If you've ever purchased a fancy skewer or mottled copper kettle in the United States, there's a good chance it came from Kahramanmaraş, aka Maraş [pronounced mah-RAHSH], in southeastern Turkey.
Maraş was an impromptu stop for us, the last two days of 14 on the road in central Anatolia. It's a strange little city, closed and pretty conservative, and a bit off the tourist track (judging by the general lack of good lodging), both domestic and foreign. It's also, at first view, incredibly ugly, with low-rise concrete blocks lining all the roads into town.
But those concrete blocks hide a fantastic, though sadly deteriorating, old city with a genuine blacksmithing neighborhood. What's produced there is not for tourist consumption; it's mostly for export, and it's real, useable goods, not trinkets. Many of the shop are in century-plus arch-doored caverns, part of the old market down the street.
Dave's put together an audio slideshow of images from our time with the blacksmiths of Maraş. The photos are beautiful (yes, I'm biased), but we don't mean to romanticize this work. As one blacksmith, who pounds away with his brother in a workshop opened by their father (you'll see dad's black-and-white portrait, propped on a desk, in the second half of the slideshow) told me: "This is hard, hard work. It's hard on the body, and for not much money. I wouldn't have my son do this."
As if to prove his point he rolled up his shirtsleeve and unwrapped an ace bandage to show me his elbow and forearm, bruised and swollen from hours of hefting a sledgehammer. His brother stepped up, pointed to his chest, and said, "Like a rock." He handed me a hammer and invited me to test his claim. I settled for a punch instead. I was convinced.
See the slideshow here, and be sure to turn on your sound.