Cave Home Tour
On 7 Oct at 10:30 in the morning, our group gathered at the information center
in Goreme square across from the bus stations to tour five cave homes in the
village. The Goreme Charity Restoration fund is sponsoring
our tour today. We begin our tour with a short overview from Ruth Lockwood and
Pat Yale of what homes we'll be visiting along with the path we'll be taking
through the village. Also joining us on the tour are two local residents: Nico
Leyssen and Ali Yavuz. We will visit Nico's home and Ali is the chairman of
the fund I mentioned above. Our tour today has thirty participants and our guide
is Pat Yale, the author of 'A Handbook for Living in Turkey'. NOTE: this book
is available at amazon.com and is well worth your review; the book is your 'owner's
manual' for acclimation to this wonderful country.
Pat leads us off across the parking lot, over the canal that cuts through the
center of the shopping district and up the hillside to our first home visit.
Pat points out the old mosque we pass and circumvent to climb the hillside.
We stop for another minute at a fountain that was once a central village laundry
facility. Pat points out the carved vats for washing and rinsing clothes as
well as the built in oven portion of the wall to one side; you can wash your
family attire and cook simultaneously.
I notice just to the side and behind this laundry/cooking façade there are
several carpet/kilim looms in a garden; it appears this garden is set up to
dye wool and transform it into colorful carpets and kilims. I tell Carol we
need to investigate this more thoroughly later.
We continue our ascent and once again briefly pause so Pat can talk to us about
the 'five-star hotel' we've come to--Anatolian House. She tells us visitors
fly into Turkey in their private jets and come to Goreme to stay here. Pat tells
us that the owner of 'Goggle" was a recent guess here. We ascend the hill
even further now and come to our first home to visit. We must traverse an incline
cluttered in a bit of construction debris to get to the gate and move through
it into a very lovely courtyard. A portion of the courtyard at the entry is
covered with a grape vine breaking up the sunlight that comes into the space.
Access to the home is attained by climbing a series of slightly curved uneven
steps from this small courtyard.
Once inside our group gathers in what we would call a living room or family
room. Our group is nearly too large for this small space but everyone squeezes
in for Pat's lecture on the home's history. This one is a traditional home;
it has neither renovations nor 21st century amenities. The walls are painted
with a special coloring material; powders mixed with water (white wash comes
to mind) and have numerous layers on them from annual painting. Again, the space
is small but quite cozy in appearance. We're actually in two rooms as we have
the sleeping quarters to our back as we stand and sit facing Pat. But that space
too is small, about half the size of the living room and higher than where we're
standing. Remember, we're in a cave home and rooms are on different levels.
As I've noted, getting into this home was a challenge as there was construction
going on right next door to it.
No one with a disability could easily live in these dwellings. Every room you
move into has steps attached to it or ramps from one to the next. The doorways
are narrow and the ceilings are low. Obviously, in times past folks were a bit
shorter than our tour group. Most of us had to bend down to get into and out
of different rooms - this whole house was less space than most of our own by
far. There are very few decorations adorning the walls or tables. Most of those
that do exist are artificial flowers and a few personal photographs of family,
Pat points out one that is the Grandmother. We must keep in mind that this home
is for the comfort of a family not accustom to western opulence; the family
that dwells here is also probably far more closely knit than most of us 'modern'
folks. Carol and I both wish the lady of the house a good day and thank her
so much for letting us invade her personal space, even for charity.
We carefully make our way down the steps and into the courtyard to leave. The
men working next door have shoveled out of our path some of the rubble making
our exit far easier than our entrance. The entire panorama of cave dwellings
and other homes along our walking path (actually a village street) seem to be
under construction. As we continue our walk, we pass piles of stone and a number
of men chipping away on them to make them smooth and square for walls and other
support structures. One guy I walk quite near was chipping away at a block to
carefully curve the surface for an arch or at least that's what I surmised.
Another guy was carefully carving a decorative façade into another stone that
appeared to be a piece going into a series of blocks to form a tree of life
or some such decoration.
Pat had planned to turn our tour group down this side street but construction
has caused us to alter our route. We walk down and around the next several streets
and back up to the next home on the tour. This home is fully renovated and up
to date. We enter the courtyard and discover a magnificent view through a breezeway.
There's a stairway to our left one can ascend to the roof for a more panoramic
view of the valley stretched out below. Each room is separate and must be entered
from the courtyard; even in winter, moving from one room to another is through
the courtyard. It's only a few steps between rooms but still one must traverse
the courtyard. To our right is a dining/sitting room, then there's a stairs
down into what I'm told is an unfinished bar area. Then bedrooms and again the
breezeway with benches and rocking chairs. The rockers are wrought iron with
wood accents, very comfortable and wonderful with this outstanding view. This
home is very lovely; one of our tour group comments, 'I could easily live here'.
Pat has some challenge here gathering everyone around so we can leave - I understand
their reluctance to leave this wonderful home. Everyone relents and we move
on again, down the street to nearly the city shopping centers and back up the
other side. Climbing and climbing we continue now into a very narrow street
and come to Nico Leyssen's place - this was a restaurant and now is his prize
renovation project. The facility once belonged to an Ottoman Pasha who served
in Istanbul. He actually enticed a Topkapi Palas painter to come to Goreme and
paint his home interior walls with elaborate scenes. We enter up a few steps,
once inside the building we're confronted with far more steps on the inside
until we come into a large sun lit loft like space. Again, we have steps into
two rooms above our level and steps down into the kitchen area. There are a
few photos on the wall documenting the state the building before Nico's extensive
restoration. The renovation here is on going; research is underway to capture
the full origins of the home.
