Saturday, June 13, 2015

Turkey Tour - Part 6: The Caves of Cappadocia, Day 2

Friday, April 3, 2015

I woke very early on our second day in Cappadocia, hoping for the phone call from our fearless leader, Mert, saying that our hot air balloon ride over the landscape of the region was still on.  Sadly, the weather predictions from the night before were correct, and it was too windy to fly safely.  (Throughout our entire trip, Turkey was experiencing an unusual cold snap.  The typical April average temperatures of 65 F (18 C)  were often in the 40's!)   Oh, well, this particular bucket list item will just have to wait for another trip.

Rob and I headed downstairs for breakfast buffet in the hotel's dining-room-in-a-cave, then joined the group for an exploration of the little town of Mustafapasa.
The breakfast room of Cappadocia Estates

Rob greets one of the Cappadocia Estates cats as we walk into town.

The town itself is not particularly lovely.  It is small, dry, and dusty, with rather shabby old buildings, gravel roads, piles of construction mess here and there as the workers prepared for the tourist season.
Downtown Mustafapasa and its single minaret

The coffee house of Mustafapasa where the men gather to share the news of the day.

A rather large display of Viagra - no prescription needed!

But when you looked past the first impressions, there were touches of beauty everywhere - painted walls and entries, carvings on the eaves of the houses, bright colors of scarves and ceramics in the shops that lined the streets. And, as everywhere in Cappadocia, there were both new and ancient cave dwellings all throughout the town.
Carved door in Mustafapasa

Detail from entryway into one of the university buildings

Mustafapasa building

Detail from the building above

Painted portico

Cave dwellings of Mustafapasa

Abandoned cave homes - and The Old Greek House mascot,
who accompanied us on our walk around the town!

Mert escorted our group through the town, showing us good places to eat and shop, explaining the roles of various buildings.  There is a university here, and we spoke to some students who passed by on their way to class about their lives and studies here.
Our tour group learns about life in Mustafapasa

Mert introduces us to this friendly shop keeper.
We bought some gorgeous scarves and ceramics here.

We had a little time to wander on our own, then rejoined our group in front of the Old Greek House for a short bus ride to our next stop, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Goreme Open Air Museum.  Early Christian monks of the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries carved monasteries and churches into the cliffs and towers of this valley.  The tiny cave churches, most only big enough to hold a dozen or so worshipers at a time, give us a little peep into the past.
Gathering back at The Old Greek House

Nihat prepares our bus for our next excursion

Mert walked us around the compact complex to point out the tiny entrances to the various churches, and to provide some historical background, then left us on our own to explore the interiors.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Goreme

The monastery was built into this tower behind the entrance to the Goreme Open Air Museum

Mert uses Bobby's back to draw a common early Christian symbol.

Mert used his drawing to explain the meaning of the word ICQUE. 
The letters stand for Iasoos (Jesus), Xristos (Christ), Theou (God), Yios (son), and Sotare (Savior)
When merged together, they form a wheel,
and when every other segment of the wheel is filled in, it forms a thick cross.
Ixoye is also the word for fish in Greek, and since Jesus was a "fisher of men," 

this led to the adoption of the fish as a symbol of early Christianity.

An entrance into one of the tiny churches hidden in the walls of Goreme.

Most of the churches contain faint remnants of frescoes painted onto the stone walls, while helpful signs outside of each tell the story of each little chapel.  Photography was not allowed inside the churches as the flash would quickly destroy what is left of the artwork, so I have borrowed some photos from free license images on Google.
Fresco inside the "Apple Church"
Licensed for free use by Wikimedia

Frescoes in Elmali Kilise, the "Apple Church"
Thanks to:  "TurkeyGoreme" by Hawkeye58 at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Faded frescoes in Azize Barbara Kilisesi, the Saint Barbara Church
Thanks to: "Turkey.Göreme030" by Georges Jansoone JoJan -
Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

St George killing the dragon inside the Yilanli or "Snake" Church
Licensed for free use by Wikimedia

St. Onuphrius, with the beard of an old man and the body of a young woman,
 in the Yilanli Church
Thanks to: "Yilanli (Snake) Church" by Brocken Inaglory. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

The "Dark Church," Karanlik Kilise, with a beautiful facade carved into the cliff side, had an even more stunning interior.  The church was larger and extended more deeply into the cliff than most of the churches, so the bright frescoes inside are extremely well preserved.
Karanlik Kilise, the "Dark Church" carved into the mountainside.

