I see that in my rush to catch up with these reports, I neglected to highlight one of the truly sublime and delightful places I stayed on this trip: Hotel Nisanyan in the village of Sirinçe. (My iPad won’t permit me to add a circumflex under the “s”, but “Nishanyan” is the proper way to pronounce the name.) I mentioned it briefly on the first day I visited, but then moved on to other topics. So let me be “fair and balanced” in describing its charms and location.
Its founder is Sevan Nisanyan, a writer of Armenian descent who is a well-known linguist, political commentator, and human rights activist. The Turkish government sent him to prison last year for 4 years because he built a 60 square meter hut in his own land which he already donated to the philosophy village that he founded. He was arrested and carried out of this hut, as seen in the photo. Of course, the hut arrest was just a pretext to silence an outspoken critic of the current government, an agenda it pursues with increasing aggressiveness since it has now silenced Twitter and one feature of Google.
I didn’t know any of this when I checked in and then stayed five days. His former wife and partner is now in charge of running the Inn, which she does with style and a sense of mission. She said to me once I found out about Sevan’s situation that she “didn’t want to burden me with this heavy information.” There is a petition to free him on change.org (a link which I will provide in case anyone wants to support his cause: https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/free-sevan-nişanyan-sevan-nişanyan-a-ozgurluk-president-of-republic-of-turkey-abdullah-gül-grant-amnesty-to-sevan-nişanyan-of-his-sentence-for-4-years-for-building-a-hut-in-his-own-land).
Hotel Nisanyan proved to be the sanctuary I needed at this time of my trip. A comfortable and stylish room combined with a hugely compelling view out over the village and countryside helped me deal with lousy weather that was not conducive to much of anything, and a backlog of reading, writing, and thinking. Each morning I could sit and get very still and focused, following my breath with good concentration and attention. Sometimes a donkey would bray just down the hill from the hotel, adding another dimension to the present moment.
The physical highlight of my stay was an afternoon walk to a distant temple carved into the side of a cliff, visible from my room-with-a-view. If a temple, it seemed too dramatic to have escaped guide books and so I was already a little skeptical upon approach. But the afternoon of my second day was sunny and glorious, a rare respite from the high tide of clouds that just kept coming from the east.
To commemorate this big walk, I stopped along a ridge and found a spot out of the wind against an old stone terrace. Surrounded by a million little daisies and a few red poppies, I got poised and present, floating the rest of the way through the flowers and sustained “sunshowers” as I approached the cliff.
Standing right in front of the two pillars and carved lintel overhead, I could see a pile of chips that indicated recent construction–and yet there were dramatic cracks, seepage holes in the stone (onyx? marble?) that had been expertly worked and carved. Where a door should have been to an inner burial chamber, or perhaps an altar, there was only chipped stone, flanked on two sides by the profiles of foxes. Above the main portico, a rounded female face seemed to be emitting flowery rays. At the base of the monument were golden mustard blooms that complimented softly the rust-colored tone of the cliff.
I climbed up a challenging four meters to actually be inside the columns of the monument. A big pile of owl or hawk poop was front and center, so at least all this work has some tangible utility. More likely, it is a work of “ancient art” designed for the residents of the “Mathematica Village,” a planned community of architecturally-harmonious homes, cottages, and other buildings that look directly at the cliff and surrounding mountains. From the monument, the view is wonderfully scenic, even poignant; evocative of older civilizations and people who probably wanted some of the same things we do: good health, notable accomplishments, safety, a stable food supply and political system, and some sense of control over the complexity of our lives and surroundings.
After this walk, I was laid low by yet another cold, and managed only brief walks into the village for dinner or to buy water or some other little errand. As friend D. mentioned in an email, a long trip and constant adjustment to new surroundings takes a gradual toll on the body. One of the highlights of Nisanyan were these fantastic breakfasts that had all the food I needed until early evening. I could always fill my pockets with bread, cheese, walnut-cheese spread, apricots and etc. and have tasty snacks during the day.
The staff at Narayan were very thoughtful and even protective of me–perhaps because of my cold or because of my 8 day old beard full of white hair. Yikes. I started it to be a little less conspicuous in a Muslim country where almost every man has varying degrees of facial hair.
Most memorable of the staff is a young German woman, Anjuli, who traveled in India and Nepal w/ a friend for about 5 months prior to arriving in Turkey 3 months ago. She even rented a motorcycle and learned how to drive it, traveling over 1000 km in the Goa and inland areas. Her hair was blonde and bleached almost white, just like her skin and eyebrows. She had a beautiful smile and charming way of speaking, with the kind of presence that, when entering a room, everyone (men and women alike) sits up and notices. She had a boyfriend on site named Fayed, who was Turkish but lived in Germany for several years and so spoke with her fairly smoothly. I liked them both and waited until the last day to tell them about my books and other work.
May circumstances and time align that I can return to Sirince and Hotel Nisanyan in the foreseeable future. I’ll add a few more general photos of the village.