Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cappadocia - Underground City, Turkish Shave, and a Wedding

Posted by Melissa
September 18-19, 2010
We don't usually take group tours, but today will be an exception. This particular tour facilitates a one way hike through a canyon and gets us to hard to reach places.  It is a small group of 8 and includes a professional tour guide*.  Our first stop is at the Göreme Panorama overlook (above). The view is so expansive that it just about takes my breath away. I stood at the edge of this overlook gazing out over the vast landscape and listening to our tour guide explaining the formation and overall geology of this area. I'll just stick with Amazing!

Next up is a visit to the underground city at Derinkuyu. From the top, we see absolutely nothing that hints at the vast complex beneath our feet. Our guide, Zeynep, explains that the entrances were hidden as these cities (there are more than 100 in Cappadocia) were used in emergencies to hide from attacking armies. Whole villages could quickly escape below ground and live for months. This expansive complex included water sources, air shafts, stables, storage rooms, chapels, sleeping rooms, kitchens, and a winery.
Some of the tunnels were too small to stand fully upright
Thane is climbing up from the 8th level, about 280 feet below ground. This tour is NOT for the claustrophobic!

*Tour guides in Turkey are well trained professionals with University degrees in Tourism.  They study art, language, architecture, history and psychology.  Zeynep was a gem and filled in lots of details throughout the day. We were so glad that we decided to go with a professional tour instead of on our own.  Thanks Zeynep!

These little old ladies were selling handmade dolls just outside the underground city for 3-5 Lira each or about $2 - $3, USD. Very sweet, but we are traveling light and are very limited in what we can carry so we are only able to take pictures this time.

One of the advantages of this tour is that the driver drops us off at an entrance to the Ihlara Valley and picks us up at the end of the trail.  Not easy to accomplish in your own car or by public bus.

We hiked for about 2 hours deep in this valley, along side this beautiful stream to find many Byzantine rock cut churches.

With a dependable water source and the deep valley to hide them, early Christians fled to the area to escape from Roman soldiers. There are hundreds of rock carved churches in this valley.

One of the many frescoes from the churches in the valley.

As we climbed up out of the valley we found this little stash of corn, drying on a flat roof. We saw peppers and beans drying on other roofs.

We worked up a good appetite and had this lovely lunch in the tiny town of Belisirma at the end of the trail.  I'm starting to get used to eating fish that still have eyes and a tail.  Not the typical filet I cook at home.

Next up, Selime Monastery - another Star Wars looking rock complex with churches carved in the 13th century.

Church interior
View of the valley from caves above
It was a long day with lots of great sites, hiking, food and a great guide. Then to top it off we had this fabulous sunset!

After another sweet night in our cave room we decided it was time for Thane to experience a classic Turkish Shave and Haircut.  We'd heard these were great and Thane was not disappointed. He was in the chair for almost an hour!

We couldn't keep track of the lotions, potions, masques, massages plus the ever popular flaming giant Q-tips for removing ear hair!

Good thing that Thane is now so well groomed as Ahmet invited us to a wedding reception that evening!  Again, we were honored by Ahmet's invitation and gladly accepted!  I was very nervous walking in to the huge reception hall filled with people whose language I couldn't speak, wedding guests I didn't know, and where most of the women were dressed in conservative head scarves.  Ahmet's wife noticed my hesitance and grabbed my hand, leading me to a table next to her friends (she doesn't speak English).  It was just so sweet of this woman, whom I had just met, to take me in like this.  I felt so much more comfortable after that kind gesture.

This is Elif, Ahmet's daughter.  She is attending University and dresses in western clothes while her mother and sister choose to wear headscarves.  

Elif would not accept "No" when she asked me to join her on the dance floor. So, when in Rome . . . . We danced to a LOUD band with flashing lights (disco style). Elif explained that the men typically have the floor for a while, dancing together, followed by the women - again dancing together, and then the children join in as well. I was very self conscience found that most people just smiled at me.  Some women at an adjacent table smiled and took pictures of Thane and I while we were snapping pictures of the gathering.

The wedding cake was an amazing affair - 10 layers - stacked on a stretcher type server and paraded through the reception for all to see.

After some dancing, a piece of cake and a juice box (no alcohol at a Muslim reception) we called it a night.  Once more, we felt so lucky to join in this celebration!  Thank you Ahmet and family!

Next up:  A visit to the Goreme Open Air Museum with its Byzantine era cave churches with murals dating from 900 AD and our last few days in this wondrous land.

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