not the ‘terrible Turk’ of the European stereotype.

In 1671, Evliya set out for Mecca with three companions, eight servants, and fifteen pedigreed horses. On 22 September 2009, with seven horses and a supply vehicle, the first Evliya Çelebi Ride set out to follow the first stages of his itinerary.

Introducing: The Evliya Çelebi Way Project

We are very excited to announce that we are featuring a new project on Geokult Travel – the Evliya Çelebi Way Project.

In 2011, we met one of the project team, Gerald MacLean (Mac) in Avanos, when we went trail riding. At the time we had a great conversation about many things, and he told us about some research he was undertaking that involved horse riding across Turkey and retracing the hoof prints of Evliya Çelebi, a seventeenth-century Ottoman travel writer. At the time we found this project fascinating and kept in touch with Mac, hoping that we would meet up again in Turkey and learn more about this project.

Project overview: The Evliya Çelebi Way Project
Contributed by Gerald Maclean

In October 2013, the Evliya Çelebi Way was formally designated a UNESCO European Cultural Route at ceremonies held in Babasultan, Bursa.

Evliya Çelebi Way UNESCO Map
Evliya Çelebi Way UNESCO Map

Named after Evliya Çelebi (‘ev-lee-ah chel-ebee’) the great seventeenth-century Ottoman traveller who described travelling this way in 1671, the Evliya Çelebi Way is Turkey’s first long-distance walking and riding route and runs south from Istanbul to Evliya’s ancestral home town, Kütahya, then west to Uşak and Simav. It was explored and established in 2009 by a team of equestrian enthusiasts and Ottoman scholars who followed, on horseback, in Evliya’s hoof prints for forty days and nights. Check out this video from the 2013 ride.

Over the coming months, we will be sharing with you more information about the Evliya Çelebi Way Project. Stay tuned!

The Evliya Çelebi Way Project Team
Ercihan Dilari has lived with horses all his life and has established the finest riding stables in Cappadocia where he brings on young horses by instinctive and modern methods at his ranch by the Kizilirmak (Halys) River. Under his care, Ercihan’s horses, mostly Arab crosses, become not only suitable for commercial trekking, but also successfully compete in races held to International Endurance standards. In addition to bringing modern shoeing methods and introducing equestrian dentistry into his own practice, Ercihan regularly consults with, and helps train, academic and commercial equestrian veterinary specialists throughout Turkey. After consulting plans and maps developed by Caroline and Donna, Ercihan and his champion Akhal-teke mare, Anadolu, led the 2009 expedition.

Caroline Finkel is a British writer who has been based in Istanbul since completing her doctoral thesis on the Ottoman army at the University of London. Caroline is the author of the standard narrative history of the Ottoman Empire in English, Osman’s Dream (2005), which has been translated into numerous foreign languages. A Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and Honorary Fellow of Edinburgh University, Caroline lectures extensively in the UK and Turkey, is a regular contributor to learned journals and magazines. She most recently appeared in the first episode of the BBC documentary ‘The Ottoman Empire: Europe’s Muslim Empire’ (2013). In preparation for the 2009 expedition, Caroline mapped Evliya’s route and, with Donna, visited key areas in advance to scout out riding conditions, especially where modern roads cross Evliya’s route. Caroline wrote most of the copy for the guidebook with the editor/publisher Kate Clow, and set up the website that accompanies the guidebook (evliyacelebiway.com). After forty years with her feet firmly on the ground, Caroline rode without mishap on the exploratory expedition for the Evliya Çelebi Way in 2009, demonstrating that the route is for everyone. And she has ridden it again since then, several times.

Donna Landry recently published Noble Brutes: How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture (2009) and is currently writing about the equestrian travels of Evliya Çelebi and Lady Anne Blunt. Currently Professor of English at the University of Kent (UK), where she directs the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Donna has been horse-obsessed since childhood and successfully competed during her teenage years riding her Polish-Crabbet bred ‘Rifdi’ at shows throughout the southern Midwest. Since then, she has travelled extensively throughout Turkey and the Middle East, sometimes lecturing on Ottoman horse culture, and sometimes simply mounting up and taking to the road to ride without end in view. Donna wrote the horsey-bits of the guidebook.

Gerald MacLean recently published Abdullah Gül and the Making of the New Turkey (2014), a history of Turkey since 1950 through the life and career of the 11th President, but is primarily a cultural historian of Britain during the long seventeenth century. His studies of British views of the Ottomans – The Rise of Oriental Travel (2004) and Looking East (2006) – have been translated into Turkish. After reading English at Jesus College, Cambridge under the direction of Raymond Williams, ‘Mac’ trained to become a British Horse Society Assistant Instructor at Wellington Country Park in Hampshire, but left before taking the exams and pursued an academic career that enabled him to travel. During the 1990s, with Donna, he regularly conducted horseback rides across Dartmoor for the legendary ‘Skaigh Stables’ of Belstone, Devon.

Susan Wirth is German-born, grew up in southern Africa, but currently lives in the USA where she is US photo editor for Der Spiegel. Susan is an enthusiastic long-distance horseback rider who has covered many miles on the hoof in far-flung places, from Ethiopia and the Thar Desert of Rajasthan to Mongolia, who first rode with Ercihan for a Cappadocia photo-shoot that appeared in Cornucopia Magazine, and has returned since. Riding through northwest Anatolia has been one of her most satisfying and exhilarating experiences, mostly because of the wonderful people encountered along the way. With Ercihan, she has been busily planning a 2014 expeditionary ride, the Central Anatolian Trek, that will set out from Avanos and join up with the Evliya Çelebi Way, having passed south of Hasan Dağ to Konya, and then north-west through Akşehir and Afyon to Kütahya.

The 2009 Expedition Team
In 2009, the project team were joined on the expeditionary ride by Patricia Daunt, Andy Byfield, Turkish Jockey Club vet Ayşe Yetiş, Cappadocian entrepreneurs Özcan Görürgöz and Alper Katrancı, trekkist and academic Pınar Durmaz, and Montreal advertising executive Thérèse Tardif. The expedition was accompanied for part of the journey by Mehmet Çam and other members of the Istanbul production company Ajans21, who shot footage for a potential documentary about Evliya and the expedition.