• Shelley Dark

16. Cappadocia


Dear travelling companions

This morning after the first decent night’s sleep, I finally saw a Turkish dawn. I raced out of my room on to the street in my nightie and huge white towelling flipflops to look out over the valley at all the balloons rising into the sky - such a pretty sight as you can see below.

Of course I was seen - an elderly couple from Boston whom we met last night, out on to their terrace above me. She was so disappointed that the desk had not woken her for her scheduled flight as she watched the balloons float into the sky.

Our last day in Cappadocia today. This area is so distinctive in appearance: stone cliffs, vertical outcrops of stone and white gravel or biscuit-coloured soil. Caves have been carved into these cliffs by many civilisations, from the Hittites (the highest caves because they were the earliest and under greatest threat from wolves etc) right through to people still living in them in the early 20th century.

The harshness of the rock is relieved by luxuriant verdant growth in the valleys. The luscious greens of tall poplars, walnuts, apricot trees, and so much other grey foliage. I’m a huge fan of grey in the landscape (and in the garden) and just love the Russian olive trees. Vines sprawl on the ground, laden with grapes.

It reminds me of when I was a child at Sunday school of the pictures in a biblical story book we used to read. There are also places where you could be in Montana with american indians riding up on palomino horses.

All the cave hotels are cut into the stone hillsides, the additions mainly sympathetically built with similarly coloured materials. Most have lovely views. We’re at the Argos in Cappadocia and this is the view from our breakfast room.

We were to do a tour today, but we’ve opted to stay at the hotel. I’ll post if the wifi will co-operate (dubious), we are having a reflexology treatment and a wander through this little hilltop village of Uçhisar.

On our first day, walked along a road bordered by cliffs with pigeon nests carved into them. These tiny caves are to harvest the pigeon poo for fertiliser. You either have to get up there and get it out (how?), or collect it from the valley floor below. Glad that’s not my job.

As we walked, an older woman came out of a cave above us, and walked down the rocky path, holding hand-made dolls in her hands. Amazed at the primitive conditions that these people live in, of course we all bought one. When we asked the guide how long these people have lived in the caves, he laughed and said, they live in the city and come here each day. That made us laugh out loud. Good on them.

Lunch was in the Soglani Valley. A memory to treasure. Never have I seen a place more like the Garden of Eden. We went down unremarkable steps into a flat sheltered green space, apples trees loaded with apples, tables set under the trees. It quite took our breath away.

An old man sat on a mattress on the lawn in the far corner of this beautiful space, shoes off. I went to him, he smiled and indicated that I should pick some apples, try them. He pointed at himself, I think to indicate that he had planted the trees. Who knows. I discovered later that he is the chef’s father and spends a lot of time here. I don’t know if the chef is the owner.

We've seen how Turkish rugs are knotted so beautifully by such skilled women - it works on a subsidy scheme from the government, which pays for any GST in the destination country, and all freight. There were all sorts of rugs, wool on wool, wool on cotton, silk on cotton, silk on silk. I can't imagine how sore those womens backs must be at the end of a day. We watched silk cocoons being woven into thread thick enough for a carpet, 375 threads twisted together. It was amazing! I didn't buy a capret in Morocco. I didn't buy one in China. I didn't buy a rug in India. Cover your eyes John. I may or may not have bought a truly beautiful rug in Turkey.

Skeins of silk after they've been spun.

We've met other tourists of so many nationalities. Japanese girls who giggle into their hands and admire themselves in their phones (with the camera turned to be a mirror). An Indian couple from Calcutta who made me laugh - she hates travelling, hates different food. He loves both. He books the tours and then tells her. A Korean mother and daughter who held hands and walked along with their arms around each other. Omer, our Turkish guide for the past two days who was just a delight - a walking encyclopaedia of historical facts, yet young and ingenous. By the end of the two days he had relaxed enough to make a joke, now for an ABC. Another beautiful church. And the tiny tot who had just learned to walk, and was careering around on the rough cobblestones, toppling over at every turn.

I've discovered I like warm apple tea (made from dried apple). The hotel has a novel way of indicating the recycling system - they staple a can on the aluminium bag, paper on the paper, and plastic on that one! And I'm loving Turkish food - it's fresh, wholesome, nicely spiced and delicious. I've been putting a pomegranate balsamic on my salads and loving that too - it's not sweet at all. And the Turkish wines are really good - I've had all sorts of different types - I don't think you can go wrong.

We've seen many churches carved into rock faces, with rock altars and graffiti on the ancient frescoes. We've seen monasteries also, their refectories made of rock carved into long stone tables and long benches on either side. Round holes for cooking fires, with a side vent to ventilate the fire. Roman baths and mosaics. Lower floor caves where animals were tethered to holes made in the rock, and rock feed troughs. It's very obvious that there is not enough money to preserve it all, but the government is doing its best, and the tourist dollar must be helping. Relics through all the ages, from Hittite right through to Ottoman. What a melting pot of civlisation.

Late tonight we fly to Izmir for tours of Ephesus and Pammukale, so a late night.

Other memories of Cappadocia. The night we changed hotels, tired and frazzled, in the wind and rain, and my umbrella blew inside out. When neither of us could get our respective doors open on our return to our rooms after a drink together, when neither of us could work the shower, when the wifi wouldn't work. When it's impossible to tell the difference between shampoo and conditioner without glasses on. Sound familiar? All make me smile now, even though at the time I didn't find it so amusing. And Cally is taking such great photos. Do you follow her on Instagram? @cally631. She is trying to hard to improve her photography. I'm trying to help her. The really good photo of the ballooning which I used on my post was hers. And she took a fabulous one this morning. I'm so proud of her!

Right now it's time for our reflexology treatments. I hope I can explain GENTLE. I'm not keen on rough. I once had a facial with my daughter Angela in Singapore and ended up with black and blue eyes, but that's another story.....

Until tomorrow, buddies, I wait you.

#TurkeyBarcelonaParisOct2015

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shelley dark 

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