Wednesday, August 29, 2012


While we spent three days in Istanbul, we will return to the city later, and so i will post about that later. Instead, lets begin with our adventures out of Istanbul starting in Cappadocia.
We had a 5am pick-up at our hotel for the flight to Nevhesir airport. All was well and he arrived on time. Unfortunately he dropped us at the International terminal and we needed to find our way back to the domestic terminal to catch the right plane. Which we did. A short trip later we were delivered safely to our tour guide Neily and Mehmet our driver. We had arranged the trip through Byzas Tours and they co-ordinated all our fares, accommodation, transfers, tours around and most meals. It sounds luxurious but it was really no more expensive than arranging it all ourselves, and a lot less hassle.
Off, then, into the very hot and dry areas of Cappadocia to experience the effects of a volcanic landscape formed of layers of ash and lava and then moulded by wind and rain into extraordinary shapes. As the ash layers are softer, they can easily be dug out to make houses, churches and underground cities, while the harder layers on the top form hats and protective layers.
Cappadocia, Green among the ash hills,
The soft rock formed by the overburden of volcanic ash
Cappadoccia Fairy Chimneys
Fairy Chimneys
Cappadocia, Fairy Chimneys 2
A group of Fairy Chimneys including one that is due to lose its hat
Cappadocia, outdoor muiseum
In the Goreme open air museum
Cappadocia, hats
Chimneys thta have kept their hats
Cappadocia, Neily our guide
Neily our guide
cappadocia, Valley of the Imagination
Valley of the Imagination. Perhaps you can see a hand and a cowled woman
Cappadocia, evil eye tree
A tree festooned with evil eye talismans
Cappadocia, panorama 2
Nick’s panorama of one valley
We stopped for lunch at a pretty and cool restaurant beside a river in Avanos but, alas, the food was very poor, thin in textures and flavours. We hoped this wasn’t a foretaste of things to come.
Cappadocia, River at Avanos
We also stopped at a pottery factory for which the region is famous, and were treated to an individual pottery throwing show, followed by a tour of the painting and glazing factory. Very intricate work and very expensive. We felt some obligation to purchase something, eventually settling on a hand painted tile for which we probably paid too much.
The combined effects of an early start, excessive heat and too little water too its toll. By the time we reached our hotel at three we were ready to collapse and I suspect I was close to heat stroke. We surfaced for dinner at the hotel, a pretty cave place carved into the soft rock, and then went to sleep again. So no balloon ride fro us the next morning. We simply couldn’t have managed another 4am start.
The hotel was sweet and quite popular. It has a series of individual rooms each a cave, set around a courtyard area,  with windows and doors at the front and nice bathrooms. Unfortunately for me, the lovely big tub provided had sides too high for me to negotiate safely and I had to have recourse to the basin for my ablutions. Nick just managed. I did ask at the desk if something else was available, but none were as nice as our room, so I decided I could manage for two nights. I did try to explain to the lovely guys on the desk, but they got the giggles at my drawing showing me to be too small. An additional and unexpected feature was the pitter-patter of falling sand from the ceiling, which left about a teaspoon on the comforter by morning. Ah well, all part of the adventure.
Cappadocia, Etkep Evi gate Cappadocia, Etkep Evi Hotel
Breakfast was in the lovely, airy terrace, obviously fairly new, with views out over the valley and a delightful breeze. The food comprised a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, olives and cheeses, some cereals and breads and eggs also. We are eating far too much, though I suspect, also working it off.
Off on the second day, this time to the buried villages or the underground museum. This is a six level city, underground and connected  via tunnels and ramps, where people could escape any raiders, store food and wine in the cool and share life in a community. They had cooking rooms in common, family rooms and places they could seal with rolling stones to cut off the enemy. It is rather difficult to photograph this meaningfully, so just a few shots.
Cappadocia, Nick and Neily at buried city
Nick and neily in the Underground Museum
Cappadocia, underground city
Connecting rooms
Cappadocia, air shaft, underground city
Looking down an air shaft with steps cut in the sides. Not for me thanks!
Nick found walking the small tunnels bent over quite difficult for his breathing and it made us realise that some of the challenges of age are affecting the sort of travel we can do in future. We will see how we fare with the trains in Spain where we need to manage our luggage.
I found it interesting that there is quite a pigeon thing here. Even in the first eras of the monks living in isolation in these valleys, they kept pigeons, but it appears it is mainly for the guano to fertilise the fields, and not for food. The pigeon houses and boxes are carved into the rock and the entrance sealed except for tiny windows for the birds. Once a tear they are opened and the guano removed.
Cappadocia, pigeon valley
Pigeon houses, Pigeon Valley
Cappadocia, pigeon roosts
Ancient pigeon roosts near the outdoor museum
Cappadocia, panorama 4
Houses partially carved into the soft rock
Certainly the land is frequently arid and bare, the grape vines grown low on the ground, as in Santorini, so the heat will ripen the grapes quickly and only by using underground water sources can crops like potato or sunflower be grown. The fields seem small and the crops are in small strips. They grow pumpkin too, but jusy for the seeds; the rest is thrown back on the land as fertiliser.
Love Valley was fairly obviously named for the shape of the Fairy Chimneys there. I think they all look a bit like that.
Cappadocia, Love valley
Love valley
Cappadocia, Greek house
A Greek house. In 1922 Greeks living in Turkey were exchanged for Turks living in Greece and many of these houses ended up abandoned
Before lunch we visited a Turkish Rug house where the women made the rugs, doing double knots in wool or silk so swiftly, trimming each knot with a deft twist of a tiny knife. Ther may just possibly be one knot in one Turkish carpet made by me, but I suspect it was inferior and was later removed. I asked how much they could do in a day; maybe 3-4 cm, depending on the material. That means a 3m rug may take 100 days and may sell for $25,000, or $250/day, though probably less. I wonder how much of that goes to the women? Regretfully, we had to decline the offer of checking out all the merchandise, though we did get to see the spinning of the silk in 25 ply strands.
Lunch this time was in an old Greek style house which caters for tour groups. Very busy and very good food. A walnut and rocket salad and meatballs in yoghurt for me, fried cheese (very yummy and bad for him) and lamb skewers for Nick.
Lastly, a visit to an old cavaranserai from the Silk Route. Largely restored, it is now a cultural centre (read tourist venue) where one could be entertained at night with an historical light show followed by a Whirling Dervish ceremony. Neily explained the meaning of the dance, even though we have not seen it. The building was beautifully done with separate areas for meeting and trading, winter rooms that could be made warm and larger sleeping quarters. I imagine the smell with all the camels and horses inside the courtyard and the doors all locked for safety must have been rather pungent. They built the caravanserai every thirty kilometers, a day’s trip apart, and you could stay for free for two days. I guess the trade was worth enormous amounts to the pashas and sultans.
Cappadocia, caravensari gate
Entrance gate with clever jig-saw blocks holding the arch
Cappadocia, fountain caravenserai
Cool fountain and door to a winter room
Cappadocia, summer area caravenserai
The open courtyard and summer rooms
Cappadocia, dome in caravenserai
Gorgeous dome over the closed area where people could sleep on wooden platforms
Next post, Ephesus

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