Home > turkey > A Midday’s Cappadocian Dream: Part 1 (of 3)

A Midday’s Cappadocian Dream: Part 1 (of 3)

September 6th, 2009 Tristan Leave a comment Go to comments
A Midday’s Cappadocian Dream:  Part 1
In our cave home, the blankets were damp again with the light and pleasant smell of earth pervading.  We slowly stirred to life and made our way to the upper terrace for breakfast.  On the sunlight and dusty streets below merchants were starting to lay out their carpets.  Car horns, tractors engines and cow bells tunneled their way through the old stone streets to our perch.  The town of Goreme lay among the capped-stone fairy chimneys like the desert’s child – made of the same stone it blended with the eroded cliffs and arid plateau that lay beyond.  A single minaret stood tall with adolescent arrogance, comparing itself to the minarets perfectly crafted by the wind and ice.
Quickly finishing our tea and bread, we made our way down to the car, past house stoops with shoes outside and thin veils of ornate cloth, woven by time and isolation, separating us from the mystery lives inside.   On a covered porch three generations of women gabbed, their progressively sun-wrinkled eyes watched us with reserved curiosity.  Street-wise cats lurked and watched our every movement, fearing reprisal for the small bits they’d stolen the night before.  In the makeshift parking lot a thin block away, tractors rolled by with loads of bricks and local produce, billowing black fumes as they loudly plodded by.   In the town square, we enquired with a local tour organizer where adventure was hiding that day.  Our ingredients were ‘simple’, we wanted nothing short of amazing natural and anthropological beauty, absolutely no tourists, and a healthy portion Raiders of the Lost Ark style adventure.  He replied in a quintessential Turkish accent, “So you like adventure?” and fatefully directed us to a valley beginning from Ortahisar, a small town 9 km northeast of Goreme.
With pocket change jingling, Peretz and I walked to the market in search of tasty treats to be enjoyed at far-gone points:  pears, peaches, grapes and nectarines for all, 4.80 Turkish Lyra in total.  We packed the car and prepared our bags, making sure we had the necessary provisions for the day’s travels:  water, headlamp, camera, jacket, journal, and fruit.  First stop: the Goreme Open Air Museum, 1 km down a wide, black reflective road towards Ortahisar.  Along the road, European backpackers walked with jubilation and local shepherd boys road on jalopy donkeys toward destinations unknown.  A sun-scorched motel advertised the only swimming pool in town:  free for patrons, 9 TL for everyone else.
We parked in the bus parking lot, our station wagon nudged among the larger vehicles.  Par for the course, souvenir shops and ice cream stands lined the short walk to the museum entrance.  Having already been picked apart by dime vultures throughout our travels, the prospect of each paying a steep 15 TL museum fee was wholly unappealing; a not-so-ninja break-in was brewing.  Our ascent was witnessed by anyone who cared to look; we hiked round a fairy chimney that rimmed the valley, to reach the barbed-wire border fence.  Having spent less time culturing the comfort of clandestine activities, Amanda and Hari opted outright to turn back and pay the entrance fee. As they descended, Peretz turned to me, smirked and motioned toward our route of entry.  Like Carnival ninjas – he in a fire-engine red shirt and Gilligan hat, I in my incongruent fedora and bright yellow T-shirt – we descended down the sandstone, past broken glass, thorny plants and rusted barbed-wire fence towards a shady grove on the edge of the museum.  From atop the only modern building in sight, we suspected a plain-clothes museum guard might have spotted us.  As we approached the grove Peretz and I split, he heading for a shady section behind the wall of the ticket office and I strolling through a verdant section, attempting to blend myself with the other museum patrons as quickly as possible.  The guard immediately approached Peretz.  From the corner of my eye I watched as they briefly conversed, Peretz pointing in my general direction.  I later found out that Peretz had told him that his “friends on the hill have my ticket.”  They parted, Peretz heading deeper into the museum and the guard slowly walking in my direction.  I made my way to the first sight – a church carved into the rock – and like a good, ticket-buying tourist began to read the English information sign.   The guard greeted me and asked to see my ticket, I hesitated briefly and explained that I had “hiked” into the museum – a half-truth.  Without incident he pointed me towards the ticket booth.  We parted, and I began to walk towards the ticket booth just as Hari and Amanda were coming through.  I quickly asked Amanda for her ticket, to be momentarily passed off as my own.  Half her fault and half my own, we very conspicuously exchanged the ticket and immediately I knew this could have been done more smoothly.  As I began to walk back into the museum, I felt a tug at my right arm.  Without a word the guard walked me back to the ticket booth where I begrudgingly purchased my ticket.
