Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A foretaste of what's to come

 Streaks of paint from a destroyed frescoes, probably one thousand years old...We had to climb over bags of feed to view this.

 Byzantine church archway
A chapel dome

 Niches, carved into the caves, probably ecclesiastical.
 A Latin cross
 A trench, a grave was here before.
What are we seeing here? That same evening we met with our guide for dinner. He interviews his clients to see their interests, their physical fitness because a tour of Goreme involves hiking and climbing and if one's interest is frescoed churches, then he'll include more churches with frescoes or if one's interest is architecture, then he'll tailored the tour to include more of that. After dinner we walked around Goreme, it was a moonlight night, there was a full moon. He said that there are about just 4 times a year when you can comfortably hike under a moonlight night around Cappadocia. It was a moonlight night, illuminated by a full moon. He took us to some one's barn, a cave and the family lives above but they don't know that he's been taking his clients to this barn. We had to be very quiet, he's asked us not to disclose any of the locations of the places he has taken us to because his specialty is the hidden churches of Cappadocia. I can't tell you where anyone of them is because the topography was so complicated. If this family knew we and a host of other people has been snooping in their barn, there will be padlocks and access will be barred.
The place was smelly because they keep their animals and feed in there. Once inside, and a light shone on the ceiling revealed there was a church here, dug into the rocky hillside, it resembled a free standing basilica except this was carved into the rock. It was so amazing to see it. I've never seen anything like this before. Many of the other cave houses could be hiding chapels and churches like this also. The Turkish government will confiscate property having Byzantine churches. The only way one can see this and a few others is to hire guides who specialise in this kind of tour, not the locals. The locals are Muslims and couldn't care less and the local owners wouldn't trust their own people either. Our guide is one of a kind and I don't know of another like him in Cappadocia.
We knew we were in for a huge treat. Stay on this site for more exciting stories.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Goreme sunset

The sequence is wrong but just use your imagination. After arriving late in the afternoon we went up to Sunset/Sunrise point in Goreme. It's just on top of a hill overlooking the village. We met a Canadian girl in the hostel in Selcuk who said it's a must to see the sunset and/or the sunrise. Well, it's really nothing to write home about. It's just fun to view the whole village from on top. I was driving home from work one evening, heading towards the Pacific Ocean, towards Santa Monica bay. Right in front, over the ocean the sun was this huge bright orange ball and surrounding it was a huge streak of orange light. It was massive and dramatic. I thought to myself, 'now that's one heck of a sunset!' We don't need to go to Goreme for their sunset or to the Bahamas or to Bali. I had a colleague who went to the Bahamas for his honeymoon, he was bored while there. My boss went to Bali for her honeymoon, she was bored too, she didn't come back with a tan. Goreme has other exciting things, not its sunset.
I was laying down on my couch watching TV last week as the sun was setting. I can watch from the couch and it was a beautiful sunset. Not bad. Not bad at all.
We've arranged to meet our guide at our hotel but he wasn't there when we arrived. I told the hotel people where we were going so that when our guide comes looking for us, he'd know where to find us. Indeed that was he found us as we watch the sunset together. More about him later.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anatolian life

 This woman is saving the seeds of these pumpkins. I remember growing up, we had a vegetable garden and we used to save the seeds of tomatoes, cucumbers and other gourds. There isn't any place where we can buy seeds, everyone saved their seeds for the next crop.

 There is little calf frolicking in the yard and we were chasing it to take a better picture. New buildings are built over the caves, the caves become storage for their fodder and farm equipment. Some caves used to be chapels as we shall see in later postings.

 This is very typical of an Anatolian farmhouse. It is so restful; one can hang out and drink chai all day long. In fact, right in front of us were a group of Anatolian women, we didn't have the heart to ask if we could take their picture. We didn't speak Turkish. I'm returning to Turkey in June next year and am bringing with me a Turkish speaking guide. With a Turkish speaking guide, I feel I can get closer to the local folks.

Cappadocia means' land of noble horses'. There are stables here and visitors can see the area on horseback. Martha Stewart was here the week before our arrival, she taped a few shows in Cappadocia. She went horseback riding. The earth here is like sand but the locals are still able to do some subsistence farming. The landscape is beautiful and unusual, one can fall hard for Cappadocia.I don't thank God that He has given me riches or beauty, He hasn't! I thank God that He has given me a sense of curiosity.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Goreme, Cappadocia

This must be the weirdest place in the world. Here the weather has caused the rocks to be turned into cone shaped structures and it being soft tufa, caves can be carved into it and become a dwelling. Cave dwelling is nothing new, people all over the world has lived in caves and some still do. There are troglodyte dwellings in France, China and Southern Italy. People in Matera in Southern Italy has and still live in caves. All over the area that is called Cappadocia there are numerous cave houses and what's so special about them, there was a time when hermits lived here. The hermits lived high in these cone shape structures, then came communities of monks and they began to build bigger structures inside these rocks. They began to build hermitages and churches. Then they began to paint these rock cut churches with beautiful frescoes and some of these have remained after at least one thousand years. There are so many of them, no one knows how many. A lot of been destroyed by the weather and others are still being discovered. The question is who were the builders and painters of these rock cut churches? There are no written records and explorers over the last century has posed this question and have not come up with an answer, just a lot of conjecturing. Nonetheless, it doesn't take away the beauty of this place, whether there are answers or not. Whoever they were, has left us with an incredible record of Byzantine art of a thousand years ago.
We spent 3 whole days, climbing, crawling and hiking here but still only explored a very small area of this vast place called Cappadocia that is even mentioned in the New Testament. We will be spending considerable time here in this blog. There is so much to cover but alas I could only scratch the surface on this trip. I plan to return in June 2011.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Time to go

It's time to take our train back to the airport. Next stop, Cappadocia. I've really enjoyed my stay in Ephesus and being in the place where St Paul spent so much time during his ministry. One can also hike the same paths that Paul took during his missionary journeys in Asia Minor. Kate Clow, an English woman living in Turkey has hiked the St Paul's trail and has written a few books about it. The greatest danger about hiking in Turkey are the poisonous snakes. Be careful, she warns. If you are ever bitten, be sure to get a description of the snake because at the hospital, the anti venom used is snake specific. It's even better if you can kill the snake and bring it with you to the hospital.