To Sagman and the Termal Hotel.

Because the road to Sagman begins beside the reservoir and Sagman itself is high in the hills and mountains, the ascent is quite a demanding one for someone aged over sixty, and it is made a little more challenging because the village is 10 kilometres away. Moreover, at only one point can you get fresh water, at an improvised cesme dependent on a hose to bring liquid refreshment to people on the road itself. On the positive side, the views over the reservoir and the surrounding hills and mountains are never less than excellent and two men kindly gave me a lift for the last 3 kilometres. Sagman itself is a predominantly modern village that clusters quite tightly around a recently built mosque, but, because it lies on a gently inclined slope dominated by pasture with stunning views in all directions, I found it most attractive, the pitched corrugated iron roofs included. By now there was, albeit briefly, bright sunshine and I felt elated.

View south from the road to Sagman.

View south from the road to Sagman.

View south from the road to Sagman.

View south from the road to Sagman.

I was dropped in what passes as the centre of the village, a small open space enclosed by a few buildings, two shops included. There were also some parked motor vehicles, three of which were minibuses that carried people to school, Tunceli or Elazig. After admiring the extensive views over the pasture toward hills, mountains and the reservoir, I set off along a dirt road that led after about 2 kilometres to the mosque and the castle that are Sagman’s main claims to fame (the old town of Sagman, which has now almost completely disappeared, was located close to the castle and around the mosque. The present village cannot be more than fifty or sixty years old). For most of the way the road was level or gently inclined in my favour, which made the walk an easy one. Mules and horses in a quantity not witnessed previously on the trip ate the pasture and looked in good health. At the easternmost extremity of the village a jandarma post was still occupied by men in uniforms.

View south-east from Sagman.

View south-east from Sagman.

I turned a corner and saw ahead the mosque in front of the castle. Both had been built at more or less the same height above sea level, but a distance of about 250 metres lies between them. The castle is on a rock a little higher than all those near it and the mosque is above a slope descending to a river far below to the south. Both structures are surrounded by stunning upland scenery of mountains and deep valleys. I was thrilled by the prospect of looking around for about an hour or so.

The mosque and castle, Sagman.

The mosque and castle, Sagman.

The mosque is currently subject to a substantial restoration programme, but the day of my visit no workmen were present. This meant I could walk wherever I wished. Sinclair notes that:

The domed prayer hall, executed in black basalt, and the portico in front were built probably about 1555… The wings either side, including the turbe reached from the s. side of the w. wing, must have been added about 1570. To all appearances these wings are a tekke, a lodge for dervishes of a particular (Sufi) order. The use of the mosque as part of a tekke would not have prevented members of the town’s population from worshipping in the prayer hall…

Prayer hall. The n. wall is distanced from the dome so as to contrive an arched entrance space almost covering the length of the prayer hall’s n. side… The comparatively simple mihrab has a frame of muqarnas as well as a muqarnas vault. The small stone member has five niches with pointed arches at the base on each side. These are pabucluks (cubby-holes for shoes). In the tower-like part beneath the pulpit are further cubby-holes…

The prayer hall is entered through a portal in whose muqarnas vault genuine stalactites are formed. Apart from this and the decoration of the engaged pillars on the corners between the bay and the outside face, the portal is plain: however, it is executed in a remarkable conglomerate stone white and pink in colour…

The mosque, Sagman.

The mosque, Sagman.

E. and w. wings. To e. and w. of the portico, there is a row of rooms consisting of a vaulted rectangular chamber, a second, narrow, vaulted room and a third, domed one at the end…

To the w. the octagonal turbe is bonded with the complex of rooms: its north face is formed by part of the back wall. Its low sides are executed in an alternation of black and white courses.

The mosque, Sagman.

The mosque, Sagman.

The mosque, Sagman.

The mosque, Sagman.

The mosque, Sagman.

The mosque, Sagman.

 I was left with an impression that, on completion of the restoration project, the mosque will look very much as it did when originally constructed. Without question, this proved to be the day’s most remarkable survival from the past, although the nearby castle has its rewards as well. As Sinclair reveals:

What survives is the walls fortifying the westerly arm of the castle rock, i.e. that pointing towards the mosque… The corner of the n. and sw. faces is of cut stone, and so is the polygonal, but slight, tower in the middle of the sw. face. Otherwise the masonry is of uncut or roughly hacked blocks. It is reminiscent of that of the castle of Pertek. The two walls are built above vertical cliffs. The extent and configuration of the rest of the castle has not been investigated. ? 16th century, but certainly the reconstruction of a previous castle.

