Taking Maureen to the Middle East travel blog











Sunday 4th October

Feeling slightly better this morning on waking up thank goodness. Just had some toast and the syrup they disguise as jam (just thick clear sugary syrup with pieces of fruit chopped up in it so sweet but so nice). Just what my poor digestive system needed at the moment. Few glasses of cherry juice later and just had to wait outside for my pickup for the tour. Will be leaving the other two to their own devices today whether that is a good thing or not I don’t know.

The pickup arrived half an hour after the appointed time, just as John was going back to the room to get the Fez phone number to call them. I was the only one on board as we are quite a way out of the nearest town of Urgup. Quick stop at another hotel in Urgup to collect three more passengers and we headed off to a stop point to meet the main tour. They were finishing up their free time there so I was able to walk around the fairy chimneys there and take a look at a small chapel carved into one of the rocks. The place was humming with Chinese tourists, probably the most I have seen so far in Turkey, all armed with their scarves draped over their hats, their gloves on and the solar umbrella protection amast.

In due course it was onto the bus to join the group of 5 Chinese, a young Indian couple from Mumbai and a Pakistani man and his Thai wife who live in Florida. My guide for the day was to be Fayzoul or Fay for short. I am not sure whether he was looking for prospects out of the country but he was a very touchy feeling young man who spoke to me directly by name and placed a hand on my shoulder at every opportunity. Maybe it was that I was the only one who was listening to what he was saying.

Our first stop was at a traditional pottery factory which uses the red terracotta clay from the river bed as well as kaolin for making the finer pieces of white pottery. While absolutely gorgeous to look at, I cannot see any of the pieces fitting into our house so resisted buying any pieces of Isnik pottery. The tiles from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul come from this area.

Our next stop was at Devra Valley or Imagination Valley where it was our aim to try to find as many animal shapes in the weirdly formed rock formations. I managed to find a kangaroo, even though I don’t think Fay knew what one looked like. The Chinese tourists just kept taking innumerable photos of each other posing in all sorts of theatrical poses and I don’t think they even bothered looking at the rocks. At least the Indian couple and the Florida couple are good company. Back on board we drove just a short distance to Pigeon Valley.

Pigeons were an important resource for communications back in times before phones etc. and people kept flocks of them for this purpose. Wherever as cave was carved into a rock it was usual to see small holes carved as roosts for the pigeons as well. There were also large pigeon houses where bigger flocks were kept and their droppings used as a valuable form of fertiliser to the farming community around.

Next stop was in Avanos for lunch at a local restaurant where we were served up a tomato and lentil soup with mint, then a vegetable or beef sish which is cooked in a sealed terracotta jug. The nec k of the jug is scored in the making of it. The restaurants fill the jugs with all the ingredients and it is cooked in a charcoal fire for the allotted time. When ready for serving, it is poured with alcohol and set alight for effect and then once the alcohol has burned off, the neck is snapped off with a large knife and the contents ladelled out onto plates.

Wanting to stear clear of meat for another day, I stuck with the vegetarian option along with the Indian couple. The shish was served on a base of very liquid mashed potato and yoghurt. It was gorgeous with a nice smokey taste to it. Just wish my stomach was stronger and I could have finished it all. Dessert was watermelon slices.

Off again for the last stop of the day at the Goreme Open Air Museum. This particular valley had been inhabited for centuries but it started in the 9th century that the Christians theologians decided to set up monastery like residences in the rock formations and many different early Christian churches can be seen. One of the first as you enter the museum is the Girls School or monastery, a structure of 4 storeys carved into a single rock.

This site was taken into the World Heritage List and is now heavily protected. You are not allowed to take photos and only a certain number of people are supposed to be in the church cave at a time. Some of the churches visited were the “Apple Church”, St. Barbaras, The Serpent Church, The Sandal Church and The Buckle Church. There used to be many more churches but earthquakes have destroyed many of them over the centuries. Any official records have also been destroyed as to the true name of the chapels or churches so they have been named by archaeologist for some feature inside, such as the apparent apple the archangel Gabriel is holding in a fresco in that church, the sandal church for the sandals Jesus and the 12 disciples are wearing in a frescoe etc.

It is such a pity that over time, these frescoes have become defaced to some extent as they are brilliant examples of Byzantine art. Unfortunately, this tour was not going to take in the underground city that Maureen and John saw yesterday. It is such a pity that I had to choose these two days to become ill. However, I have to be extremely grateful that I was able to do my bucket list wish of the balloon flight and to see some of the area here.

I was finally dropped back at the hotel around 5.30 to find two very merry people (your mother and uncle are hopeless Clementine) who had been for an adventure down to Urgup by taxi then their taxi driver had got lost and didn’t know the Elevres Stonehouse where we are staying. It is only 5 months old. Long story short, they stopped in a great little village just over the brow of the hill from Elevres and did a bit of shopping there and then tried a taxi back to Elevres from there. They ended up getting a young child hopping in the taxi to direct the driver and travelled maybe 50 metres ov er the hill until they could see the terracotta roofs of our hotel.

They then spent the rest of their afternoon reminiscing and relaxing. Let us just say they were getting louder and louder but not enough to bother me from having a snooze after being a little worn out from my touring today. Eventually dragged them to the restaurant for dinner still giggling like naughtly little kids for dinner then back for a reasonably early night in time for our 7.30 am pick up for our transfer to the hotel. Maureen has misplaced her phone and of course just cant remember where she had it last. Will sort that out later. The fantastic little Turkish man who helps run the hotel (papa is a dogsbody, mama the chef par excellence, daughter helps out both, hubby is the concierge and their little son plays and watches the telly or plays video games in the foyer). We will have to try to sort out the phone problem in the morning.

Goodnight All.

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