by Fred Moore - September 2006
Once again we're confronted with a holiday weekend and decide we must get away; so we retrace a route already taken with a twist. This time we're going to help our usual traveling companions, Jim and Chelly, entertain a young Turkish friend 'Kenan' discover some of his own country. Kenan is very much a son to both Carol and me, as well as Jim and Chelly. Kenan has never visited Sultanhani or Cappadocia in central Turkey.
You've been on our trip to both of these locations before but stay with me here as I draw you a new and wholly different painting of the area. I promise you a new view and another adventure.
We leave Adana on Friday morning early and drive to Pozanti on the autobahn. We make a short stop there and then drive straight through to Aksaray. Well, that was the intent but carpets draped over wooden frames along the highway stopped us. We made several stops to look at carpets at tourist shops along the road just a few miles from our goal. The great majority of these carpets were new and uninteresting; those that did hold some appeal were far too high priced for knowledgeable buyers. It's never a waste of time to look at what's on the market in different places, however we simply got back into the van and made our way to Aksaray.
Aksaray is a city on the main road between Ankara and Konya, we've passed through here many times but have never stopped. Our hotel, the Ucyildiz, is in the center of town. It was our intention to explore the city some, but our desk clerk tells us there is nothing to see of great interest in this city. Our guidebook highlights only two attractions, both mosques (one from the 13th the other the 15th century) that we decide to pass up this time; maybe we'll visit them on another occasion.
We stop in Aksaray only long enough for lunch and to check into our hotel; then we get back on the road south to visit Taspinar. We passed the cut off for this village as we were headed into Aksaray but chose to forego the stop. Now, on second thought, we return. Taspinar carpets have been our most favorite for a very long time and they still turn our heads when we see an old well-maintained piece. We saw NO carpets in the little village; Kenan even inquired for us but with no luck. We can simply say we've been to Taspinar now. We return to the highway and head for Sultanhani. Our main objective today is to introduce Kenan to the most magnificent caravansary his country has to discover. We arrive in mid-afternoon and park directly in front of the building; Carol volunteers to take Kenan through the orientation and visit within the walls of this great monument to Turkey's past. This Han was built in 1230 and has been restored to some degree making it one of the most visited by tourists from around the world.
After Carol and Kenan finish walking through the Han, all of us walk around it to the side street to visit Sultan Saray Hali. This is a carpet repair 'school', which we have NOT visited on our trips before. We were ONLY of the impression it was a carpet store as it had 15 or 20 carpets hanging from the roof's edge and hanging on the fence along the sidewalk leading toward the front door.
A gentleman, 'Ibrahim,' meets us at the front door and welcomes us to the shop. He tells us this is a repair school and invites us in to look around. We enter a very large open space, to discover the building has three floors of 'WOW'! I use this word because I simply have no other suitable for this discovery.
The floor we enter is a sales area primarily; Ibrahim invites us to come upstairs and see what is being done. There are a number of old carpets lining the stair rail and as my line of sight clears the second floor I see 25 maybe 30 men lining the walls to my right; I turn my gaze left and see that many more. All of these gentlemen sit on the floor against the wall and have a wooden frame with a portion of carpet stretched across it on their lap. What we're witnessing here is the largest and most reputable repair house in all of Turkey.
Ibrahim points out two guys who are working on the full restoration of an 18th century Usak carpet; this repair we're told will take 52 months and will cost $35,000! There are three men on the opposite side of the room working a restoration on a 16th century Usak carpet that is huge but we get neither a cost nor an estimated completion time on it. I feel a sense of awe just standing in the same room with carpets of this beauty and history. I think to myself, if only these pieces could talk! I realize as we walk through this work place of master craftsmen we are viewing something few will ever see and even fewer will even understand. This is a hospital for the aged and worn carpets/kilims of history; these are pieces that have been rescued from certain death and loss to generations to come. After a stay of months, maybe years, these masterpieces will once again adorn some majestic floor or wall space in the home and heart of someone who loves them deeply for their sheer history and splendor.