Our group collects in the uppermost room (the men's room; no! not that men's
room!) here we sit around the room on benches skirting the large space. This
is old Ottoman; male and female occupants were not entertained in the same rooms,
thus we have the men's and the ladies reception/sitting rooms. This men's room
is 100% wood frame construction walls, ceiling and floor. The room is painted
with murals of country scenes and ornate decorations with some scroll patterns
and scripts from the Koran. We're surrounded by windows; large ones at our level
and smaller ones above with another full valley view. We're offered refreshments
here - soda and water. Nico and Ali alternate the lecture as they describe the
life of the building. It's abundantly clear that this was a very fine house
in its day. Carol and I are immediately reminded of the magnificent Ethnographic
Museum Building in Kayseri. Next to the men's room is the ladies room, again
a very lovely painted room with murals of flowers and other appropriate feminine
flair. The woodwork again is ornate and something not to be missed.
I don't wish to over state the appearance of each home visited today or its full ambiance because I don't want to remove the tremendous pleasure you would get from being here in person. The immense craftsmanship in Nico's home is extraordinary.
Our next stop is Pat's personal residence. She has mentioned she has nine cats;
this is not a stop for those with allergies to the feline. I notice first off
the two meter wall holding up the pathway to Pat's front gate. There's NO protection
from a fall should one weave off the narrow path. The gate is two wonderful
ancient (they appear that old) wood doors. Immediately, one notices the 'cat'
door cut in the bottom of the gate door. We enter into the usual small courtyard;
there are many plants and shrubs about the area. Pat explains a small hole in
the courtyard paving; seems there's a root cellar below her courtyard. Her neighbor
has asked that she not cover the hole since it supplies air to his cellar. With
a short introduction out of the way, we enter into the sitting room and toward
the back into the dining room of her home. The dining room has two mangers carved
into the wall; this was once the stable for past occupant's animals, yes, you
read that correctly, a stable. You see, in the distant past many families occupied
two cave homes side by side; one for the human occupants, the other for their
animals. Many times the heat given off by the animals was radiated through the
walls to the human side, probably some of the barnyard aromas as well. As we
followed in Pat's footsteps, several of those smells arose along our way, so
the past still isn't far from those living with their animals, even today.
Just inside the door we entered is another door to our left that opens into
the kitchen created by Pat. She tells us it was simply an open space when she
bought the home. She opens a door to the rear of the room and exposes a staircase
to her bedroom; this used to be the chimney for the fire place. Pat says she
does not wish to change the exterior appearance of her home and thus makes changes
internally so the exterior maintains its original facade. She also made the
staircase (where the former chimney was) to avoid going out of doors to the
other rooms of her house. Even so, she has to move through a common outdoor
hallway to go to one room. Tongue in cheek, Pat says it is a little unhandy
in the wintertime.
Now, I'm afraid I must drop the story here. I could not continue the tour to
the last home; walking up and down all those streets and climbing untold numbers
of stairs have worn me down. My knees had had enough and were crying out for
some relief. I left my wife with the group to visit the last home on the tour.
Carol will pick up the tour from here on.
Well, up another cobbled street we go to the top - this time to view a nearly-finished
cave hotel. The outlines are there but there is no furniture. Pat says the owner
already has it completely booked for the Seker Bayram coming up next weekend
and she is confident it will be finished! It will be very interesting to come
back to see it in its final state.
Believe it or not, we are now going down hill - probably one of the steepest in the village. We pass the Kelebek Cave Hotel, the Canyon View Hotel, a couple of other pansions and even the Ottoman House (at the bottom of the hill) on our way to the last house. We walk up a gradually including hill about 6 blocks or so and then across the front of a group of three dwellings. Surprisingly, we are finally asked to take off our shoes. Guests and family members in most Turkish homes always remove their shoes when they come in from outside and I am surprised this is the first place where we actually do so. Fatma and Hasan own this home.
They have lived here for the past 25 years, but the home has
been in their family for many generations. We are ushered into the guest/reception
room, a large room furnished on three sides by seating areas with cushions.
Each large wall is hung with a large carpet that Fatma has made in the Avanos
style. One took about 7 months to make and the other (a much more elaborate
composition) took 11 months. Sadly, she no longer makes carpets. True to Turkish
hospitality, even during Ramadan, the Muslin month of fasting, we 'guests' are
offered tea. While we wait, Fatma tells us about her family and their home.
They have had many guests; last year the President of New Zealand was here and
her picture is proudly displayed on the wall. The tea is ready and we are served
a delicious cake as well. As we begin to leave, Fatma has set up a table with
many handmade items she and her daughter have made and wish to sell. I could
not resist yet another crocheted doily, this one in a large diamond shape.
This time I call it quits as the rest of the party goes around back of Fatma
and Hasan's home to see the church carved in the other side of their 'fairy
chimney'. This complex was, at one time, a monastery and makes for a fascinating
setting for a 'modern' cave home.
The cave house tour is an extraordinary opportunity that should NOT be missed.
I'm told the tour will once again be offered next spring - keep an eye open
for it and bring your walking shoes and your camera! ENJOY
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