hope and restoration for goreme

cappadocia turkeyIn the heart of central Turkey lies the beautiful troglodyte village of Goreme. Many people still live in carved rock houses that date back hundreds of years, but with natural erosion and the region’s rapid development Goreme is at risk.

The Old Goreme Restoration Fund was created in 2007 to protect the wonders of Cappadocia and this year The Intrepid Foundation proudly contributed AUD20,000 towards projects that will help preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of the village and surrounds.

As you can imagine The Intrepid Foundation’s donation was very welcome and on behalf of Old Goreme Restoration Fund (OGRF) we heard from Pat Yale about the exciting work that has been undertaken by this passionate organisation.

“We were thrilled with how much we were actually able to achieve this year with the help of The Intrepid Foundation. I have lived here for almost 10 years and this is the first time we have ever been able to embark on any of these small improvements, let alone start to sort out what to do with our frescoed Ottoman mansion. So we are very grateful indeed. Thank you.

In April the OGRF began work on small repairs to the fabric of the village. The first task we took on was restoring one of the old neighbourhood fountains. In traditional Turkish society, each neighbourhood of a village would have had a set of communal facilities in the vicinity of the mosque: fountain, laundry, oven and mill. Now that most families have washing facilities in their own homes and can buy their flour etc at the shops, these facilities tend to have fallen into disrepair; only the ovens are still used on a regular basis in Goreme. The fountain beside the oldest mosque in the village had concrete slapped over it both inside and out. The OGRF has now removed the concrete and cleaned the old arches inside to return them to their original pleasing yellow colour. All that remains is to embed the pipes in the wall.

The second task we undertook was replacing an ugly breezeblock wall in a prominent position in front of two hotels. We considered taking it down and rebuilding it in natural stone, but then decided that it would be cheaper simply to build a new stone wall in front of the blocks as the road was wide enough to permit this. This task is now completed.

We have also cleaned up one of the rock cones (‘fairy chimneys’) in a prominent position at the heart of one of the old neighbourhoods by dismantling a breezeblock windbreak added to the entrance a few years ago when someone was living inside.

We have also cleaned and repaired two long stretches of stone wall in two different parts of town, work which has made a considerable difference to the appearance of these streets. Separately, we have also removed an ugly cement wash from the front of one of the stone houses and then repaired the facade, and rebuilt a couple of stand-alone stretches of wall. Most pleasingly, some of this work has been carried out on houses owned by extremely poor villagers for whom very little help is ever available.

One particular problem that we have been working to address is the fate of the finest Ottoman building (Mehmet Pasa Konagl) in the village which is lived in by someone without the means to maintain it. Its wonderful frescoes are being damaged by water leaking through the roof, and its shutters have started to fall off. Two local businesses have agreed to sponsor new fittings for the two main frescoed rooms and to lend carpets to redecorate them. We have repolished the wooden floors and a carpenter is currently making a new front door to replace the existing one which has broken glass panels and offers no security.

Once the new door is in place we hope that we may be able to host exhibitions in the house which would start to generate an income from it. We are also pursuing whether the Turkish-American Cultural Foundation might agree to help with restoration of the frescoes. Before the start of winter we intend to carry out remedial work on the roof to stop more water getting in. If possible, we will also replace the broken shutters. We are hoping that we may eventually be able to get the house into a state where it will be accessible to visitors and possibly hireable for special occasions, as that would be a way to produce enough money to keep it in good shape.

Aside from the money given to us by the Intrepid Foundation, we managed to secure one other lump sum to get our work started. We are also in the second year of running an ‘Open Houses’ event which makes it possible for visitors to see inside some of the old cave-houses in the village as well as inside the frescoed Mehmet Pasa Konagl in return for a small fee. The money raised from this event has been used to buy and stockpile old stones to re-use in restoration. Some members of an Intrepid group were able to join this special tour when we ran it this May. As we walked to the different houses we were able to point out to the group the work that had already been completed and to mention Intrepid’s vital role in making this possible. We are already making plans to place a noticeboard in the bus station near the information office which will thank our sponsors, in particular The Intrepid Foundation.”

If you would like to assist The Intrepid Foundation in supporting the Old Goreme Restoration Fund or many other valuable community projects, please visit our website where you can find out more and make an online donation.

* photo by Kelly Benson, Intrepid Photography Competition.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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