We walk slowly around the room observing each piece being restored and try to imagine the breath of master talent surrounding us. It's one thing to create a carpet from it separate components; it's something far different to take an antique carpet and restore it to its aged magnificence. Each of these pieces requires a master repairman to match color and texture of wool in order to bring a valued masterpiece back to life. The visual experience here should not to be missed! These carpets have come from all corners of the globe to receive the finest care possible; the carpet doctors and interns at work here look up approvingly from their restoration as I acknowledge their craftsmanship. In twenty plus years of looking at stack after stack of carpets, I've never felt the intense awe that I feel standing in the presence of so many historic carpets. The men sit with piles of multi-color rug yarn surrounding them; the colors are vibrant and no two pieces seem related, in region or design. In the center of the room is a large table where a young man is ironing a large sheet of muslin; this will be backing for those pieces that are far too valuable for restoration. There are pieces so rare that IF they were restored, the restoration would destroy their character and worth to the global carpet community. Carpets of this rarity are simply tacked to muslin or burlap to prevent total destruction of the piece.
We make our way to the third floor and find more restorers. Also Ibrahim points out the bags of antique fragments used in restoration. One half of this floor is covered in large burlap bags of fragments that will be deconstructed for use in repairs. These guys collect antique carpets and kilims that are well beyond economic repair and they buy them to use as repair material. Ibrahim also points out a 75 square meter carpet that has arrived from the United States for restoration; he indicates it could be well over five years getting restored. I can't even fathom a carpet of 75 square meters!
As we descend the stairs to the first floor again, Ibrahim points to a closed door in the wall of the landing; he opens it to shows us the dye room. We descend another staircase and here wool is made to exact colors needed for any piece being restored. There are several vats of boiling water sitting near an outside door and two have dye lots of color, one blue; the other red. Just outside the door a young man is operating a centrifuge forcing water out of the newest dye lots. Back inside there are young men sitting around the room deconstructing old carpets and kilims for their yarn. Skilled hands are required to reverse the carpet/kilim construction so the wool can be used again. This isn't a simple matter of tearing the old piece apart; one must work carefully to preserve as much of the original wool as possible. Care is also taken to choose old carpets and kilims that are not in a state of rot or self-destruction that would make the material from them useless for these professional restorations.
Once we've had the full tour we're invited to have refreshments, as is the Turkish custom. While enjoying the beverage of our choice, we're awed by the opening and rolling out of fifty or so carpets/kilims. I'm only paying half attention as these pieces hit the floor; my mind is still racing with what I've seen above. We're shown some of the most beautiful carpets and kilims we've ever seen anywhere in Turkey. Many of the pieces rolled out before us are collection carpets, pieces with history and great character. A number of these pieces stand out for me but one in particular caught my attention and took my mind from the floors above; it was a Gallipoli carpet reflecting the map of the Dardanelles. I've read a number of books on the battle of Gallipoli and have been introduced to these carpets through the written word but have never seen one in person. This piece is well worn but still worthy of our attention and appreciation. I see this carpet as a piece of the not too distant past of Turkey and regret not being able to purchase it and donate it to a Gallipoli museum. There are a number of carpets I've seen over the years that to me should be displayed in a museum setting 'not for sale' to the general public. But then a dealer sees this piece as simply a commodity for sale. It isn't an outstanding piece in their eyes; the color is faded and the historic nature of the piece simply isn't important. I understand, but still I'm saddened by what I perceive to be historical neglect.
As we sit and stand around this large hall contemplating the carpets and kilims covering the floor, we also see a number of Afghan robes - one green one has captivated my attention but unfortunately its value is well beyond my desire. I have a hard and fast rule now that I've been collecting carpets and kilims for over twenty years; I will not be over sold on anything, regardless of age or historical significance. I know the value of carpets and kilims and realize there are pieces far beyond my grasp. I appreciate each and every one BUT I will not be sold anything beyond my reality. Jim and Chelly have found a robe they feel they can't live without - but we leave without it anyway. (We actually return and get it before leaving Sultanhani). We've been well over an hour, maybe two, and we have to tear ourselves away unfortunately, but we have plenty more to do and we would rather not be driving in the dark. We thank Ibrahim for his time and his gracious hospitality; this is a stop we won't soon forget, it's a stop every one should make.
We had decided to stop once more at Gokhan Carpet and Rug Shopping Center across the street from Sultanhani opposite from the carpet restoration school. The last time we visited Jim had left without a carpet he felt would complement his collection. It isn't often a carpet remains in a shop near a tourist area but sure enough the piece Jim was looking for was still available and Jim had his collection piece. He actually found a couple and our afternoon was complete.