The castle, Sagman.

The castle, Sagman.

 Just north of the mosque is a cesme with two vaulted bays. The cesme was built in 1555 by a local Kurdish ruler called Bey Keykusrav, who may have also built the mosque itself. Bey Keykusrav was the father of Salih, the prince who is buried in the turbe.

The cesme, Sagman.

The cesme, Sagman.

It was on land between the castle and the mosque, but a little to the north of the former, that, until the 1980s, a cluster of houses marked where at least part of the old town of Sagman stood. Today, however, only traces of the foundations of the houses remain among trees and undergrowth of recent pedigree.

Half way through my look around, I met two elderly couples who had driven to this quite but exceedingly beautiful spot to eat a picnic and walk along paths disappearing as the grass and flowers took over. Both couples appeared to be Sunni Muslim, but I could not fault their friendliness. I was asked to eat some food, but declined the invitation because it was now about 4.00pm and I was not sure how long it would take to get back to Pertek.

Sagman.

Sagman.

With the two men I continued our conversation as I drank water from the cesme. I had seen on arrival an old dirt road leading from beside the mosque into the valley to the south and asked the men where it went. They explained that it was the old road from Pertek which, for the last 5 or 6 kilometres, is no longer used by motor vehicles destined for Sagman because it has not been maintained for many years. Nonetheless, it could be walked and, from where the road is still accessible to motor vehicles, that is, from a very small, largely deserted, village one of the men identified as a mahalle, I might be lucky and find a private car going to Pertek. When it was suggested that Pertek lay about 12 to 14 kilometres from the mosque, I thought the walk would be worth the gamble. To return the way I had come might involve a walk just as long, but still leave me about 8 to 10 kilometres from the hotel. I was told to take a left just before the mahalle, the first settlement after leaving the mosque, and warned that I would have to first descend to the river before ascending the other valley wall and taking a right to Pertek. By now, a little rested and with a bottle full of water from the cesme, I was keen to press on. If nothing else I would see yet more of the uplands of Dersim that had so captivated my imagination. I shook hands with the two men who said I should arrive at an inhabited village about 2 or 3 kilometres from Pertek in about two hours.

The castle, Sagman.

The castle, Sagman.

By now the cloud had built up again and I set off at a brisk pace knowing the cooler conditions would militate against getting overheated. I kept turning back because the views of the castle were particularly good, but there were also moments when the mosque was silhouetted against the grey sky. The valley into which I rapidly descended could not be faulted either and, the lower I got, the more I encountered trees and undergrowth. Whenever I looked up mountains enclosed me. I felt elated all over again.

Between Sagman and Pertek.

Between Sagman and Pertek.

The mosque and castle, Sagman.

The mosque and castle, Sagman.

I arrived at a left turn but, to confirm it was the correct one, walked a little further to ensure the village lay nearby. It did lie nearby and, at the point where the road came to an end, someone had parked a very old car. This implied that at least one house in the village must still be lived in, but, when I looked around, most of the narrow paths leading from one house to another were overgrown or breaking up. The houses had been built on the steep, south-facing slope in such a way that no house obscured the view of another. The houses utilised a light brown stone and had flat roofs, but I did not find one still inhabited. Some roofs had been covered with large blue tarpaulin sheets weighed down with stones. The tarpaulin sheets were no doubt intended to keep the rain from penetrating inside, which made me think the owners of the houses might have plans to rebuild them, perhaps so they could use them during the summer months. I looked around and could not think of many more pretty places to have a house. Moreover, it was from the village that the road could be driven along, albeit with care in places.

The almost deserted village between Sagman and Pertek.

The almost deserted village between Sagman and Pertek.

The almost deserted village between Sagman and Pertek.

The almost deserted village between Sagman and Pertek.

The almost deserted village between Sagman and Pertek.

The almost deserted village between Sagman and Pertek.

