Two things: again, I have no spell check, and who stopped following me? Seriously. I’ve been at a steady 20 followers for a while now, and today, I’m at 19! What happened? Did I fail my 20th follower in some way? – Your Concerned Blogger, Ellie
September 11, 2010
We ate a late breakfast of muesli and fresh bread with jam and cheese in the courtyard of our pension. Orham was quick to get us our drinks, clear our plates, and ask us if there was anything – anything at all – he could get for us. This man takes hospitality seriously.
After checking our e-mails and uploading a couple of posts, we set out for the day. One of my tonsils has retired from its hissy fit, but the right is still going strong. As we walked, I asked Joshua questions that I knew would have very long answers. For my part, the right tonsil has place a moratorium on any lengthy monologues.
The walk from Ufuk’s Pension to the Goreme Open Air Museum is about a kilometer, and on our way, we saw busloads of tourists being driven in. It’s a Saturday and a holiday which means that there are lots of Turkish visitors in the area too.
Just before we walked into the Museum, we passed a man and a boy with three camels. The boy approached me quickly, taking my hand and leading me in the direction of the camels, asking me if I might like to touch the camel’s head – for free, of course. Feeling a little bewildered, I agreed, and I touched the camel’s head, looking at her big, beautiful and heavy lashed eyes. The little boy was hovering, so I asked him what the camel’s name was, and he responded, Suzanne. Seeing that I had complied so far, the boy said, ‘ok, yes. You get on the camel now. Ok, yes. Here you go. One leg over. Yes, very good. No. More. All the way on. Ok. I take your camera now (he grabs my camera and lifts the strap from over my head). Ok. Good. Come here (he says to Joshua). That’s good. You too. Up and over. Ok. Hold on tight!’ Then, tutting at Suzanne, the boy supervised as the camel heaved herself to her knees and then her feet. All the while, Joshua and I were looking at each other, the camel, and the boy with total shock: how had we gotten here? How had this boy convinced us to do this?
Swaying atop our poor, beleagured camel, the boy assured us, ‘I am paparazzi. I take many photos.’ And he did. He flashed through the frames quickly, capturing our surprise, the camel, and the great fairy chimneys behind us. It was over before it began, and the boy tutted at Suzanne once more, urging us to hold on tightly. Suzanne plonked back down on the dusty Earth, and the boy handed the camera back to me and held up both hands with all of his fingers spread wide apart. ‘Ten lira for photos, yes please.’
Joshua looked like he was about to argue, but I know when I’ve been had. I handed him the 10 lira without arguing, and walking away, the two of us began laughing really, really hard. I’d never been so easily smooth-talked before. Remember when I said I’m no rube? Yeah. Well, I guess I’d never met cute little camel boy before. He had me on a camel’s back within 60 seconds flat. Joshua was still snorting, remembering the way I had looked over my shoulder at him – begging him with my eyes to come and rescue me – when we bought the tickets for the Museum.
Wandering around the paved walk, we explored the 12th century monastery. Although we had seen many of the fairy chimney homes and some chapels yesterday, the monastery is more concentrated: there are over 10 chapels, and rooms where the monks slept, cooked, and ate. Many of the chapels had very well preserved cave frescoes with Byzantine saints and illustrations of Jesus and Mary, and like the chapel we had seen yesterday, many of the faces had been methodically scratched out. Nevertheless, it was fun to see the various caves and chambers where these monks lived. One of my favorite rooms was the dining room where the rock had been carved into a long table and two strips of seats on either side. The seats were gently worn where the monks’ bottoms would have rested 🙂
When we had seen every last room, we left the Museum and walked towards Zumi Valley on a dirt road. We learned yesterday that the maps are pretty useless, so trusting our sense of direction, we just wandered. Like yesterday, the scenery was beautiful, and high up on the rise, we had the place all to ourselves. (You can see a picture of Joshua tossing sand on one of these rises through the shutterfly link.)
Descending into the valley, we caught up with the dirt path again and continued walking. At one point, a couple of teenage boys came up behind us, and we stopped to let them pass. They stopped too, and they asked us where we were going. The language barrier proved much to high for our communication, but we ended up pointing at everything around us and then pointing at them, asking them if we were on their property. The boys nodded, and we apologized and pointed back towards the road, telling them we would head back the way we came.
I’m pretty sure it was all a misunderstanding. Zumi Valley is a hiking area, so I don’t think the boys owned the property, and I don’t think that’s what they thought we were asking them. After we had been walking a little while longer, they came up behind us again and tried to tell us to keep walking in the direction we had been going. We told them it was ok, we were going back anyway, and then one of the boys asked us if we had anything to eat. We told them no, but then they walked up ahead and told us to follow them.
