Although it was only April, the midmorning sun seared the back of my neck as we climbed to one of the escarpment that that cuts through the ‘Knight’s Market’ or Beypazar. For the town turns out to be constructed in the midst of a geological cataclysm, a lunatic cleft in the rocks-‘a savage place, / as e’er was haunted/ By woman wailing for her demon lover. The limestone, of the surrounding hills is being cast up in vertical waves, strata meeting and breaking like the north pointing arrow of breakers at Skagen. These cut their way through the town like dragons spines, the fins of Marlin. The particular wood-framed houses typical of the region swarm and cling to the vertiginous rock formations, limpets and barnacles surf battered on the black rocks of the Manacles. Some of them are being restored, and these are pointed out to us by the local mayor, who, it struck me, was caught in a cleft stick between being a local representative and a Godfather.
We were introduced to him in the vast grandeur of his office, drinking apple tea whilst he held court behind a huge desk and posed for photographs to the manor born. Lunch was set out for us on a table by the river running just outside town, a local lamb risotto, and lots of carrot salad, for the Beypazar Havu is apparent famous. Whilst Turkey supplies 70% of the world’s hazelnuts, Beypazar purveys carrots to the nation.
However the majority of the houses clinging to the defiles and bluffs that cut into the town seem, to me to be decrepit beyond repair, their wood frames neglected and desiccated and warped, pantiles slipping away. In Dubrovnik, it had been pointed out to me that the big problem that faced that city after it was bombarded by the Serbs was that historically, pantiles should be asymmetric, being moulded on the thigh of the potter, giving the roofs a beautiful human shape and flow, when they are sill in situ, and an odd stiffness when they are replaced by the modern symmetry. A few days later, in a back street of the Ankara Hizar, we find a mound of the real thing, tossed aside. And it was not too difficult to see the different physiques of the artisans who had made them, fat or thin, tall or short.
From the view point, over the town (aerials, cats and a group of smiling old women doing embroidery), the number and variety of old mosques in the town was suddenly apparent. It suddenly reminded me of Travnik, also wedged into a strategic defile, the architecture of the older buildings, religious or not, a curious alpine-ottoman synthesis.
Earlier, we found ourselves in halting conversation with the Muezzin of the oldest mosque in town, whose fabric dated back to the Seljuks. When we arrived, he was by himself vacuuming the carpeted floor of the simple interior; no flags, no floral decorations, just cool white and green. He proudly showed us the ancient stone columns which held up the gallery, made from exquisite red-veined sandstone. He cupped his hands to his mouth to demonstrate his vocal technique, which it was not clear he would use, given that the call to pray, everywhere that I have been, is amplified, and now one seems to climb the smallest minare.
As we stood over the town taking it all in, the first voice of the call to prayer began to rise over the huddled buildings, then another and another. And nothing short of a musical miracle, ein Wunder, was gifted to us. Far from being the quodlibet of competing voices that I am used to, it became startlingly apparent as voice joined voice, that all the muezzinler were singing in the same mode, the same melody, and they were in tune. At first we thought that this celestial chamber music must be the result of the intricate echoes set up by the cliffs dividing the town. But no, each of the angelic voices, rising like wood smoke over Beypazar, was separate, each preserving its own integrity of ornament, decoration, of rubato: a true Heiliger Dangesang.
As we picked our way down the stairs and alleys back into town, we can smell hot-cross buns. We can’t of course, but perhaps home was calling. I had forgotten that it was Good Friday.