A Small City Called Eğin – I

In the first half of the 19th century, when he was still a very young army officer at that time, Helmuth Von Moltke, being legendary commander of the Germans and working as a trainer in the Ottoman army, said “The most beautiful place I’ve seen in Asia” for Kemaliye on his memories in Turkey (Letters from Turkey) penned by him. This statement is perhaps one of the most accurate definition to be able to describe the beauty of this place.

  • 14.11.2016
  • Nuray Okutucu

Leaning on the Mountain of Munzur at the east and Sarıçiçek Mountains at the West, this valley which experiences four seasons with color-richness and Karasu River, one of Euphrates arms, gives life, should be visited at the most beautiful times such as the spring which its nature arouses with a hundred and one tones of green and the autumn which slopes pave with gold leaves.

It is known that the first name of the region where springs babble from Yalçın rocks was “Egon” meaning “springhead” in Roman language.  When the Turks came to this region, they gave the name of Eğin which means “the beautiful garden like as heaven”.  When Atatürk also visited here in 1922, he honored people living in there which is the paradise of good people at the same time by the name of “Kemaliye” meaning “people who reached perfection”. This place bears both two names with pride. Romans, Persians, Sassanid, Byzantines and Arabs are some of people who were embraced by these lands located on the Silk Road. The dominance of Seljuk on the region in 1100 was followed by Ilkhanid, Aqquyunlu and Ottoman sovereignty. The outstanding elegancy seen at the lifestyles of people living in Kemaliye and the culture which they hold in high esteem have carried the traces of the cradle of these civilizations.

Eğin, one of the rare cities which still hosts well-preserved pieces of the post-19th century architecture offers also unique frames for lens as well as being the source of inspiration to many painters with vineyards and orchards lined on the valley rising by being set from the river, sinuate streets, its landscape consisting of housings which embrace mulberry, apple, walnut, sycamore trees. The rich culture of the past played also an important role in shaping the architectural identity. The historical houses are the leading at the cultural assets list of the city which is nominated as a candidate to World Cultural Heritage. Houses which the slope of the terrain is the decisive factor were generally built on the layout with 2-3 stores which each floor can be independently opened to the exterior frontage and rise on the vertical line.

The iron door-handlers, one of the symbols of the city, are one of the most important details which give the originality to these houses which masterly stonemasonry and wood-working are displayed. In fact, this is a sort of “an offer of house state and the motifs representing 40 different states, for example Lamb:  perishing; Bird: one person who has a relative on foreign land and awaits his/her news; Snake from Shamanistic culture: the devil couldn’t enter that house; Scorpion means that evil and devil couldn’t shelter in those houses. According to their sounds, tokkirik which is one of the biggest among door-handlers and sounds “tok tok”, means the man who came to house; şıkkırik which is small one and sounds “şık şık” tells the woman who entered into house.

Laced lathwork on the exterior frontage, prismatic oriels, windows and armored doors designed in the different styles on each floor are among other details adding the delicacy to houses. The frontages of houses are positioned to the Euphrates in the way of not blocking each other’s views and the sunlight. Discounting the fact that houses have tin-looking cladded with galvanized corrugated sheet to protect them from precipitation, the original examples consisting of the tissue of traditional houses can be found in country towns and surrounding villages.

You can start the tour in country town with Ethnography museum which hosts more than 600 works and the traces of lifestyles in this geography are exhibited. The stonemasonry and wood-working are remarkable in this building, a former Armenian church and unknown year of its built. Your next stop should be the first Natural History Museum in Turkey which exhibits stoned fossils from bacteria to mammalian. Exhibited elephant skeleton is among the examples which visitors show great interest.

The old mansions, mosques and fountains which are voiceless witnesses of the history, greet you when you reach to Taşdibi by following narrow streets with locked stone-paved after visiting the museums. Kadıgölü Gözesi at the end of the road is dizzying with cool waters which gush by tearing rocks and reach to Karasu below 1000 m. A person can sit all day in awe under the shade of one tree that becomes neighbor of this spring when he/she is listening the song of the water. Middle Mosque located on the head of the spring is a work of the 17th century Ottoman period which holds its beauty in high esteem.

When you lift up your head a little, you will pay attention to a monolithic rock which appears as hanging on the slope. This famous stone is Zincirlikaya which was fixed with chains not to fall on the town and its name became the subject to songs, words and idioms. Taşdibi Mosque which was built at its base and named after this stone comes down to the time when mosques didn’t have any dome. This structure with rectangular plan whose inscription dated back to 1051 has also the title of the oldest mosque in Kemaliye.

After the chamberlain of wood and coal were given to here during Murat IV period, the doors of Istanbul where was also necessary to obtain a special permission to take a step at that time were opened to Eğin. However, this privilege were given to the man of the house to prevent the migration, woman and children were left behind. When Lasting for weeks the grueling way of Istanbul became the wall between them, İstanbul fallen to be homeland, those in Eğin fallen to wait and those gloomy Eğin songs and “mani” (a kind of Turkish short poems) began to Come in sight. The ongoing gastarbeiter fate of this region has not ever changed since that day. The way of Mani on the hill is a walking trail which you can find torrid verses written by women in Kemaliye.

