Monthly Archives: September 2011

September 5th, 2011, Day 35 – Urgup (Cappadocia), Turkey to Mt. Nemrut (Khata), Turkey

September 5th, Day 35, Urgup to Mt. Nemrut, Turkey

We left Urgup on Monday and drove to Mt. Nemrut. We also met up with our new guide, Tim from Turkey. It was a very long day of driving 486 kms. We were very sad to be leaving Cappadocia as there was lots more for us to visit there. It was very different and exciting to be living in a cave house for a short period of time. Would not want to live in a cave every day but for a night or two it was fun.

It seems that every time we leave a place we think nothing could ever top or even meet the previous experience and sure enough we would bump into something else unexpected or an even better situation than the last place! Cappadocia was such a place.

Driving along we noticed lots of new developments of apartment buildings all painted in pretty, bright colours. Blues with tan or light yellows; yellow with green; yellow and purple; the colour schemes were endless. We thought they looked very nice and that it would be easy to give directions to your apartment as no colours were grouped together. Turn left at the tan and blue building, I live in the orange and yellow one!

All farm animals like, sheep, goats and cows ran free as there were no fences, (no pigs either as Turkey was a Muslim Country). There were herders  or shepherds watching over their herds or flocks. I cannot think of a more lonely, boring job than watching your sheep eat all day, except maybe a flag girl. At least shepherds get a little excitement when moving their herds and their animals do not all follow together. Many times there were cows or sheep on the street and we had to wait for them to move for us to drive by. Sometimes they actually slept on the roads and we would have to drive around them!

We drove for hours, past miles and miles of hay fields, much like Canada’s prairie plains, only there were rolling mountains or hills with reddish brown dirt in the background.

At one point during the day we were driving along the tops of these hills with the red chalky dirt, it was approximately 1,500 meters above sea level. The only vegetation was in the valleys below between the hills which was irrigated by canals of water diverted from rivers being dammed. It was hard to believe anything could grow in this chalky, dusty mountainous terrain but as soon as water was added, voila vegetation grew abundantly. Try imagining the Grand Canyon or a dessert with little valleys between very dry hills growing orchards of fruit infested apricot trees, looking very green with orange fruit! Stunning!

Driving through one village we noticed a farmer had dumped his grain right on the road at the side of the street and buyers were filling up their own bags with his grain to take home.

We stopped for lunch at a  cute restaurant called Selale.  A policeman in the village we passed through told our guide, Tim, about this place otherwise we never would have found it. The restaurant was in a valley in the middle of no where, right beside a huge waterfall. The restaurant had these cute little huts beside the river below the waterfall. The huts had Turkish carpets and pillows in them to sit on and have a picnic. We decided to eat at the public area with picnic benches beside the river. It was very lovely, unusual and cool, an oasis, as it was another hot day in Turkey.

In one section of the highway a construction crew was building a retaining wall using an excavator to dump a bunch of rocks into a huge form, then the bricklayers would cement bricks around these loose rocks, making a wall. I do not know if that was  how it was done elsewhere but I found this method to be unusual and possibly unstable?

In another section they were making the highway larger by cutting into the mountainside. The colours of the mountain were absolutely spectacular with yellows, reds and greys! The new highway construction went on forever, all through the little villages and up the mountainsides. Turkey was prosperous and a booming country. For some reason I had thought it would be more backwards than it was. Please forgive my ignorance, Turkey!

We were driving along when I thought I saw bananas hanging on a rack outside a farm. But I couldn’t see any banana trees? What we did see were these broad leaved plants in rows about neck height of an average person. What the leaves turned out to be was tobacco. They grow tobacco in Turkey! Of course they do said Russ “remember Camel cigarettes”? The yellow bananas I saw were actually tobacco leaves drying on racks, the green leaves turned yellow then brown as they dried.

September 4th, 2011, Day 34 – Urgup (Cappadocia), Turkey

September 4th, Day 34, Urgup, Turkey

It was compulsory for students in Turkey to learn their National dances. Each year there were dance competitions and every school must have a team of dancers in the National competition, according to our guide. I liked this tradition it meant that everyone grew up knowing how to dance.

We passed a sugar plant which processed sugar beets grown in this area of Turkey. Every product you can imagine was grown in Turkey! Bananas, cotton, fruit trees, tobacco, corn, wheat, vegetables, melons, nuts, sunflowers and olives! (That list was not all inclusive, it was a sample of what was grown in Turkey).

All the fields were irrigated because the surrounding hills were very dry. The hills were composed of a dusty brown rock and rusty colored dirt but when irrigated they grew fantastic crops! They even grew pumpkins! The seeds were soaked in milk then roasted in the oven, before eating.

