Cappadocia, Turkey

April 21

A travel day. From Istanbul to Ankara on the overnight train. From Ankara to Nevsehir by bus (with a steward on board who constantly poured drinks and splashed out lemon flower water to waiting hands); and then a mini-bus to Goreme, Cappadocia.

Once settled into our room, we went out for a walk and made it to the top of the hill overlooking this unique village with it’s "fairy chimney" homes. (Definitely where a picture is worth a thousand words.) Dined at a recommended restaurant (the Mercan) and found it just so-so. We were told it had snowed the day before. It was still quite cool - too cool to sit out on the open deck, unfortunately it was not much warmer inside.

On train from Istanbul to Ankara
Ankara
Ankara
view from Walnut House Goreme We didn’t find warmth in our hotel room either and when we mentioned it to the owner of the Walnut House, he furnished us with an electric heater. The building; walls, ceiling and floor are all made out of blocks of local stone ... it will take some to get it to a comfortable temperature. We piled on the blankets and found through the night we were either too cold or too hot. We imagine in the summer the thickness of the walls create a cool sanctuary.  
Goreme Goreme Goreme Goreme

April 22

It was 9:30 when our tour left Goreme. There were eleven of us in the mini van, plus driver and tour guide. The eleven were made up of a fellow from Holland, another from South Africa, a couple from Australia (there is representation from Australia on every tour), two ladies from Italy, three twenty-something girls from New Zealand and two Canadians (that’s us).

Shortly after starting off the tour van unloaded at a view point where our guide gave us a brief history of the region covering the volcanic eruptions to the sculptured landscapes which stood before us. The locals call them "fairy chimneys" or perhaps it is Cappadocia’s tourist bureau who coined the phrase. She also gave us some human history from the Hittites who where here as early as 1800 BC, through the Byzantines (who were Christians) who flourished here from the 4th to 11th centuries and on to today’s Muslim population.

Cappadocia Cappadocia
Underground city, Cappadocia Underground city, Cappadocia

Our next stop was at Kaymakli - one of the underground cities. Many of the 36 underground cities were linked together through tunnels. Going down 8 stories the city was amazing. To think that at one time this was home to 30,000 people. That was not a typo - thirty thousand people living underground. The longest period of time they stayed in this myriad of tunnels and stone rooms, without emerging, was six months.

Part of these underground cities can be dated back 4,000 years. The Hittites used them by the 7th century BC mostly for storage. In times of peace the people lived and farmed above ground and retreated only when threatened.

Some rooms were as nature had provided while other rooms had been carved out of the soft volcanic tuft. Ventilation holes soaring 8 stories high could also be used as escape routes. There were stables with mangers carved out of the walls for the keeping of chickens, sheep and goats. We saw the school room, kitchens, the arched roofed church shaped in the tradition cross floor plan.

Our guide told us she remembers seeing frescos on the walls when she came at the age of six, but moisture has since caused them to vanish. Joining room to room were narrow passageways, low tunnels and winding staircases (some of which also have very low ceilings).

 

When the Muslims drove out the Christians and peace came to the region, the underground cities were forgotten. In 1960 a farmer stumbled across one of the openings. An international team of archaeologists began to document these underground cities and items were moved to the Archeological Museum in Ankara. In 1965 four of the cities were opened up for tourism.

Cappadocia Cappadocia

Forty-five minutes away the tour entered the Ihlara Valley. We joined others hoofing down approximately 400 stairs to the valley floor. A green banked small fast moving river stream flows through the narrow gorge. Vertical rock walls soar straight up except in a few places where time, erosion and earthquakes have caused parts of the walls to collapse, shattering slabs of rock into pieces as small as pebbles and as large as school buses. Looking up ... way up ... we were surprised to see sheep grazing at the very edge.

It was a pleasant 3km walk along the valley floor with a few ups and downs, a couple of crouches under fallen rock bridges and a few low limbs (some taller fellows hit their heads).

At one point we saw two small girls standing on the opposite bank waving to the passers-by. A glimpse up through the trees showed a woman, most likely their mother, tending a garden in her long skirt and headscarf.

Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia
        
Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia Ihlara Valley, CappadociaIhlara Valley, Cappadocia
Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia  

At the end of the hike lunch tables waited along the river bank. Lunch gave us an opportunity to visit with the girls from New Zealand as well as others.

