Tales from Goreme
05.05.2012 - 08.05.2012 19 °C
Cappadocia region of Turkey – True R2D2, Chewbacca and Obi-Wan Kenobi country that met emergent Christianity to unite against the invading hoards from the East to establish the cradle of civilisation. Absolutely mind-blowing stuff. The remoteness and barrenness of the country reminded us of Alice- on a grander scale but without the red earth (for those of you who can reference the Central Australian landscape – Western Macs in particular). Spectacular gorges, soaring canyons, fairy chimneys (naturally eroded rock formations) and table top mountains abound. Above ground, the rock formations became refuges developed by successive Christian communities from the 4th to 11th centuries. Churches, monasteries and schools were all developed within the lunar-like landscape. Underground, cities of up to 11 levels that could hide communities of 3,000 people for days at a time were prepared to protect these communities from Mongol, Roman and Persian invasions.
The landscape and the history are clearly the stand-out features of the region and made us feel like small specks in time and on the planet. The other standout for us is that amid this landscape people are working small plots of land, grapes and apricots mostly. Hence tractors, donkeys and horses in the main street are not uncommon. Sabina and I have commented that much of the physical work seems to be done by women. We have noted that there are often a lot of men (young and old) hanging around talking, drinking tea (few drink alcohol), playing backgammon etc. As rustic as this seems we can’t help but feel this is a bit of an imbalance when we see women toiling the fields/ kitchens etc. in heavy, modest clothing. We have come to the conclusion that the reason we don’t see this is Australia is because the same Aussie blokes are in the pubs and TABs.
Tourism is big business here, with many university graduates gravitating to the region to find work. There is considerable under-employment for young people in Turkey and tourism is often a first port of call for those starting out. Our high-camp hotel clerk spoke 7 languages and was biding his time waiting on government permission to teach Russian.
We were very lucky to have found ourselves a private guide who was able to give us at least some experiences “far from the madding crowd”. Mehmet, a 27 year old Economics graduate, provided us with 2 fabulous days of sights and experiences. We saw many of the main attractions, Goreme Open Air Museum, Derinkuyu underground city, trekking in the Ihlara Valley, the town of Avanos (famed for its ceramics – and yes we did buy!), Dervent Valley and Selime Monastary. But we also had special, intimate moments such as visiting in a local winery, stopping by the roadside to look in awe at Mt Hasan (extinct volcano – and yes Hassan we took photos and thought of you), watching a local woman roll this thinnest pastry I’ve ever seen to make homemade savoury pancakes at a wayside stall on a walking trail, lunching in reclined positions at an outdoor Turkish-style lounge pavilion that hung over a river and visiting one of the few inhabited private fairy chimney homes in Goreme.
The food in the Cappadocia region was fabulous. The local specialty is meat and vegetable casseroles that are cooked in clay pots. To eat the meal you smash open the clay pot. The casserole inside is hot, tender and filling. We became friendly with a family that ran a restaurant in Goreme and, once again, there were hugs and kisses when we left.
There were so many photogenic locations it’s hard to separate the best of them but hopefully the pictures do the area some justice. We were commenting last night that just when we think we’ve had a day that would be hard to top the next day presents us with an even more special adventure.
We are on an overnight bus to Olympos then on to Fethiye on the Mediterranean Coast. Looking forward to some warmer weather and a bit of beach life.