Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I wanna rock (rock!)

Now, starting the day by breakfasting in the fresh air and sunshine is, to my mind, the way to live.

Tell me I'm wrong.

We'd woken, emerging from our caves to another beautiful day and an unfamilliar whooshing sound. The sound turned out to the be the burners of hot air balloons floating lazily overhead. Picturesque.

Mevlut and his wife Suna (who was as warm and welcoming as her husband and spoke more English) took beautiful care of us (I cannot say enough about those regional freshly baked breads...Suna wrote out the recipe for Colleen, albeit in Turkish...one can't have everything) and utterly spoiled Thomas while feeding him on their porch swing, rubbing his back, and otherwise gently fussing over our little man while the rest of us dined at the table.

They gifted us with baseball caps, the B&B name and website emblazoned on each, and I feel very good about passing along that information in case you are ever thinking about staying in Cappadocia (commercial moment here) http://www.assianahouse.com/ , not to mention that their photos are far superior to my own in case you feel like checking out their website.

You never know. Someday you might want to stay in a cave.

Our driver came to collect us promptly at 9, bringing along our guide, Eda, and we were off to explore that part of Central Turkey known as Cappadocia. Now, I was saying it "Cappadoshia" but if you look at the Turkish, it is often written as "Kapadokia". Good to know.

Eda, young, knowlegeable, and pretty, was a lovely guide. She took us first to a place overlooking the Develi Camel Valley tufa rock formations to explain the geology of the area. I heard some of it, and some I missed, as I was keeping Thomas away from the edge of the cliff and eventually having to settle for "racing" up and down a steep but safe slope with him, much to the amusement of our driver.

What I did get was that dense volcanic rock had been deposited over softer rock formed from volcanic ash, and the softer lower levels eroded over time, leaving behind the sometimes humorous, sometimes awe-inspiring, and often otherworldly formations that can be found nowhere else in the world. The 'caps' on top of fairy chimneys, for instance, were the harder rock, eventually destined to come tumbling down.

It was easy to imagine all sorts of shapes of animals and people in the rocks as we hiked around, and many were named: Seal Rock, Snoopy, the Old Woman, and so forth. Camel Rock, for instance, is one of the more famous formations and was an instant hit with us.

At our next stop, in Zelve, what could be more whimsical than this puckery fish?

And while the ancient carving done by nature was spectacular enough to make the trip wholly worthwhile, people also carved their homes into the rocks for thousands of years. Secure places to hide for the early Christians (persecuted by the Romans), they dwelled in peace, side by side with Muslims, and in fact people lived in these caves up until the 1950s. Scope for imagination.

Mike and I were both a little nervous about climbing some of the ladders (and flat-out forbade the kids to attempt the really tall ones) which, for reasons unknown, unless the folks there only appear to like tourists, were unanchored.

What amazed me was the community feel of the cave dwellings...here was the grainery, with a giant millstone to be rotated by a donkey to make flour, here was the kitchen, its ceiling blackened from the smoke of years and years of cooking fires, here the pigeon roosts, and then the church, all in this serene valley. It was entirely too much fun for the kids (young and old) to explore the rock homes, not to mention keeping an eye out for sunbathing lizards besides.

The diversity of the landscapes was compelling as we went from one magnificent sight to the next. Cappadocia has earned its reputation as a "must see" for good reason.

The fairy chimneys, whose phallic appearance earn sniggers from some, I found absolutely charming, fantastic houses for some sort of gnome-like creatures only found in storybooks or the imagination.

To give you an idea of the scope, in the photo beneath, very center, between the second and third chimneys, there is a man plowing fields behind a donkey. If you squint you can just make them out.

Irises and fairy chimneys, Paşabağı

The rock formations at Paşabağı were especially striking, with two and three-headed formations, hermit dwellings and (oh, those wise hermits) vineyards. The overall feeling was one of contentment, very relaxed, very pastoral.

Each of the stops had small, colorful outdoor markets for the tourists, and several had, much to our gratification, camels. Some were the one-humped dromedaries we know and love, though furrier, and some were...ooh, pinch me...

...double-humped Bactrian camels. Oh, hooray! Much, much larger than the Middle Eastern camel, heavy and excessively wooly (to our eyes), we couldn't have been more pleased to see them.

Look at that grin! Had we been in Cappadocia in January, (though we would have been cold -I mean, look at the kids, all bundled up on a gorgeous sunny day which was probably in the low 80s,) we would have gone to see those glorious furry beasties wrestling. Yes folks, camel wrestling. The mind boggles. But all true, I swear.

Would it be too wrong to say that after our long and fulfilling day we slept like rocks in our cave?



Nathalie said...

You captured my attention with the breakfast photo and kept me going with the tour!!! Great visiting this part of the world with you! (well virtually at least!)

Mumsey said...

Kind of like sleeping like a log in the rain forest.

*Paula* said...

Wow! Amazing Natalie! It looks so beautiful - what a wonderful place. I'm cracking up a Bethy all bundled up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie,
Can I put your blog address on my blog? I have many friends that would LOVE to read yours. You have been having different adventures to tell about, and your pictures are to die for. I just want my friends to understand a different part of the world then their own. And I am having a terrible time trying not to be jealous!

AKBrady said...

We have a Bactrian camel at our zoo. Owen loves to look at him and wonder where the heck he came from. Now I know where to tell him and that you saw one!