The wind had begun to come up as we crossed the street to this carpet shop and now was blowing up a gale. A number of carpets on display outside became flying carpets and Mustafa's son rushed around to rescue them from the wind. This region is quite dry and so as the wind picked up so too did the dust and sand. The area is very gray looking and the air began to take on a look of cement dust. Jim ran across the road to get the van and we said our farewell to Mustafa. He was shutting his large doors and collecting more from outside as Jim pulled up. We loaded up our purchases and headed for the main road and Aksaray.
We knew we had about a thirty-minute drive ahead of us and wanted to get back to Aksaray in daylight. The further we drove the worse the wind and visibility became; there was a time or two we could not see the white line at the road's edge. For a time we were following a large truck and it was difficult to maintain our sight of it. We traveled with four-way flashers and came to a near complete stop several times. Our thirty-minute drive became an hour but we made it safely to our hotel. None of us have ever seen anything as frightening as this storm in all our time in Turkey. We went to our rooms to freshen up and had dinner in the dining room of the hotel. The food was quite good, as was our view, although it was somewhat diminished by the storm. The dining room is the top floor of the hotel and its glass windows surround three sides of the room.
After dinner Kenan insisted on taking us to a pastani (a pastry shop) down the street from the hotel for dessert. We had let Kenan pay for nothing so far; this trip was our treat and we intended to show him as much as we could, but we let him buy the desserts. We each had ice cream or baklava and returned to the hotel.
It's morning - the air is fresh and our room is cool! We were supposed to have air conditioning but all I got from the unit was warm air so I shut it down. Carol and I take the elevator just outside our room to the top floor for breakfast; we're not sure where breakfast is -- we forgot to ask. Well, this isn't right for sure, there's no one up here. Oh, but look at the view!! With the storm well gone the air is pristine and the sun has bathed the city in crystal clear morning light. We only linger for a few minutes though because we're supposed to be meeting our friends for breakfast, so we head for the lobby. The desk clerk directs us to the next level up from the lobby; again we're in a dining room faced with glass. Our view is not panoramic from here but simply a vast portion of the cities streets; we get a good look at the city as it awakes for the weekend. The buffet is well supplied and we enjoy it, as usual.
We all sit around the table discussing yesterday and about all we've seen so far this weekend. Kenan has been impressed even though we had that awful storm to finish off our afternoon yesterday. He made the very same comment we often make with regard to historical sites we visit in this great country; Turkey should do more to maintain their historic heritage. We all tell him we would like that to happen but truly understand the magnitude of what we're asking. The cost of maintaining a single antiquity is enormous and Turkey has a vast reservoir of ruins and ancient historic sites. We tell Kenan we're very thankful for what Turkey has done to save and preserve even some of their historic past.
After breakfast we pay for our rooms and pack the van for our move to Goreme. The road from Aksaray to Goreme is on the old Silk Road route and we point out a couple other caravansaries to Kenan as we travel. There are two Hans quite close to the main road and they are in serious ruin but Kenan can see their location and distance apart as we tell him about the old Silk Road and ancient travel. Each of these facilities was about a day's ride apart in ancient times.
It's a beautiful day and our line of sight is not obstructed by anything. Fields of harvested wheat stubble stretch to the horizon on both sides of the highway and the golden hills are testament to the vast agricultural plain we're traveling across. We decide, as we're traveling toward Goreme, to go directly to our hotel. Once we crest the hill past Uchisar though, we stop at an overlook to give Kenan his first view of Cappadocia. He's astonished and says he's saddened he has never been here before. We stay only a few minutes and then go on to our hotel. As usual, we'll be staying at the Ottoman House. We figure if it's too early for check-in; we can simply leave our bags and then get on to the tour for Kenan. Surprisingly, even this early, our rooms are ready and we simply check-in and take our things to our rooms.
Refreshed and fully prepared to show Kenan a part of his country that many tourists from around the globe have seen and returned to, we go first to the Goreme Open Air Museum. Many large tour buses have already disgorged their multitude of visitors and the hillsides look much like an anthill as people traverse the landscape in all directions. Carol once again volunteers to be Kenan's tour guide into the museum area; it costs 10 TL per person and you can spend the whole day if you wish. They spend an hour, maybe more, walking among the natural formations and into and out of several of the carved shelters of antiquity. Kenan has the same reaction that we have all had at one time or another in the past; 'how did anyone ever live in these places?!' We're sure at this point that we've impressed Kenan with his own country.
