A JOURNEY ALONG WITH THE FIRAT IN PURSUIT OF HISTORY AND SCENERY…

Upper Fırat Basin is one of the most scenic areas of the northeast region of Turkey. The journey that is made along Fırat River and its bayous is full of oases despite the barren mountains of the Eastern Anatolia. A different geography, unique life styles, and an impressive history greet you on the Erzincan-Elazığ route where the Fırat flows for 2.800 kilometers. Do not forget to pass the bridges over the Fırat, go to the Dark Canyon by a small boat, watch the Valley of Kemaliye from Taş Kahve, and observe the masonry of the gates of Divriği Ulu Mosque. Take the ferry from Keban Dam Lake, learn the tunes full of longing from the women of Kemaliye, purchase hot pitas from the bakery in the Apçağa Village, knock on the door of a Kemaliye house by using its traditional knocker, throw your wish in to the Fırat…

UNESCO world heritage the Divriği Mosque
The most significant feature of this route is that the journey can be made by train and it is satisfying in visual aspects. The Divriği Ulu Mosque is one of the important stops of the route. It is accepted as a masterpiece of the Islamic art. By looking at the masonry of its gates, we can say that it is not easy to find another masterpiece that is so close to reaching the peak of this art in Anatolia. The greatest features of the mosque are its three dimensional masonry, rich motives, and asymmetry. The mosque is included in UNESCO’s world heritage list. Darüşşifa, which is located next to the mosque, is one of the three oldest Seljukian medical centers. UNESCO accepts the medical center as a symbol of the equality of men and women because of the embossments on the entrance door. The word ‘laborer’ is used in the signature on the wooden pulpit of the mosque. Rumors say that, İbrahimoğlu Laborer Ahmet of Tbilisi had the wood rest covered in soil and manure for seven years before engraving the ebony pulpit, which is built using marquetry style.

Nature sports in extreme nature    
Kemaliye or with its original name Eğin is located where Karasu River separates into two sections in the upper Firat basin. Kemaliye attracts attention because of its location and having kept its distance from tourism. It is surrounded with mountains, and it rises in graded terraces from the banks of the Firat to the foot of the mountain, on which it leans. The people of Eğin were never lucky in terms of land; however, in order to make gardens behind their houses, which were on the hillside, they put up stone walls, filled the area behind the walls with soil. Today, they can grow anything except the plants that are unique to Mediterranean climate. An important income source of the people is honey and cheese production in Sarıçiçek and Munzur Plateaus of Kemaliye, which has sixty-two villages. The Nature Sports Festival, which is organized each year in loving memory of Governor of Erzincan Recep Yazıcıoğlu who had lost his life at an early age due to an accident, is the proof of what nature could offer in here. The Dark Canyon, through which Karasu River crosses, is suitable for rock climbing, rafting, kayak, and water ski thanks to its 500-meter tall steep walls, and its 15 km length. Kırkpınarlı Kırkgöz Locality, which dominates both Keban Dam Lake and the Kemaliye Village, is preferred for paragliding. Erzincan Riding Center organizes cirit shows (a traditional Turkish javelin competition.) Another significant route Taş Yolu (Stone Road,) which has been built by carving the Dark Canyon walls for 130 years, is preferred for mountain biking, and trekking.

There is a village far away…
Ahmet Kutsi Tecer who is a poet and author of the Republic period was inspired by the Apçağa Village, which is 5 km away from Kemaliye, when writing his famous poem called, ‘Far Away Village.’ The sign, placed at the entrance of the village, is enough to tell the story: “There is a village far away/ It is our village/ Although we do not go there/ It is our village.” Visitors do not forget to visit the Taşbaşı Tea House, which is located in the upper side of the village that dominates Kemaliye, the bakery that is famous with its long pitas, guesthouse, small bazaar with a few shops, and stone-wooden houses.

A tradition that knocks on the doors
When strolling around Kemaliye’s streets and villages, you are going to notice the unique doorknockers. Almost each door has two knockers in different lengths and sounds. The owner of the house recognizes that the guest is a man when the big knocker is knocked, and the guest is a woman when the small knocker is knocked. Those handmade knockers are made from sheet metal. It is a traditional handcraft. Sometimes, the artisan spends a week for only one knocker. Some of their price might go over 1.000TL and those are mentioned among the locals as ‘They have nailed a good one on their door.’

A relief: the Stone Road
The year is 1870… Building of the Stone Road that is going to create an alternative to Eğin’s road, which is closed most of the time in winters due to heavy snow, and connect the village to the big cities begins. The mayor of the period Ekşizade Osman Efendi says, “If this road ever finishes some day, let someone visit my tombstone and tell me that it is finished, I will hear it.” It was not surprising that he was that pessimistic. Building the road took 130 years. The Stone Road, which its length reaches to 6 km with 31 tunnels, shortened the route for 220 km between İstanbul and Kemaliye. During the building of the road, sometimes the work had stopped for as much as twenty years; however, in order to finish the road enough funds were raised with the initiatives of Recep Yazıcıoğlu in 1993. He brought together the people of Kemaliye and our expat citizens to collect the funds. This road is a great example to government-citizen cooperation. Some citizens who are fond of Kemaliye had their name written at the entrance of the tunnels for a fee of 5.000TL.

Everyone wants Kemaliye to become free of being a blind alley where the wild nature has broken its chains from the rest of the world. Ask the Stone Road from the women of Eğin. This road has made their longing for their expats acceptable. Now, their husbands or their sons are closer. They have been crying their hearts out for years. Always the similar desperate cries, ‘come back my agha’, ‘my hazel eyed agha’, ‘I have burned the kerchief you have sent agha’, ‘do not solace me with letters agha…’ The women of Eğin have come to an understanding of their husbands’ pursuit of earning their income out of their small town, but they have continued to act as if they didn’t and they cannot pacify the longing in their hearts: “I am not a boat by the Fırat/ I am not myself since we got separated/ I am not worthy of your greeting/ Come my agha, come and go back again/ Wipe my tears and then go again.”

ACCOMMODATION
Yeşil Eğin with balconies, which is by the Fırat, Bozkurt Hotel and Restaurant, which promotes the tourism, Bahçeli Guest House, which is famous with its breakfast that Kemaliye honey and pita of Eğin are served, are among the accommodation options.

TASTE STOP
Kemaliye Kadı Sofrası serves traditional meals. Stop by the Lökhane to taste their löks (a traditional dessert.) They also have roasted chickpeas, dried basil, sherbets, menengiç coffee that is grounded in a large stone mortar, churchkhela.

ACTIVITY
The owner of the Guide and Doğaperest Tour Şevket Gültekin organizes trekking, kayak, boat safari, and biking tours.

SHOPPING
Stop by the shop of Ali Demirci who is the sixth generation of an ironmonger family that kept creating cast iron doorknockers for generations.

DO NOT MISS
It is worth to see 25 million year old fossils, approximately 2.000 types of plants, animals, and metals at the Natural History Museum founded by Prof. Dr. Ali Demirsoy of Kemaliye.