The beautiful facade of the Dark Church

Frescoes cover the walls of the Dark Church
Thanks to:

Portrait of Jesus in the Dark Church
Thanks to: "Göreme OpenAir Museum Dunkle Kirche 2 11 2004" by Grizurgbg at the German language Wikipedia.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

There are several websites where you can learn more about the churches of Goreme.  I particularly liked this one for the full descriptions of each church:  The Churches of Goreme

Rob and I explored the rooms that would have served as homes for the monks.  They are empty stone rooms now, but it was easy to imagine the busy life that went on here for centuries, with wine filling the vats cut into the floors, monks tilling the earth and planting grapes in the valley below.  Across the canyon, we would see the pigeon roosts cut into the walls so the monks could use the pigeon droppings for fertilizer.
Rob and Joan explore the monasteries of Goreme

Rob in one of the monastery rooms

Stairways cut from the rock lead into the cave dwellings

Air vents were carved into some of the ceilings.

An old vineyard in the valley below the monasteries.

More caves were dug into the cliffs on the other side of the valley.

Pigeon roosts cut into the cliffs.  The pigeon droppings were collected and used as fertilizer.

We wandered around the various towers of Goreme for an hour or so.  After a visit to the gift shop and little bazaar below the museum, it was finally time to leave this remarkable site.

"Penthouse apartments" high in the tower

The valley below Goreme

More Goreme dwellings

The bazaar below the Open Air Museum.
In the absence of dogs or cats, Rob found a camel to pet.

Our tour members browse the little bazaar.

Yarns for carpet weaving at the Goreme bazaar

Debra and Judie enjoy a break.

The remarkable towers of Cappadocia

One of the many great benefits of traveling with Rick Steves is that his tours put you in touch with the people and the culture.  Following our great visit to Goreme, we had our lunch in the home of Fahriye, a lovely woman living in Ortahisar, another of the many towns scattered through Cappadocia.
Many of the homes were hidden in courtyards behind lovely decorated doorways.

Our group enters the courtyard and Fahriye and her family.

We are greeted by Fahriye and her daughter, Ayfer

After removing our shores, we were welcomed into a little tower room at the back of her patio and overlooking the valley below.  We sat on benches around the colorful carpet-covered floor.  Fahriye and her daughter, Ayfer, served us a tasty meal of bread, salad, and beans - all from produce they grew on their own farm.
Fahriye's beautiful Turkish carpets covered both the floor and the couches around the room.

Rob and Joan enjoying the morning

Our lunch - home grown, simple, and tasty

Our group learns about family life in a Turkish home

As we ate, the two women, with Mert translating, talked about their lives and answered our many questions.  Fahriye and Ayfer were joined later by Fahriye's mother and Ayfer's daughter, Aylin, who had just returned from school, so we had the pleasure of meeting four generations and learning about the changes that had taken place in their lives over the years.  As were many Turkish women of their generations, the great-grandmother and Fahriye were dressed in traditional clothing, but Ayfer was a modern girl, dressed in slacks and a pull-over.  In spite of their dress, however, the older women were quite modern in their thinking and supported the rights of women to pursue an education and join the workforce.  This visit was one of many highlights of our trip.
Mert translates for Fahriye, her mother, and her daughter, Ayfer

Fahriye, Ayfer, and her daughter, Aylin

This photo of Fahriye as a young woman was on the wall of the room... was this photo of her mother.

A view of Ortahisar from Fahriye's courtyard

Fahriye says farewell to our group.

This woman from the village was outside Fahriye's house and entertained us with her tambourine.

A little stall selling many kinds of nuts.

Our final stop of the day was the Gallery Cappadocia near the city of Nevşehirwhere we learned about the art of Turkish carpet weaving.  The art of  knotting Turkish carpets is documented all the way back to the 5th century B.C., with woven carpets dating back even further.