At the entrance to the museum is a state run shop for handcrafts of Turkey. I spend so time walking through the displays while Carol and Kenan are gone. I almost never come here without making a purchase, the prices are good and the crafts are wonderful. This time I purchase a small wool kilim. Don't miss this opportunity to stop here should you visit Goreme.
It's lunchtime when Carol and Kenan return from inside and we all decide to go back into the city center for a meal. We go to a café we've been to before and find it under new management; we're quite disappointed at the change. The food was NOT what we had anticipated and it was simply OK. To add insult to injury, I was wearing a pair of shoes with a crack across the bottom and the floor was extremely wet. As we rose to leave I noticed my shoe was quite soggy and had taken on a lot of water. My sock was soaked through and the interior of my shoe was a splashing reservoir! I immediately became (wet foot), the brunt of numerous jokes the rest of the day and throughout the weekend. It wasn't all that funny from my perspective, but then it was the only pair of shoes I had on the trip and they are very comfortable when they're DRY!
Chelly decided we were going to take Kenan for a drive through the countryside in this area of Cappadocia; we headed off toward Avanos and made the turn toward Zelve. This is another open air museum and we simply drove up to it but did not take time to go in. Chelly turned us around and we traveled up through the back country. We stopped a couple times to simply consume the visual experience; the awesome formations of this area defy an appropriate written description. It's been called a moonscape but I don't believe there is anything like it on the moon; no, I've never set foot on the moon but few others have either. Let us simply say the landscape in this region of Turkey lends itself to vast imaginative descriptions. We drove out past one of the most famous formations of all, in this area - the camel. This is a rock formation that is said to be the most photographed of any formation across the region. To highlight the popularity of this camel formation, a number of tourist shops have been set up in perfect position for those who stop to photograph the view. Commerce is alive and well, even out here.
As we twist and turn and climb and fall traveling the roadways in this area I fully believe we see things none of us have seen before. On one narrow lane we stop to take in the site of a Church; these steps to heaven just seemed to be out of place but the sign indicates there is something to be seen above us. Kenan, Jim and I take the stairs to the designated location and sure enough we find a set of rooms purported to be a Church. There is some interior stain (paint) on the ceilings and walls but very little, one's imagination has to be fully engaged to grasp the artistic illustration on the display panels explaining the church structure and the reality we have before us, as we walk through it.
Back on the road now we're traveling over some pretty dry and desolate country. Kenan is getting a very good feel for this area though and we continue to point out first one canyon then the next. Although much of what we see and drive through looks similar, it's in vast contrast to Adana province or other areas where Kenan has lived and visited. Our travels finally take us to Uchisar Castle; this is the famous high point of Cappadocia. Uchisar is actually a village not far from Goreme, a place we visit quite often and the castle is another of the natural wonders of the area honeycombed with passageways and rooms carved from the tufa cliffs.
We decide this time to simply let Kenan go on his own; there are some 350 steps to the top of the castle and none of us has the energy or inclination to ascend them. Kenan doesn't seem to be gone any time at all and we see him climbing the steps at the halfway point. In just a few minutes he's waving to us from the pinnacle of the castle roof; we give him a wave and thank God we weren't on that trek. It seems no time at all before Kenan joins us at the bottom again and we walk into and out of several tourist shops. We walk to the van again and decide to stop at a couple carpet shops we know, just to see if there is anything new for our visual delight. We do take a little time in two different shops but walk away empty handed. We load back into the van and drive just around to the back of the city to visit with Taner at AlaTurka, a very lovely carpet shop on the crest of the cliff's edge very close to Pigeon Valley.
Taner greets us warmly and we go down into his shop's lower level to look at Taspinar sample carpets. He has a few still available and we take several away. We visit a good while and then thank him for his kindness and return to Goreme and our hotel. We've had a long day but we intend to walk around in Goreme and visit other of our friends at their carpet shops. We leave the hotel and walk to a restaurant for dinner. Jim and Chelly have been there but we've not so we look forward to a new experience. We discover once again this one is under new management. As before, I will not name the place but we were very disappointed and we feel we were taken advantage of on the meal's extremely high cost. This was a serious low spot in our weekend but it certainly did not dampen our complete enjoyment of getting away with Kenan as our guest.