As we drove further we passed through dessert looking areas with rocky hills and very dry land. Golden brown fields which were the remains of wheat that had been harvested below the rocky hills. Later on it looked as if someone had shaved   off the tops of all the mountains and left them bald like dry table tops.

Later the colour of the stones used to build the houses had changed from a grey colour to layers of yellow, brown and white stone. Most of the street dogs here had a black face with a light beige colored body, very lean and a curly tail. The were crosses with the purebred  Sibus Kangal dog, a very large Turkish breed used for herding and guarding farm animals.

As we entered the Cappadocia area, the terrain changed again and it looked like a giant child had taken a bucket full of sand and dumped it upside down to make huge sand piles that had now hardened into rocky sand. These rock formations were made by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, leaving masses of  lava and ash 200 meters in height. After the volcanic eruptions the ice age appeared and then disappeared leaving lakes in the area. The lakes then dried up when the climate changed leaving unique rock formations of ash, sandstone, clay, basalt and other minerals. Soft Tufa stone and Basalt were affected by the erosion process resulting in interesting canyons and the famous Cappadocian Fairy Chimneys.

Driving along we started to notice caves carved into these rock formations. People once lived in these caves which looked like rocky sand castles. Today these caves were used as storage places for fruits and vegetables because the temperature remained constant underground.

These high rocky hills gave people safe shelter from outside dangers because the stone was easily carved into to make their homes. Our guide told us that some of Star Wars was filmed here. It looked like terrain from another planet so I believed him!

We stayed at the most fantastic hotel! Our rooms were carved into the hillside. It was amazing, the rock was all white so it wasn’t dark or dingy at all. The rooms were exotic with modern plumbing and furnishings. Hardwood floors and heated ceramic tiles in the bathrooms.

John and Lulu had a round bed with a canopy. Our washroom had large holes in the floor covered in glass going down to caves below our room.  It was unique and very  romantic!

We got up at 4 a.m. this morning to go on a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. It was fantastic! They shot fire up into the balloon while it was laying on the ground  to get the hot air into it. The hot air rises and lifted the balloon and us up into the air. The flame was directed into the balloon by a huge fan until the balloon was no longer lying down but in the air. Once the balloon was up in the air our pilot directed the ballon by shooting a flame into the open hole of the balloon using propane tanks. He also pulled on strings tied to the sides of the balloon to steer from side to side. It was not an exact science, the wind really blew the balloon where it wanted. The pilot could control how high or low we went by shooting in more or less flames.

I thought we would be the only balloon flying so early in the morning but it turned out that there were more than 50 balloons all going up in the air at the same time! Each balloon held twelve people. The basket was divided into four sections with four people in each section. That meant more than 600 people had woken up at 4 a.m. that morning! The balloons were very colorful and it was an amazing sight to see all these balloons in the air flying over moon like terrain, it was like a fairy land, just fantastic! We were all amazed at how smooth the ride was, it felt like we were floating in the air. I guess that was exactly what we were doing, floating! We even saw a Remax balloon flying in the air.

We floated over a village where everyone had lived inside caves until the 1950′s. The residents finally moved out and built a new town just to the left of their old town which was carved into the hills. They built beside their old homes because they found it too costly to keep up with modern times, like indoor plumbing and heating, with their homes inside rocks. They wanted running water and modern plumbing like the rest of the population in Turkey. Their old homes were heritage sites and they could not change them, so they moved beside their old town into a new town as it was more economical to build a new house.

In another area a valley was named pigeon valley because the rock was carved out to house pigeons. The citizens of the villages would clean out their pigeon houses once or twice a year to collect the droppings to use as fertilizer for their crops, it was called “guano”. There were still lots of pigeons flying around there so I assumed this tradition continued.

We also flew over grape fields only these grapes were little bushes planted in sand fields. They do not water these grapes as there was no irrigation. The plants had deep roots that reached down to porous rock which contained moisture from water underground. The plants stayed small on top of the ground because their growth was in their root system.

Our landing was not quite as smooth as  floating thru the air in the balloon. We bounced a couple of times until we stopped but it was no big deal. I highly recommend this experience.

The region we were staying at in Cappadocia was called “Goreme” which translated into “worth seeing”, and they were right this place was like no other place in the world that I’d ever seen thus far.  Cappadocia was a huge area stretching from the Black Sea to Konya. Goreme was just a small part of Cappadocia. Cappadocia’s root name meant “land of great horses”.