Inside the museum tourists strolled and signs indicated the purpose of each underground structure, the architectured remains of lives all but beyond the reach of recorded history.  Churches dug into the rock, adorned with columns built under the pretense of structural support, within stone that had known how to support itself since long before the appearance of mankind.   Cracked and crumbled, faded wall paintings depicted Biblical history in flat, pre-Orthodox style.  The birth of the world, the fall of man, and his subsequent redemption were drawn in basic and once bright colors, with a degree of skill likely limited by the coarseness of their brushes, the thickness of the paint, and the at best dim light.  Other rooms served as kitchens and food store-houses, their tool-hewn ceilings still soot black from the countless fires that had burned within.  The air inside was still and old, with hints of creosote.  I wondered when the last time a fire had burned in the shallow pits on the floor, centuries at least, maybe more.  In those close quarters the smoke must have been unbearable.  Walking up the cliff side, a portico led into the long dark expanse of a dining room that could seat forty people.  The only other tourist left the room, and I sat on the fixed stone bench less than a foot from the monolithic stone table, with stone walls, stone ceilings and stone floors.  With the room empty, I spoke out loud to get a better idea of the acoustics –  they were terrible – with forty people gossiping, trading, praying, singing or whatever their employment of speech, it must have been a deafening hum of noise, out of which one could pick up only what their seat mate said.  What did they talk about during their meals?  There was no notion of international current events, no grand political parties, no new iphone to pine over, nowhere far lands to explore.  I can only guess it was the more pragmatic things of life:  their harvest, their stock, their romances, their god.
I walked around the cliff side to a higher elevation taking in a view of the surrounding, defunct rock village trying to erase the telescopic camera-carrying tourists and buses from view.  I let the view meld with my mind’s eye, I saw donkeys wandering, small lamps lighting the inside of stone homes, men talking about what to plant where, smoke rising from porticos, the sound of tool against rock, children in simple, earthen-tone garments yelling and playing with sticks, others fetching water from the brook that ran down the valley floor, as their mothers washed clothes.
I met the gang at a preordained shady location.  Peretz was now wearing Amanda’s off-pink, tight-fitting shirt in a successful effort to evade detection by the guards.
The car climbed up cobble stone switch-backs to the top of the plateau.  A few minutes and wrong turns later, we were trolling through the outskirts of Ortahisar.  A sun-bleached sign depicted an intriguing rock tower and guided us to the right.  Our car clattered down the main street, attracting the scare-crowed gaze of the men seated outside each shop.  We approached the village center and parked just south of the town square.  The surrounding streets fell out of view from our current elevation, and an enormous natural rock tower with Turkish flag atop, stood watch over us– clearly what the sign had shown.  At the foot of the tower were two antique shops with antique owners, a small café and a mosque, whose minaret looked sickly thin in comparison to the towering rock above.   Tinny  music floated through the noon air from the green copper amplifier of an old wind-up record player. Forlorn farm equipment lay against the walls of two buildings whose alley way led up a cobble stone path to a sun-light terrace.  Raggedy, wind-beaten umbrellas shaded the tables of the dining area.  All around flowers proudly basked themselves in the midday sun, their colors so sharp, vibrant and varied that is was hard to break their deep gaze.  Below the terrace lay a small underground café whose patterned, carpeted floors, beaded doorways and dusty shelves immediately warped me back to a much older time, when camel riding merchants sipped apple tea and bargained over the price of wool.  Outside, blue spray paint arrows and rusty sign indicated how to ascend the rock castle.
At its base the shattered remains of a decades-old café occupied a large cavern.  Broken glass lay on the ground spelling out the boundaries of a jig-saw puzzle, and a desert-dusted cooler housed one lone, hot soda can.  Past a broken gate and up stone steps, we began to ascend the castle.  A welded angle-iron ladder led us up the first two levels, into rooms with dark pits and shadowed passages heading in different directions.  Watching our heads, we scampered up and up, collecting dirt and dust along the way.  Passages led to crumbled porticos overlooking the valley below; balconies had once been here as indicated by the steps outside that led now only to the crushing fall below.   Ten stories of climbing opened on the upper look-out point where the Turkish flag flapped in the breeze.  From our craggy hold, the lay of the land was clear.  The castle was the headstone of an entire abandoned civilization, complete with downtown, suburbs and rural areas, in a microcosmic layout that stretched from northeast to southwest.   Water, wind and ice had carved an elaborate network of branched valleys stretching to the limits of sight towards distant occupied villages, only to coalesce not far from the base of the castle.  On the plateau above the valley, fields of ground-hugging grapes grew wild in the sun, living remnants of ancient agricultural efforts.  Down fairy tale slopes, the sandstone flowed like thick cream to a verdant valley floor.  In the early afternoon sun, routes were appraised and our index fingers charted the course southwest from the castle’s base to the village of Ibrahimsa in the distance.
We descended to the car and prepared our packs and our minds for the adventure ahead.  On the south side of the town square, each step down the cobble-stoned street turned back the hands of time.