Gallery Cappadocia - a Turkish carpet workshop

Our host met us outside the workshop and showed us the vats of natural dyes that are used to color the wools used in the carpets.
Vats of natural dyes color the wool used to create the carpets

Dyed wools dry on racks outside the shop

Inside, women were sitting in front of looms demonstrating the knots used to create the intricate patterns of these beautiful carpets.  We learned about the difference between the single knot and the double knot carpets, and some of our tour members got to try out their knot-tying skills.
Hand knotting the intricate patterns

Demonstration of the knotting technique

Susan tries her hand at knotting the wool

There are several types of Turkish carpets:  the kilim is a traditional wool carpet with no pile that is woven on a loom.  The traditional knotted carpets still made by hand in villages in this region is wool-on-wool (both the strings on the loom and the knotted pile are made from wool).  The next type is wool on cotton, which allows for a tighter weave.  The most luxurious and expensive is silk on silk, and this workshop weaves its own silk thread right in the store.
Chests full of silk worm cocoons and silk threads

Debra and Peng watch this woman separate the strands of silk from the cocoons.

This machine spins the silk thread.

Following the demonstration, we were seated on long benches around the large showroom and served apple tea in traditional tulip-shaped glass cups.  As we drank, the carpet show began.  Several young men began laying out one after another of the beautiful carpets as our enthusiastic host described the type of carpet, the region it represented, the significance of the designs.  The kilims were followed by the wool-on-wool, then the wool-on-cotton, and finally the silk-on-silk.
These men wait to roll the carpets out at our feet.

The kilims came out first. 

Then came wool-on-wool carpets

These were followed by wool-on-cotton.

As the carpets were unrolled, our host explained the designs and history of the carpets.

The gorgeous colors of the Turkish carpets.

The last carpets to be displayed were the silk-on-silk

Soon the entire room was filled with a thick layer of carpets and we were welcomed to come and inspect them close up.  As we oohed and ahhed, we were joined by a beautiful dog who ran into the room and dived into the pile, taking great pleasure in rolling around on top of the rugs.
Kathy, Ben, and Pat examine the carpets up close.

This dog knew exactly what he wanted to do!
He rolled ecstatically all over the carpets as soon as the demonstration was concluded.

Rob misses our Maggie dog at home when we travel, but he manages to get some puppy love.

And, as everywhere in Turkey, there were cats here, too.

Rob and I came thiiiiiis close to buying a beautiful carpet, but we wanted more time to look through all the offerings and make sure it was just the right one, so we have made a pledge to return to Cappadocia again one day to find our perfect Turkish carpet.
The carpet we almost bought.  

In the late afternoon, we rode back through the lovely countryside, stopping for a few photos.
The best tour partners we could have asked for!  

A Turkish farmer tills his land the old-fashioned way.

Today was a day filled with wonderful memories from beginning to end.  After returning to Mustafapasa and freshening up, we walked back down to the Old Greek House for another great dinner.  After dinner, we were joined by several members of the family and others from the village for music and dancing - another delightful cultural experience!
Arriving for dinner in the Old Greek House

Mert joins villagers from Mustafapasa who entertain us with traditional Turkish music.

Mert and his friend enjoy a dance.

This fellow was obviously having a wonderful time!  He danced the night away.

Family members joined in.

And our group members joined in the fun.

Other villagers arrived to share their music.

A dad and his daughter watch the dancers.

What a wonderful ending to one of my favorite days of our entire tour!


The Artist's Life Experiment said...

Cappadocia is such a strange and wonderful place. There is much to see there! I think we could have spent weeks going to see all the little churches carved into those hills. Instead, we stayed in a cave room for three nights in town and splurged on a Turkish bath. Well worth the money. Going to see the rugs made was another highlight. We wanted so much to buy one of those Turkish rugs, they are hard to pass up. We made the same promise, that we will go back and get one another day. :)

Joan Lindsay Kerr said...

Tina, it WAS strange and wonderful! Our Turkish bath experience came a little later in the trip, in Antalya on the Mediterranean coast.

The Artist's Life Experiment said...

Beauty in the details, that is one of the things I love to photograph too! Ooooh a Turkish bath along the Mediterranean coast, that sounds grand. I'm looking forward to you telling us all about it in another post. It's a good thing Rob and I are not travel buddies...we would never get past getting acquainted with all the cats! ;)

Sarah said...

Joan, another incredible post!! I really, really want to go to Cappadocia one day, and you've made it all the more enticing. I also think your Goreme photo should be your new holiday card!! What a great shot of you two. Thanks again for all the detail and beautiful photos.