It was an hour’s drive before our next stop. With full tummies, the fresh air exercise and the warm afternoon sun, most in the van (including our guide) napped.

"Good Morning," she said as we neared our stop at Selime Monastery. From the road below it looked intriguing but after a climb up through crevices, across smooth mounds of beige rock and through openings in the stone the description went from intriguing to astonishing. Rooms for all purposes: kitchen, stables, sleeping rooms. It was the church which was jaw-dropping. All carved from the stone which still surrounds it, the church has a domed niche open at the top to create a beam of light, graceful arches between strong pillars and some frescos still to be seen. It was the real highlight of our day.

Selime Monastery, Cappadocia Selime Monastery, Cappadocia
Selime Monastery, Cappadocia Selime Monastery, Cappadocia Selime Monastery, Cappadocia Selime Monastery, Cappadocia
Pigeon Valley, Cappadocia Three ladies from New Zealand

A quick stop at Pigeon Valley, where indeed pigeons are encouraged to roost, and a tourist stop at a factory and sales centre for local onyx and turquoise and it was 6:00 pm.

It was a great day. The tour is one we would recommend to other visiting Cappadocia.

April 23

Last night was cold. There was no hot water this morning. The dark clouds threatened rain and the walnut tree in front of Walnut House shook with the wind. We left the electric heater going full blast and went to eat. Downstairs the owner wore his jacket as he prepared our breakfast. We shivered at the table placed near to the fireplace in which nothing was burning. He placed some honey and jam and a plate of cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives on our table. We picked at the olives and waited for the bread and something hot to drink. After some time his teen-aged son came in with a bag of bread. The plate of goodies was excellent. Fresh. Flavourful. We wrapped our hands around cups of coffee and hot water. Soft boiled eggs arrived. Before cutting them open we used them as hand-warmers.

We didn’t think our room was that warm but in comparison to the breakfast area it was pleasant. Keeping an eye on the weather and seeing the beginning of rain, we decided to stay in and do a little reading and journaling until the sun peeked through.

It was the beating of a drum which caught our attention and soon a number of other drums joined the beat. We peeked out our window and saw nothing which could explain what we were hearing. Then trumpets. People were moving towards the centre of town. We grabbed the camera (our shoes already on for warmth) and went out to see what was happening.

It was a parade. Children in bright red jackets (some fitting a little large) with bright gold braid loops and brass buttons, brilliant white slacks and matching white shoes.

Following them were a dozen or so children around ten to twelve years of age in what appeared to be school uniforms with one carrying a flag and two carrying a large picture of a man (we believe to be Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a revered leader who orchestrated a united Turkey in the 1920s); then little girls, some with cheerleader pompoms and boys with the word "Soccer" across their chests. Walking at the edge were women. Bringing up the rear of the parade were little children accompanied by mothers. Some were dressed in fancy dresses while others were in school clothes. Most wore a hat on their head. Each brightly coloured hat a little different than the others but all tall and decorated, many with polka-dots and multi-pointed brims.

Goreme, Cappadocia Goreme, Cappadocia
Goreme, Cappadocia

The parade had marched a loop around the little town and had come to a stop in the main square - the same place used by the tour buses. On one side of the square parents and relatives sat in chairs or stood behind. On another side the band stood with drums now on the ground beside their feet and the younger children stood in their cheering outfits and tall hats. On the side facing the sitting audience a speaker’s table and microphone were set up. A man was making some announcements. Everyone stood and taps were played, just as we might hear in Canada on Remembrance Day, and then a recording of the Turkish anthem as some around joined in with quiet voices.

We saw a lady whom we had met and visited with on yesterday’s tour. She told us today was a dual celebration; National Sovereignty Day, to commemorate the first opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1920 and unofficially to honour Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and the second to honour children.

She is Turkish but had moved to Holland at the age of three. Her husband is a Turk. They married ten years ago and live in Holland with their two sons. She had the most pleasant look on her face and even tears of happy remembrances came to her eyes as she told us about this Turkish Children’s Holiday. Even in Holland, she told us, the Turkish families would celebrate Children’s Day. "I remember the white shoes," she said with fondness nodding her head towards the drummers. "Oh and they had to be white. No marks at all. I remember the teacher checking our hands and our finger nails. She would scold us if she found any dirt and tell us to do better next time. She would tell us to open our mouths," she demonstrated, "and she checked our teeth," she laughed, "and our ears. They don’t do that any more," she glanced towards her young boys who are about 6 and 4 years of age. "In small villages or communities, everyone turns out for the celebration. The children belong to everyone in the village. It is wonderful."