By now the wind was building up and, about half a kilometre from the village, rain began to fall from a sky full of grey cloud, thunder and lightning. Luckily I had my anorak with me so I put it on and zipped it up. The rain persisted for about half an hour, but I pushed on because shelter beside the road did not exist. During that half hour I passed two very large flocks of sheep being brought down from the pasture on the mountain slopes and chatted with two young shepherds smoking cigarettes under an umbrella who alarmed me when they said that Pertek was still 10 kilometres away (luckily, they were wrong). I then arrived at the point where a bridge crosses the river. A steep ascent out of the valley lay ahead, which I knew would test my increasingly tired legs, but I was now about half the way to my destination. As the rain eased and then stopped altogether, I saw that nomads had set up a camp not far from the bridge on a patch of level ground that was wider than anywhere else nearby. The shepherds I had spoken with earlier would no doubt spend the night in one of the tents. Their sheep would be put into pens assembled from wooden fencing. An open-topped lorry had been parked nearby. The lorry had been used to bring the tents and other camp equipment a few days or weeks before.

Between Sagman and Pertek.

Between Sagman and Pertek.

The clouds began to break up and the sun shone in a sky that grew steadily more blue with every minute that passed. Although I had to walk all the way to the inhabited village the old men had mentioned, the scenery was so astounding that I could not help smiling, my tiredness notwithstanding. I was now very high on the north-facing valley wall and could see for considerable distances in every direction except south where the reservoir was. However, east, north and west there were hills, mountains, deep valleys, a meandering river, large flocks of sheep and goats, trees on the steep slopes and, an indicator that the village was nearby, lots of beehives on a relatively flat shelf high above the river. Moreover, ahead was a break in the ridge immediately to the south that would allow a road to turn right for Pertek. I had just about done it.

As I approached the gap in the ridge, I saw a woman aged about thirty-five sitting on a rock as she smoked a cigarette. She was not wearing a headscarf. She looked north toward the highest mountains of Dersim. With the ascent over I needed a break, so I said hello and, when the woman replied in a friendly manner and patted the rock on which she sat, I knew she would not object if I rested beside her. We shook hands and I declined a cigarette, but I drank lots of the water in my bottle. The water had remained almost as cool as when I had taken it from the cesme at old Sagman.

It turned out that one of the old men at Sagman had rung someone in the village to look out for my arrival and the young woman with whom I was chatting had decided to assume the role of welcoming committee. She was a jandarma enjoying a few day’s leave and had returned to her home village to spend time with family and friends. A female jandarma? This was most unusual in itself, but when she said she was Alevi and unmarried (very few women in Turkey remain unmarried by the time they are thirty), my surprise was compounded. However, she had a great sense of humour and was determined that I would meet her mother and a few other people in the village.

I was led to the mother’s house, an old place spread over a single storey, and encouraged to sit in the small garden in shade created by vegetation trained overhead. After the mother had been introduced to me and before she sat down to join in the conversation, she brought me some stuffed vine leaves, a stuffed pepper and two large glasses of fruit juice, all of which I consumed gratefully because I had had nothing since breakfast except water. The mother and daughter confessed to finding Sunni Muslims “a problem”, and the daughter confessed to enjoying alcohol when she was off-duty. I explained about the organic wine I had been given at Onar and the daughter laughed heartily, just as she had laughed earlier when, after I had peeled off my anorak to reveal a damp shirt unfit for human wear, I tried to make myself look more presentable by combing my hair! Her laugh said it all: my effort was a total waste of time.

The village where I was fed between Sagman and Pertek.

The village where I was fed between Sagman and Pertek.

My meal over, I explained that I had to get to Pertek before nightfall, something I was told would be no problem because it was only 2 or 3 kilometres away. The daughter took me for a short walk through the village where I met a few more people, then we kissed on the cheeks and I set off for Pertek. The road soon provided excellent views over the town and the reservoir. Because I was descending all the time, less effort was required, and, once on the edge of Pertek itself, I took a shot cut across some derelict land on which the occasional house or small apartment block had been built. I emerged on the main road leading to Cemisgezek and Hozat, but the roundabout with the peace sign still lay about 3 kilometres away. So near yet so far from my destination. It was now that the fatigue really kicked in because there was nothing new to enjoy (although later, walking toward the hotel, there was another dramatic sunset).

Pertek.

