Trip Start Jul 01, 2007
79Trip End Sep 02, 2007
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We spent almost all of yesterday with our guide Ugur (the g is silent, but I don't have the symbol to put over the top). He was very good and if we get a guide again in Turkey, we will book with his company, Argeus Tours again. They have offices all over Turkey. Also, to be a tour guide here, you have to be licensed by the government. He took us first to one of the underground cities. Tens of thousands of years ago there were two volcanoes that spewed minerals, and ash that turned into soft rock (tufa) and hard rock (basalt). Over the years, people dug shelters out of the tufa and created caves. The archaeology on the timing of what went on here is pretty sketchy, According to our guide, some of the signs posted at the official sites aren't even right and his arguments are pretty persuasive. At any rate some of the people who lived on the flat lands dug down to create cool storage areas for their food and also places to hide whenever an enemy came through looking for plunder. Since the area was relatively poor and the underground tunnels were easy to defend, most armies didn't waste time trying very hard to roust them. In the more mountainous areas, people dug out cave dwelling in the hills and were able to defend pretty easily from there. Those look similar to some of the Indian cavedwellings in the American west.
After the Council of Nycea, (I hope I get this right), St. Basil, one of the original proponents of the Holy Trinity, had lots of students who came to Cappadocia to study with him. They build monasteries complete with churches and refrectories up in the mountain caves. We went to the Goreme Open Air museum and were able to see the frescos painted there. We learned about what the art showed about their different beliefs. For instance, in one set of paintings of classic scenes like the last supper, Judas is portrayed as loyal to Jesus and keeps his halo, even during scenes of the crucifixion, this implies that they believed in the Gospel of Judas. In one of the other churches, this is not the case. In both churches, the table at the last supper serves fish, rather than the bread that many of us are used to seeing. There also was one depiction of Jesus as a young man, which is pretty unusual. There is easily a thesis or dissertation available to be done there by some religious or art history scholar.
Those two visits were really the big ones for the day, but we did many other things including the touristy ride on the camel for Kate and Alex and the pose quickly on the harnessed camel and then get down for Josh. We saw lots of what the Turks call "fairy chimneys." These are tufa formations that have eroded to cones and basalt rocks sit on top because they are much more resistant to erosion. We stopped at "imagination park" where you can play a game like "what does that cloud look like?" with the rock formations. We saw a camel, a walrus, a giant rabbit, some ducks kissing and many other things.
We stopped in Avanos which is on the red river and is historically famous for making pottery from the red clay that ran in the river. For many years they made utilitarian pots for household use. Now they also make ceramics out of white clay as art for tourists. We went to one shop recommended by our guide and they let the kids use one of the kick wheels to make pots. After that we saw where the artists hand paint the pottery. The place where we went has been making pottery for 4 generations. The most valuable pieces are the ones with the Hitite designs that they have to license from the government to use and their own unique traditional family designs. Then, naturally, they take you to the shop. When mulling over just about any shop purchase in Turkey, you are offered tea, so I had a few cups of that. They kids had apple tea which tastes like hot apple cider. The shop owner then begins the negotiations. "Of course, we ship right to your door." "Since you are from another country, you pay no tax-20% discount." "I give you this for free." I'd like to say that I thought I drove a hard bargain and got the best price, but I know that's not true. I'm going to console myself with what I know: I got some beautiful pieces of unique, handmade art that I can proudly display in my home and treasure for always as a reminder of our wonderful trip. When you see them, do me a favor and tell me that they are beautiful, I have wonderful taste and don't ask how much I paid. What did I get? A large bowl, a larger dish, a traditional wine jug and cup and three small plates for each of the kids.
Lunch was excellent. We went someplace that served lots of regional specialties. This is important because if you don't get regional specialties, you are generally left with kebap and kofte and it starts getting old after a while. I had a chicken stew that was served in a traditional terra cotta pot used for cooking. Alex had little pasta bites in a tomato sauce drizzled with yogurt and Kate and Josh went again with the meatballs (kofte).
We stopped by the travel office to pay and went to the post office so that I could get postcard stamps. We had the option of being done or going to the recommended carpet shop. Despite my shell shock from the ceramic experience, I went ahead on to the carpet shop. It has always been our plan to buy a carpet or two here and my options were to buy them here, in Istanbul or down in tourist land on the coast. I believed Cappadocia was our best bet. I also had an additional sense of security from going to a place that was recommended by my excellent guide. The shop is part of carpet making cooperative. They showed us the silk cocoons and how they harvest and dye the silk and weave it into threads. We saw some of the vegetables used in dyes and we saw women working on carpets. It was pretty spectacular watching carpet after carpet being unfurled for our inspection. The kids were encouraged to take off their shoes and walk on them. They got a little out of control, but really enjoyed it. I was still feeling some stress from the ceramics buying experience, but managed to get what I believe to be a good price on two very nice carpets. They will take longer to reach us as all carpets shipped out of the country are supposed to be certified before they leave to comply with antiques control laws. I was encouraged to initial the back of each carpet so that I could verify that it's mine. Turkish rugs are double-knotted and that is supposed to greatly increase durability. The ones we bought also have small blue smudge on each one. The smudge is a form of nanzar bonjuk which is a symbol used to ward off the evil eye, essentially a good luck charm. At any rate, I came away pretty happy, but certain I probably could have gotten a better price. So, like the pottery, make sure that you rhapsodize over the beauty of our authentic Turkish carpets when you visit us.
After all of that, I was really fried and it was getting late, so we stopped to buy bus tickets and headed to the hotel. We really weren't that hungry after the big lunch and a day spent mostly in the sun. We walked up to the terrace and dismissed the menu and the kids played with the hotel's kittens while I chatted with the Oregonian grad student.
The next morning we went up again to the terrace for our buffet. The traditional breakfast includes black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, bread, tea, a few kinds of cheese (feta is one of them) and some sort of meat. They frequently put out other things for the tourists and several places have offered to make eggs as well. The breads and melon have been very popular with the kids so far. We have fresh jam, nutella and honeycomb everywhere we go and the bread is always fresh.
One note about our room-we booked a family suite and it had a little potty in the shape of an elephant, in addition to the regular facilities. So far we have mostly had toilets available to us, but a few places have footprints on the side and a hole in the floor. Some public places have a small charge for using the tuvalet, but that doesn't seem to be any guarantee of cleanliness.
After we pulled up stakes we had some time down in the town of Goreme before our bus. We chatted with a South African woman who highly recommended the Daimler-Chrysler museum in Stutgart, Germany. Josh told her jokes until I cut him off. We bought a few trinkets and orange juice before hopping on the bus.
Will get pictures up later...