In our cave home, the blankets were damp again with the light and pleasant smell of earth pervading.  We slowly stirred to life and made our way to the upper terrace for breakfast.  On the sunlight and dusty streets below merchants were starting to lay out their carpets.  Car horns, tractors engines and cow bells tunneled their way through the old stone streets to our perch.  The town of Goreme lay among the capped-stone fairy chimneys like the desert’s child – made of the same stone it blended with the eroded cliffs and arid plateau that lay beyond.  A single minaret stood tall with adolescent arrogance, comparing itself to the minarets perfectly crafted by the wind and ice.

Quickly finishing our tea and bread, we made our way down to the car, past house stoops with shoes outside and thin veils of ornate cloth, woven by time and isolation, separating us from the mystery lives inside.   On a covered porch three generations of women gabbed, their progressively sun-wrinkled eyes watched us with reserved curiosity.  Street-wise cats lurked and watched our every movement, fearing reprisal for the small bits they’d stolen the night before.  In the makeshift parking lot a thin block away, tractors rolled by with loads of bricks and local produce, billowing black fumes as they loudly plodded by.   In the town square, we enquired with a local tour organizer where adventure was hiding that day.  Our ingredients were ‘simple’, we wanted nothing short of amazing natural and anthropological beauty, absolutely no tourists, and a healthy portion Raiders of the Lost Ark style adventure.  He replied in a quintessential Turkish accent, “So you like adventure?” and fatefully directed us to a valley beginning from Ortahisar, a small town 9 km northeast of Goreme.

With pocket change jingling, Peretz and I walked to the market in search of tasty treats to be enjoyed at far-gone points:  pears, peaches, grapes and nectarines for all, 4.80 Turkish Lyra in total.  We packed the car and prepared our bags, making sure we had the necessary provisions for the day’s travels:  water, headlamp, camera, jacket, journal, and fruit.  First stop: the Goreme Open Air Museum, 1 km down a wide, black reflective road towards Ortahisar.  Along the road, European backpackers walked with jubilation and local shepherd boys road on jalopy donkeys toward destinations unknown.  A sun-scorched motel advertised the only swimming pool in town:  free for patrons, 9 TL for everyone else.

We parked in the bus parking lot, our station wagon nudged among the larger vehicles.  Par for the course, souvenir shops and ice cream stands lined the short walk to the museum entrance.  Having already been picked apart by dime vultures throughout our travels, the prospect of each paying a steep 15 TL museum fee was wholly unappealing; a not-so-ninja break-in was brewing.  Our ascent was witnessed by anyone who cared to look; we hiked round a fairy chimney that rimmed the valley, to reach the barbed-wire border fence.  Having spent less time culturing the comfort of clandestine activities, Amanda and Hari opted outright to turn back and pay the entrance fee. As they descended, Peretz turned to me, smirked and motioned toward our route of entry.  Like Carnival ninjas – he in a fire-engine red shirt and Gilligan hat, I in my incongruent fedora and bright yellow T-shirt – we descended down the sandstone, past broken glass, thorny plants and rusted barbed-wire fence towards a shady grove on the edge of the museum.  From atop the only modern building in sight, we suspected a plain-clothes museum guard might have spotted us.  As we approached the grove Peretz and I split, he heading for a shady section behind the wall of the ticket office and I strolling through a verdant section, attempting to blend myself with the other museum patrons as quickly as possible.  The guard immediately approached Peretz.  From the corner of my eye I watched as they briefly conversed, Peretz pointing in my general direction.  I later found out that Peretz had told him that his “friends on the hill have my ticket.”  They parted, Peretz heading deeper into the museum and the guard slowly walking in my direction.  I made my way to the first sight – a church carved into the rock – and like a good, ticket-buying tourist began to read the English information sign.   The guard greeted me and asked to see my ticket, I hesitated briefly and explained that I had “hiked” into the museum – a half-truth.  Without incident he pointed me towards the ticket booth.  We parted, and I began to walk towards the ticket booth just as Hari and Amanda were coming through.  I quickly asked Amanda for her ticket, to be momentarily passed off as my own.  Half her fault and half my own, we very conspicuously exchanged the ticket and immediately I knew this could have been done more smoothly.  As I began to walk back into the museum, I felt a tug at my right arm.  Without a word the guard walked me back to the ticket booth where I begrudgingly purchased my ticket.