I’m not going to lie; this whole exchange made me very nervous. Although I had been enjoying all the privacy, I all of a sudden realized that we were all alone in this valley, and I had no idea how to communicate to these boys. For some reason, I remembered at that very moment that it was 9/11, and I felt vulnerable. We stopped to see where they were trying to lead us, and when they stopped under a tree with fruit and began picking the green globes, we followed hesitantly.
Crushing the green fruit between two stones, the boys handed us golf-ball sized cases and urged us to crack them. Inside them, we found enormous white walnuts. The boys watched us expectantly as we ate them and nodded in approval. Then they gave us 10 more. With our hands full of walnuts, we thanked them and walked away.
I still don’t know what to think about the whole experience. Clearly, they meant us no harm if they were so intent on giving us walnuts, but I still felt unsettled by the whole encounter. From now on, I think we’ll hike in more populated areas. I don’t want to be suspicious of people – especially when so many of them are so gracious and welcoming – but I’m also all too aware of this fear that I’ve grown up with. I don’t know if it is fear mongering or not; am I less safe in a Muslim country, or is this just what the media and other anti-Muslim crazies would like me to believe? I guess I’m just trying to distinguish between danger and ignorance. To believe that all Muslims are dangerous is clearly ignorant, but just as there are crazy fundamentalists in every religion, Islam has them too – what should I be nervous about? Where am I not safe? Turkey is a fairly progressive country, and we only have a week here, so I’m really only grazing the surface. In the end, I guess I just don’t know.
Back at the hostel, I plopped onto the bed and had a little siesta while Joshua infiltrated the blog and posted pictures. He thought he was being so sneaky. (Shhh… We won’t tell him that he’s not nearly as devious or clever as he thinks he is 🙂 ) After a couple of hours, I went outside to join him on the lovely covered patio. The little raised sitting area is lined with pillows made of turkish carpets and beautiful fabric drapping over wooden beams. Imagine an Ottoman porch (all we need now are hookahs and belly dancers).
As the sun began to set, we walked into town and browsed through some of the craft shops. I went into one of the Turkish Carpet stores, and I realized that this is a whole world I know nothing about: selling Turkish Carpets is almost as much of an art form as the carpets themselves. There’s tea and magnifying glasses involved, men who speak a dozen different languages, and of course, the carpets and kilims in every color and size. I will investigate and give you an update later 🙂
At Nazar Gloreme, we sat beneath another lovely Ottoman porch. Turkish lamps hung from the ceiling like multi-colored disco balls, and the tables were covered with lovely fabrics. The waiter brought us our menus, and as we selected our meals, he played music with an instrument that looked like a cross between a guitar and a banjo.
For dinner, we ordered a plate of spiral pastry with fresh village cheese and tomato sauce. I know it sounds a bit strange, but it was great: the pastry was savory, and inside, there was minced lamb. As we cut sections from the pastry, we dipped it in the ricotta-like cheese and then swirled it in the sweet tomato sauce. The other dish we ordered looked a little bit like naan with potatoes and cheese stuffed inside. To drink, we had fresh squeezed orange juice with lots of pulp (I like it that way 🙂 ).
When we’d finished we decided to head back to the hostel to read and write for a little bit before we went to bed. I’m trying to take it easy, after all 🙂
september 12, 2010
We took our time getting started, and it was nearly 11 when we finally left the hostel for our walk. Love Valley lies to the West of Goreme, and to get there, we walked through the town center and on towards Pigeon Valley. After a while, the cobblestone road turned to dirt, and after the road went through a tunnel, it became a dirt path. We walked along, appreciating the canyon walls and the strange rock formations, and then we suddenly lost the trail.
The hiking paths in Cappadocia aren’t really sign-posted. Some of the more popular walks are demarkated by arrows spray-painted onto the side of a canyon wall or maybe an electrical post, but otherwise, you’re on your own. After the first day of hiking in Rose Valley, Joshua and I figured that it didn’t really matter to us if we had the right trail or if we ended up getting a little bit lost. In general, we could always see major landmarks, and if we could get to those, we would be able to find our way back to Goreme.
So far, our laid-back method of navigation had treated us well, and feeling optimistic, we continued on a rough foot path along small, dry farm fields. Gradually, we worked our way up the canyon, and eventually, we found ourselves at the foot of the canyon wall. Some sure-footed farmer had clearly gone before us – his footprints were visible in the sand – so we took this as a good sign and forged on. Scrambling up the walls, we used divots and roots to hoist ourselves up, and finally, we made it to the top. It was one of those questionable hiking experiments that actually went ok. It was even kind of fun.
