Monday, July 06, 2015

Turkey Tour - Part 7: The Caves of Cappadocia, Day 3

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Our journey today took us from a huge and ancient underground city to a bustling village marketplace to an enchanting valley of fairy chimneys.  (And how can you not love a day that includes a "Valley of the Fairy Chimneys"?)

The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia
The tour group boarded the bus promptly at 8:30 (and what a joy it is to travel with a group that is always prompt!)  We were all bundled up as warm as possible as the skies were thick with clouds and the air was cold.  When we arrived at our first destination, the Kaymakli Underground City, there were actually snow flurries!

Kaymakli Undergound City is an World Heritage site. It consists of a huge complex of underground rooms and passages cut into the soft volcanic rock. The complex has literally miles of tunnels and extends down into the earth eight levels!  The upper four floors were opened to the public in 1964 and excavations are still going on in the lower levels.

The entrance to Kaymakli Underground City

The original rooms of this city may have built by the Phrygians in the 8th to 7th centuries B.C.  The city was expanded over the centuries by the following civilizations, including the Romans whose superior engineering skills allowed them to create a strong structure in spite of the many levels. They built the chambers around a central "trunk" and position of the rooms in each level were staggered so that no room sat directly over another open space.   
One of the central "trunks" which gave strength to
the eight levels of rooms in the underground city.
The city became a hiding place for several groups of local residents with the clever use of huge rolling stones of a harder material that allowed them to block off entries.  Early Christians hid here from Roman persecution.  The Byzantine Christians hid from Muslim Arabs during the Arab-Byzantine wars from around 800 to 1200 A.D. and then from the Mongol invasions of the 14th century.  And according to Wikipedia, the Cappadocian Greeks were even using the underground cities to escape Ottoman persecution right up until the 20th century. 

Cupboards, shelves, and sleeping chambers were cut into the walls of the rooms.

I would guess by the dark streaks that these cubby holes held candles or oil lamps.
We wandered through the rooms of the city for about 45 minutes as our guide, Mert, explained the various room functions and notable sights. The tunnels connecting the sections were very tiny and poor Rob had to use his yoga skills to crouch his way through. 
The little notch in the pillar could be used to tie up livestock

A grinding stone was made of harder material than the tufa walls of the rooms.

Rob got a good workout crouching through the passages
between some of the sections of the underground city.

And he barely fit in the full size rooms!
This huge stone could be rolled into the passageway entrance for safety.

Stone stairways led from one level to the next.

Chambers in the Underground City

Recent analysis indicates that this stone was used for copper processing.

Naturally, we exited through the gift shop...another little bazaar of shops lining to the road to the buses.
The shops in front of the Underground City.
Interested readers can learn more about Kaymakli Undergound City here:  Kaymakli Underground City

Our stop was a large open-air farmers’ market in the town of Urgup.  It was filled with stalls selling everything from spices, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other produce to housewares, clothing, and farming equipment.  

Market Day in Urgup, a Turkish village in Cappadocia

The market had everything from clothing to produce to farm equipment.

Grocery shopping in Urgup

Flower market

Spices and walking sticks.

Herbs, nuts, and teas
Rob and I believe it is very important to learn at least some basic phrases in the language of the countries we visit.  Good ones to start with include greetings and good-byes, please and thank you, "How much does that cost?",  "Where is the bathroom?", and (in their language) "Do you speak English?"   We had learned these phrases before we left for Turkey, but today in preparation for our visit to the market, our guide Mert added to our daily language lessons with the numbers one through five so we could shop, as the people working here were village people and unlikely to know English.  We tried out our skills by succesfully buying a couple of bananas, but we definitely stood out as tourists.  A little groups of school boys walking by, giggled, and said “Hello!” in English as soon as they saw us. We responded with “Merhaba!”…hello in Turkish. The merchants were delighted when we use our very limited Turkish. They responded with big (and surprised) smiles.

After a quick lunch back in Mustafapasa, we set out for Paşabağ, (pronounced pah-sha-bah), the Valley of the Monks...but known to most as the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys.  These unique geological wonders are perhaps the most distinctive feature of this region.  As the softer layers of volcanic rock under the basalt layer eroded away over the ages, it left these tall pillars of soft tufa rock capped by crowns of basalt.   Happily, the sun came out in the afternoon, and although it was still quite chilly, it was delightful to wander among these rock towers with blue skies above, and trails up the nearby hills provided views of the entire valley.
Interesting geography on the way to Pasabag.

