Westward Ho!: Of scorched earth and strawberries in Yeşilırmak


Strawberries galore in Yeşilirmak don't belie the scorched earth nearby…(Click here for link to image source)

Strawberries galore in Yesilirmak don’t bely the scorched earth nearby…(Click here for link to image source)

As you may have seen from our last post, we’ve been eating our way across Cyprus. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to find an amazing restaurant run by a Turkish Cypriot re-patriot named Mustafa. Çiftlik evi was phenomenal and both humans and puppets were thoroughly sated not to mention besotted. After a congenial chat with the proprietor, we explained our plan to head West. Thanks to Mustafa Bey, we stood up from our most excellent repast armed with the name of a tiny hotel in Yeşilırmak, the
westernmost town in Northern Cyprus.

After scooping up all my
bloated puppets and tossing them into my purse, we rolled out of
Çiftlik Evi (Farm House Restaurant) with heavy stomachs and heavier eyelids.

Forget hearing from the Karagöz puppets today – they are in a food coma in the backseat of the car.  You can read about our gorge-fest here.

Scorched earth in Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Scorched, terraced earth in Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

The road from Gaziveren to Yeşilırmak is as twisty and windy as an ancient
olive tree and often goes by half-developed beach areas that feel a
bit sad and forlorn…but then again it is “winter” in Northern
Cyprus despite the 75 degrees F.  Given our food coma state,
we didn’t talk much over the din of food snoring from the backseat
where my puppets had crashed after a belabored crawling out of the
purse exodus.

An abandoned village near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

An abandoned village near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

“Aha!” M. cried out, “see that – it’s the Islamists
in disguise!”  Too full of food to make too many sounds, I
grunted some sort of “huh?” response. “ASPAVA!” M. exclaimed with
only the glee that an observant, anthropological atheist could.

“ASPAVA Resort and Beach – see it there?” he said, pointing
wildly to both sides of the road.

Yes, I did see the word through the haze of post-food endorphins coursing through my body.

“It is a creative application of Islamic praise and way of life, I suppose,” M.
explained with furvor, “ASPAVA stands for:

Allah (God)

Sıhat (health)

Para (money)

Aşk (love)

Versin (give)

Amin (amen)

“Clearly, the Turkish immigrants from the east are gaining footholds here.” Let me back up and explain a bit: When M. refers to “Turkish immigrants,” he is referring to people from (mostly) Anatolia (a.k.a. the Asian mainland of the Turkish Republic) who received financial incentives from the Turkish government to emigrate to Northern Cyprus after the Greek and Turkish atrocities of 1974. This program was created as a way to stimulate both the economy and population growth after the exodus of many ethnic Turkish Cypriots who had lived there for centuries before 1974. As a result of this program, we met many people – in fact the majority of the people that we met – who were Turkish but had no family history in Cyprus other then the most recent generation.  M. was guessing that the ASPAVA folks fit into this category – as nary a “true” Turkish Cypriot we met had anything religious about them (granted, a convenience sample, but anyway).

Military warning sign near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Military warning sign near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

So, as we drove along discussing the lovely aspects of the ASPAVA philosophy we passed our turnoff for Yeşilırmak and headed into the area abutting the United Nation‘s buffer zone between Northern and Southern Cyprus.  It was a stark contrast to the lovely ASPAVA ideal, if you ask me.  With military compounds, barbed wire and menacing signs abounding, we began to consider turning around – we wouldn’t want a third run-in with Turkish military types after all!

And as we were looking for a place to pull off the narrow road to turn, we entered an area of scorched earth – presumed to be scorched so that people attempting to cross the border could be easily spotted.  Most sad were the remnants of a village caught in the crossfire as the famous “green line” was implemented to divide the nation.  It looked bombed out – but was likely just impacted by the windy sands of time…despite the Turkish sentries who had set up shop nearby.

Road overlooking the Mediterranean Sea near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

Road overlooking the Mediterranean Sea near Yeşilırmak near the UN Buffer Zone in Northern Cyprus (Image by Liz Cameron)

We were quite saddened by the site of this village…and as we wound our way back to our bed for the night through fields and fields of budding strawberries (Yeşilırmak is famous for its strawberry festival), we reflected on all of the stories we had heard over the past week from Turkish Cypriots still living in the pain of what happened in 1974.  And as much as we hope that the new life (strawberries) can win out in a future for both Northern and Southern Cyprus, we fear that the old life (scorched earth) will continue for some time.

Wintry view of the Ak Deniz over the grape arbor - from our window in the rooms above the Dillarga Lokanta in Yesilmak, Northern Cyprus - the westernmost town! (Image by Liz Cameron)

Wintry view of the Ak Deniz over the grape arbor – from our window in the rooms above the Dillarga Lokanta in Yesilmak, Northern Cyprus – the westernmost town! (Image by Liz Cameron)

And that, my friends, will be what the Karagöz puppets tell me they will rap about in my next post, the events of 1974 in Cyprus and the fallout since…keep it locked for politics, puppet-style!

 

 

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This entry was posted in On Islam and Muslims, Puppets on the move around the world, Turkish Controversies, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Westward Ho!: Of scorched earth and strawberries in Yeşilırmak

  1. Love the strawberries!! And what a contrast of pictures. 1974 seems so long ago, but it sounds like the wounds are still fresh. How sad.

  2. lizcameron says:

    Yes, a contrast indeed. It was stunning – especially in that part of N Cyprus. Wounds are VERY fresh and raw on the Turkish side – and from what I hear – more than that on the Greek side. We left with a very sad feeling. More soon!

  3. Alan says:

    wait til I tell you stories from 1964! The time when Turkey nearly invaded/interveened.

  4. lizcameron says:

    Can’t wait to hear! Have had a gap in reading between the 50s and Lawrence Durrell and 1974 so looking forward to the fill in!

  5. Pingback: The Karagöz Puppets muse on Turkish (neo-colonialist?) influences in Kuzey Kibris | Slowly-by-Slowly

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