Pertek.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

I called at the same bufe as the night before to buy two beers and a packet of crisps, which was all my body craved because of the excellent food so recently consumed, then I took a few photos of the sunset. I lingered a while to chat with the hotel staff on reception because they looked bored, but was in my room by 7.45pm, just as the last light was draining from the sky. I stripped off, showered, put on the heavy towel dressing gown provided to every guest for the duration of their stay and washed a few items of clothing. Next, I sat at the table in front of the window, opened the first of the two beers and began jotting down a summary of what had happened since waking that morning. Not all today’s monuments had lived up to expectation, and many houses I had hoped to see no longer existed, but the scenery had been memorable from start to finish. I had walked 25 to 30 kilometres through some of Turkey’s most enchanting upland scenery and been driven through even more and, as a consequence, felt confident I would return quite soon to delve a little deeper into what Dersim has to offer.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

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To Ulu Kale.

I had an excellent night’s sleep because of the comfortable bed and the quite room, so was rested enough by 6.30am to walk to the ferry terminal to take more photos of the ferries themselves and the castle. Because breakfast at the hotel was not served until 8.00am, I walked toward the roundabout with the peace sign, but, before getting that far, took a right turn along a dirt road that led toward the centre of Pertek past small apartment blocks, houses in large gardens and farms where families kept sheep and a few cattle. As the road ascended, the views of the reservoir and the castle steadily improved. Every so often I passed children waiting to be picked up in a minibus and taken to school.

Before the reservoir was filled, two mosques were dismantled from the slopes on which old Pertek lay and were reassembled in the modern town of Pertek (in other words, the mosques lay on the slopes below the castle. The slopes are now below the level of the water, as are ruins including a church and a hamam). I caught glimpses of both the mosques, Baysungur Camii and Celebi Ali Camii, both of which have their origins in the 16th century. Baysungur Camii is a domed cube with a three-domed portico and a minaret. The portico’s walls and the minaret’s shaft are constructed with bands of chocolate-coloured and cream-coloured stone, but the walls of the prayer hall comprise of rubble stone. Celebi Ali Camii has some similarities with Baysungur Camii, but an iwan and a cesme help to make it distinctive.

For breakfast I was directed to the café and lokanta that has been built in the large garden overlooking the reservoir the other side of the road from the hotel itself. I sat at a table facing the reservoir, the castle and the hills to the south-west and, about fifteen minutes later, was given tea and a tray of food. For a hotel expensive by Turkish standards the food was not very imaginative, but, with a generous portion of bread to go with the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, three types of cheese, chips, boiled egg, honey in the comb, cherry jam, tea and water, I had no reason to complain. This said, I was disappointed to see that cloud was building up and turning the sun a little hazy. However, I expected the day to involve a lot of walking, so perhaps the cloud would prove a blessing in disguise.

My destinations for the day were Ulu Kale, about 10 to 15 kilometres from Cemisgezek, and Sagman, about 15 kilometres from Pertek. Both destinations lay off the main road to Cemisgezek, but the previous day’s travels had given me the opportunity to identify precisely where both roads to my destinations diverged. I had resolved to visit Ulu Kale first because it was the destination furthest from Pertek.

Just before 9.00am I left the hotel for the roundabout with the peace sign and, ten minutes after arriving there, a quietly spoken man driving an old Tofas offered me a lift to the junction for Dere. When I got out of the car I was almost as far as the small supermarket where, the day before, I had bought the ice cream. I walked a short distance, then a car stopped with four men inside. The men were going to Cemisgezek to undertake a day’s work and they each had a small briefcase to confirm that they were civil servants or professionals of some importance. Because the junction for Ulu Kale was only 3 or 4 kilometres from Akcapinar near where I had been the day before, I was taken most of the way to Cemisgezek, which confirmed for me that the road from Pertek to Cemisgezek is one of exceptional beauty and interest.

Between Pertek and Cemisgezek.

Between Pertek and Cemisgezek.

Because the car in which we travelled was very new and the driver wanted to show off his skills at the wheel, it was about 10.20am when I arrived at the junction for Ulu Kale. The sign at the bottom of the road suggested that the village was only 4 kilometres away, but by the time I arrived in its centre it felt as if I had walked 5 or even 5.5 kilometres. For most of the way the ascent was merely steady and a lot of time was spent at or near the highest point of a ridge. I therefore secured excellent views of Payamduzu on the way to Akcapinar and Cemisgezek, and north toward snow-smudged mountains in the milli parki. Sadly the cloud cover remained quite thick, which imbued many a view with a grey tinge, but at least it was cool and the views extensive, not least over the reservoir. Every so often I encountered a large flock of sheep and goats. At one point I was worried that large dogs that protected a flock might make their way in my direction – they had seen me and began barking in a threatening way – but they decided to stay close to their shepherd instead.

