Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cave Dwellings, Caves, Carpets and Dervishes

Today was another busy, but exciting day in central Turkey.

We started our day by looking at more of the cave dwellings and the landscapes around the area in a little closer detail. It really looks like a Martian landscape. I can't imagine what early travellers on the Silk Road would have thought of these areas!

Although you may have to look close to see those dwellings, we did get to see them up close, and even tour through them!

They actually call this shape of dwelling a fairy chimney (a bit different from the dwellings from yesterday as these are all standalone formations). 

After this, we stopped at a UNESCO world heritage site called the Goreme Open Air Museum, which was a monastery constructed at least as early as the first century by Christians hoping to escape Roman persecution. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take any photos of the 13 churches located within the complex, all either ornately frescoed from the 11th century (eyes of the characters carved out courtesy of later occupying Ottomans) or with even more primitive drawings from closer to the time of the establishment of the monastery. I was able to find photos on google though, so for your viewing pleasure, behold:


They were spectacular. 

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch in a village of about 100 people, where a farmer took us in to his home for some traditional Turkish fare. Wow. I have a new idea for an eggplant recipe, lets say that. We actually didn't take many photos of this (sadly), but do have a photo of our host and his mother:

Apparently they also do cooking classes at their home. Next time!

The meal itself was great - starters of pita bread, rice wrapped in grape leaves, lentil soup, lentil balls, salad, spinach pastry with yogurt and chillies, stuffed zucchini flowers, homemade cheese, pickles, and yogurt with molasses. The main was eggplant with ground beef and rice. And the dessert was a pudding topped with honey (actually it was honeycomb straight from the hive). Our host, Tolge, said that everything came from his farm except for the salt and sugar used to create the meal. Wow. A great family too!

We finished up with a glass of Turkish coffee (ZING!). 

Next we travelled to one of what are known as the underground cities. An elaborate cave and tunnel system. These actually date to about 1500 BC, and were started by the Hitites. Later, they were taken over by the Christians. Apparently the system we visited was capable of supporting about 3,000 people for 3 months. It extended to 8 storeys underground (though you can only explore 4 of them). Some of the tunnels were cramped, but there was everything there - bedrooms, grain mills, kitchens, and multiple wineries. What else could you need?

Next, we travelled down the road and learned how Turkish carpets are made (and why they are better than Persian ones..!). Aoife even tried her hand at tying a knot:

Last, but not least for the day, we travelled down the road to watch the twirling Dervishes - essentially a ceremony which used to be conducted by Islamic monks (the dervishes) meant to stir them into a religious ecstasy. I don't think there are too many of these links around now, but the performers who carry on the tradition are apparently quite devout. Sadly, no photos allowed here either, but through the magic of the Internet, I present you with:

Following the show, we retreated back to our cave for the night. Owing to the massive lunch, we decided not to head out for dinner, but stay in and drink Turkish wine from Cappadocia instead. 

A couple more shots of the cave hotel, as promised. First, our private little courtyard:

And our bedroom:

Not pictured is our kitchen, massive bathroom, and big smiles on our faces. Our travel agent is fantastic (Rhonda from Paull Travel in Edmonton - just saying). 

There is another adventure planned for tomorrow, so we'll update when we can. 

Talk you you soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

P.S.  Although I had some fears about finding food, wine, etc. as it's currently Ramadan, all is good. Turkey seems liberal enough (for now) that it's not an issue. Although the calls for prayer from the mosques at all hours of the day (starting at sunrise) are hard to get used to!  

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