Write: Melih Uslu, Sezgin Yalçıner Photos: Sezgin Yalçıner
The subject of folk songs with the beauty of its plain, Muş is like East Anatolia’s tulip garden, with a rich history stretching back to the Urartu, its ski center, local foods and colorful handicrafts.
As the plane slowly starts to descend, we wonder what we will encounter. Then the plane starts gliding down toward the Plain of Muş, which from the clouds appears to one’s eyes like a beautiful, intricately patterned tray. Possessing great touristic potential in terms of its natural, historic, and cultural treasures, the city is built on a plain between the streams Çar and Korni, in the Upper Murat section of eastern Anatolia. The region, whose history dates back to the Urartu, once hosted the Battle of Manzikert, which opened the gates of Anatolia to the Turks. A passenger we meet on the plane, Baran, says that the skiing facility closest to an airport in Turkey is located in Muş province. Our fellow traveler tells us interesting facts about the city and invites us to ski. With the thought that the best way to get to know a city is to listen to those who live there, we start touring Muş together.
The Pleasure of Skiing
Baran proudly starts to tell of the beauty of Muş: “Winter used to be much rougher around here. The Güzeltepe Ski Center showed the local people that winter could become a source of fun and income.” The ski center that creates great excitement in the city is located approximately ten kilometers from Muş. The ski center is accessible by a route accompanied by magnificent winter views. First, one passes through the village of Güzeltepe, which consists of single-story houses. Then, after we turn to the left, with Muş Alparslan University to our right, we reach the area in which the facilities are located. At the center, where snow piles up more than two meters deep in the winter, there are meticulously prepared ski slopes, a rest center, and a cable car system. We appear to be unprepared, however—we don’t have any equipment with us to ski! But this is no problem in Güzeltepe, as you can rent all ski equipment here. This is just what we do, and we climb up to the top of the slope. The region has very high-quality snow due to the low humidity, and it possesses great tourism in terms of winter and outdoors sports. It is possible to ski until the end of April in Güzeltepe. The gently inclined terrain is very well suited to children and beginning skiers. Drawing zigzags in the heart of Eastern Anatolia, we enjoy the pristine natural environment to the fullest.
Eating Cabbage in the Winter
One of the best parts about being in Muş is that almost everyone we meet says “welcome” with a warm smile. We ask our travel buddy Baran whether or not the roads of Muş are hilly. He starts by saying yes, and continues: “Our roads are hilly, but that’s not all—our weather is winter, our food is ‘çorti,’ and our bird is the crow.” This saying is at least as famous in Muş as the dish ‘çorti.’ Çorti, a winter dish, is prepared like this: one chops lettuce leaves and fills them into a pot with parsley, basil, onions, and various spices. Tartness is added to the mixture with some dough and chickpeas, and sometimes it can be eaten when cooked mixed with meat as well. After enjoying a local feast with çorti, Muş meatballs with cracked wheat, stuffed tomato, “keşkek” (a stew of meat and grain), and ayran (the salty yogurt drink), we continue touring the city. Baran tells us what we must be sure to do in the city: “I would like you to see the rivers Murat and Karasu, the two necklaces of our plain; Haspet Citadel; and the view of the city from Kale [Citadel] Park.”
IN TULIP GARDENS
If you happen to be in Muş in the spring, you will find yourself amid tulip gardens resembling rainbows. The city really does offer views that would strike naturalist painters with envy, and it is a point of attraction for shutterbugs. Before climbing Koğ Peak on Mount Varto and watching the sunrise there, you won’t really know Muş. The beauties of Muş are not limited to its natural environment, of course. The area is also rich in terms of historic places of worship. Ulu Mosque, built in the 14th century; Hajji Şerif Mosque in Arslanlı Han, a Seljuk building; and the elegant Esenlik Mosque are among the city’s leading Islamic works of architecture. Çengilli Church and Arak Monastery provide hints about the region’s multicultural history. Muş also has two lovely bridges dating to the Seljuk era. The twelve-section Murat Pasha Bridge is on the way to Varto, and the five-meter-wide Hatun Bridge is at the entrance of the district of Malazgirt. Before leaving Muş, we suggest you first buy gifts for your loved ones. Choices are abound at the bazaar: some of the handicrafts unique to the region are—in addition to embroidery, lacework, and beadwork—rugs, carpets, blankets, and cotton weaves. As we bid farewell to Muş and Baran, we promise ourselves that we will come here again.