Her husband was watching the proceedings from another angle both physically and mentally. When asked if he remembered these days from his childhood his answer was quite different than his wife’s. "Yes," he said. "Boring. Just look at them," pointing to the children, "They can hardly wait until it is over. They just want to have their chocolate and then to be allowed to go. There is no school this afternoon. They will be able to play with their friends. Chocolate and no school, that was the best part."
Goreme, Cappadocia
Goreme, Cappadocia
Goreme, Cappadocia Goreme, Cappadocia Indeed, men with trays piled high with chocolate bars were passing them out to the children. In the excitement of catching a parade, we had left the hotel without coats and after the initial excitement, the cold was starting to make itself known. We returned to the hotel room and prepared to go out for a bit of sight-seeing around town. The weather had other ideas. We got as far as the ticket office to make arrangements for tomorrow’s departure and the rain, wind and increased cold changed our minds and again we retreated back to our hotel for a quiet day of reading, journaling, laundry and trying to stay warm.

We went to dinner at the Orient Restaurant. They sat us next to the fireplace in a large atrium. Only one other table was occupied at the far end of the room and soon they left. Also near the fireplace was a sofa and chair set. Some men were having tea. They left and we were alone. The food was good. We could imagine that during the height of tourist season, this place would be busy as it is recommended in the guide book. Another man came in to sit on the sofa and have a tea. The Turks drink a lot of tea. Soon he was asleep. Beautiful music with a French singer was playing in the background and the sound of snoring joined in the chorus. When he fell into a deeper sleep his snoring became quite loud and the staff began to giggle. We told them it was fine with us. He must be very tired. As it continued they woke him up and he left embarrassed although we called out to him to stay.

In the evening we went to see the Whirling Dervishes. They asked that no photography be taken during the ceremony and told us they would return after for photo opportunities. Three instruments accompanied the Dervishes, a sort of lute, a pipe and a hand drum. The drummer also sang. We were given a brochure which explained the symbolism of the different steps of the ceremony. There was a lot of bowing and eventually the whirling (spinning around) which represents being in tune with everything from the electrons in an atom to the universe. There were three separate segments of whirling each lasting about 3 minutes. It was interesting to witness.

On our arrival back to the Walnut House, we told the owner’s son that we would be leaving at 8:00 in the morning so we would not be able to have breakfast. He said it was not a problem; he could have breakfast ready for us at 7:30. We thanked him for his kindness.
Whirling Dervish Whirling Dervish

        

April 24

This morning there was no hot water. This morning there was hardly any water at all. The cold water, with effort, dribbled from the nozzle. We used that to wash our hands and faces and bottled water to brush our teeth.

We left our room just before 7:30 with our backpacks and coats ready to walk out the door after a quick breakfast. The son was no where to be seen but the father was there bundled up in his coat against the morning cold. He got up from where he was having his cigarette and shuffled some papers behind the bar counter. We walked over to the window noting there was not a table set, nor was the son anywhere in sight. We paced back and forth wondering why we could not hear the clanking of dishes nor the kettle on to boil. On one of our rounds he told us the amount owing on our bill. We confirmed the number and then Terry said, "your son told us he would have breakfast ready for us at 7:30 because we have a bus to catch at 8:00." This statement caused a look of wonderment in the father’s face. We stepped aside and he picked up the cell phone. After a minute with few words spoken from the father’s end, there was an animated conversation and then silence. Still no activity. "May I help you by setting the table?" Sherrie asked. "No. I do this," the father said. At seven minutes to eight the son walks in the door with bread. "Please just make a sandwich," we suggested as we did not have time.

Goreme, Cappadocia
In route between Goreme & Antalya, Turkey In route between Goreme & Antalya, Turkey

The rest of the day was made up of bus rides from Goreme to Konya and then to Antalya on Turkey’s south coast. Even with making excellent connections we did not arrive at our accommodations at the Sabah Pansiyon until sunset. Our first glimpses of Kaleici (Old Town), where we were staying, created a sense of anticipation for what tomorrow would bring.

      
click here to continue April 25  ~ Antalya, Turkey
 

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