Ulu Kale.

Ulu Kale.

Ulu Kale.

Ulu Kale.

I rounded a corner and was on the westernmost edge of the village, which has, in recent decades, shifted from its original position immediately below the basalt cliffs crowned by the scant remains of the castle to a more accessible and gently sloping shelf looking south. However, the remains of the original village and the much larger new one lie in a bowl with cliffs and steep slopes rising to the west, the north and the east. Once the houses and other facilities of the village somewhat abruptly conclude, fields, orchards and pasture lead toward a river to the south. At the entrance to the village on the west side is a most unusual sight in a Turkish village, identical modern houses arranged in a regular fashion along new roads that really belong in a new suburb in one of the large conurbations far to the west. The pitched roofs, brightly painted plaster walls, satellite dishes and small gardens behind wire fences would look perfectly at home in parts of Bursa or Eskisehir. Or, with some minor tweaking, Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

View south from Ulu Kale.

View south from Ulu Kale.

Ulu Kale.

Ulu Kale.

Although immediately to the north of Ulu Kale you are enclosed by cliffs and slopes, more open views exist south-east and south-west, and the hills to the south are far enough away to create a welcome sense of spaciousness. While the most interesting houses are inevitably those in the original village – they are built of stone and substantial in size, but look abandoned and are very few in number – the houses in the new village are of interest because a mixture of stone, mudbrick, concrete, plaster, wood, corrugated iron and flat sheets of metal have been used to good visual effect. Most houses have a patch of garden surrounding them where trees, flowers and a few vegetables prosper.

Part of the old village, Ulu Kale.

Part of the old village, Ulu Kale.

Part of the old village below the castle, Ulu Kale.

Part of the old village below the castle, Ulu Kale.

Between the original village and the new one is a turbe with an octagonal ground plan. Sinclair says it was built in 1550 for someone called Ferruhsad Bey:

Three courses of a rich red stone run round the trunk. Two large windows in arched recesses to e. and w. Beside the mihrab, which is partly lost, there are niches in the se. and sw. walls of the interior. The brick interior dome is revealed by the loss of the exterior pyramidal cap. There is a small crypt.

The turbe, Ulu Kale.

The turbe, Ulu Kale.

Not far from the turbe is a ruin described to me as a church. I could find nothing to confirm that the ruin had been a church, but Sinclair describes a church at Ulu Kale more or less where the ruin is. He writes that it was:

Single nave, one rib. Semi-circular apse, ruined. Entrance wall mostly fallen. Large blocks used. Probably 17th or 18th century.

The ruined church (?), Ulu Kale.

The ruined church (?), Ulu Kale.

The ruined church (?), Ulu Kale.

The ruined church (?), Ulu Kale.

Photos on the internet of Ulu Kale taken a few years ago confirm that many old houses, even then in a very neglected state, have disappeared altogether, and it is obvious from Sinclair’s monumental study of eastern Turkey that very little of the castle survives. This said, I was glad I had made the effort to visit the village, not least for its dramatic natural surroundings. I noticed that a road meandered along the river in an easterly direction leading after a few kilometres to Bozagac and, if nothing else, the scenery must be very rewarding. From Bozagac a road leads back to the Pertek to Cemisgezek road. A round walk for a future visit? Perhaps.

View east from Ulu Kale.

View east from Ulu Kale.

Local wildlife, Ulu Kale.

Local wildlife, Ulu Kale.

So little traffic goes from Ulu Kale to the Pertek to Cemisgezek road during the day that I had to walk all the way to the junction, but at least I was going downhill most of the time and could enjoy extensive views of the Keban Reservoir. Once at the junction I had to wait only a short time for a lift all the way to the junction for Sagman. I was travelling with a man of local importance (he toured the region to confirm that road works were completed to a satisfactory standard) because he was in a new and very comfortable car with a chauffeur. The chauffeur said that he played professional football for a club in a league one or two levels below the top-flight clubs and that his job as a chauffeur terminated once the football season began. Both men were Alevis. They combined friendliness with a reflective frame of mind, but warned me that most people in Sagman were Sunni Muslims.

Between Ulu Kale and the Pertek to Cemisgezek road.

Between Ulu Kale and the Pertek to Cemisgezek road.