The crops grown in this area had changed to apricots, apples and lots of potatoes. A lot of pumas stone was mined here as well. They used it to make stone washed jeans. The granite and stone mined locally was used to build their houses. The yellow stone had sulphur in it, basalt stone was grey, pure ash was white and the red stone had iron in it, according to our guide.

When the Turkish Republic was formed after WW I the non-Muslims i.e. Greeks were returned to Greece and the Muslims in Greece and neighboring countries were returned to Turkey. Our guide said that the people in Cappadocia  liked their Greek neighbors  and had lived for years with the Greeks. He was sad when this decision happened and they had to move out of Turkey.

Next we visited the Fairy Chimney area which had these tall pillars made of sandy rock and each pillar had a large heavier rock balancing on the top. The pillars were made of ash and basalt. The caps on the top of the pillars protected the body of the columns from being eroded by the weather. If a cap fell off, the pillar was soon lost by erosion.

The underground cities began in second century A.D. They were started by Roman Christians who were persecuted by the Romans who were not Christians. Christians, Greeks and Persians all carved their cities underground to hide from the Ruling Romans.  In 400 A.D. Constantine the leader of the Roman Byzantine Empire from Constantinople became Christian and legalized Christianity. Some of the Christians then came out from their underground cities.

We visited an underground city in Derinkuyu which was said to have accommodated 10,000 people underground at it’s peak. The houses built in the village above ground, had access to these tunnels underground from their homes. They used the tunnels and rooms for storage and to make wine. Some houses collected their water with pulleys bringing up buckets of water from wells in the tunnels below their houses.

The underground city of Derinkuyu, had eight layers of rooms connected by tunnels. The total size of the underground city was 2.5km2. It was estimated to be the largest underground city in the world. Even their animals were stabled underground.

The connecting tunnels were very narrow because this gave the inhabitants more protection. They had large round millstones which rolled sideways accross the entrance into slots carved into the walls. With the narrow entrance tunnels only one person could be in a tunnel at a time and they could not get the leverage needed to move the millstones used to seal the tunnels. On the other side would be a large room which held many people and they could easily move the millstone together with no problem. These stones also had peep holes in the middle so they could look through to see who was on the other side. Very smart!

More than 3,000 rooms in this underground city have been uncovered. There were shelves carved into the walls to hold oil lamps. The wine making rooms  had a place to crush the grapes and the juice would run down a spout which poured into a jug. They had it all figured out. Kitchen areas with ventilation and water wells.

Our next stop was an open air museum. This museum had approximately 200 churches carved into the stone and over 50 monasteries. Most were completed between the 10th and 12th Centuries. They had a school for priests and missionaries. It was estimated that 50 to 60 students would live here because of the size of the dining room table carved out of stone. It could easily seat 50 students.

One Church we visited was dated back to the 11th Century and was called  St. Basil. It was named after Basil the Great. Basil became a priest and advised the Christians to live together to help each other because at the time they were persecuted by the Romans. He believed they would be safer living together and supporting each other. This was how the cave homes started with the Christians. St. Basil was very famous in these parts of Turkey.

The other churches we visited were called Buckle (which had beautiful frescoes on it’s walls), Barbara, Apple, and Snake. Unusual names for churches!

In one church we visited there was a painting on the interior wall of St. Onuphorius  who was a man with breasts standing behind a palm tree. The priest said that the man lived as a hermit and dedicated himself to religion during the 4th Century. Legend said that the man was first a very beautiful woman. Men loved her, she partied and had a lot of fun but she got tired of all the attention. She prayed to God to change her life and God changed her face into a man with a beard. Be careful for what you wish for!

Comlek, means pottery or pot here in Turkey. Very close to our name Cmolik! You guessed it our next stop was a pottery factory. The Turks have been making clay pottery here for 4,000 years! The river here had an abundance of the  red clay they used for their pottery. Very interesting stop and yes, we bought a couple of excellent pieces!

That evening we went to a Whirling Dervish ceremony in a Caravansary! It was amazing. The music was haunting and when I closed my eyes it made me feel dizzy. With the singer’s voice tone going up and down, accompanied by drums, a flute instrument and a string instrument, I felt like whirling myself.

The Whirlers spun around and at the same time moved in a circle around the space in the center of the room. There was one man, their leader, who did not spin but would walk beside a Whirler and the Whirler would then move to a different spot while still turning. They held their hands up while spinning, one hand turned up to God and the other turned down towards the people watching. Symbolizing that they were taking God’s energy and goodness and spreading this energy out towards us. They were God’s conduit spreading his energy through their bodies. The spinning brought them closer to God. It must take a lot of practice to spin for half an hour without falling over. Very interesting!

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