Cappadocia - Once Again
Once more, it’s a holiday weekend for us and we decide to take a few days to escape the heat on the plains. We have friends from the United States on a 15 day tour through Turkey; they’ve asked us through e-mail to meet them somewhere in their tour itinerary. They begin their adventure in Istanbul, travel south to Izmir, then east to Antalya, then north to Cappadocia; from there they’ll return to Istanbul via air out of Kayseri. We study the tour route and tell them in return e-mail Cappadocia would be an ideal location for a rendezvous. Their itinerary reflects July 6th as their stopover in Urgup, a wonderful tourist village in Cappadocia; we make our plans around that date and location.
It’s Saturday, 3 Jul, we leave home at 7:20 headed for our “home away from home” in Cappadocia, Goreme. Our drive to Pozanti is nearly uneventful but minutes from the village the autobahn becomes congested with construction; the highway department is preparing to join the newest addition of modern highway to the already established section of road. We must thread our way through barriers and move into a two-lane detour as we head toward the toll booths in Pozanti. This inconvenience is short lived though and in five or ten minutes we’re through the toll gate and moving on.
We make our usual rest stop here to stretch and use the rest rooms. The air isn’t as clear as usual, the road construction has dirtied the sky, but it’s cooler here than on the plains below. Back on the road now, we begin to encounter more delays; the recent rains have caused some erosion over and around the tunnel entrances on the newly-opened stretch of autobahn. There are cranes and other pieces of construction equipment fully engaged in repair work all along our route. On several expanses of this roadway, I hardly make 20 or 25 mph. I feel as though the highway department may have opened this three-lane super highway through these beautiful mountains a little prematurely. Several areas of landscaping along the road have eroded badly from the recent storms as well and now have to be re-landscaped and more appropriately secured. This one section is terraced for three or four tiers; it appears there was a rockslide and they are now pouring concrete to stabilize each level above the roadway.
Finally, we leave the construction congestion behind us and enjoy the wondrous views these mountain vistas provide at each new height as we glide further north and east. There’s our exit, we reduce our speed and ease down the ramp merging onto the two-lane highway toward Nigde. This exit is closer than the older one so obviously more route changes have been made since our last trip. As we pass south of Nigde, we begin to catch sight of more road work; the highway department is laying oil and stone, fortunately for us, it’s on the other side of the highway. This kind of road surface makes for dangerous driving; if drivers don’t slow down they throw stone all over your car and larger trucks can even throw stones that will break your windshield!
This route takes us to and just around Derinkuyu (one of the underground cities) and then onto Kaymakli (another underground city). Kaymakli is getting a totally new village street, so drive carefully; now onto our turn off to Cardak. Here we turn right crest a knoll and gently descend into the village where we make a left. We drive through the tiny village on a narrow windy street until we get out of town, then it’s country road up and down the rolling hills. This is our shortcut to Uchisar and onto Goerme; we reach our hotel (The Ottoman House) at around 11:30 (it’s about 187 miles). Ali Bey greets us, as we get out of the car; he assists us with moving in. When we come to Goreme (our home away from home) it truly appears we’re moving in; we bring our pillows, our canvas chairs, too many changes of clothes and we very much enjoy our stay. Our things are unpacked and put away and we walk down the street into the village center and into Cappadocia Kebab for lunch. We both look at the menu; although I can’t tell you why, since we know it well, then order chicken doner and water. This is a wonderful little kebab-house on the main tourist walking street; the food is great and the prices are Turkish, NOT tourist!
After a leisurely lunch we stroll down to Tribal Collections, a lovely well stocked carpet shop and visit with Ruth; we’ve brought her a contribution to pass along for the music scholarships of Klasik Keyifler.