Rows of Fairy Chimneys

The basalt chimney tops

Even here, people had carved rooms into the towers.

Defying years of erosion, this cap balances precariously.

Tourists wandering beneath the immense towers.

It was a sunny, but cold, afternoon.

Old dwellings built into the towers.

Beautiful carvings decorate the entrance.

Fairy towers seen through the window of an ancient cave dwelling.

Inside a fairy chimney
Looking down on the valley from the hillsides.

The landscape around the valley.

Cappadocian landscape

Mert Taner - guide extraordinaire!

Debra walking back to the valley after our hike to the hilltops.

Susan and Judie enjoy the gorgeous sights.

More chimney tops

The aptly named camel rock

Gay, Sally, Jean, Eileen, and Kathy...
and Mert - photobomber extraordinaire!

This valley seemed to bring out the ham in our group members.
Nancy poses for her husband, David.

Naturally, we once again exited through the "gift shop" where Jane tried out her skills as a camel rider, and Jean experienced the Turkish ice cream vendor's trick of handing you an ice cream cone inside of several other cones.  As she tried to take her treat, it would suddenly disappear back into the young man's hands.  By the end of several tries, the crowd was laughing hysterically.
Jane and her camel.

Our bus driver Nihat enjoys the ice cream trickery.

Jean finally gets to keep her ice cream cone.
We ended our day's adventures at the Cappadocia Underground Ceramic Museum, a large ceramic workshop that included a museum of pottery dating back from the bronze age through examples of gorgeous ceramics from the Ottoman Empire. 
Entrance to the Underground Ceramic Museum

Mercury bottles




Amphora excavated from the sea

Early Ottoman ceramics

Ottoman vessel

Ottoman ceramics

Gorgeous pitcher made by the craftsmen of this workshop

We browsed through the museum, then went into the workshop where artists were painting traditional designs onto the pottery.  
I was amazed at the talent of these artists who drew the designs by hand.

Artists painting the designs on the ceramics.

One of the finished plates with the traditional Turkish tulips
After watching the artists, we were once again served apple tea while a master potter demonstrated for us how he makes the circular, hollow tube of the shoulder wine pitcher we have seen all around the shops and museums here – an amazing feat!  
Our host introduces the potter while we sip our apple tea.

He uses a traditional foot powered wheel

The process begins.

Cindy and Matt, our tour group's potters, watch intently to learn a new technique.

Still working...

And the tube takes shape.

The shoulder vase is made up of several pieces.
This is the hollow tube that goes over the shoulder of the wine server.

After the demonstration, Matthew, one of our tour members, who is a master potter here in the U.S., was invited to give it a try. It takes years to really master this particular technique, so we were quite impressed when Matthew succeeded in creating a commendable replica of the tubed vessel!
Matt gets outfitted in the traditional Turkish trousers.

He begins shaping his clay.

It's shaping up nicely!

Bravo, Matt!  They cut it in half and he had successfully crafted a hollow tube.

Rob had chosen to remain in town during the afternoon excursion, and he had his own cultural adventure. He walked down to the little market stalls in Mustafapasa and purchased a couple of items. The three brothers who own the shop invited him to join them for Turkish tea (which they call chai). They spoke just enough English that they could all enjoy the visit, and Rob said that when tea was served, all business ceased. It was just a time for fellowship and conversation.  

When he returned to our hotel room, he left the door open to let a little fresh air in. (Remember, we are staying in one of the chambers carved into the rock!) He was in the bathroom brushing his teeth when he was surprised by a little meow at his feet.  One of the hotel's cats had seen the open door and decided to come in for some warmth. She ended up staying for the rest of the afternoon, begging for cuddles and “talking” to him. If you know my husband, you know he was in heaven!
Our cave cat!

Rob and the cat having a cuddle.
We ended the evening with dinner and a happy hour, enjoying food and conversation with this very congenial group of travelers.
Our great group enjoying wine and conversation.

Rob and Susan share a laugh.

Me and my "travel buddy" Ben