Turkey and carpets seem to be something of a synonym. It’s true, there are beautiful specimens around, particularly those made of silk, but after the umpteenths carpet dealer has jumped out at you, trying to lure you into his shop with promises to have the absolute best and cheapest, you somehow develop an aversion to carpets. This is closely followed by leather goods. How many handbags, jackets and coats do you need or even want to look at? So, I hope you don’t mind if I skip carpets and leather and turn my attention to lesser known, expensive and extremely beautiful things which I absolutely adore.
Silver filigree from Mardin and Urfa
Mardin and Urfa are cities in Turkey’s east and both have a long tradition of the craft of silver smiths. You only have to enter one of the many, tiny workshops and watch the artisans, bent over their worktables and, with nimble fingers, forge long, thin silver threads not only into jewelry but also ornaments and even sculptures. The skill and patience involved is outstanding, not to mention the need for eyesight. The finished objects gleam and sparkle and my fingers are itching to touch them and take at least one home with me. As you can imagine, these things don’t come cheap but a smaller item may be within the budget and you will have a ‘souvenir’ or gift you won’t find anywhere else.
Ceramics from Cappadocia
Izmit tiles are among the finest to be found in Turkey, but, as I discovered on my recent trip to Cappadocia, they make a very different kind of ceramic. No color, just white or gray and they depict the rock formations, caves and cave dwellings which are so typical for the Cappadocia landscape. These sculptures come in all sizes, some are also tinted yellow or pink which I find deplorable, but the grey or white ones are unique pieces and, contrary to the silver, not very expensive. I also liked the animals, they make. I think, they are cute.
Meerschaum from Eskisehir
Meerschaum is a white mineral, mostly found floating on the Black Sea, hence the name. But it’s also found in the mountains around the city of Eskisehir in Anatolia, half way between Istanbul and Ankara. Meerschaum can be carved like ivory and hardens when exposed to heat or sunlight. Equally like ivory, the pieces take on a yellowish tint through use, time and heat. It’s mostly made into pipe heads and the heyday of the craft occurred during the Ottoman empire when truly marvelous and gigantic pipe heads were made. The cravings are as fine as filigree. I was delighted when I discovered a Meerschaum Museum on my visit to Eskisehir a few months ago. But, it’s not only pipe heads that are made, but also ornaments ad jewelry. Antique pieces are displayed as well as more modern ones because the craft is alive and well in Eskisehir. You can order replicas of the antique pieces if that is what you fancy and if you have a few thousand $ to spare. Otherwise, you better settle for a more modest, modern set or content yourself with just admiring the beauty of it all.
So, you see, there is more to Turkey than carpets and leather.