ARTICLE: GUROL SOZEN PHOTO: ALI KONYALI
Legend-shrouded peaks of Anatolia
Turkey’s Kaz Dağları
Delve into them from Altınoluk or Avcılar, from Tahtakuşlar, Güre or Zeytinli, and let the waters, forests and clouds take you back to all the things you have forgotten.
The unknown geography of Anatolia, the geography we only think we know, preserves its mystery on every journey. Especially when the landscape affords a glimpse into legends, rivers, clouds, passion, melancholy, and the exuberant rites of spring. The roads of Anatolia are neither straight, monotonous, smooth nor easy. If, that is, you decide to avoid risking your life on the main highways and stick to the back roads. A little dust and dirt, a little grass, a few wild flowers, plus pomegranates, apples and figs, not to mention, of course, the rivers. The real treasures of Anatolia are hidden on its back roads.
THE CALL OF THE WILD
Follow the salt waters of Edremit Bay and plunge directly into the Kaz Dağları (Goose Mountains), if, that is, you’re not barrelling non-stop down the divided highway between Altınoluk and Akçay. Dive in from Altınoluk if you like, or from Avcılar, Tahtakuşlar, Güre or Zeytinli. Make a brief stop at the first coffeehouse. Try to put out of your mind the rampant construction boom that is encroaching even on the sea, and follow the call of the wild.
When you come back to reality, raise your head slightly. Take it from me, the mountains are going to call you. If you can catch a glimpse of the sky from between the firs, the beeches and the British oaks, the white pines and black pines, the plane trees, the sloe trees and the lindens, it means you’ve already been hopelessly smitten with nature. Believe me, the sweet william, the meadow fescue, the wild roses and the cardoon, the nettles, the thyme, the rosehip and the jujube, not to mention the sage, sumac, coriander and canary bellflower and, beyond that, all those you can’t even identify in nature, are going to clinch your love of life.
But let’s drive a little further up the mountain roads. You can’t see the sky for the trees in any case! Keep your eyes to the ground instead and you’ll spot wild orchids, foxglove and wall pepper, which was surely the flower of Sarıkız or the Fair Maiden of legend. The courtyard where she vanished into the clouds is a bed of soft greenery with clumps of purple flowers. A natural feast whose attraction is not immediately evident, that does not give itself away readily.
Without slowing your pace, go on up to the peaks, following the flowers to the top of the mountain! On these mountain roads you will discover a host of streams and waterfalls such as Şahinderesi, Çifteşelale, Kızılkeçili Çayı, Hasanboğuldu, Sutüven Şelalesi, Yeşilgöl, Ismailoluğu and Manastır Çayı with evocative names like Falcon Stream, Red Goat Stream, Hasan Drowned and Green Lake. You may lose your way in the canyons, or fall under the spell of Mount Ida and the Kaz Dağları and be engulfed by the mystery of the waterfalls and of the trees that rise from the rivers and embrace the rocks in their arms. Promise that you won’t get lost in the wild forest cover of the canyon with its white petalled flowers! To tell the truth, your promise wouldn’t hold water! Even we, while we were shooting a documentary entitled ‘Green Peace’ for Ankara State Television, made many such promises to our director and our guides. But it wouldn’t have done for us not to lose our way amid the flowers along Şahinderesi in the National Park’s forest of firs, especially when our point was to conjure up the spell of nature and of Mt Ida and Sarıkız. And especially when it was Homer himself who described Zeus as the great god who ruled from Mt Ida.
SARIKIZ AND HER GEESE
There once was a shepherd called Father Çılbak, who was widowed. Taking his daughter (Sarıkız) with him, he went first to Güre and from there to the village of Kavurmacılar, where he settled down and found work as a shepherd. Wintering at Kavurmacılar, he spent the spring and summer in the mountains. Unwilling to entrust his daughter to anyone, they went up into the mountains together. He bought twelve geese for her to play with so she wouldn’t get bored. Mount Ida, a peak covered in firs, purple-blossomed wall pepper and greying clouds in the azure, became the courtyard of Sarıkız and her geese. Meanwhile, when a snake wound itself around the ram’s horns, Father Çılbak realized it was time to come back down from the mountain. But under the sky the geese were restless on the mountain and in the endless valleys. One day they wandered down to Bayramiç Plain where they made the fields their playground. And Father Çılbak warned his daughter: pile up stones one by one and build a great courtyard so the geese cannot escape.
Soon Sarıkız was no longer a child but a beautiful young woman. And Father Çılbak an old man, who went on the pilgrimage to Mecca, leaving his daughter behind in the care of a neighbor. Sarıkız was popular with the young men of the village, who followed her everywhere and would not give up. Although she gave them no encouragement, the village was soon crawling with rumors. Tongues will wag; unkind words will be spoken. Returning from the pilgrimage, Father Çılbak found the situation intolerable and headed back to the mountains. So our story goes. Until, that is, dark clouds begin to descend on the mountains. Until death lies in wait for Father Çılbak on another peak. And Sarıkız, taking her twelve geese with her, withdraws to her father’s courtyard and a white cloud comes and settles over the mountain. One of these two peaks in the Kaz Dağları is known today as Baba Tepe or ‘Father Peak’. If you continue on through the courtyard of the geese right up to the edge of the slope, you will see another summit in the distance, overlooking Edremit Bay and Baba Tepe. It is a bald, sacred mountain, covered with stones and steeped in solitude, standing between the sky and the salt sea. Perhaps Sarıkız vanished into the clouds from this peak, escaping into the land of dreams on the wings of her geese.
PASSION, MELANCHOLY, TRADITIONS
Zeus, Minoan Crete, Troy and Mount Ida, the mother goddess Cybele, Central Asia, migrations, the nomadic Turkmens who came here from the Taurus. The seven mansions of Sarıkız. The symbols of the goosefoot and the three-layered skirt. Pir Sultan Abdal, the 16th century mystical poet who said, “I saw an altar between her brows.”
The triangles that symbolize fertility and the evil eye. The jewelry, the colors. The great tradition that does not turn death into a tired lament, but sees life and death on a single continuum. And the Turkmens, who preserve this tradition with their love and passion. Who gaily dance and sing amidst the clouds, the firs, the wild tulips and poppies. Who sweeten daily existence with their poetry and good deeds. Everything was created out of nature’s endless bounty. Like the mountain peak that blooms of its own accord in Sarıkız’s courtyard every spring.
For the true owners of Kaz Dağları, who keep this great legend alive today and have preserved its honored place in the Anatolian landscape uninterrupted for hundreds of years, let us turn now to the minstrel poet Aşık Nesimi: “There is a kind of sheep, it is everywhere / It wanders in the sky and on the earth / In summer it gives birth to lambs, it suckles them in autumn / Do you know the fair saint who is called Sarıkız?”