The meal was over and we were walking again; the air was clear, crisp and cool. We made our way to Tribal Collections where we were warmly greeted by Faruk Ciftci and finally had the pleasure of meeting Ruth Lockwood, his partner. Many times we've stopped at the shop but never before had the pleasure of Ruth's company. We walked into the shop and into the middle of a carpet lecture by Ruth; she was explaining the intricacies of several pieces spread out on the floor. There were two beautiful aged Taspinar Carpets, a Hereke like we've not seen in many years and loads of other pieces all around. We never tire of seeing carpets and simply blended into the surroundings to listen and learn. Being consumed by a carpet shop and the people who frequent them is like nothing else in the world. It doesn't matter what part of the global community you hail from, all carpet lovers are family.
Ruth finished her lecture and introductions were made all around. We talked about pieces we wanted to see and many were unfurled before our eyes. You would think after twenty years of this pursuit there be nothing new to see; wrong, there is not a time that I have visited a carpet shop and not come face to face with something I've never seen. Jim and Chelly looked at salt bags and I looked at small silk kilims. After several hours of great fun we headed back to our hotel, each with a piece we simply did not need, but couldn't live without. Chelly has a word about this condition we suffer from; there is only one letter separating RUG from DRUG, we're addicted and we know it but there's no cure! Rugs Anonymous doesn't have a branch here in country.
We're so thankful for the evening cool here; we say how we have escaped the heat of Adana and love the quite tranquil Goreme. On the way back to our hotel we talk about tomorrow and yesterday, we've got more in store for Kenan as we help him discover both Cappadocia and carpet shopping. HaHa.
Breakfast at the Ottoman House is on the roof! It's cool and I have to break down and get my long sleeve shirt but what a view! We get to enjoy 'all things Goreme' from up here. Cappadocia has balloon rides available to those brave enough to participate; our perch here on the roof gives us extremely fine viewing of those who do go aloft. This morning there must be 10 or a dozen floating along the valley walls and moving up and down into the hills on our horizon. We sit and enjoy the show as well as the company. We eat fresh bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, white cheese and olives. Eggs are available; breakfast meats and yogurt are all out here. This is a fine buffet and we never miss the opportunity to sit for an hour or more savoring every early morning here.
We've just learned some of our associates from Adana are on one of those balloons out there today. After they return we'll be joining them on a visit to the underground city in Kaymakli. This is an added adventure where Kenan will be going with our friends; we simply are not going down under again. All of us have done it and everyone needs to do it at least once, but for us once was enough. Toward the end of breakfast our friends return and they are pumped; we're told the ride is something no one should miss. It's quiet up there and the view is magnificent, they say. Sounds like a little more thought should go into the balloon ride despite the cost; we'll simply have to see how we feel about it next time we travel to Goreme.
Everyone decides on a time to leave and we will convoy to Kaymakli. While we wait, Kenan and Chelly play backgammon and the rest of us read. Everyone is now gathered together and we set off for the underground. Our friends have to stop for petrol but that takes only a few minutes and we get back underway. At the entrance to the underground city we pay to park and are immediately confronted by a gauntlet of tourist shops lining the walk toward the entry gate. There is only one way in and one way out so one must fight the temptation of souvenir purchases both going in and coming out.
Several tourist buses are here already and a number of cars are parked filling the lot. There should be plenty of commercial activity a foot so the shop keepers should be occupied enough to ignore us as we begin our entry toward the gate. That theory is short lived. The very first entry shop is a carpet shop and we simply don't pass them by; Kenan continues on with our friends and we stop to look. These shops have some interesting pieces hanging about and we have to look inside. I quickly remember where I am as I inquire into the price of one piece hanging on the block wall just outside the door of the shop; it's obvious this is NOT a place for serious carpet shoppers to get a deal. Well, at least NOT this serious carpet shopper; I'm sure these gentlemen do a brisk business and I wish them every success. The one gentleman was quite put off that I would not engage him in price negotiations, but his 'first' price simply turned me off.
