Thursday, June 17, 2010

Heaven is a place on earth...

The landscape of Cappadocia continued to surprise and delight. I have so many photographs, it's hard to pick my favorites to share with you. These meringue-like peaks made me smile:

and the cave houses, can you imagine what it must have been to live here?

The kids were WAY into it.

Cappadocia means "land of beautiful horses" in ancient Persian, and there were some glorious glossy beasts.

Below is a wishing tree. Throughout Turkey there are places where people write their wishes and tie them up with those of others.

I didn't make a wish. I have everything I could ever need, and if your wish comes true, you are supposed to return to the place and give thanks. Who knows if we'll ever come back here? It is an awfully long way, and I hate to make a promise I'm not sure of keeping. Looking at all those wishes gave me a peculiar ache. I hope the best ones come true.

While overlooking the valley we stopped for coffee, which was made for us by this jolly fellow:

Can you imagine a more perfect Turk? I love this guy. Plus, he makes a mean Turkish coffee. Chased that up with some wine-tasting and bought a local bottle to enjoy in the evening on our cave veranda beneath the stars.

The dwellings of the area are fantastic to be sure, and then there are the stone churches.

St George is from Cappadocia, and here he is rendered on a church cave wall with natural pigments, slaying the dragon, I believe.

Eda our guide knew just what to show us first, starting with the earlier caves and their simpler churches, building up to the grand finale, the Göreme Open Air Museum.

Now, this place was solely created for those devoted to God, nuns and men of God, and for pilgrims to come and worship, a vast, monastic area of church after church carved into the rocks, most from the 10th to the 13th centuries. It was a real treat to have Eda explaining the different areas, deepening our appreciation, and also having her help us spend our time most wisely on the best of the area.

The most fantastic of the churches would have to be this one:

Here's Mike to give you perspective:

which is pretty neat from the outside, but no one could be immune to the beauty of the frescoes inside the Dark Church. Coming in from the bright sun into the darkness and cool, and to see every inch of the carved spaces inside covered with angels and saints...

Well, I know I gasped. The skills of those stoneworkers and painters, from so long ago, still here for us today, was astounding.

There was the Apple Church, the Snake Church, the Sandal Church, the Chapel of St Barbara, it went on and on. There were 30 churches open to the public, and supposedly 10 times that many total. Bethy was especially facinated with tombs that had been opened to reveal the bones laid to rest within.

And, if you tired of churches, you could always go for a camel ride. Or pay 10 lira to the nice men who would then allow you to take some photos of the tired mama and her white camel baby.

There was one last church away from the others, the Buckle Church, and we almost didn't go in, a bit worn out from all the exploring, but Colleen and I thought we'd take a peek.

I'm so glad we did. The frescoes were again, stunning, but most touching was this depiction of the Virgin Mary and newborn Jesus in a circular niche of stone:

Without question it was the best one I have ever seen. Mary was lovely and delicate with soulful eyes, perhaps a little bit sad while Jesus snuggled to her, protected and adored, like any baby.

That soulfulness, the communication of the pain and joy of motherhood struck me and I felt that truly I was viewing no less than one of the most wonderful works of art in the world. Not behind bulletproof glass like the Mona Lisa, not even a velvet rope separating us from this work, well, it was awe-inspiring.

I wonder what it would have been like, centuries ago, to be a simple pilgrim and gaze upon such a sight?


Mumsey said...

I'm totally amazed at the skill of the artists who apparently left their work unsigned. How humble is that with your talent?

Carol said...

Natalie, I have enjoyed reading your entries sooooooo much. I truly feel like I have a much greater appreciation for that part of the world. You have such a fantastic way of expressing things. You MUST write a book!!!

With much admiration...

Natalie said...

Wow, Carol, you're making me blush with happiness over your compliments. Know any publishers? :)

Natalie Buda Smith said...

Gorgeous photos. What a wonderful trip!