Inside the museum tourists strolled and signs indicated the purpose of each underground structure, the architectured remains of lives all but beyond the reach of recorded history.  Churches dug into the rock, adorned with columns built under the pretense of structural support, within stone that had known how to support itself since long before the appearance of mankind.   Cracked and crumbled, faded wall paintings depicted Biblical history in flat, pre-Orthodox style.  The birth of the world, the fall of man, and his subsequent redemption were drawn in basic and once bright colors, with a degree of skill likely limited by the coarseness of their brushes, the thickness of the paint, and the at best dim light.  Other rooms served as kitchens and food store-houses, their tool-hewn ceilings still soot black from the countless fires that had burned within.  The air inside was still and old, with hints of creosote.  I wondered when the last time a fire had burned in the shallow pits on the floor, centuries at least, maybe more.  In those close quarters the smoke must have been unbearable.  Walking up the cliff side, a portico led into the long dark expanse of a dining room that could seat forty people.  The only other tourist left the room, and I sat on the fixed stone bench less than a foot from the monolithic stone table, with stone walls, stone ceilings and stone floors.  With the room empty, I spoke out loud to get a better idea of the acoustics –  they were terrible – with forty people gossiping, trading, praying, singing or whatever their employment of speech, it must have been a deafening hum of noise, out of which one could pick up only what their seat mate said.  What did they talk about during their meals?  There was no notion of international current events, no grand political parties, no new iphone to pine over, nowhere far lands to explore.  I can only guess it was the more pragmatic things of life:  their harvest, their stock, their romances, their god.

I walked around the cliff side to a higher elevation taking in a view of the surrounding, defunct rock village trying to erase the telescopic camera-carrying tourists and buses from view.  I let the view meld with my mind’s eye, I saw donkeys wandering, small lamps lighting the inside of stone homes, men talking about what to plant where, smoke rising from porticos, the sound of tool against rock, children in simple, earthen-tone garments yelling and playing with sticks, others fetching water from the brook that ran down the valley floor, as their mothers washed clothes.

I met the gang at a preordained shady location.  Peretz was now wearing Amanda’s off-pink, tight-fitting shirt in a successful effort to evade detection by the guards.

The car climbed up cobble stone switch-backs to the top of the plateau.  A few minutes and wrong turns later, we were trolling through the outskirts of Ortahisar.  A sun-bleached sign depicted an intriguing rock tower and guided us to the right.  Our car clattered down the main street, attracting the scare-crowed gaze of the men seated outside each shop.  We approached the village center and parked just south of the town square.  The surrounding streets fell out of view from our current elevation, and an enormous natural rock tower with Turkish flag atop, stood watch over us– clearly what the sign had shown.  At the foot of the tower were two antique shops with antique owners, a small café and a mosque, whose minaret looked sickly thin in comparison to the towering rock above.   Tinny  music floated through the noon air from the green copper amplifier of an old wind-up record player. Forlorn farm equipment lay against the walls of two buildings whose alley way led up a cobble stone path to a sun-light terrace.  Raggedy, wind-beaten umbrellas shaded the tables of the dining area.  All around flowers proudly basked themselves in the midday sun, their colors so sharp, vibrant and varied that is was hard to break their deep gaze.  Below the terrace lay a small underground café whose patterned, carpeted floors, beaded doorways and dusty shelves immediately warped me back to a much older time, when camel riding merchants sipped apple tea and bargained over the price of wool.  Outside, blue spray paint arrows and rusty sign indicated how to ascend the rock castle.

At its base the shattered remains of a decades-old café occupied a large cavern.  Broken glass lay on the ground spelling out the boundaries of a jig-saw puzzle, and a desert-dusted cooler housed one lone, hot soda can.  Past a broken gate and up stone steps, we began to ascend the castle.  A welded angle-iron ladder led us up the first two levels, into rooms with dark pits and shadowed passages heading in different directions.  Watching our heads, we scampered up and up, collecting dirt and dust along the way.  Passages led to crumbled porticos overlooking the valley below; balconies had once been here as indicated by the steps outside that led now only to the crushing fall below.   Ten stories of climbing opened on the upper look-out point where the Turkish flag flapped in the breeze.  From our craggy hold, the lay of the land was clear.  The castle was the headstone of an entire abandoned civilization, complete with downtown, suburbs and rural areas, in a microcosmic layout that stretched from northeast to southwest.   Water, wind and ice had carved an elaborate network of branched valleys stretching to the limits of sight towards distant occupied villages, only to coalesce not far from the base of the castle.  On the plateau above the valley, fields of ground-hugging grapes grew wild in the sun, living remnants of ancient agricultural efforts.  Down fairy tale slopes, the sandstone flowed like thick cream to a verdant valley floor.  In the early afternoon sun, routes were appraised and our index fingers charted the course southwest from the castle’s base to the village of Ibrahimsa in the distance.

We descended to the car and prepared our packs and our minds for the adventure ahead.  On the south side of the town square, each step down the cobble-stoned street turned back the hands of time.

Share
Categories: turkey Tags: , , ,
  • Eva Ursell

    I guess the guards are familiar with the ticket-passing trick.
    I hope the admission price was worth it.
    Would love to travel some with you (on level ground :-)