Carol and I stroll the entry walk toward the underground gate; we first look in one shop then the next, as we wait on the group to return from below and we also succumb to a few small items. We meet Kenan back at the surface and he talks about the experience, saying he would be hard pressed to get his mom or dad down there. I can certainly relate to that sentiment; visiting the underworld isn't for everyone, as I indicated earlier.
We said goodbye to all our friends as they are returning to Adana and we continued on our adventure with Kenan. We left Kaymakli and headed toward Derinkuyu another village not far away with yet another underground city. Just before we get to the village we turned off to drive through the countryside again, headed for Urgup. We want to continue our Cappadocia orientation for Kenan. We're traveling on a narrow two-lane asphalt road now through more agricultural landscape. The road turns and bends with the topography and we enjoy the scenery. We see a village off to our left - Devert Basi - and behind it a deep canyon. Still further on, we drive by Baskoy, and into a valley cradling Guzeloz. The view here is awesome. As we level off at the bottom of the valley a blue sign indicates we need to turn left for Urgup. We begin an ascent out of the valley and again take in an awesome view; I have to stop Jim so I can photograph the valley.
Further on, we pass by a road sign indicating the village of Kavak is off to our right, and then we come into Sahinefendi and once more descend into a lovely valley. We're told a new discovery has taken place in this small village; a farmer has found some historic artifacts. Archeologists came to investigate and several mosaics have been unearthed. It's rumored to be an ancient Roman city maybe on the magnitude of Ephesus. We anxiously await more news of this tremendous discovery. The road winds, rises and falls but has a good surface and we're very much enjoying the surrounding countryside. We pass by Taskinpasa now and next drive up into Cemil. This village has an old Christian Church built in 1914. The last village we pass through before Urgup is Mustafapasa. This has been a great drive through a wonderland on 'the road less traveled!'
Once in Urgup we visit with our friend Murat at his carpet shop. We stay only a few minutes and then walk up the sidewalk a short way to have a late lunch; it's nearly 3:00 and we're all hungry. We're very pleased with lunch -- this café has not been taken over by new people and the food remains great. We eat leisurely and enjoy the day talking about our ride through the beautiful countryside. After lunch we stroll through a number of shops looking at ebru (marbled paper) and pottery before we make our way back to Murat's. While sitting at Murat's, we are joined by friends and neighbors from Adana who are new to the area; they too, have come to escape the heat of Adana. We look at a number of beautiful carpets and kilims Murat has collected since our last visit but take nothing away. I know Murat is disappointed but we will return and we always enjoy visiting his shop.
We return to Goreme through the back country and came into the city over the hill by the open air museum. Carol is not feeling very well and we drop by an eczane (drugstore) to pick up some medication. We are very fortunate to have Kenan along to help out with the eczane purchase; we could have made it, but Kenan makes it so much simpler. We drive back to the hotel and leave the van. We once again walk through Goreme to several carpet shops. We stop at Rose first and Hasan unrolls a number of his newest pieces. Hasan has an eye for unusual carpets and always has something to tantalize us with. Jim and Chelly buy a couple small pieces and we are off to other shopping experiences.
Carol has suggested we visit some shops well past those we usually frequent so we went beyond Tribal Collections further down the commercial shopping center area. We look at a good number of new and different bags and I even have to succumb to one very lovely Zilli Kilim bag. It's one of those pieces that comes off the stack and grabs your attention 'right now'; you simply know it has your name written all over it. It's the kind you see once in every fifteen or twenty visits to a carpet shop, it's not all that rare, it's just one of those hard to find pieces that linger in the back of shops and everyone simply tosses it aside as they look at other things.
We've spent several hours in and out of a number of shops and decide to return to the hotel. On our way back we stop in the Cappadocia Café for something to eat. Our eating in Goreme this weekend hasn't been very good outside of the hotel so we have little anticipation as we sit down. Carol and I have soup, Chelly gets an omelet and Jim get spaghetti. Kenan passes on eating, well at least eating right now. The soup is good and Jim says the spaghetti is great; Chelly isn't commenting on the omelet but then an egg is an egg. We are very pleased we stopped here and certainly will again IF it doesn't go under new management.
The evening is cool and quiet; we truly enjoy the company and talk about all we've done to this point in our adventure. After our meal we leave the café and wander slowly back to the hotel. We all say good night to Kenan, as he will remain in the lobby to watch TV, and the rest of us simply retire after this long and wondrous day of great fun.
