Following our visit to Konya, we had a six hour long drive to Cappadocia, a land-locked region in central Anatolia. What we saw when we reached there, is just beyond words. Cappadocia is a land of exceptional natural wonders, in particular defined by fairy chimneys that are found all across the region. Upon our arrival at the Hezem cave hotel, we were greeted by a picturesque fairy castle rising above the stone town amidst the backdrop of a starry night. Our hotel itself was unique. Built out of caves, we lived in renovated cave homes for the next three nights. The people who originally lived here used it as a house and a stable for their horses. Cappadocia was used as a hiding place by the ancient Christians from Arab attacks. Upon visiting the region, it can be seen why. The fairy chimneys were formed after a volcanic eruption eons ago. Cappadocia is filled with numerous intricately built underground cities. We visited a number of them. Having only read about these places in the bible previously, seeing them in person was a totally different experience. The expansiveness of the underground cities is just amazing. One of the cities we visited was more than 50 metres below ground (or about 17 floors), with different levels for animals, supplies and people.
We also visited numerous ancient churches in the region, some dating back to the 3rd century. Though Cappadocia might initially come off as a highly touristy place, there is a vibrant local life here. We got to meet and spend time with many of the local people. We met a master pottery maker who's family has been making pottery for generations, he gave us a tour of his workshop and even allowed us to give a shot at making some pottery ourselves. We met with a social entrepreneur who started a culture museum and revitalized the local area. We met a local carpet maker who showed us his craft and played Turkish folk music for us with his instrument. A local restaurant owner invited us to dinner at her restaurant and we had a great dinner there. And Nil, manager of the Hazem cave hotel and our host, was kind enough to show us around the three days we were there. Hospitality. That's what we received in abundance in Cappadocia. I have a feeling that this won't be the last time I'll be here. Sujay Natson
URGUP CULTURE MUSEUM Museums aren’t exactly thought of as ‘social ventures’. Well, at least to me, the term social innovation and social entrepreneurship connotes a new idea, changing not only ones surroundings, but also the way people think of certain models and ways of being. We saw this with B-fi t, Cop(m)adam and many of the ecological living ventures we experienced. This museum is different. A couple, involved in the IT sector, from the city (Ankara) fell in love with Urgup (a small town in the Anatolian heartland) – they became friends with the townspeople, an old man in particular, while they were in Cappadocia looking for funding for an IT project. They wanted to preserve the cultural heritage of Urgup, and revitalize the area, so they eventually divided to dedicate their time to creating this museum. They faced a lot of miscommunications on the part of the government, bureaucracy issues and infrastructural problems – but choose to battle with them from what became 6 years. Their persistence is what makes their story beautiful. It wasn’t until about 2-3 years after the museum came up that people began visiting it. Her story was defi nitely an inspiring and powerful one that highlights some of the main problems social entrepreneurs face in Turkey. But her market is different. Therefore the important question here is: did the town want to be revitalized? Did the people want tourists to come into their space? Social change, in my opinion, cannot bot considered positive unless the people whom it ‘benefi ts’ are in support of this change. Naturally, we asked this question, we asked if the people in Urgup wanted this change, this museum’s surge in tourism income This is a question that she herself has been thinking about for a while now. No one asked her to come into this town and ‘revitalize’ it in the way that she has. She said that there is no way she really can know the answer this question. Much later that night, we found out that the town’s people found the museum to be cold, and uninviting. In short: they didn’t like the people who ran the museum.
Our host, Nil, explained this to us in what I have come to consider Turkish terms. She used the meting itself to demonstrate this coldness: “they didn’t offer us anything to eat, or ask if we wanted anything more to drink, and you have come all this way just to meet them, photograph them and do a project on them – if it were me...” Turkish people in general are very, very hospitable. Given this context, I began to view the museum in a slightly different, more critical light. This meeting in particular showed me the need to question the context surrounding a reported ‘successful’ venture. Through fi eldwork will always question any account it considers in its social context. Neha Goyal