Gokbudak and Begendik, Siirt, Turkey.

To find the villages of Gokbudak and Begendik, access Google Maps and in the search engine type “Pervari, Turkey”. From the centre of Pervari note that two roads run east, one slightly more northerly than the other. Both villages lie about 15 kms east of Pervari, Gokbudak along the more southerly of the two roads and Begendik along the more northerly one. Traffic is very light on both roads and minibuses extremely infrequent, but a mixture of walking and hitching will get you to both. However, only a very lucky person can visit both villages in a day. Set aside a day for each village and incidental pleasures can be relished without worrying about the time. The mountain scenery is spectacular along both roads. Although Pervari does not have a hotel, alternative accommodation exists, especially during the school holidays.

I got to the village of Gokbudak with a lift of about 7 kms in a heavily laden lorry and by walking the rest of the way. The scenery is outstanding from start to finish. Mountains, deep ravines, tributaries that tumble down the slopes to meet the main river, and patches of intensively cultivated more level land ensure there is always something to enjoy, even when steep ascents and descents begin to take their toll on your feet. As for Gokbudak itself, in many ways it is a smaller version of Begendik, as the following will confirm. The village has been built on a mountain slope facing south with views over intensively farmed land along a pretty valley floor. The houses are stacked in such a manner that every family enjoys uninterrupted views. The great majority of houses are built with rubble stone. Cubic or cuboid in shape, the houses have flat roofs. Usually constructed over two storeys, they rarely have verandas or balconies, but the flat roofs can be used for many purposes, not least for sleeping on during the hottest time of the year. Ground floor rooms are sometimes used to shelter livestock overnight or to store food for human or animal consumption. Narrow, meandering paths, sometimes steep and eroded because of the lie of the land, provide people with access to their homes. As far as I could tell, everyone works the land in some shape or form. Cultivation of crops is undertaken by every family, but some families also rear sheep and goats on pasture on the surrounding hills and mountains. Few families deem themselves comfortably off, but you can tell that everyone eats well. Many houses have access to satellite TV. The village is too small to support any shops or a tea house, which means that there is a strong emphasis on self-sufficiency. This said, some families possess their own motor vehicles. Just as I arrived in the village, a minibus owned by a villager pulled away to take passengers to Pervari, the nearest town of any size. However, I was advised that another minibus would not leave for Pervari until the following morning.

I was impressed with how welcoming everyone was and how well-behaved the local children were, even the boys aged about eight to fourteen. I was encouraged to look everywhere I wanted, the small mosque included, and some of the women engaged in short chats as they undertook chores in and around their homes. The females who would not risk a chat, or even succumb to eye contact, were those aged about fourteen to twenty-five. Soon to be or recently married, they could not risk compromising their honour in any shape or form. This is quite insane, if only because the same idea about honour does not apply to males of the same age.

I left my overnight accommodation at 7.00am with hardly anyone on the streets. I got to the eastern extremity of Pervari, began to descend to the road leading to Begendik, and was offered a short lift by a driver dropping an elderly couple at their home about 2 kms away. With no vehicles passing for the next ninety minutes, I walked about 6 kms before given two short lifts of about 2 kms each. By the time I was in the third vehicle of the morning I could see Begendik perched on the slope of a mountain on the far side of a valley. However, because of a very steep descent with many hairpin bends along a dirt road to a bridge crossing a river in a deep ravine, and a steep ascent almost as demanding with many twists and turns, it took an additional fifty minutes to reach the outskirts of the village.

The road from Pervari to Begendik, a distance of about 15 kms, is every bit as dramatic and diverting as the road from Pervari to Gokbudak. Begendik is a much larger village than Gokbudak and has two sections. The smaller section, which you come to first from Pervari, has a lot of modern buildings, but the larger section has almost nothing but rubble stone houses with flat roofs that have been built on the mountain slope to ensure everyone enjoys uninterrupted views south. Some of the houses are very large and benefit from balconies, satellite dishes and water tanks, the latter located on the flat roofs. On the wide valley floor below both sections of the village is an area of highly productive gardens, fields and orchards. Because mountains completely surround Begendik, families exploit the pasture on some of the slopes to rear large flocks of sheep and goats. In the village itself are donkeys, mules, horses, goats, cows, calves, cockerels and hens. One of the few modern buildings in the larger part of Begendik is a mosque where construction workers are currently building a minaret that will be 30 metres tall (I met the mosque’s hoca as well as some of his congregation). The population of Begendik is large enough to support a few shops. There are only five or six shops altogether, but they provide a few local people with a livelihood and ensure that some of life’s necessities are easily accessed by the villagers themselves. One shop in the smaller part of Begendik provided me with a much-needed litre of chilled fruit juice and, later, a can of chilled cherry juice.

On the road leading to Begendik, when you are still about 4 kms from your destination but can see the village across the wide valley only a kilometre away as the crow flies, your attention soon drifts from the delightful view of the houses tumbling down the mountain slope to take full account of the surroundings. Some of the mountains enclosing Begendik have an austere and barren appearance, an appearance which contrasts sharply with the fertility of the valley floor that has been cultivated with such care and attention to detail.

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