Good morning, I'm sitting on the roof; it's 6:10 and the air is crisp and clean. Off in the valley against the flat-top hills I watch the balloons rise and fall among the rock formations. There's a red and blue checked one, 2 red, blue and yellow swirl ones, 2 red ones with advertising on the canopy, then one with a Mercedes logo and one with a KIA logo. The sun is just coming up, first I see a golden crescent then its fiery globe raises above the hilltop; it makes looking east a little challenging but the balloons float with grace and silence across my panorama and creates a wonderful show. I watch now as the Mercedes and KIA breathe raw fire into their bellies and rise above the hills, the flames look ominous, as though they could burn the canopy. Then, from behind the hills come two new entrants - both rust at the bottom opening and blue at the top. As best I can read it, each says Sultan on the canopy in large black lettering. One of these earlier balloons seems to be content to cling to the hillside; it seems to be pasted in place.
Now there's a commotion just over the edge of the roof behind me, I get up to investigate. It's an older couple trying to get three cows under control; the man has two on leads but they protest his tugs and bellow at him, they have other ideas where they want to be. The third has apparently broken away and is bellowing at them from the center of the street; probably laughing at the other two saying, 'I'm free; what's up with you two?' With the lady behind pushing, the man manages to get his two to the truck sitting nearby; ops, there goes the biggest of the two, she has broken free and has decided to return up the hill from where they've just come. I've decide to return to the panorama of balloons.
As I turn back toward the balloons there are a dozen floating through the sky; a couple of them have floated to a much higher altitude than the others. Now that the sun has fully engulfed the valley there is a slight haze in the air off toward the hills and it makes the view blurry. Several of the lower balloons are more difficult to see now.
I've been joined on the roof by Doug; a salesman from Connecticut who is traveling through Turkey. He's here for a convention that will be next week on the coast in Antalya. I introduce myself and we begin to talk about Turkey and what he has seen in his short stay. I tell him of my many years here and encourage him to see all he can in the time he has available. He has flown into Kayseri from Istanbul and rented a car to get here to Goreme. We talk for a good while before anyone arrives for breakfast but then as the others gather I invited Doug to join us. I simply don't want Doug to have to eat alone in this gathering of like-minded Turkophiles. Each one in turn is introduced and we enjoy a great breakfast together.
We hate to break up the breakfast visit but time is escaping and we have to get on the road for home. It always difficult to leave Goreme and today is even more so because we've had such a great time showing Kenan 'our' Turkey. We say our farewell to Doug and wish him a wonderful visit in our country. We all go to our rooms to pack and then down stairs to check-out. As always, we are treated warmly and we are told to please hurry back. We thank the staff for their hospitality and load into the van for the trip back.
We have decided we will return by driving through Derinkuyu. There is a church in the city we want to see. There's also a colossal statue of Ataturk we want Kenan to see. Our morning drive to Derinkuyu is quiet; we stop briefly in Nevsehir for petrol and press forward. We arrive at the church and pull off the street to visit. In no time children selling all matter of handcrafts inundate us. We are told the church is not open to the public at this time, it's under restoration. The children do show us to the front door and indicate to us we can peek through the key holes in two different doors. We are disappointed but we do walk around the building and it's great to simply do that much. The children tell us the church was built in the late 1800s - they give us a date but then we find nothing in our literature about the building at all. I've tried to find some information on the church in all my books and there's simply NO mention of it at all!
Carol and Chelly are hounded by the children, each one with something in hand and each hand thrust into either Carol or Chelly's face. (Kenan tries his best to control the situation, but he is totally ignored by the masses.) Neither Carol nor Chelly are bothered by the kids and both purchase a number of Cappadocia Dolls and meter after meter of oya, a crocheted beadwork that makes a fringe on scarves. We load back into the van and go down the street a block the show Kenan the Ataturk statue. We only stayed a few minutes and a fireman interrupts us to move the van. The fireman is after water and we are parked in the way; it isn't an emergency fortunately. Chelly decides as we are leaving that she wants more oya, so we returned to the church lot. We hardly pull into the lot and the kids collect around us again. Chelly opens her window and tells them she wants more oya and before we know it the van is completed surrounded by women and children with flats covered in the stuff. Chelly gets out to look at each piece and she buys several more; Carol buys another piece of oya and another doll.
