I travelled to Kutahya which is the centre of ceramic and porcelain production in Turkey. The town has a long history with the Ottomans taking control in 1428. Tile workers from Tabriz in Iran were resettled here and in Iznik in 1514 and it became the centre for the Ottoman ceramic industry.
While there are large factories producing porcelain (I was reliably informed that the industry is controlled by one family who are amongst the richest in Turkey), ceramic work is done in small unsigned studios. Each studio supplies its wares to specific customers and I got to see three different ones. There is production line precision to the entire process (with specialist potters, painters and kilns) but what remains is the freehand painting done by the artists. Magical to watch and stunning when completed! I particularly like the traditional iznik pattern tile panels (there is something about those tulips – and I am not the only one to say that!) and more contemporary vases so will be ordering those for Arastan.
Before I left Istanbul I was told I had to try the chicken soup from a small restaurant in the heart of Kutahya and having turned pale at the thought of chicken soup for breakfast, I did and it turned out to indeed be chicken soup for the soul! I also tried the Pasa lokum (Turkish Delight) from Helvaci Sabri – made of tahini and rolled in sesame; I’m now trying to work out how one gets this to India and if Arastan should diversify into food products from my travels! Delicious, and I like to think healthy and the complete opposite to the iskender kebap we had for dinner: pita bread with sliced doner kebab and melted butter. You can almost feel the heart attack coming on. That may have to be the only one I have on this entire trip. For the non-foody that I am I seem to be managing to tuck in quite a lot on my travels!