Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

Reunion in Cappadocia

If you look at the map today, you can see quite a big distance between the Macedonian region in Greece and Cappadocia in Turkey.

But picture this: Years ago, people in Thessaloniki were moved to Sinasos, today known as Mustafapaşa, in Cappadocia, or they were moved from Nevşehir in Turkey to Kavala in Greece during the "population exchange" period. Since so many Greeks moved from the city of Kavala to Cappadocia, they even established a "Cappadocian Association." To date, Greeks have preserved their customs and traditions in Anatolia, including music, food and folklore.

The Turkish and Greek nations, which were on the verge of war a few times, are now getting to know each other better and burying the hatchet. The Turkish-Greek Friendship Association, or Daphne, has been organized "Friendship Festivals" in the region for seven years. This year’s theme was "Reunion" and people who were separated during the exchange program came together for this occasion.

The Friendship Festivals have two components, one in Turkey and the other in Greece. This year, the festival began in Kavala and ended in Cappadocia.

I missed the Kavala part of the festival, which began with a bus trip from Istanbul. But I attended the second part that continued by train from Istanbul to Cappadocia.

In a workshop held during the approximately 16- to 17-hour train trip, we laid Turkish-Greek relations on the table. We mutually questioned our prejudices against each other as Turks and Greeks.

The workshop, with Turkish, English and Greek words flying in the air, did not end all prejudices but at least it helped us question them. In Göreme, one of the most beautiful corners of Cappadocia, we discussed the "population exchange" in an open-air panel.

Ripping millions from the lands they lived in and forcing them out is a modern drama too.

From both Turkey and Greece, millions have hit the road since 1923. Keep in mind that some didn’t know the language of the place where they had to live. I remember how surprised I was when I heard a few years ago that my friend’s neighbor, an old lady who moved from Crete to Cunda Island in Ayvalık, where my friend lives, didn’t know even a single word of Turkish and she communicated with her children only in Greek. Like this old woman, there are undoubtedly thousands in Turkey who moved from the Greek islands and didn’t know Turkish when they arrived.

Europe’s unifying role
The remarks of an "exchange" panel at the Friendship Festival were quite intriguing: "There was Europe behind the population exchange in 1923. Europe played a separating role back then and today it should play a unifying role. That can be achieved by allowing Turkey’s accession to the European Union."

We heard various statements that made the two nations understand each other and the next day we had a chance to see the common culture of Greeks in Sinasos and Turks in Cappadocia. The most distinctive element of this common culture is a culinary one, and I personally witnessed how this is unifying.

Greek visitors, including the governor of Kavala, whose family is from the Turkish city of Niğde, showed a great deal of interest in the dinner table prepared by the renowned gastronome Osman Serim and hosted by Daphne at the garden of a historic mansion in Sinasos. The stuffed green peppers and meat casserole served were just like what they cook at home.

The most important event of the Göreme panel, like the cream on the cake in a Sinasos feast, was without a doubt the unveiling of two sculptures titled "Reunion" at the Nevşehir Culture Park. Two Turkish and Greek sculptors created the work and music by Teodorakis played in the background while the veil was removed before the Nevşehir audience.