Adventure Amphore (Küp)



Güzelyurt, 20 January 2013

In Anatolia a clay vessel is called “küp”. The term probably relates to the English word “cup” or the German “Kübel”. In the past large küps were used for storing water, olive oil, wine or pekmez (grape syrup). Today only few large küps are made in Turkey. They normally have a capacity of 150 – 250 l, seldom of 500 – 1000 l.

These modern küps are slightly thinner walled and therefore rather delicate.

For our traditional wine- production in Güzelyurt/Cappadocia I keep looking for old küps of good quality. Byzantine and early Ottoman küps are thick-walled and sturdy. They can stand freely and do not need to be embedded in the ground during wine production. These küps have become rare, however, and they are not cheap any longer.

When I was offered such an old küp over the telephone one winter’s day I did not hesitate to take the next night bus to Tokat. It was a night’s journey on snowy, stormy and icy roads of the Sivas high plateau.

In Tokat I was welcomed by Hasan Bey. He had discovered a large küp in a private garden in the nearby village of Üzümlü (üzüm = grapes). In former times the name of the village had been Dimorta. The population had been Greek until 1924. The küp was resting beneath the canopy of a garden shed, partially embedded in the ground. It had initially been used for storing wine, recently for water. Now the house and garden were surrounded by a wall.

When the deal was finally settled after lengthy discussions, Hasan Bey began to look for helping hands and a suitable vehicle for the transport. His search lasted till the evening when the helpers started to pull the garden wall down.

This done, they slowly rolled the 2.50m tall küp out the garden, over scrub and stones, through the hole in the wall and onto the street, which took about another hour.

Several meters away from the house a lorry was waiting on a slope because from here it would be easier to load the küp onto the lorry bed. The maneuver took just over an hour, but eventually the küp was loaded and tied down.

Murat the driver was from Erzurum. The night journey on extremely poor country roads, covered in snow and ice and partly under construction, seemed to be banalities to him, but when we had finally reached Güzelyurt after a ten-hour drive he fell asleep on the driving-wheel at once.

Monday is market day in Güzelyurt. Many people from the neighboring villages are in town. So, finding six men to unload the küp was quite easy for me.

The “Gelveri Manufactur” is located in the old part of the town with only small narrow lanes. A thick layer of snow came handy with unloading but then things became much more difficult.

We slowly rolled the küp over cushions and wooden planks into our home lane.

Half way down, however, the lane is only about 2.50m wide. It was impossible to roll the küp any further. It had to be dragged like a stranded whale. Slightly rocking to the left and right, pulling and pushing, we managed centimeter by centimeter.

Every time the next steps had to be coordinated, each of the six men had different view of the most suitable approach. So, decision making was repeatedly taking longer than the actual phase of the task.

Then came the high doorsill of the yard gate to be another challenge.

It was late afternoon when the küp was finally being tied up in our yard.

A quick snapshot in victory pose and then – ready for bed

Küp adventure part 2

Next morning we were seven men trying to erect the küp.

Slowly lifting…

Putting bricks and cushions under the küp….

Late afternoon we tried a winch, which first had to be firmly attached to the wall so that it would not break. Yet the küp slipped towards the wall all the time and could not be erected because its “belly” was in the way. At last we postponed the erection to the following day.

In the morning we built an abutment of bricks on the ground to stop the küp from sliding against the wall.

Now it comes to pulling the küp up, supporting it with planks, trying to put it straight. It seems to work. Now the küp slides backwards, glides to the left and rolls to the right, and finally it stands upright. Hold it in place and push stones underneath to fix it…

This is a photo of the küp in its final horizontal position, but I am not showing any pictures of the dispute that arose when I asked the helpers to position it level with its opening.

This is what the küp looks like after it has been carefully restored.

Now the 2000 l clay cask is ready to be used.