On our stroll back to our home, we stop to see our good friend Zafer at Moulin Rouge, an eclectic shop with handcrafts of all kinds from across Turkey. We sit and enjoy a Turkish tea with him and Kylie, his very charming lady friend, while catching up on life since our last visit. Carol browses the shop for a scarf (pashmina) and buys both it and a small shoulder purse on a cord. It’s always difficult to stop here and not carry something away; the selection is endless and the prices are very reasonable. After a nice visit we excuse ourselves and stroll up the street to Rose Carpet to see what’s new in their shop.
Hasan Bey is not around but his son Osman is standing in as carpet salesman; Osman is on summer holiday from his university in Kutahya. Osman shows us a few small kilims as we ask to see some of those specifically; then he throws a couple of his favorite carpets out for us. He has a beautiful local carpet from Taspinar and another from Yahyala; both of these are tribal pieces and very reasonably priced. Hasan has always presented us with extremely nice pieces; his eye for unique and quality is always very rewarding to see. We put aside a couple pieces we like and tell Osman we’ll give them some thought and return later in our weekend visit. We stroll on toward home and once more make a stop, this time at Kervan Carpet & Kilim. Ibrahim Bey knows quite well what we usually look at and before we ask, he shows us a couple of very lovely old yastik (small bag faces) carpets. Once again we put off a purchase and tell him we’ll give a couple of pieces some serious thought.
We pay for our meal and leisurely stroll back to the Ottoman House. The closer we get the louder the Turkish music becomes and, as we suspect, it’s coming from the wedding solon across the street from the hotel. We go to our room and close the windows on the front of the hotel; it barely mutes the sound. Turkish music is an acquired taste and in all the years I’ve lived in this country, I’ve simply not acquired that taste! To further elaborate, I have NO love for any music that has to be played so loud you can hear it 10 kilometers away! Music for me has to be soothing melodies and calming tones of noise; I say noise because music for me is either good noise or bad noise! In this particular case, I have fellow creatures who share my noise sentiments, because dispersed among the deafening cords of music is the incessant barking of dogs up and down the valley all around us.
As usual here in Goreme, our morning comes with the distinctive sound of gas flames, bursts of fire, feeding those hot air caverns of balloon canopies just above us. Yes, that is the sound of hot air balloons; they glide in total silence except when they need that little blast of flame to ascend another hill or building. This morning I count 14 of them across the sky; in the one closest to me I can see the riders’ faces and hear them talking as they point out sights around the village below them. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one as close as this one, it may be a 1,000 feet over my head, but it seems close enough to talk with its occupants. We noticed on the way into Goreme yesterday that there are several new balloon companies, so we assume business is very good and demand must be extremely high. We’ve still not gone up in one and have no desire to. Personal opinion here --- aside from the tremendous cost, these things simply do not float aloft without a great deal of super heated air in the canopy; in an emergency they become out of control baskets on a string and gravity shows them little mercy.
I walk out on our balcony as a gentleman pulls up across the street with his tractor and wagon carrying some sort of equipment. He and his helper drop the tailgate on the wagon and I see those things are tillers. They drag a couple of large planks from the wagon bed and lean then against the wagon. They seem awfully steep for a ramp but before I can generate a second thought, they off-load two heavy duty walk-behind tillers. Once they’re on the ground both men start their motors and begin their morning with the arduous task of being dragged through the field trying desperately to guide their machines in a controlled path. They go back and forth across the field several times and in no time they turn a green patch of weeds into a gray carpet of rich looking, fairly sandy soil.
By now Carol is up and we both ascend the stairs to the dining room to enjoy the bountiful breakfast spread always available here for guests. After breakfast we simply relax and enjoy the advancing morning; Carol is reading and I’m taking advantage of the WI-FI to check our e-mail and the news. We move out on the balcony; it’s always so tranquil here after the fast paced days in Adana, not to mention far cooler. Here we can ‘veg-out’ without any concern for tomorrow; we have no where we must be and nothing we must do. Our days here truly help us recharge our batteries and prepare us for another marathon of work weeks before we can escape again. Time marches on and we realize it’s time for lunch – we walk to Cappadocia Kebab; Carol has cacik and gozleme and I have a wonderful plate of spaghetti. The spaghetti here is very light; it comes with a meaty marinara sauce and it’s flavorful.
