|At last a late morning! Most of the tour had opted for an early morning hot air balloon flight but we decided against it – so slept until 7:00! A leisurely breakfast with some of the balloonists (they had a great time) led to a start on the full day in Cappadocia at 9:00.
Our first stop was at a place with some very sculptural erosion pieces – one that looked like a camel, one that looked like a dancing couple, another like an Easter Island head. There was also the required souvenir stands – good prices though! There were numerous tourist buses that were stopping while we were there – a great photo place (one of many).
The off to an area where the pieces formed an old town. The volcanic ash was carved out by hand into doors and rooms and passageways. There was even a small church. The local police station was still housed in one of the “fairy chimneys” near the (apparently required) souvenir stands. We visited the church with the food holds leading to it worn down to a trough. The walls were quite rough (but when inhabited they were covered with plaster) and at a variety of levels. We wandered around looking at the formations with a rock at the top and a triangle below – the rock protecting the ash from erosion. Climbing a small hill we saw that the next valley also had carved houses – and the valley by the road looked very much like a forest of phallic symbols.
After another look around the shops we headed off to the underground city which was built over 2000 years ago. This place was discovered in 1972 by a farmer who wondered where the water went. It is a large complex that goes down seven stories – well over fifty feet – all carved out of the volcanic ash. It was primarily used as protection from invaders and storage. We climbed down to the first section which was where they held their animals – there were feeding stalls and even holes in the rocks that would allow them to tie them up. As we descended further into the city we came to a winery – where grapes could be thrown in from above, stomped, and the juice run down into a storage tank.
There were also places to cook (with a hole for a chimney) and dry storage facilities. A curious feature was that there were many large circular stones set at various places between to room. These could be rolled into the passageways to prevent people from entering. Most were at the end of passages and some had holes above the passage where hot oil could be dropped on anyone who was trying to get in. There was really no need for heating because, tough it snows in the region, the heat from people and animals kept the place warm.
Back on the surface there were only two shops and a café. One of them was owned by the man who discovered the city. He was there and, if you would buy a book he would sign it for you. You had to hold the book though as he only had one arm. So I bought a book. Also took a picture of him and his son and promised to email it to them when I got home. They were constructing what looked like a multi-stall complex so there will probably be an invasion of shops soon.
Back on the bus and it was announced that we were headed to a free lunch! It was at a carpet cooperative. We got there and had a lecture on how they make carpets and had a demonstration of the weaving techniques. Then into the show room where we were shown all sorts of carpets and how they were woven. Then came free drinks and pizza like stuff. Quite good. Then came the 45 minute hard sell – and there was a sales person for every two people. Most of us just fled to the outside – where some of the salespeople followed us. One couple bought a carpet. This sort of thing is pretty common – usually once per tour.
We escaped and headed off to pigeon valley – an overlook of more of the cave houses. This one was interesting because there was an “evil eye” tree – a dead tree covered with anti-evil eye symbols. We could also make out the pigeon holes. People would carve roosts for the pigeons and collect their droppings for fertilizer as well as the occasional egg. There were still lots of pigeons around and – oddly enough – souvenir stands.
Then off to the castle – another large complex of the cave houses – some in fantastic shapes. A whole hillside of them. We wandered down into the valley and as we were heading back toward the souvenir stands (!) Daniel called to us from one of the houses. The house had been turned into a café. We ordered a glass of tea and sat in the living room of the house overlooking the valley. The walls were covered with carpets on one end and the other had niches carved into the walls each with some item in it – like an artistic display. The room was quite cool (and the tea hot) and a great view. When we were finished the owned showed us around to a patio, bedroom, and other rooms. Step and narrow stairs throughout. Due to this we were the last back to the bus. Always somebody.
Then up the street about a quarter mile to another overlook. Here the main attraction was a dog – Anatolian Shepherd – which was huge. This and a few other animals are unique to Turkey and cannot be taken out of the country. Daniel and Erika, however, have one that descended from one brought to the states before the ban.
Then we headed off to the historic monastery area – an Orthodox Christian community that had been in the area from the 9th century until the early 20th. Once the Ottoman Empire was defeated and the republic was established there was intense fighting between the Greeks and Turks. After the conflict there were almost a million Orthodox Christians repatriated to Greece and about the same number of Muslims repatriated to Turkey. The community at this complex was one of the ones sent to Greece.
The area was another complex of carved caves – most for residences but some for worship. The most unusual part of these is the frescoes painted on the walls. Some date to the 10th century. They start with very primitive designs (but symbolic) and then move to “educational” frescoes showing the life of Christ. Later there are representations of saints (one was a prostitute who prayed to be less attractive – so her head was turned into that of an old man. Then saints and others in quite realistic settings. The guide said that these painters were probably the inspiration for the European Renaissance as the artists fled the city when Constantinople fell and took the perspective and other techniques into Europe.
There were other interesting features at the site as well – a communal dining room where the benches and tables were actually carved out of the rock and still connected. There were also camels and a donkey you could ride in the shop area. And, amazingly, many souvenir shops!
That was pretty much the end of the day. On the way back to the hotel we passed a nice billboard for a “Wedding Shop” that equipped both brides and young men who were to be circumcised. A buffet dinner and then packing for an early start tomorrow to Ankara.