Avanos, (Venessa in ancient times), is situated about 10 km from Göreme on the banks of the longest river of Turkey, the Kızılırmak (Red River). The most famous historical feature of Avanos is the production of pottery. The ceramic trade in this area and its numerous pottery workshops date right back to the Hittites, and the ceramic clay from the red silt of the Kızılırmak has always been used.
Avanos is also a popular destination because of its attractive old town with cobbled streets and views of the river. The old part starts just outside the shopping center, with streets winding up the hill with beautiful old stone houses, some restored, some converted and some sadly abandoned to their fate. In some of the houses features of traditional Ottoman architecture can be seen together with ancient decorations, motifs and murals
While Avanos may be best known for its famous pottery, there are other wonders hiding there. One of the strangest is the bizarre Avanos Hair Museum: in one of the pottery workshops a small cave contains hair samples, names and addresses from more than 16,000 women from all around the world.The hair museum was founded by Chez Galip, a talented potter. Although there are conflicting stories about where the idea came from, Galip’s own website (http://www.chez-galip.com) states that the museum was simply meant as a promotion to increase enrollment in his pottery workshops. It seems much nicer to believe the legend: Galip’s friend was moving far away and left him a lock of hair to remind him of her, then subsequent visitors began leaving locks of hair to remind the potter of them as well. The latter story was also confirmed by the potter himself :)!
Since the first lock of hair went up in 1979, thousands of women from all over the world have willingly cut off locks of hair to leave in Galip’s cave. Each one carefully writes her name and address on a piece of paper before taping the hair and paper to the cave ceiling or wall. The surfaces of the cave are covered in dangling hairs of all colors and many different lengths. The purpose of the addresses is to give Galip a way to contact his former visitors. Once a year, ten of the hair samples are chosen at random. The women to whom they once belonged are invited to come back to Galip’s studio for a pottery workshop and a stay in his traditional guest house – all free of charge. Visitors to the cave are not required to leave a sample of hair, but Galip provides all of the materials necessary for those who wish to leave a little piece of themselves behind. What reportedly began as a promotional stunt has evolved into a weirdly compelling display – whether that display is of generosity, a great sense of humor or something else entirely is up to the viewer to decide.
The best day to visit Avanos is on Friday, when there is a huge bazaar (market) there. It's not at all touristic but it's fascinating to see locals selling their produce and doing their weekly shopping there. There are buses from Göreme to Avanos once an hour, leaving Nevsehir on the hour and getting to Göreme 15-20 minutes later. There is one bus stop right outside the bus station and another one where the roads to Avanos and Ürgüp meet.