We say our farewell and stroll back up the street; I want to get a shave and a beard trim. The barber is very fastidious in his work and it seems to take him forever; he trims a little and then combs and then trims a little and combs, time after time repeating his ritual. He’s finally satisfied with his work and begins to ‘anoint’ my person in all matter of perfume; that’s NOT a good idea for me as I have migraine headaches that are generated by strong smells so we quickly returned to our suite so I can wash my face and change my shirt. He’s done a very fine job, although a little too close, but it will grow out again in no time, so no harm done except for the perfume. I don’t explain or protest the anointment because it would simply be too difficult with my meager grasp of the Turkish language. After I freshen up, I get out the lap top to send and check e-mail and we once again relax.
As the evening progresses, we get another ‘night of music’ from across the street; it’s not as loud tonight – it’s mostly in the basement of the wedding salon and is easier on my ears. We’ve walked a great deal today and decide to retire early; it’s far warmer tonight as well, so we shut our windows and turn on the a/c unit. We hate to use the air conditioner because we truly like the fresh air here in Goreme but it’s just too warm. Good Night!
Daylight creeps in around the drapes and I’m awakened as the room brightens; yesterday there were 14 balloons around the hotel, today I see but 2. Our morning is cool, clear and unusually quiet. A wonderful chorus of birds fills the valley air with crisp rich melody and the occasional dog can be heard barking in the distance. This is Goreme at its most wondrous; I’ll never feel more at home than I feel standing here right now listening to this opening concert of nature. I’m lost in the moment when suddenly I hear footsteps in the street; a couple of villagers are passing below me. Here’s an elderly couple both carrying a heavy-duty hoe – probably headed to the field while it’s cool. I watch for several minutes as they pass going up the street and out of my view; I can’t help but think how tough their day will be weeding or cultivating in an open field. As the couple fades into the landscape, I hear what sounds like luggage wheels on the brick pavement and there just coming into my view are two young ladies, Asian tourists, dragging their suitcases behind them. These girls are probably looking for a ‘pansion’, somewhere to stay. I would guess they’ve just come from the bus station down the street. I enjoy the balcony this morning, as I sit here in my shorts and a tee-shirt I’m almost too cool. Carol is still in bed; I guess I’ll go up for breakfast (she probably won’t be up for an hour or so) and there’s no reason to wake her.
I’m nearly done with breakfast when Carol appears; we sit and talk about what to do with our day. We decide first we’ll visit with Taner at Ala Turca at his carpet/jewelry shop in Uchisar. While Carol finishes her breakfast, an older gentleman appears and we greet him, good morning. He returns our greeting and we talk about our visit; he tells us he’s from New Zealand and comes to Cappadocia every year. He goes on to explain his wife passed away some ten or 12 years ago; they used to travel all the time together, but now he travels alone and most enjoys his time visiting Turkey each year. We explain how we’ve come to live here and how much we enjoy the country and its wonderful people. After some friendly conversation, we excuse ourselves and get on with our day.
Just between Uchisar and Urgup I stop for petrol; it takes about a half tank of gas to get from Adana to Goreme and I always fill up at the Petrol Offici station here. The fill-up takes only a few minutes and we get on to Urgup. As is the norm, there’s nowhere near Murat’s to park and we wind up in a parking lot several blocks away. As we walk toward Murat’s we stop in a spice shop; the smell of fresh spices is just too much, it pulls us in. This works out well anyway because we’re looking for some fresh honey and while in the shop I buy a small bag of roasted corn nuts and Carol gets some dried apricots. We continue to stroll toward Murat’s looking in shop windows and noticing how things have changed since our last visit so many months ago. As we enter Murat’s, he greets us warmly and immediately offers us refreshments. We talk about the winter and what’s new and we learn his wife has retired from teaching in Istanbul and will be in the shop later in the evening. As he is always offering, he once again invites us to dinner; we usually pass gently but firmly, but this time except and we settle on 7:00. I don’t generally accept evening invitations because I don’t drive at night; I no longer see very well and simply play it safe by not driving after dark.
