Central Anatolia: Places to Explore

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Avanos

Avanos is a fun little town on the banks of the Kızılırmak (Red River), so named for the red hue of the clay lining its banks. The town is primarily known for the pottery made from this clay, which vies with tourism as the biggest industry around; the local potters specialize in Hittite shapes and designs inspired by pieces found in archaeological digs across Central Anatolia. Many potters also make ornate pieces in unusual shapes, as well as functional painted items such as wineglasses and tea sets. Pottery is a family affair in Avanos, and as you walk around and check out the local shops selling decorated clay pots and vases, you'll notice family members painting the pieces their fathers and grandfathers make. Almost all of the local potters will demonstrate for free how pottery was made in the old days—with a kick wheel and clay from the river.

Near the lively town square, a wobbly pedestrian bridge crosses the river, the banks of which are lined with cafés. Avanos is also famous for its underground tunnels, some of which may lead to as-yet-undiscovered underground cities or link up with larger ones in Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu. It seems there's a network of secret passages underneath just about every house, which the residents probably once dug in case there was an urgent need to hide or escape. Özkonak, discovered off a dirt road 15 km (9 mi) north of Avanos, may be the largest underground city in Cappadocia, capable of sheltering up to 60,000 people for an extended period of time—it's open for visitors but Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı are by far more interesting.

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