From the top of the canyon, we could see Uchisar, and across the road, we spied our next canyon: Love Valley. To get there, we bush-whacked across a brushy, arrid ridge, and then we found our trail. Taking the switchbacks down into the canyon, we were treated to one of the most beautiful views yet. Love Valley is surrounded on either side by Badlands-like, wrinkly walls and soaring fairy chimneys (which look like phalluses – let’s face it). In all, the white walls of the canyon and the broad footpath on its floor made for a wonderful walk. We stopped in some shade for a quick snack of chips, pears, and the last of the walnuts, and then we continued on our way.
That morning, I had woken up with my right tonsil still terribly swollen and angry. I made a fuss, and after reading a worried e-mail from my mom, I began spraying Thieve’s Oil in my mouth every hour or so. Hey – I’m game to try it, if she thinks it’ll work.
At the end of Love Valley, we rejoined the same dirt road we had taken from Cavusin back to Goreme on our first day. By then, we were very hot and thirsty, so when we arrived at our hostel, we both took naps and loaded up on water. When we were done resting, we headed into the village to browse through the craft shops and find a meal. Unfortunately, the sunglasses I had used for the bike ride (the ones Mandy so kindly lent me) had broken on the bus ride to Goreme, and with months of bright, high-altitude sun in my future, I decided to look for a hat. Finally, in one of the tourist shops, I found a simple cap with an all-around narrow brim. I bought it for 7 lira, knowing exactly what I would do to make it cute. The night before, we had popped into some of the craft shops, and in one of them, there were necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and brooches made from tiny lace-crochet. They came in all sorts of traditional designs, and I dragged Joshua back to the shop so I could choose a crocheted flower brooch to pin up one side of my new hat. (The flower brooch cost twice as much as the actual hat.)
After wandering through a few more shops, looking at carpets and picking out our favorite ones, we sat down to dinner at the Goreme Restuarant Red Red Wine. Choosing a low-lying table with cushions for seats, we ordered turkish tea and a selection of appetizers. When our plate came, it was stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, stuffed grape leaves, an eggplant and potatoe relish, a sort of thick gazpacho, and tzatziki with bread. We wiped the plate clean.
Back at the hostel, we sat outside until 8:45 PM. Earlier in the day, we had asked Orhan where we might see some whirling dervishes, and he told us that he would be happy to drop us off at a dervish house that evening. To get to the house, we rode in a car with Orhan, his wife, and his child, Evrim (one of the cutest little boys on Earth). Once we arrived, we went into an underground cave and sat around a circular stage. To begin, four men dressed in long black robes and tall straw hats came in, bowed towards Mecca, and sat with their instruments. I wish I could tell you the names of each of these instruments, but honestly, I have no idea. One looked like a very tall banjo, another looked like a dulcimer, and two others like wooden flutes. They began to play. Turkish music, much like a lot of the music I’ve heard at synagogue, is played in a haunting key, and it is completely lovely. At one point, the instrumental music stopped, and one of the men began chanting in Arabic – this, as we all know, is my favorite part.
After a while, six more men in the same attire came onto the stage, bowed towards Mecca, and then sat around the circle, listening to the man chant. When the instrumental music began again, they stood and began walking around the circle, bowing at each other in turn. Once they were finished sufficiently greeting one another, they took of their dark robes. Beneath, they wore white tunics with long, heavy white skirts. Again, they walked in a circle with their arms crossed over their chests, and when the music got louder, they slowly lowered their arms, then traced them up their sides and over their tall hats; finally, as they began to spin, their hands were poised above their heads.
One man, in particular, spun like a top. He was spinning so fast, he created a breeze, and with his head completely tilted to one side, he looked like he was in a trance. It was beautiful to see their skirts fly about them and their faces held in complete concentration. I can’t remember how long ago, but I once watched Hideous Kinky, an old film with Kate Winslet in it. It shows a seen with whirling dervishes in it, and I’ve known ever since then that I had to see them spin. I wasn’t disappointed 🙂
When the dervishes had stopped whirling, they formally retreated, and we were left sitting about the circle. After the all the music and dancing, it almost felt too still. In the upper room, they gave us hot juice, and then Orhan and his family picked us up to bring us back home. Evrim cooed at us in the back seat the whole way.
September 13, 2010
This morning, we set the alarm for 6:30 to see the hot air balloons ‘wake up’ (isn’t that a wonderful expression?). We quickly rolled out of bed, and ran towards the ridge next to our hostel. Guessing at the best trail up, we followed a dirt road and then scrambled up the ridge wall to reach the top. Once we got there, we saw a couple other tourists and Lucky, the woman from the bus.