As we catch up on each other’s last several months, Murat introduces us to his newest acquisitions; he has some Arabi kilims and wants us to see them all. He has far more pieces than our friends in Goreme and these are different designs and color shades. Many of his pieces are dark shadowy shades of gray, brown and burgundy; the designs and colors are quite interesting. There are basically three sizes and a price to match those sizes. Murat tells us these pieces are from one collector; he’s purchased a man’s entire 32 piece collection. He tells us too that the gentleman had been collecting for years. Most of these pieces are 40/45 years old but some are well over 75 years in age. Arabis have not been made for at least 40 years, he tells us – so each of these is already ‘middle-aged’ as far as carpet age is concerned. He insists we see every piece. After his workers begin picking them up from the floor I pull out one that is bold and bright rust, orange and red colors; it has camels marching up each side of it and is a wonderful example of the design.
Murat has also collected many Uzbekistan items over the last several years and has begun producing his own fabric in the ‘water silk’ method of the Uzbeks’. He has bolts of various colors and I notice a hanger full of lovely ties made from the material. Before I can ask about them, he tells me to select one; I chose a very nice gray with burgundy and forest green through the pattern. There are many in red tones but only one in gray; it catches my eye and I like it far more than the red. As we walk toward the door to leave, I spot this very beautiful robe; Murat tells me it’s an Uzbek robe and 100% silk. I have to try it on; oh no, it fits like a glove, but then I ask the price - ouch! This robe will have to remain a fond memory because I’m not prepared to finance it, HaHaHa. After all of that and knowing we will return this evening, we decide to head back for Goreme and relax for a while. It has gotten far hotter than we remember Cappadocia ever being and when we walk into the hotel, Ali Bey, the manager, has decided we have brought the Adana heat with us to Goreme and in fun, he asks if we are leaving so we could take it back with us. We all have a collective chuckle and go to our room. The maid has been in our room and has left us a wonderful decoration made of towels on our bed. She has taken four towels and created two swans addressing one another.
We’re only waiting a few minutes when Penny comes down the main hall of the hotel toward us; as we rise to meet her, we see Ray is only a short way behind. We greet them warmly and walk out to the car; in minutes we’re parking back in the space we left behind. As we enter the shop, we introduce Ray and Penny to the assembled group and then ascend the stairs to the third floor. Carol and I have never been up here and it’s a lovely large open space that’s been transformed into a museum. We’re guided to the table next to the windows and it’s covered with lovely dining plates and more of Murat’s Uzbek silk, this time in the form of placemats. There are several small trays of food adorning the center of the place settings. Bernadette has fixed eggplant salad, a fresh greens salad (both from her garden), goat cheese, Kayseri salami and village bread. Murat has prepared and baked in a clay pot his beef guvec (this is a form of Turkish stew). Everything is perfect; I kick myself for not accepting a dinner offer far sooner. Ray and Penny both seem very pleased and seem to be enjoying both the conversation and the magnificent food. Murat also serves up his own home-made red wine (Carol says it’s very tasty, I’m afraid I don’t drink red wine; I suffer tremendous migraines and red wine is a strong trigger for them). To top off a most delicious meal, we’re served fresh apricots and cherries as desert. Additionally, our surrounding for this wonderful meal is Murat’s newly established ‘carpet museum’. It has actually been registered as a museum with the Republic of Turkey (after much hard work and volumes of paper). Needless to say, the carpets, kilims and other pieces displayed are extraordinary! Should you visit Urgup in your travels, DO stop by and see Murat’s museum; it’s well worth a few minutes of your time if you’re at all interested in textiles of the Middle East.
