24 September 2003 Wednesday - Cappadocia - 71 photos

When we got up, Kathy was cranky, and she didn't know why. I told her it was probably PMS, and she agreed. She was irritated at the fact that Mete wasn't picking us up from the hotel until 9:30am, and in Kathy's world, that is late, the day is slipping away, and we were wasting time. She didn't stay cranky long, though, because Mete gave us a very good tour of the Cappadocia region.

The region is marked by an ancient volcano that left huge piles of lava, ash and mud everywhere, and over time, the ash moved, hardened, eroded and created huge pointed mounds of sandy rock.

The valley was beautiful.

The mounds were fairly easy to carve, so the people in ancient times made thousands of caves,

which they used for homes, storage, and every other use.

Mete took us to a couple of lookouts in a place called Goreme where we were surrounded by these mounds, and it was very beautiful.

Some of the caves were bricked up and converted into homes for pidgins. Mete told us that pidgins were held in high esteem, because their droppings fertilize the land and make the crops grow better.

At the time of the volcano's eruption, some of the places had huge boulders sitting on the ground. When the hot steam and lava went through, the soft ground was melted away, but where the boulders were sitting was protected from the heat, so they didn't erode. Today, the boulders still sit on top of the mounded areas that were protected, making it look very odd.

Then he took us to a huge area of caves where there were hundreds of rooms to explore. These rooms were used by people until recently, and a few of them are still in use today.

Mete told us that the government relocated most of the people because the caves were too fragile and kept collapsing, killing the people, especially when they have Earthquakes. Earthquakes are common in Turkey, although supposedly not in this region. We haven't felt any tremors since we came to Turkey.

Needless to say, with all this exploring, Kathy's mood improved rapidly.

As a distraction, we went to a local Onyx handicraft factory where they made several items. They showed us how they use diamond-steel saws to cut the stone, and big lathes to cut it into round objects, and a polishing wheel. They made an onyx egg as part of the demonstration and gave it to us as a gift. Then they showed us how they carve the soapstone to make the white Turkish pipes, and they gave us a small carving of a Sultan face as a gift. Then they showed us where they crafted jewelry with Turquoise. Before this trip, I always thought of Turquoise as something that the Apache Indians of Arizona used in jewelry, but it never occurred to me that the word "Turquoise" and "Turkey" probably come from the same origin. Turkey has the best, most beautiful turquoise in the world. We saw some beautiful pieces, but didn't want to spend any money to buy any.

We visited another huge area of caves, and spent a long time exploring it. It was great fun.

We ate lunch, and then we visited the "Goreme Open-Air Museum" which is a huge area where Byzantine monks and nuns (i.e. Greek Orthodox) lived and worshiped.

The rock cones were carved into dozens, possibly hundreds of small churches from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries. It was really cool to see carvings and paintings in churches from early Christianity. In most cases, we couldn't take pictures. Some of the churches were literally ripped apart by earthquakes long ago, and their interiors were visible in the rocks over our heads.

While we were at the Open-Air Museum, we were joined by a very nice, young, polite couple from one of the Russian Baltic states who were bravely visiting Turkey on their own. They wanted to take a tour, but it was outrageously expensive, so they couldn't afford it. Thus, they were alone. They spoke very good English, and we had a good time talking to them. I don't remember what country they were from, possibly Uzbekistan, but they said their native language was more like Czech than Russian. When we met them, they politely asked us if they could listen to our guide, Mete, while we walked. Mete said they should ask us, and we gladly agreed. Then they asked how much they should pay, and Mete said he didn't want money. This surprised the young couple, and that started a whole discussion about greed and how sometimes it just seems like all people care about is the money at the expense of friendship and everything else. So anyway, they tagged along and we chatted, and it was fun.

Afterward, we agreed to go to the carpet factory. Mete was not pushing this, it is something that we wanted. First they showed us the weavers and how the carpets are made, then he showed us the different dyes used for the wool.

He also showed us the silk cocoons, which are soaked and woven into threads, which are processed, and dyed before being used in a carpet.

After that, we spent a long time looking at carpets. We found a couple of carpets that we liked, but one of them cost $1800 and the other cost $2100. After buying our lake property, we're both still feeling pretty broke, so we are unwilling to spend that much money.

Soon, we will be going to dinner, then Mete is driving us to a cultural show that features a ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes, which is a tradition of the Sufi order of Islam.

It should be interesting. They say that taking pictures of the actual ceremony is not allowed, but they will whirl for three minutes afterward so we can take photos. In reality, they only allowed pictures for little more than a minute, most of which I used to take a video.

I really like Mete. He seems like an honest man, who obviously makes good money to be able to afford his hunting and fishing and also his accessories, dozens of Turkish rugs, and such. However, he seems paranoid about us getting the wrong impression. He seems afraid that we will report him to his company or that he'll get in trouble for doing something wrong. We're very easy-going, and not about to make trouble for him. Still, he's constantly trying to explain himself and justify things. In all our travels, he is the only guide who has ever talked candidly about the commissions the guides get as kickbacks from the factories like we visited today. All the guides from our previous trips tried to hide it, but Mete has been very forthcoming about it. We tried to tell him that we understand, and no, we don't think he's trying to rip us off. Still, he seems to worry a lot. He told us some horror stories about back-stabbing tourists who have complained about him to the company, and often unjustly so. We have no complaints with Mete. He's been the best, most informative guide, nearly as good as our guides in Greece (and they were top-notch).