From the top of the ridge, we could see the sun rise, and with a few clouds on the horizon, the sun lit them bright pink and yellow. In the valley, hot air balloon companies had rolled out their balloons, and they were using the flame to inflate them. For 30 minutes, we barely saw any action, and then – in less than 15 minutes – all the hot air balloons were rising up over the valley. There were nearly fifty balloons hovering over this arrid, strange landscape, and it was so much fun to watch them drift aimlessly.
while we waited for the balloons to wake up, Joshua chatted with a Slovenian student about the best hikes in and around Goreme while I talked to Lucky. In the past few days, she had managed to meet all sorts of people who had then invited her to their homes, on motorcycle rides around Cappadocia, and to underground cities. I told her a little bit about what Joshua and I had done, and then I asked her about the Rainbow Gathering. I was curious.
Apparently, the Rainbow Gathering has been going strong since the 70s, and Lucky tries to go every year. It’s held all over the United States in National Forests, and thousands of people come from all over. Usually, the Gathering is about an hour’s hike in, and once you’re there, you smoke pot (if you want to), commune with nature, hippies, and what else. There are massive kitchens set up to feed everyone, and they dig trenches to shit in. Every year, Sevensong, a hippie from the Northeast, leads people on a nature hike where he identifies medicinal plants and what-have-you. This year, the Gathering will be in Washington state.
On a roll, I then asked Lucky about her commune (because, although I may be judgy, I’m also endlessly fascinated, and really, doesn’t the Rainbow Gathering sound like fun?). She lives in a Catholic Worker community in Chicago, and she and her community partners work together to provide relief and aid to inner-city poor.
Noticing my supremely phlegm-y state, Lucky asked me what I was doing to cure my tonsil problems, and I told her that I had begun to take Thieves’ Oil yesterday. Today, I woke up for the first time without wanting to pluck out my own throat organs. She recommended Otia Root, ginger, gargling with salt water, and garlic. After my success with Thieves’ Oil, I’m game.
Once we had seen all the hot air balloons in the sky for a bit, we all parted ways and Joshua and I headed back to the hostel. I went back to bed for another hour while Joshua read, and then we showered and packed up. Stowing our packs with Orhan, we set off on a little hike up Pigeon Valley to Uchisar. This time, we found a trail that led us up the canyon, and we didn’t have to scramble the last few meters. In Uchisar, we wound through the village streets, and at the top of the city, we had a fabulous view of Cappadocia.
On our way back through the village, we browsed through some of the craft shops, and I found my first pair of Turkish earrings: pink chalcedony with turquise bobs on top. I bought them for 5 lira, and I love them 🙂 Still browsing, we found ourselves in a pretty fancy jewelry shop. The owner started talking with us, and although I’m pretty sure he knew we were way over our heads in terms of budget, he brought in some apple tea for us all to share. Talking over our tea, he explained (in a mixture of Spanish and English) that Uchisar doesn’t get many Americans or Japanese like Goreme, but instead, they receive hundreds of French tourists every year (this explains everyone saying, ‘Bonjour’ as we passed by… That, and Joshua says that my jaunty hat makes me look like a Parisienne). Uchisar and Urgrup, another Cappadocian village, tend to be a bit more fancy and expensive (which explained his prices).
Still undetered by our humble wardrobe and ourlack of purchasing power, the man then carried out a traditional hat, a bangly necklace, enormous rings, an antique tunic, and a turquoise belt. He refused to let up until I put all of it on, followed him into his carpet room, sat amongst pillows, and had a dozen pictures taken. I couldn’t stop laughing the whole time, and Joshua was looking at me like, ‘oh my god, what have you gotten us into now?’
After I had disrobed from my Sultan-ess costume, the man gave us his business card (as if to say, ‘come back when you have money’) and two little pins with a sequin and the Turkish eye on each (which he proceeded to pin to us). Walking away, we were still reeling, and we didn’t stop laughing until we had made it back to Pigeon Valley.
Our walk home was pleasant; the temperature is at least 10 degrees cooler than it has been any other day, and we chatted happily the whole time (on other days when we get really hot and tired, we put our heads down and ‘just do it’). When we got back to Goreme, we stopped at the Silk Road for a late lunch. Sitting on cushions, we ate more potato and eggplant relish, falafel, tzatziki, and cabbage salad. Joshua ordered a Turkish beer, and while we ate, we flicked through the pictures we’ve taken in the past few days.
Now, we’re back at the hostel. Orhan is nice enough to let us hang out here on his terrace until the bus comes at 8. Tomorrow: Istanbul and then off to India!