I wake to the light of the morning in complete silence, the a/c is off and with all the windows closed I hear nothing but Carol breathing next to me. I get up and walk to the table to look at my watch, it’s nearly eight o’clock; I rarely ever sleep in and conclude I must have been very tired after yesterday. I sit down and turn on the laptop to check e-mail; nothing there so I simply shut it down again. I look out on the street and it’s quiet; I don’t see anything or anyone moving out there this morning. I open the balcony door and step outside, no balloons. They’ve all been aloft and are down by now; the flights are generally very early and don’t last too long. Carol’s up now and we freshen up to have breakfast. Seems really odd; it’s Tuesday and so still. Guess everyone who is out has already been by here.
We move through the buffet breakfast collecting our usual favorites and sit by the open window to enjoy some down time. I have my fresh tomatoes cut in quarters and topped with granulated sugar, along with a plate of white cheese and salami. I get several pieces of fresh bread and a couple pats of butter, breakfast on the road in Turkey! Here you can return as many times as like but generally, we get what we want once through the buffet. As we eat, we talk about last night and how pleased we are that Ray and Penny got just a tiny flavor of our life in this wondrous fairyland. We’ve made some tentative plans for them this evening too. The only thing we have to do today is meet up with them this evening, so we’re in no rush to get through here and we continue to enjoy the morning.
Back in our room now we collect our things and head down to the car. We’re going to stop once more in Uchisar to see Taner; we want to show him our Arabi. We get there almost before the shop opens; while they’re finishing the opening, we browse the jewelry once more and we’re offered tea. When Taner comes we get the Arabi from the car and he says he has seen a few of them but had opted not to buy them for his shop. We tell him, we’ve found two we really like and we’re taking them home. The creative genius that goes into these kilim/cicim designs make them great fun as well as brilliant works of art. We end our visit, telling them we’ll return on our next trip but we don’t know when that will be.
We ascend and return to our room; Carol sits down to read and I boot-up the laptop once again. We have several hours before we have to collect Penny and Ray from Urgup for dinner, so we relax and enjoy some more down time. There’s nothing online so I shut down the laptop and lie down for a nap. I come back to life and Carol is still reading but only has a few pages left of her book and once she’s through we go to the car and head for Urgup. We find Ray and Penny waiting on us and they tell us they’ve spent another whirlwind day sightseeing in the area, from the Open Air Museum to a whirling dervish exhibition just before we meet up with them. We drive back to Goreme and down through the Open Air Museum to Nazar Borek; minutes after we arrive, we see the table Refik has reserved for us over the canal and we make ourselves to home. Refik brings out six or eight small plates of cold mese (that’s Turkish for appetizer) and lines them up down the center of the table. We have water to drink and begin taking samples of each plate. While were enjoying the variety of flavors, Refik brings us each a hot rolled borek; this looks a little like an egg roll on steroids. Once we’ve done a good job on the food before us, Refik bring out two of the baked specialties of the house -- one potato and one meat borek. These are large four inch squares about two inches thick of awesome flavor. We cut each of them in four pieces, we’re totally inundated with food and have far more than we need but clean most of the plates entirely. Ray and Penny are both overwhelmed with Refik’s grand flare for service; he even sits for a moment or two and plays the saz for us. They’re both very pleased to have been a part of this evening’s feast and entertainment. Once more our guests are fading and we know how rushed they’ve been this whole tour of theirs so we pay Refik for the wonderful meals and get on the road back to Urgup. At the hotel, Ray and Penny thank us for the evening and meeting up with them; we tell them we wouldn’t have missed a minute of it for anything. We truly enjoy giving friends and visitors a “real” taste of Turkish culture and hospitality!
We stop in Pozanti for lunch and then continue on to Adana; it has been a wonderful time away, as always, we have relaxed and recharged! We pull into our driveway at about 1:00 and I’m glad the drive is at an end!
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