The Land of Fairy Chimneys – Day 6 in Cappadocia
Posted by Mardee on May 10, 2007
Before I begin, here is a brief geology lesson on the history of the “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia.
The origins of this unusual region can be traced to the Tertiary period some 50 million years ago, when craters and chimneys dominated the landscape. Since then huge quantities of volcanic material have spewed out of the many volcanoes. Forces of erosion have shaped the incredible and unique Cappadocian tuff-coned landscape. For hundreds of years men have dug into the soft but firm tuff to create dwellings, monasteries, churches and underground cities. www.allaboutturkey.com/kapados.htm
Wednesday morning was bright and sunny and cool (have I mentioned that the weather here has been just about perfect?) so I quickly got ready and made my way up to the terrace for breakfast. Sergio prepared a plate of fresh fruit, tomatoes and cucumbers with some yummy sheep cheese, fresh Turkish bread and honey, olives and some other small fruit that I don’t know the name of (and neither does Sergio or Altan – at least, the English name). I also got an omelette cooked by Chef Sergio, which was tasty although different from the ones I’m used to – there was no filling or cheese inside; just eggs.
My first stop of the morning was the Goreme Open-Air Museum, which is about 2 km. from the hotel. Since it was such a beautiful day, I decided to walk there and enjoy the scenery along the way. The Open-Air Museum, which sits in the middle of the area’s incredible landscaping, holds the region’s best collection of painted cave-churches. Medieval orthodox Christian monks (1000-1200 AD) carved the caves from the soft volcanic stone and decorated them with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. There are approximately 6 churches all together and each one is an incredible visual experience. My favorite was the “Dark Church” (Karanlik Kilise) so called because it has less light than the other churches. Consequently, the frescoes are in much better condition.
After this excursion, I headed back to town for a quick bite to eat and drink and wound up with a plate of borek and a bottle of water. Borek is a phyllo-pastry concoction with various fillings inside. I chose a spinach and cheese filling and it was served with a topping of yogurt and a rich tomato sauce – delicious! After that, I reviewed my 2 guidebooks (now ripped in sections) and determined that there was an interesting village about 6 km. down the road called Cavucin (pronounced “Sha-vu-shin”). It took me over an hour to walk there since I was dawdling as I walked, but the end result was worth it.
The town itself is rather nondescript, but as I walked through the narrow cobbled streets I began to see evidence of a long-ago culture. To my left was an older woman with a young girl sitting on top of a load of straw in a wooden cart that was being led by a donkey. Farther down the road I saw a woman leading a goat down the street. The woman wore a white translucent scarf that was wound around her head and decorated with colored trim. Her blouse was a red print and was topped with a multi-colored vest and the bottoms were Turkish divided pants (salvar). On top of that, she had placed a wide-brimmed hat. I continued to see this same type of costume over and over on the women of this village and throughout the region.
On one corner, two older women were sitting side by side and let me take their photo, giggling madly when I snapped it. When I tried to speak Turkish to them, one of them (she was about 4’10″) reached up and pinched my cheek and laughed at me. They all looked like they had stepped right out of a book of ethnic folk costumes. I continued walking through the town, and gained a companion at one point. A little dog appeared from nowhere and scampered around my feet as I walked, occasionally leaving me to investigate something interesting off to the side.
The villagers used to live in the caves above the town but as erosion began to cause problems, they moved into houses below. I was trying to find a way to get up into the caves but was having a hard time locating a path. Luck was with me, however – a German tour group began winding their way up a path I had missed so I quickly got in line behind them. We all huffed and puffed our way up into the hills. At some point near the top I saw them head off around the corner towards an old church and decided to let them go. At this point, I realized it was me and me alone sitting on top of the world with a view for miles around. All around me were magical fairy chimneys and caves dating back thousands of years, and hills covered with bright yellow wild flowers and poppies. The only sounds I could hear were birds and tiny insects – no planes, trains or roaring cars. The peace and serenity hit me like a ton of bricks and I sat back against the hills and stared around me at this beauty.
Time passed and I continued to sit. I finally decided I had better make my way down as I wanted to take a dolmus (mini-bus) back to town and wasn’t sure how late they ran. I had a brief scare when I deviated from the path a bit and then couldn’t find it, but eventually made my way back down the hillside. As I walked back through the town, I saw several people riding through on wooden carts led by donkeys or horses. In fact, I noticed that most of the houses had a cart sitting in the yard and I could hear the occasional braying of donkeys behind walled yards.
I had to wait a while at the main road for the dolmus to arrive so I entertained myself by watching the children coming home from school. They were all wearing some sort of uniform – white blouses/shirts and grey skirts/pants. Some of the mothers came out to greet their children but most of the children – even the younger ones – headed off in various directions to their home unaccompanied. Very different from most of America.
By that time, I was exhausted so I went back to the hotel and napped for awhile. Shopping was next and I went into town and bargained for a few things, earning myself a couple of glasses of tea while shopping. The shopkeepers here are much different than in Istanbul – much less agressive and much friendlier. Eventually, I headed back to the hotel where I was going to have dinner cooked by Sergio. I had a yummy lentil soup, salad, bread, and lamb cooked with vegetables over rice, and ended with baklava. It was wonderful!
Later came my nightly internet session and then back to the hotel for my last night there. Tomorrow, read about my BEST day ever as I tour Cappadocia with Altan…