Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Turkish Odyssey - Day 9

The weather can not make up its mind today. Cold it is always, but things vacillate between snow and sun and wind for much of the day. Looking across the valleys of Cappadocia, you can see a wide sunny patch while a harsh cold wind blows snow into your eyes. This weather adds to the atmosphere of the place. Somehow we have driven into a Dr. Seuss landscape. Volcanic rock deposited over softer sandstone leading to mushroom shaped formations. I would love to describe the beauty of the place, and I imagine Islamic poets and scholars have done this, but I fail to find an adequate way to write of what I have seen. I think of pictures of the grand canyon, only in reverse. Rather going down, land rises up. Mountains that were once hard edged like the Rockies have been mellowed by wind rain and time. If you use the soften tool on a photo of the Rockies, perhaps you get close. Better yet, the US southwest has painted hills, and perhaps that is a better fit. There are strata clearly visible on the hillsides and the mushroom shaped "fairy towers" are all over. 

We criss-cross the landscape by bus today, stopping every 20-30 minutes for 20 minutes. We stop first at the Pigeon Valley. Named for the carrier pigeons that lived in small holes in this area. Local merchants oblige tourists by keeping a few pigeons around and making them fly around from time to time. 

Next we stop at the base of a fortress set up so high as to have a commanding view of the valley, and prevent tour groups from visiting it. However, the highlight of the day came next. The Görem open air museum which houses cliffside churches from approximately the 13th century. Four or five of these still contain original frescos in various states of completeness. In the apple church I am taken for a German, as a women keeps speaking to me in German, until I tell her I don't spreken ze. The frescos are stunning. To protect themselves, the early Christians took to these hills and filled their time carving rock and painting. Or at least they must have, because rock churches, structures and frescos are everywhere. The churches are covered in paint and iconography.
The best example is in the dark church. An extra 15tl gets us in to a place devoid of light for so long that the colors remain in the paint. The figured are also largely untouched, except that many have had their eyes scratched out. I must ask Stove about this. We linger longer and find ourselves alone. with just a guard, who shushing us, allows us to take quick photos that are expressly forbidden by informative signage. This is exceedingly amazing fortune. We snap many and retire from the space.
Thick snow is swirling around outside, but by the time we reach the bud, the sun pokes out. Lunch was and that is all that can be said of the meager portion relative to price. After our dinning experience we dive into an underground city. Used by women and children as a shelter in case of war and as a storehouse at other times of the year. This particular one was 8 stories deep and could house thousands. Others go 12 stories down and hold many more. Large stone wheels block the entrances to each floor. As you retreat lower, you block the door behind you. On the 8th level a tunnel takes you back to the surface or connects with other cities. Amazingly complex and ingenious. I find myself thinking of Minecraft and wanting to pick it up again. I worry for Becky in such close enclosed spaces. Only once are we close to much trouble. In a narrow stooping tunnel we are stopped, but all is well in the end and she comes through with flying colors. I am in awe of her ability to face such fears with such resolve. 

We make 2 more roadside stops. By camel rock and by the mesa of knowledge. We found it! Shall have to send a picture to Bob Gardner. At all stops today vendors hawk the same wares. Everywhere the same items. They must all shop with the Turkish equivalent of QBP. Warehouses full of these items must be someplace. Molly is consistently last and often on the late side. With all the driving today, it is good Ali fixed the bus yesterday after we puttered up a hill and the bus nearly conked out. We are deposited at Peri Tower for night 2. Lets hope the cry of "CHIIIIIINA" does not ring inches from ear as as my wake up call tomorrow. We played backgammon in the lobby and the hotel bartender took an interest in our game. He helped us setup and stood watching us play. Giving pointers on moves and tsk'ing with his tongue when we made a bad play. It was fun to have someone who is an actual skilled player and a Turk help. Most enjoyable way to pass an evening and a fire to boot! Warm feet and lovely writing spot. 

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