There is such another place which tells  their longing  in Kemaliye that  this place is the epic Taşyolu which people in Eğin created by trying to dig into impassible, steep rocks with digger and  oar in order to be able to get closer to  the further at least. The construction of this 8.5-km road which began in the 1870s and most of its mortar consisted of the determination and great effort of people in Eğin took exactly 132 years. In 2002, this passage that connects Eğin to Divriği provides the road to İstanbul and Ankara to shorten 220 km. As you proceed in this road consisting of 17 tall and short tunnels, you are accompanied by “The Stories of Taş Yolu and Eğin” written by Lütfi Özgünaydın with the fascinating views of Dark Canyon (Karanlık Kanyon) from the natural lighting windows opened into tunnels with dynamites.

With its walls of rocks which extend along 9 km continuously in both sides and reach to 500 m length, its spring waters slipping away from these walls, the valley bottom narrowing up to 2-3 m and Karasu River flowing unhurriedly in the middle, Dark Canyon is considered as one of the leading canyons in the world.

When you join one of the boat tours in this canyon named after narrow corridors that even the sunlight cannot reach, you can enjoy peace and serenity. If you are lucky, during your trip you can even see one of the mountain goats doing a liberty dance in these steep slopes.

Another feature of the Canyon is to host the nature sports. When the legend governor, the deceased Recep Yazıcıoğlu introduced rafting and water skiing to the Euphrates, the spread seeds began to develop in a short time and the canyon turned into a paradise of the nature sports. With the purpose of maintaining the memory of the governor, the international nature sports fest held in the end of June each year since 2004 brings together adrenaline junkies in a wide range from Base Jump to rock climbing, canoe to rafting, water skiing to paragliding.

The other worth-seeing beauty of the town is also pretty villages connected to the center. Sırakonaklar, one of the most known ones among these villages, formerly named as Peğir, is located on a position which Kemaliye can be overviewed. Two mills established on Peğir stream which named after the village, are one of the most beautiful examples of the historical water mills which are decreasing day by day in Anatolia. When you follow the path reaching to Apçaağa village after visiting mills, your soul will absolutely renew if you take for a walk for an hour in company with breathtaking views unrolled under your feet and whistling of poplar trees extending along Peğir stream.

Apçaağa is the village that provided the inspiration for the poem written by Ahmet Kudsi Tecer beginning with the lines “There is a village in the distant, that village is our village, even if we don’t go and not play around, and that village is our village”.

 

On the one hand the village has proclaimed itself as a natural protected area in order to try to take a stand against the wind of globalization which has created cities and towns that are increasingly beginning to resemble each other. On the other hand, it is also proceeding rapidly to be the brand-town while protecting local customs and traditions as the best as possible. After you stroll through this special village which makes you feel as if time stopped thanks to its undisturbed historic fabric, the best is Taş Kahve which has a valley view and is located on Kayabaşı Park on the hill in order to relieve tiredness.

The culinary richness of the region has also come to the fore. Dated back to the meat chamberlain given to here during the period of Sultan Selim the Stern, the expertise about meat was also reflected in the cuisine.  Mıhla, in the forefront among meat dishes, is made with roasting, onion and egg and conquers the palate with its taste. The grills made with huge Çaşur mushroom which has 20-30 cm width and grows on the Eğin Mountains in the spring, dishes made with herbs such as Kenger, Kiriş and Zetrin, a mixture of 120 herbs used as seasoning, are considered among the stars in the cuisine.

The special flavors created with mulberry have certainly a different place in Eğin. Some flavors such as Lök, a kind of paste that is made by grinding dried mulberry and walnut in the mortar at least three-thousand times, Beşateş which is made by adding Lök to almond, honey and sugar, Oricik which is churchkhela prepared with mulberry molasses, have maintained to be made in Lökhane under the historical madrasa in Kadıgölü. Kadı Sofrası on the top floor of Lökhane and the restaurant of Bozkurt Hotel in the town center provide local dishes that visitors can taste.

In almost all of accommodation facilities, there is a hospitable approach that makes you feel at home. Bahçeli Hostel run by Mrs. Hatice and her husband Ms. Osman is among the best examples of this approach. When you sit in one of the wooden tables in its garden, the conservation you have with this cute couple in company with the song of crickets and a pot of tea will certainly last from evening to night and it will end by strengthening the link between Eğin and you.

As it is possible to reach here by highway or railway, you can also reach here with approximately 2.5-hour road trip after the airports in Elazığ, Erzincan and Malatya.

Kemaliye is waiting for you with many more beauties which are worthy for overcoming long ways.

 

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