With our 'shopping' complete we get back onto the street to go, but Carol says we should visit the mosque here on the way out of town. This village has a mosque that appears very 21st century looking; the architecture is not at all typical of traditional mosque design. We stop at the entry gate in front of the mosque and find it under restoration; Kenan takes the lead anyway to see if we can look at the building. All the doors are locked but we peer in through the windows; all appears the same as any other mosque on the inside - carpeting and the Imam's staircase are there as usual. It's simply the exterior that gives one pause because it doesn't fit the mold of the standard mosque design.
We all collectively decide once we're again on the highway that we'd like to go home the long way, taking our usual route over the mountains and through the passes. You might remember how the road was torn up the last time we were out this way; well, we didn't know if it was done or not but that was May and this is now, so we drive in that direction and hope for the best. We aren't far into our drive when we have second thoughts; Chelly even mentions we might want to turn around, but Jim says, lets just see how it goes. We have some minor challenges at the beginning but much to our appreciation, about a quarter of the way to Pozanti the road becomes wider and flatter and then finished - it is paved and wonderful. Sometimes progress is good and with all fairness, this is too, but I miss the old road. It was narrow and probably dangerous too, but it was quaint and country-style. Now the masses will be traveling this road and we'll no longer be able to hide it from them - HaHaHa.
I know I've talked about this route before and told you the views were difficult to articulate but again we're in awe of the abundant beauty God has washed across this landscape. The mountains, the rolling hills, the stream that runs along beside the road; field after field of apple trees laden with fruit, one little village after another makes this drive worth every minute we spend on it. One simply cannot take in the full splendor of this countryside; a master artist would be hard pressed to duplicate the grandeur spread before us with his simple palette. As the mountains begin to close in on us, the valley narrows and we are enveloped by sheer cliffs of jagged rock. It becomes more and more difficult to see the peaks as we drive without bending way over in the seat. Each season has its own way of greeting us on this back road through this seeming paradise.
Chelly breaks the tranquil moment with a suggestion that we stop at the Sezer Motel up ahead. We've all wanted to do that and have never taken the time before; we vow to stop when we get there. We feel like we must be pretty close but one turn after another comes and no motel appears at the roadside. We continue the trip searching out our goal and then tucked away on a curve, clinging to the hillside, there's Sezer Motel. We pull in and park at the foot of the stairs. We ascend the steps and land on a wide well appointed patio. We decide we'll have lunch here as the restaurant is open and the mountain air is great. This is a family-run business and while the manager is setting up our table on the veranda we go into the motel and ask look at a room. The young lady at the desk speaks English and is more than happy to show us a couple of rooms; they are well furnished. We're told the rates: 50 TL for a single, 100 TL for a double, that's $35 and $70 respectively. These prices include breakfast AND dinner. The view is breath taking; the motel is at the point in the pass where the two ridges come closest together. We tell the young woman thanks and return to the veranda. Our table has been topped with a tablecloth and we have each been given cloth napkins. We take our seats and enjoy the crisp clean mountain air that is bathing the area today. The gentleman tells us what's available and takes our orders; Jim, Chelly and Kenan will have the local fish, Carol and I settle on grilled chicken.
While we wait for our main course to be brought out, we get drinks and a large salad. The tomatoes are so sweet they taste like watermelon. Our salad is tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, small green peppers all chucked and chopped together, topped with lemon and olive oil. If the salad is any indicator, this lunch will be fabulous! Here comes the fish and chicken; oh no, here too come the bees. In almost the same instant we're served our lunch we're swarmed by small bees. We spend our entire lunchtime shooing bees from our plates; the manager brings out a couple fly swatters to assist. I wish he would simply back off; I don't wish to get stung! Amazingly though these bees seem quite docile; they don't appear aggressive at all. They also don't pay any mind to the swatting or suggestions that they leave us in peace. The valley is apparently full of honeybees; we've seen clusters of boxes all along the route as we driven this way. We all talk of how good our lunch is and vow to return here for a weekend get away! This is about an hour and half from Adana and an easy drive - we even talk of simply coming up here for Sunday lunch on occasion.
Well, like everything this must come to a close, we've had a great time showing
Kenan a part of his country we truly love. We thank our host for the wonderful
lunch and load back into the van to finish our trip home.